Anyone growing up in the early 2000s knew of Dashboard Confessional—Chris Carrabba’s leading vocals littered mix tapes for the emo-minded all over America (and there are the BuzzFeed lists to prove it). Both positive and negative reviews displayed Carrabba as the leading sensitive soul of the decade, and those platinum and gold records put any harsh criticism to rest.
Since the band’s hiatus from music in 2009, Carrabba has devoted his time and efforts to a new project, self-described as “boot-stomping folk” and a one that comes directly from Carrabba’s heart. The group, called Twin Forks, released its first EP in 2013, and a self-titled full-length album followed soon after this past February. Showcasing Carrabba’s beautiful ability to create smooth and heart-wrenching lyrics, the Americana-style band takes a different approach to Carrabba’s sensitivity: a yelping combination of whistles and banjos.
“There’s a lot of freedom on this record,” Carrabba says. “You can hear our boots stomping on the wood floor and the shouting and hooting and hollering. So many people have said that we sound like we’re having fun, but it actually is the sound of us having fun.”
The thrill of the new project and the independence it provides is apparent in Carrabba’s voice. Prior, there was a kind of constricting factor in the nine years he spent pouring out confessions over stages and venues with Dashboard. Now, there’s a sense of genuine excitement and removal of inhibitions with Twin Forks, with the life of the music and the active participation on stage thanks to Carrabba and harmonizing bandmates Jonathan Clark (bass), Shawn Zorn (drums), Kelsie Baron (mandolin and banjo) and Kimmy Baron (hand percussion); Suzie Zeldin recorded back-up vocals and mandolin for the record as well.
“The life of the song is the reaction we’re having to it,” Carraba explains. “If you’re moved to whistle, clap stomp and cheer—that’s okay. There might even be a moment or two where the playing isn’t ‘better than the next pass of the song,’ but the mystery being unraveled right as we’re recording has a moment of discovery and more heart to it. And that translates live, too, because you only get one chance live.”
Although Carrabba hasn’t entirely forgotten his beginnings, he remembers the difficulty in trying to disconnect from the structure and safety of his Dashboard beginnings. It was through working with Clark in more intimate jam sessions that the foundation of Twin Forks became apparent.
“Without fail I started to playe up-tempo, upbeat songs,” begins Carrabba. “At one point, Jonathan put his hand on my guitar to stop me mid-song, and I was stupefied. I expected him to say ‘There’s a hornet over your head’ or something because it seemed to be an emergency. He said ‘Chris, why are you afraid to do what you love?’ Well, that stung, but he was right. I took that challenge to heart and what you hear is me letting go of my own inhibition.”
Upon examination of the Twin Forks record, Carrabba’s voice and lyrics become more easily identifiable and similar to Dashboard tracks, but the overall sound and feel is like night and day from hits like “Screaming Infidelities” or “Hands Down,” and Carrabba says he does not plan on completely ending that chapter in his life forever. “The band isn’t finished and has much more left to accomplish,” he assures.
With undeniable humility, kindness and positivity, Carrabba now embarks on a North American tour with Twin Forks—but don’t come if you’re just going to beg him to return to Dashboard.
“Only buy tickets if you are coming because you like the band,” Carrabba said. “I mean thanks for buying the ticket, but come see Twin Forks because you like it. Dashboard meant something to me at a certain time in my life. I don’t know if it was age or experience or both, but there are people who I’m writing to now.”
Here is more from Carrabba, including the women singers who inspired him and who he is dying to work with next time.
Who are some of your favorite female musicians of all time?
“Joan Baez is probably tied for number one with Stevie Nicks. It’s funny because they’re on polar opposite planes. One is vastly political, and I think you gravitate to her because she’s got an undeniable challenge she’s issuing to you that you need to take up. Then the other one, Stevie, has gotta be one of the sexiest performers there’s ever been, and I don’t think that’s reductionist or a carnal thing, but somewhere deep in Stevie Nicks’ soul she’s emanating. That’s what her invitation is. ‘Look at it through my eyes, I wanna feel something deeper.'”
How have they inspired you?
“They’ve inspired my music for sure. It’s evident in my finger-picking since Joan is an incredible finger picker. She plays that thing like a piano. Both have a sense of melody I’ve found really to be a huge influence on what I do. Lyrically, I probably veer toward Joan Baez a little more, but not all of the way. I’m not a protest singer. I more take the insistence and importance of each word behind the lyrics. Personal revelatory stuff like Stevie Nicks would reveal is all over the Dashboard stuff. And both women are really present in Twin Forks.”
Are there any female musicians on your radar now that people may not have heard about yet?
“Kanene from the Lone Bellow. She might be the best singer I’ve ever heard in real life, in person. I’m floored by that woman. She can sing and she’s got soul.”
If you could collaborate with any female artist who would it be?
“All-time would be Joan Baez. I don’t mean to be repetitive. I think [for] current singers, I would say Kanene, but she doesn’t need any help from me. I’d only get in her way. I think it’d be fun to do something with someone bold like Pink, or even Kesha. Someone that has a clear sense of humor…I like that in collaborations. That’s why I love Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. I have a great admiration for women who can hold their own, musically, and like Loretta Lynn, someone who is a force to be reckoned with. They’re putting each other down, but they’re having a laugh the whole time. The joke is on us. They’re hilarious people who are taking a piss out of it for the sake of the song.”
Catch Twin Forks on tour:
7/2/2014 – Columbus, OH @ The A&R Music Bar
7/3/2014 – Rochester, NY @ Montage Music Hall
7/5/2014 – Ottawa, ON @ Ottawa Bluesfest-Lebreton Flats
7/6/2014 – Toronto, ON @Turf: Fort York
7/8/2014 – Toronto, ON @The Horseshoe Tavern
7/9/2014 – Buffalo, NY @ Waiting Room
7/11/2014 – Philadelphia, PA @ North Star Bar
7/12/2014 – Providence, RI @ Fete
7/15/2014 – Washington D.C. @ Rock & Roll Hotel
7/16/2014 – Brooklyn, NY @ Battery Park
7/19/2014 – Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
7/20/2014 – Indianapolis, IN @ The HI-FI
7/21/2014 – Memphis, TN @ 1884 Lounge
7/23/2014 – Orlando, FL @ The Social
7/24/2014 – Gainesville, FL @ 1982 Bar
9/20/2014 – Chicago, IL @ Food Network in Concert at Ravinia