Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba on anonymity and grandeur

Emerging from a four-year hiatus, Floridian emo-rockers Dashboard Confessional are returning down under this month for their first Australian tour since 2012. The tour aims to celebrate the body of work that Dashboard has amassed over a storied, 17-year career, and will include shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The time apart was well spent, and worthwhile, for frontman Chris Carrabba. He enjoyed success at the helm of newly formed folk outfit, Twin Forks, but admits that plans for Dashboard’s future never fully left his mind. As he prepared to re-engage with the repertoire that launched his career, Music Insight spoke with Chris about what has changed for Dashboard Confessional, and what hasn’t.

“We took a break, and we all concentrated on other bands for a little while. After all that time, we decided that we needed some life experience that wasn’t road related, or touring related. Now we’re back, full of inspiration for writing, recording and touring.”

Carrabba believed that his experience in Twin Forks, and the time that Scott, Armon and Ben spent in their respective side projects, had an impact on their approach to playing the Dashboard catalogue.

“I’ve gone full circle. You know, things are cyclical sometimes,” he said. “I’m looking at our songs in the same way I did at the very start. The lyrics were paramount, more important than anything else.”

“At the same time, I think our ability to express the feeling of a song musically, not just lyrically, has grown. We’re able to imbue the songs with a new depth of power. I’m not sure its something that we lacked in the past, but everything can grow.”

While it’s a given that die-hard Dashboard fans will flock to reunion shows en-masse, this renewed, expressive energy has attracted a contingent of younger fans as well.

“I see faces that I’ve seen for years, and I see people who were very young when we started, that probably didn’t get a chance to see us before our hiatus. I take a great satisfaction in that; a lyric I wrote when I lived in a van is resonating with a young person years later, half-way around the world.”

We took a break, and we all concentrated on other bands for a little while. After all that time, we decided that we needed some life experience that wasn’t road related, or touring related.

Aside from their loyal fan-base, Dashboard have also shared the journey with some of the most influential bands of our time. Carrabba credits Irish rock legends U2 as making the most significant contribution to the band’s growth.

“We didn’t know anything about being grand.; giant gestures and sweeping moments to connect with 30,000 people at once. Not until U2 took us out. They really mentored us. Part of me is still in shock over that. How do they have the time?! It must be important to them. I think that’s a lesson in love itself. They understand that whatever they’ve learned, it goes away when they go away, unless they tell someone how to do it.”

“I have always felt that responsibility as well. I’ve always taken a [support] band that’s very young, and getting one of their first shots. That was part of our live experience.”

The same maturation that enabled Dashboard to mentor younger bands also afforded them a clearer perspective on their own creative processes. Carrabba described the unique creative philosophy that grew from this experience.

“The goal for me, in writing and recording, is anonymity. To find a little slice of time, and a place, where you know no one is paying attention. No one is waiting for it, no one is hammering you for it. You can get back to that place where… you can’t believe you’re making the record. That’s an unbeatable place, an incomparable place.”

Thanks to industry pressure, and the ever-growing expectations that come with success, the process of reaching that ‘incomparable place’ became nearly impossible. By the time Dashboard had released and supported their 2009 album, After the Ending, drastic change was needed.

“We stopped making records for a long time,” he laughed.

“We waited until we weren’t being bossed around any more. That’s what it took. I don’t like that it took that long, but that is what it took.”

With that perspective, this tour is more like a re-awakening than a farewell, and Carrabba insisted that this was not a last hurrah from Dashboard Confessional.

“We just went away. We came back, and we’re aren’t going away this time. We took a number of years, we did our side projects, and we came back with life experience. So we’ve found some new territory to make [the music] even better than last time. ”

“Every show will be the kind of night where we leave everything on stage. We’re aiming to play the songs people have been waiting to hear. We have been waiting to play them for you. It’s really exciting.”

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