If you're like me, Dashboard Confessional's A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar and Swiss Army Romance albums played a particularly active part in more than a few late-night drives (and awkward makeout sessions) in some of my more formative years.
Twin Forks, a new rootsy, country-leaning group, showcases the same thematic and anthemic qualities of those records that always fit so well with newfound romance -- and the long, winding expanse of the I-5. That's probably due to Dashboard's own Chris Carrabba reprising his role as doting, emotional sage with acoustic guitar and those famous golden pipes, but this time around, the sound is a more traditional version of folk music that, thankfully, still boasts those instantly recognizable sing-along choruses that Carrabba's bands are known for.
A debut EP by Twin Forks dropped on Sept. 17; the band will start its first national tour with a stop at Austin City Limits before hitting San Diego for an all-ages show at the Irenic in North Park on Oct. 24. I chatted with Carrabba about the bands upcoming album, getting fans as involved as possible and new inspirations.
How have audiences responded to Twin Forks thus far? Are they just waiting for Dashboard Confessional songs or happy to hear the new material?
With any band that features members of other already-established bands, you're going to get some people only wanting to hear your older stuff. But I think we've minimized the potential for it as best we can, just based on the fact that we're going out and playing very, very small rooms. We're not advertising our shows as Dashboard Confessional -- and probably asking promoters to take less money as a result of that -- but we think this band is good enough to succeed on its own without relying on the identities of our other bands. And, hey, if they still want to hear Dashboard, I'll play a couple songs out back behind the venue after the shows.
The five-song EP just came out -- is there a debut full-length in the works?
Yes, it's basically done, and it'll be coming out in January. It will most likely be a self-titled. We actually had an idea the first night of the tour: What if, at every show we play, we teach the audience the words to some of the choruses, and during the show, we ask them to record themselves singing along on their phone? So we've actually started doing that, and we've asked them to send us the recordings, and we're incorporating them into the studio recordings for the album. We've gotten some so far that are pretty bad quality but some that are actually really good. It might take some tricky layering, but we just thought it would be cool to replace some of the chorus sing-alongs that we'd normally grab some friends for -- or do ourselves -- and put our fans in there instead.
How does the band approach the songwriting process?
Well, honestly it wasn't as collaborative as it'll be on the next record. The band would tell you that I wrote 89 percent of it, and we arranged it 100 percent together. When we first started doing this, we didn't even know what it was --" Are we a side-project?" "Are we a band?" We just didn't know. So we were unsure of our roles and how we fit into this thing, but after we played that first show, we came offstage and looked at each other and said, "Yes, we are a band."
You've been playing music in and out of bands for over 15 years. Has the passion waned? Did you ever reach the point where you just got sick of it all?
I've never got burnt out. I've never lost passion for music or any of the bands I was ever in. With Dashboard Confessional, I think the traveling never felt hard until the very end of our most-active touring years. You're theoretically supposed to be writing and touring simultaneously, but I felt like I needed to separate the two -- either we were touring, or we were writing. And that was a really big mistake. Now, being on the road is inspiring to me. This band inspires me. I write something new every day now.
You're playing the Irenic, which is an all-ages show. Was that by design?
I've found that our music is better for the bar than maybe our other bands are. But, yes, I fell into "passionate music fan" very, very young. That's why I ended up having my mom sign off of guardianship for me so I could go on tour with bands. I was too young to get into so many bands' shows, but I just needed to see them. I hate the thought of leaving one kid out -- who could be an early adopter of a brand new band -- due to some age restriction. Being able to make that connection is important to me.
You've played San Diego more than a few times. Any particularly memorable stories or favorite shows?
We played the Open Air Theatre at SDSU in 2003 with MxPx, Brand New and Vendetta Red. It was a beautiful night. Looking up at the stars while we played, the place was piled to the sky with people, and everyone was singing along so loudly -- the entire place was just resonating.
Don't miss Twin Forks at the Irenic on Oct. 24. I'll see you there.
Dustin Lothspeich plays in Old Tiger, Chess Wars and Boy King. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.