When: Feb. 21, 8 p.m.
Where: Commodore Ballroom
Tickets: $39.50 at ticketmaster.ca
Don’t fret if you missed the Grunge revival. With the release of Crooked Shadows on Dine Alone Records this month, Dashboard Confessional is back in action.
The emo revival is on its way.
Along with Jimmy Eat World and My Chemical Romance, Dashboard Confessional (a.k.a. Chris Carrabba and whomever he might be performing with at the time) made the charts with emotional, sensitive and melodic music. It everywhere in the early ’00s. But as that decade came and went, so did the popularity of the sound.
Suddenly wearing that Promise Ring jacket wasn’t even ironic. It was just a fashion failure.
Crooked Shadows and its hook-laden singalong single We Fight has certainly put Carrabba’s music back in the public eye. The nine song record is loaded with heartbreak (About Us), declarations of love (Belong) and relationship analysis (Open My Eyes) of the sort that could win a whole new generation to the genre.
How did Dashboard Confessional come back so strong?
“Don’t make a record for eight years and wait until the songs come to you,” said Carrabba. “I’ve been starting other bands, playing with other people in other genres and exploring music outside the realm of Dashboard and seeing how it would get me back to it.”
Among the other musical acts that the singer/guitarist worked with since going dark in 2010 was reuniting with his first group Further Seems Forever, and making a new album and also starting the Americana crew Twin Forks — one of his favourite projects as it allowed him to explore his earliest influences. His solo covers album Covered in the Flood contained songs by such acts as R.E.M., Guy Clark, The Replacements and Justin Townes Earle.
None of these projects hit the peaks of such releases as The Swiss Army Romance (2000) or the breakout A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar (2003). Carrabba is cool with that.
“You want to be careful because you don’t want to be a hack and just recreate the framework of something that influenced you, instead you want to develop off of it,” he said. “And it was very imperative for me to get back into a van and play to far fewer people for a long period of time.”
Yet what you really hear on Crooked Shadows is a lot of very contemporary production and beats that could be right in line with the latest pop more than some backwoods hoedown.
“I make it a habit of playing with people that are better than I am, so I can glean what they do that is better and push myself to improve,” he said. “And I really believe that I am a much better player, singer and writer than I was because of that, and more comfortable taking chances.”
He also felt comfortable being who and what he was, and the genre that he was key in creating. We Fight is about the emo scene and how supportive it was for people who felt at odds with the greater society as a whole, he says. In many ways, the material on Crooked Shadows revisits a lot of the era from a lens that is differently focused now.
“Things are cyclical and, hey, was it really the worst thing for us to be knocked off our perch for awhile? Sure,” he said.
“Some of the criticisms levelled at us were probably fair, and a lot was just the usual internet snark. But when bands like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy conquered — and I stress conquered — radio it was really easy to bring out the slings and arrows.”
Ultimately, he thinks that it was healthy for the emo scene to head back out of the spotlight because that is where the best work was being done. It’s also where ideas flowed more freely, which gives results such as the interesting animated video directed by comic book artist David Mack. Carrabba is audibly excited over the line from his Tennessee home describing the resulting clip.
“I’ve never hidden my deep respect and regard for comics and graphic novels, because I think there is nothing about them that is childish and they represent great art,” he said.
“David Mack’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones are two of my favourite titles. I was on a plane to Singapore and started talking comics with the guy next to me and it turned out to be him, and we really connected and spent a lot of time being creative together.”
Deferring to the director was liberating, too. Carrabba says he told the story in his medium, music, and then let Mack bring his expertise into it. The result is the “best video we’ve ever made.”
The “we” this tour is Carrabba, bassist Scott Schoenbeck, lead guitarist Armon Jay (“the Jonny Greenwood of emo”) and drummer Chris Kamrada. Schoenbeck and Jay have been around for years, but Kamrada is a new edition. He replaced Ben Homola, who was also in Twin Forks.
“And even though Ben is out of those two acts, he has five albums coming out this year and is a producer too,” said Carrabba. “Because Chris’s name and mine are so close, he is officially CK.”
Opening act for the tour is Beach Slang, an act that Carrabba first toured with when they were both around 15 years old. He’s thinks it’s pretty awesome how they are still playing on the same bills together.
Owing to what Carrabba describes as an “incredibly faithful” Canadian audience, he is really excited for Dashboard Confessional to be playing across the country, rather than just tacking on a Montreal or Toronto show.