Carrabba confessional: Early aughts pop star on life after Dashboard

The Maroon catches up Chris Carrabba to discuss his new album and the recent reconciliation of his band Further Seems Forever.

By Lily Gordon

This Wednesday at the Bottom Lounge in the West Loop, Florida hardcore rock band Further Seems Forever will debut new music from its latest record Penny Black, which comes out on Monday.

Lead singer Chris Carrabba left Further Seems Forever in 2001 to pursue his own musical projects, which included the formation of his well-known acoustic band Dashboard Confessional. Further Seems Forever continued working together, and released several albums in Carrabba’s absence until the band broke up in 2006. Four years later, the original quintet reunited and started working on this new record with Carrabba on board.

The Maroon asked Carrabba what we should expect from the album and concert, and about his experience rejoining the band.

Chicago Maroon: After nine years of successfully working solo and with Dashboard Confessional, why did you decide to rejoin Further Seems Forever? How does it feel?

Chris Carrabba: It feels great! These guys have been my closest friends for a long, long time now. I knew that I wanted to be back in the band [after leaving in 2001] and that we wanted to make music together—we’re buddies, this is what we do. [The remaining members of the band] had about two years to decompress after finally breaking up [in 2006], and then it just happened naturally. We went from hanging out and going to bars to hanging out and picking up guitars.

CM: Your new album Penny Black comes out on Monday. What is the title track about?

CC: The title track is about people in positions of power abusing that power to take more than they deserve.

CM: How does a band sound this strong and cohesive after going through so many incarnations since 1998?

CC: I think everybody learned a lot—about music and their music tastes. The band improved by playing with so many different guys within the [Further Seems Forever] line-up, and Dashboard played 300 shows a year for that decade—so I certainly think I got better from that. The music on Penny Black reflects our desire to play together for so long; like the first record we made [2001’s The Moon Is Down] when we were younger, we were just excited to have friends to play with. We’re just excited to play, and I think that’s why it sounds the way it sounds.

CM: You spent two years working on this album. Were you and the band performing these songs during that time, or just at rehearsals?

CC: We went out and did a handful of shows around our 10-year reunion, during which we only played one of our new songs called “Engines.” With that exception, we only played these new songs in my rehearsal space.

CM: How does this album differ from Further Seems Forever’s debut album The Moon Is Down?

CC: Between the release dates of these two records, there’s 12 years of learning about music…. I think while writing this record we were hyper-aware of whether it sounded like we were trying to write songs as the follow-up to The Moon Is Down. We decided that was the wrong path; but if we wrote songs that happened to sound like an extension of the 2001 album, that was okay. It’s certainly a different record. But no matter what, it’s a combination of these five guys producing something that’s weird and unique in the same way that The Moon Is Down was.

CM: Did you have a particular audience in mind when writing and recording this CD?

CC: The greatest part about this record: We had no audience at all—just like when we made The Moon Is Down. We weren’t a band that anybody had ever heard of, there were no expectations, and nobody was looking. When we made Penny Black, everybody knew that the band had broken up. There was no expectation that there was going to be more music from us. So we were able to work within that feeling of freedom that nobody’s paying attention, and we could be whatever we were without considering how it would be received.

CM: Who wrote these songs?

CC: There’s lots of collaboration in this band in a really true sense. All of us worked together on the songs you hear on the album.

CM: Why did you decide to release this album on Rise Records?

CC: We recorded it ourselves and then we decided to release it on Rise because some of our friends really liked the label, and the guys at Rise Records are really big fans of Further—their enthusiasm was meaningful to us. We wanted a label that cared about what this record, itself, is.

CM: You released a music video for “So Cold,” Penny Black’s first track, in early September. Did you enjoy filming the video?

CC: Yeah, the video was a lot of fun…. It takes place in this beautiful, kind of decrepit building. Caleb Mallery, who directed the video, is a phenomenal talent from here in Florida—we like working with local people.

CM: How did you meet the other guys in the band?

CC: I was in an old punk band called Vacant Andys and they were in a band called Strongarm and we used to play a lot of shows in Florida together. I thought their music was so enormous and cutting edge and bizarre. I started following the band, and they started following our band. Most importantly, they’re about the funniest guys I’ve ever met in my life. We became fast friends. They had thought about wanting to do a rock band instead of a hardcore band, so they asked, “Can anybody sing [instead of scream]?” and I said, “Well, I think I can.” Then they said, “Well, we think maybe think we can write songs that aren’t hardcore songs.” We were aiming to sound something like the Foo Fighters—down-the-middle, progressive, and rock—but what we ended up with is something really not rock-y and more hardcore. There are a lot of hardcore elements and strange choices that we make because of how we came up as musicians and friends.

CM: Who were your musical influences and who were the band’s influences?

CC: Well, my influences are the weirdest ones compared to those of the band—I’m equally inspired by Fugazi, Minor Threat, Descendents, and all these punk and hardcore bands, as I am by old-time singer-songwriters like Guy Clark and Bluegrass music and The Beach Boys. I can find melody in even the weirdest, atonal, strangely rhythmic music. The band’s influences were a little more straight up-and-down hardcore music, although they do all like a lot of singer-songwriter music as well.

CM: What would you like to communicate to the people out there who aren’t familiar with the band or its story?

CC: We made a record that requires listeners to know nothing about the history of the band or the other records in order to enjoy it or to be interested—we made a record that is its own thing. Sometimes it’s intimidating when you get a record that has all this history behind it, but I don’t think that’s the case with this record. It is just a record that stands on its own. If you like this record and you’re interested in our other records…Great!

Bottom Lounge, 1375 West Lake Street, Chicago, IL, 7:30 p.m., $23.