by Jason Stives, edited by Erik van Rheenen
It’s hard to imagine Chris Carrabba performing under any umbrella other than Dashboard Confessional…except, well, maybe Further Seems Forever. With Twin Forks, his new folk themed outfit, there seems to be a departure in what the world’s most beloved single guy has to say now that he is approaching 40, and that’s really a good thing. With the last few Dashboard releases, it seemed like Carrabba had run out of things to talk about in regards to loneliness and longing, and here he trades in those woes for something with a spring to its step, filled with optimism and a lot of mandolin. The result is an album with a sense of autopilot but a welcomed joy that screams “callooh callay,” if you like using those words.
I’ll admit up front: I’m a sucker for Irish-tinged celebration music, and that is basically the framework of this record. The tempo and overall change in style is immediate with opening track “Can’t Be Broken,” bleeding folk undertones and a sun-beaming sense of Americana. Every track has more uplift than it does regret, providing something that is far more accessible for car rides and parties than nights alone headphones resting on your head as you lie on your bed. Those feelings weren’t a bad thing, but it gives new light to the successes of love that Carrabba didn’t always display, instead usually focusing on the anticipation and fleeting moments. “Plans” in particular has a heartfelt quality about planning your day and even life around that special someone as you jot down the thoughts before telling that person about it when you see them.
What’s evident is that this feels more like a band than it does sound just like Carrabba under a new moniker, because there is a full sound that shows off instead of being the background to his lush lyrics and ageless voice. Perhaps his reunion with Further Seems Forever instilled a love for having a band again, because there is a lot of care here with the very distinct instrumentation. Drummer Ben Homola of Bad Books fame keeps the backbeat with a great display of grandeur in his rollicking and batten-down-the-hatches amplified drumming skills, making each song feel like a jaunt or a sprint.
A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar was released ten years ago, and PropertyOfZack is launching our next Decade feature in honor of the album today. We have commentary on the album from POZ team members Becky Kovach Sydney Gore, and Brittany Oblak in addition to words from Wayne Wildrick of Man Overboard as well. Enjoy and reblog to let us know your thoughts on A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar ten years later!
How A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar holds up in 2013
When I sat down to listen to Dashboard Confessional’s A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar for the first time in (admittedly) many years, I wasn’t sure what I’d take away from it. I was too young when the album came out to fully understand the emotions behind the angsty, lovesick songs. But I loved the album on a basic level for its quiet charm and charisma.
I have a little more perspective now that I’ve reached the ripe old age of 21, and revisiting A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar was almost like hearing it for the first time. There was a lot of shock as I realized what the songs were really about, paired with flashbacks to learning to play “Hands Down” on guitar, thinking “Ghost Of A Good Thing” was one of the prettiest songs I’d ever heard, and belting along to “Hey Girl” when no one was home.
Memories aside, Dashboard Confessional’s magnum opus is an album I wish I revisited sooner. It can feel a little immature at times, (see some of the less eloquent lines about sex) but I think that’s what made the album so captivating. Chris Carrabba didn’t hide the intent of his songs behind pomp and circumstance. He didn’t pretend his songs were about anything other than love and passion and heartbreak. He told it like it was and let fans do with it what they would.
I wish I’d been a little older in Dashboard’s heyday. I enjoyed A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar — I just couldn’t appreciate it the way I do now. Obviously, age is everything. You’re either going to listen to this album and see it in a whole new way, or you’re going to listen and be swept back to years past. Either way, this is an album that (to my surprise and delight) has withstood the test of time and proven to be worth listening to again. – Becky Kovach
Most important song on the album
Despite what other people may think, I strongly believe that “Hands Down” is the most important song on this album. Sure, it’s an easy selection to make given that it’s one of the band’s most popular songs to date, but I argue that it is honestly one of Dashboard Confessional’s most defining tracks. How many other artists are able to write about one of the most pivotal and intimate moments in their life with heartfelt humor? The wit, the passion, the emotion, the angst: that’s why “Hands Down” is such a classic.
Since the early stages of Dashboard Confessional’s career, Chris Carrabba has always poured his heart out into his music and screamed it through the speakers. That high level of intensity and sensitivity is what makes this band capable of stealing or stomping on our hearts with every song. – Sydney Gore
I appreciated when Carrabba was at the forefront of Dashboard. I actually liked him best in Further Seems Forever, but when I finally started listening to him by himself, I thought it was cool. The fact that he could crossover genres with just his voice and an acoustic guitar was awesome to me. Swiss Army Romance and The Places You Have Come to Fear The Most are definitely my favorite Dashboard records because of this.
The fact that “Hands Down” was full band obviously made that record [A Mark, A Mission, A Scar]. Maybe it’s a really shitty thing to say, but that’s what people cared about. And that’s not what resonated with me. Even though it [“Hands Down”] is an incredible song, that and “Bend and Not Break,” this record didn’t speak to me the way the others did. It’s obviously musical and beautiful and his lyrics rule, but it didn’t feel the same, as raw musically. – Wayne Wildrick (Man Overboard)
There has been a ton of interest surrounding Twin Falls lately, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the band features members of Dashboard Confessional, Bad Books, and The Narrative. PropertyOfZack was interested in the band too, which is why we were happy to have Senior Writer Jesse Richman do an incredible interview with the band down at SXSW last week. The interview features information on how Twin Falls came together, what the band means for other projects, an album, tour, and so much more. Check it all out below!
Could you state your names and roles in Twin Falls?
Ben: I am Benjamin Homola and I play the drums.
Jonathan: I’m Jonathan Clark and I play the bass.
Suzie: Suzie Zeldin. I sing.
Chris: Chris Carrabba. Vocals and guitar. Suzie plays mandolin, too.
I saw your first real performance at SXSW [at Central Presbyterian Church] yesterday. Chris, you played some songs at shows in the past few months, but was this the first performance?
Ben: Yes. It was the first performance billed as Twin Falls.
POZ: How did it feel being up there?
Chris: I think that the church we were in made us feel a little reserved, but it felt great to be up there. It felt really great.
All of you come from different bands. Is it strange being on stage with a different group of people than who you’re comfortable with? Is there an adjustment period?
Chris: This is the most comfortable I’ve ever been on stage with anybody.
Jonathan: It’s extremely comfortable.
Chris: We’ve essentially been living together for two years making this record, just deciding what the record is going to be. We didn’t know we were even going to be a band when we decided to start messing around for fun. it started out as a labor of love. We were just pals. We even said at one point that we wouldn’t be a band.
POZ: What changed?
Chris: It was just evident that this was a band.
POZ: Was there a certain moment?
Chris: I think I know what it was. I had a handful of songs, and I was looking for a post-Dashboard thing. I thought what I wanted to do was make delicate finger-picking kind of songs, which is something I like very much. Ben and Jonathan are both producers and were helping me with recording these songs.The more I examined what was important to me about music I began to have a revelation that something that’s great about Dashboard is that the audience is in a state of celebration. Which may be antithetical to what people who don’t know much about what Dashboard think it is. It’s a little bit euphoric. But I’ve always felt like I’m just a focal point, and maybe that I’m not quite part of the party. That was something I realized as I was doing this finger-picking. I was getting further away. I want to stomp my foot, I want to be a part of this party, I want the party to be on stage, go outward, and come right back at us. That was a big shift in the tide.
One of the tracks you played at the first show was a cover of Cory Branan’s “Tall Green Grass,” which you also released on your cover LP.
Chris: We did some covers for Covered In The Flood. I’ve had Cory with me over the course of the last three years as my main opener. I’m very inspired by him. I love that song so I did that song. While we were doing that finger-picking thing, at some point, I said we should make another cover record that was closer to where I want to go because I don’t know how to get there. That’s when things started to take shape. That’s when I started to understand what we were chasing.
Was Covered In The Flood the genesis of you seeing this new direction?
Chris: That allowed me to realize that I should be able to make music like that too. I listened to that as much as I did punk rock.
POZ: Was that big in your house growing up?
Chris: No, it was just kind of something I stumbled on in my pre-teen years. I think it started with Willie Nelson stuff. My grandmother was super into Frank Sinatra, and then I heard Willie Nelson, songs that he wrong for Frank Sinatra. I dove into that. My stepbrother knew a lot about country music, so I dug into it that way. I never saw too much distinction between the outlaw country and punk rock. It’s cut from the same cloth, the same dirty, ragged cloth.
Ben: A stained whiskey cloth.
Chris: Even some Dashboard songs have it tempered into what I did. The covers LP was me saying, “How can I do this in such a way that isn’t disingenuous.” They’re my influences and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with embracing them, but I didn’t want it to be pure imitation.
The release of the solo LP was the first time you put aside Dashboard to put something out under your own name. Was that a conscious break where Dashboard is emo music and Chris Carrabba is something else?
Chris: Dashboard has a lot of trappings. There is an expectation from the listener that makes it difficult to write without an expectation of an outcome. I feel like it’s demanded now, at this point. It wasn’t always like that, there’s a lot of variation between records, but I felt that after six records it had to be a certain kind of thing. That felt void of magic to me.
POZ: Do you see yourself coming back to it in the future?
Chris: Absolutely. I think if it feels magical to me that I’ll do it. If it doesn’t, then I can’t do it. I think what makes people connect with my music is the same thing that would make people know instantly if I was bullshitting.
Yesterday was our busiest day yet at SXSW, and Senior Writer Jesse Richman had his hands full. You’ll see proof soon, but Jesse spent a large portion of the interviewing great bands and getting great information while rounding out the night at the Crush Management showcase with special guest Fall Out Boy. Check it all out below!
For most everyone in Austin this week, SXSW is both work and play.
Daytime today was all about work for me. I sat down with Chris Carrabba and his new (or not-so-new, as you’ll learn) bandmates in Twin Falls, for an extended conversation about the group that Carrabba is calling his “priority.” Our conversation ranged from the inspiration for the project, to the band member’s thoughts on the “scene,” to the future of Dashboard Confessional. It was a natural, easy chat with an act clearly excited about their future, and it made for one of the best interview experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of participating in. We’ll have that online for you early in the coming week — it’ll be a long read, but an interesting one, I promise.
I also, as you probably already saw, had the chance to sit down with the notorious Jonny Craig, who confirmed that he did audition for, and was initially accepted for a part on, The Voice. Craig appeared very forthcoming during the discussion — he seems contrite about his past mistakes and is looking forward a future that will be more tightly under his own control. Of course, with Jonny Craig, the proof will be in the pudding — his words are only worth whatever actions follow. But he seems to at least feel certain about the direction he wants to head, both personally and in his music career. We’ll have the full discussion for you soon as well.
But those were only two parts of what proved to be an exhausting day of conversation. I chatted about indie music with A Lot Like Birds’ Kurt Travis, talked about the state of the industry with the guys in HRVRD, discussed how The Dear Hunter will and won’t change on their upcoming non-concept LP with Casey Crescenzo, got the dish on touring with Set It Off, and spoke with British newcomer Ed Tullett after his very first performance in the US. Stay tuned for all of those interviews in the coming weeks.
That said, if the daytime was about work, nighttime was all about play. Even before SXSW started, rumors were swirling that Fall Out Boy might be making a surprise appearance, with a spot in Crush Music Management’s showcase a likely landing spot, but it was only yesterday that we were able to confirm the appearance. CMM are best known for managing FOB and friends like Cobra Starship and Panic! At The Disco, but the agency has a diverse roster, much of which was on display tonight. The evening began with a trio of Nashville artists that Crush represents: Striking Matches, Kristen Kelly and Ashley Monroe. Of the three, Monroe seemed to get the best response from the crowd; while pop-country twang isn’t exactly my cup of tea, her sardonic, cheekily revealing lyrics kept my ears perked and her crack band were impressive to watch.
Following them, the incomparable Butch Walker took the stage. Playing a short set and in front of an audience that seemed largely unfamiliar with his work, he opted to stick with some of his more anthemic numbers, including a new tune dedicated to his father that closed with an extended, ecstatic guitar solo. Walker’s live show seems to toe closer and closer to Springsteenland each time I see him perform. That’s not a complaint. He’s one of the few who has the songs, the chops and the stamina to pull it off consistently.
The first full day of SXSW is done, and Senior Writer Jesse Richman had a hell of a day covering the the grounds, shows, and more for POZ. Check out a great round-up of POZ’s first SXSW day with crowded showcases, Tegan And Sara, Twin Falls, and much more below!
At SXSW, things never quite go as planned.
Waterloo Records is an Austin institution, a long-standing vinyl-lovers paradise that dates back to the days when vinyl was the medium of choice for everyone — by default. And while their store is a good 20-minute walk from the rest of the SXSW action, they’ve made a tradition of free day parties that are always worth the hike. On today’s bill, two favorites of ours: Tegan & Sara and Twenty One Pilots.
Of course, there was one minor miscalculation in my plan. Tegan & Sara were scheduled for 2 p.m. and Twenty One Pilots for 4. In between, at 3? Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. The hip-hop hit-makers — at SXSW fresh off an appearance on Saturday Night Live — drew by far the largest crowd I’ve seen for a day party to date. It was impossible to get inside the fenced-off Waterloo Records parking lot and it was equally impossible to cut through the thicket of fans on the sidewalk around three sides of the lot, for that matter. There was a crowd of people five deep, on the opposite side of busy Lamar Drive, listening in. There were folks on a Whole Foods rooftop diagonal across the street and at least a hundred yards away. There were a few brave diehards standing on the tops of cars, just trying to get a peak at whatever wonders might be hiding behind those fences. (Tip to those folks: it’s just some musicians, I promise!)
I managed to hear half of Tegan & Sara’s set while wandering the scene in a daze — fortunately, they sounded great, their harmonies spot-on, their band album-perfect. Their newest LP, Heartthrob, trades their traditional indie rock sound for electronic pop melodies, and the bright blips seem like they were crafted specifically to be heard in the bright afternoon Austin sunshine; it was an enjoyable set, even if I couldn’t see the Quin twins.
Still, there was no way I was going to stick it out through Macklemore’s set, not when Twenty One Pilots are playing a grip of additional sets this week. My backup plan was a day party sponsored by our affable hosts here at PropertyOfZack, the fine folks at Tumblr. Unfortunately, that proved a disaster for the exact opposite reason. I discovered to find a band playing to a ginormous empty, fenced-off lot. Like, literally empty. I took a peak around the side of the lot, looking for a poster or something that might identify the mystery band, and was immediately told by a security guard that I needed to vacate the alleyway. No wonder the place was entirely devoid of festivalgoers.
I never did catch the band’s name, settling instead for a power pop showcase (I might be the old man here at POZ, but I had a good ten or twenty years on anyone else at reclusive Clevelanders Shoes’ set of bouncy, Fountains Of Wayne-esque pop-rock) and a burger with a friend. It wasn’t in the plan, but if you’re doing SXSW right, no plan is the plan, ultimately.
Chris Carrabba has commented that he does not know what the near future holds for Dashboard Confessional, but that he is working on a new project instead. Check out what Carrabba said in a new interview below by clicking “Read More.”
Chris Carrabba Launching New Project At SXSW?
It looks like Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional, Further Seems Forever) debuted a new song from an unnamed project at a recent show that Under The Gun uncovered, and it is now suspected that that song belongs to the Twin Falls project. Listen to “Back To You” below by clicking “Read More.”
Chris Carrabba Launching New Project At SXSW?
Further Seems Forever is back with original frontman, Chris Carrabba, on its fourth studio album, Penny Black. Earlier this summer, rumors of Carrabba’s return seemed too good to be true, but after listening to this album, it’s like he never left. The chemistry on Penny Black has never been hotter between Josh Colbert (guitar), Derick Cordoba, Nick Dominguez (guitar), Chad Neptune (bass) and Steve Kleisath (drums).
Penny Blank has a dark demeanor about it, in both tone and sound. In “So Cold,” Carrabba belts out in long forgotten shouts with biting and gritty guitars supporting him. “Rescue Trained”, one of the best tracks by far, has so much intensity wrapped up within the instrumentation and vocals separately. The drums provide a steady rhythm while the guitar and bass chords amp up the song. But Carrabba’s voice is what really gets under our skin—he always has a way of connecting with the listener in a way that enables them to feel his pain and strains as he screams, “Yeah, I know we’re both strong willed. But we can’t resists forever. If we won’t take control can we only let go?”
“Staring Down The Sun” is a deep-rooted confession to a lover. “These days run through each other. Just the thought of you alone makes me suffer. When all I ever really wanted, all I ever wanted was your love,” Carrabba sings. The grungy harmonies in the last minute of the song give it a nice touch. The next song, “A System of Symmetry” picks up where it left off, taking a more electronic approach with a touch of auto-tune on the vocals. Lines like “a pin sticking in my ribs just isn’t enough to live” remind listeners that this band still has a dark side, no matter how old they are. Everyone’s inner emo tween will be ready to come out and play.