I keep mentioning my interview with Chris. The interview and performance will be edited down to about two minutes when it officially airs on NBC SoundDiego in the upcoming weeks, but I loved everything about this interview. I loved that Chris was totally open and we did it in the band's dressing room before the show. I loved that he expressed that he was nervous but then became more forgiving when I said I was nervous, too, that I hadn't done an interview in months. He said we could do a whole run-through and if we didn't like it we could do it all over again in a second take.
(Continued after the jump)
While the camera was being set up, I went to the hallway to try and get some control over what I was going to ask and talk about and when I returned, Albert (our videographer), the tour manager, Chris and I got into a funny conversation about SXSW and an incident that happened years ago, lightening up the room. He asked about the origin of my name, talked about his family and past a little bit, and some other random stories that never felt like meaningless small talk. Midway through the interview, Albert had to swap memory cards, and Chris took the opportunity to check some email and texts, apologizing, but explaining that he had a sick family member and was waiting on some news, and pointing out that this is the kind of stuff that really matters at this point in our lives...
So this interview wasn't really done with the expectation of ever printing it.I definitely fumbled through but mostly got in the questions I'd thought about before the interview. But Chris' openness and his willingness to talk made me a little sad that it would all boil down to just a couple minutes on TV, so I requested the audio and through the magic of technology, here is the full interview, as best it could be transcribed (with many of my uhs, likes, and ya knows removed for clarity).
Hi, I'm Rosey and I'm here at the House of Blues with Chris Carrabba. Thanks for joining us!
That's me. I'm so happy to be here; thanks for inviting me to talk with you.
I want to start way back in the beginning when you started music. Were you kind of like a tinkerer or did you kind of know that this would be a lifelong pursuit now that it's evolved to where it is?
It's- you know that's a tough one...I think I knew. I think I really did know. I didn't think- I didn't- I knew that I was not naturally good at it and it was going to take a lot of work but I just knew that it was like one of the first things that I ever decided was worth an immense amount of hard work.
Very cool. So when you were writing back then were you kind of like a music first guy or lyrics first guy or was it, you know, learning your guitar was your main focus or...?
It's kind of funny that you'd ask it that way, because I was just trying to learn how to play guitar. I wasn't a singer and didn't expect ever to be a singer. But I heard a lot of melody when I would just play these chords, and like--that's back in the day when you're playing a chord and you're like (fingering chords) it takes a while to get your fingers on and it rings out for a while, then you're like, “I know I was supposed to move this one, and then that one”, but all that while, like a melody is kind of going through my head. So from the very earliest days of me hunting my way through how this thing (grabs neck of guitar) works, I was already like intertwining melody, which would lead me to like a lyrical place, because melody is to me-- maybe to everybody-- but definitely to me, evocative of, it evokes memory. So I would just have stories that would pop up in my head and I would start writing.
So when I would go on later to be in my first bands...it was just older kids that were like “no, that guy's not going to be something,” “that guy's not serious,” “that guy, he's going to get strung out,” “that guy's going to be a washout,” “This guy. He's going to be," in my imagination,"this guy is, he'll be OK. At best, he'll be OK,” and then eventually one older kid was like, “you're going to be great!” and he took me under his wing. And I was then in his band, and I would write the songs for his band-- I was the weakest player in the band-- and I would sing backups because he made me sing, he said, “that's the only way you're going to learn to sing.” And if it weren't for that guy-- that's Dan Bonebrake- who would later be the bass player for many, for the first few years of Dashboard and who continues to be my best friend- and a best friend of the band.
If it wasn't for Dan and people like that, that might have come along at that, at those right exact perfect times, I'd be really happily playing guitar after work right now.
So back then you kind of --you sprung out, you know with M.T.V. and you did an Unplugged record-- like you're massively blowing up-- when you're reaching that point do you start to realize like, “I'm kind of trailblazing this (sound)” or do you feel like you kind of had your influences that led you there?
Yeah-- that's the-- I felt the latter. I felt duty bound to honor those bands that I was really in love with; that I was really influenced by. And since they started calling us Emo-- which we didn't think we were only because the bands that we listened to, that existed already, that predated us by these, like these really short musical generations of like three to five years where we were, ”that's their scene not our scene, we're something different.” Not like “we're something different!” but like, “that's not fair to them. That's the thing they created,” and so I figured if they were calling me Emo, and we were out, and I was heavily influenced by all these bands- and I am- not just those bands, but many of them, that I had I was sort of duty bound to try to be the best at it that I was able to be at that time.
I've always just kind of tried to be a little bit better. (long pause) Maybe a lot better than I am right now, and in doing so, I am a little bit better than I am right now at any given time.
All right so let's bring it back to San Diego. I was looking back (at sddialedin.com) and I could find twelve different shows since 2005. I know there were some before that. So there was Street Scene and the Del Mar Racetrack.
And you've done Twin Forks at Soda Bar...
Yeah that was fun...
and the Irenic. I couldn't find any Casbah, couldn't find any Belly Up...
Casbah--we opened for the Get Up Kids at the Casbah in 2000, probably?
So you've hit all our spots and you keep coming back to the House of Blues. Is there any particular show or venue that stands out/sticks out or any experience here in San Diego that kind of, when you come back here, you're like “oh, I remember that one time.”
It's funny, Rosey. There's a real similarity in kind of like 'the look of San Diego' and 'the look of Fort Lauderdale'- where I'm from- and-- people here are less crazy than they are Fort Lauderdale, but they--which I like better-- so it's like the best version of Fort Lauderdale--so I immediately kind of felt at home here. And we were like-- where bands would spend so much time in L.A.-- makes kind of sense, I guess, that's where the music business is-- I would spend all that time in San Diego thinking like, “I don't care about the music business. I care about music.” So you know you just rattled off a hundred and I would even add like Soma to that, and I remember...but this venue, the House of Blues has some real personal history for me.
I think Vagrant America was here. Vagrant America was this tour that was like-- well it was Vagrant Records-- but it was all of us, and we were already so close. We toured so much together, but for us to be like officially branded as like a gang almost? The world's worst gang... the world's okay-est gang, I guess, right? And so that was a great memory of mine.
Another great memory of mine, if I keep it at the House of Blues for a minute is 2010, I did the ten year anniversary my first record, which is called the Swiss Army Romance. And that show here- that tour- was a special tour but that show here was, is my favorite memory of shows on that tour and that's not just because we're here talking about it.
I think when I-- when people talk about the tour-- that image comes to mind and I think I played like like three hours. They had to drag me off the stage, and I remember that I was sick the day-- I was sick that day, and it-- and I was completely cured by that night, and I thought I was going to die in the morning. And then by like two songs in, I was like, “I'm alive!” like, "I will live forever..maybe...” I don't know. Who said I'll live forever?
We have a theory about Scott being vampire but that doesn't apply to me yet.
I mean, one could say that you might be aging in reverse, as well. (Laughing)
I don't know if I'm aging in reverse, but Scott is. Scott our bass player. I'm convinced he's a really-- like not just a vampire, but like an ancient vampire-- because he hasn't changed at all except for he's like, he gets nicer and nicer but looks more evil. And I've never seen his reflection. I personally have never seen- I don't know if he can see it- but I've never seen it. I know he's like too old of a vampire to levitate because I've seen him walk, but I figure that probably goes away after a few hundred years, that skill. I don't know.. I don't know much about vampires. I only know one personally, so... (Laughs)
So I want to talk about...well, when we were growing up.. I think we're similar age (point of fact, Chris is about a year and a half older than me)...you know there's like 70s disco parties or like flower child parties or whatever... 80s and then as the 90s move along, so now, all these clubs, these venues are... there's like Emo Night L.A. is touring, and there's whole tribute nights-- there was just recently in San Diego there was a Dashboard Confessional, you know, tribute night with a bunch of San Diego local artists...
Yes! They call it San Diego Under Cover. So there are a bunch of local bands...
Why didn't they invite me?
(laughs)... and so have you ever seen...
Have you seen that phenomenon across the country?
Sure! Oh sure!
But have you ever walked in on one and kind of surprised them?
Yes. Well no. I don't. It wasn't a surprise. I've gone to the Emo night in L.A. They-- as far as I know are the original ones-- and they did their one year anniversary and they reached out to me and they thought I would never do it because-- it wasn't just me that they thought that about-- they thought-- they thought that about everybody they asked, I think, because it's just semi like-- I don't think that they realized that we would have thought it was important, too, that they were celebrating this thing that we think is, that we are fans of-- I'm a fan of the band, not, I'm not speaking about my own band, but the bands that they play-- those are my friends, or bands that I love, or bands that I grew up listening to, or have come to listen to in years later.
So, to me, the fact that like-- and I remember in the 90s those 80s nights and being like, “well, I didn't get to experience the 80s, really, but now I get a chance to,” and it's feeling really, like, electric... like it didn't feel like a fake show or a silly celebration or anything tongue-in-cheek about that, and that's what impresses me about all of these ones-- the Nashville one, Brooklyn one, obviously, this one here, they do one in Arizona, where they just did--this is counterintuitive to the scene we're from, but it was like Jimmy Eat World versus Dashboard Confessional; it was cover bands. At which point Jim and I are on the phone like, “We're cool right? There's no feuding happening, right?" And we're just laughing, you know what I mean? It's like, “can you believe this is happening?” but there is no...there's a lot of levity there, but they do take this music seriously and that's why they're doing it.
Alright. And then I'm going to ask my last question, and not to get too super political, but you are traveling across the country...
Yeah, no, let's do it
What's your... what's the tone of the country? I mean you are interacting with these people. Do you feel like your fan base is kind of one side or the other or do you feel like you have this really diverse audience and you have an opportunity to like, kind of reach people on both sides or what's the.. what's the general feeling?
General feeling? Rosey, it wouldn't be my place to say how my fans feel based on who cheers at what I say. But, like every sub-sect, I think there's people on both sides, and I expect--possibly because a lot of people that come to our shows are liberal because they grew up involved in artsy things and things like that-- that they have a tendency to probably be pretty upset now. Now, this tour started days before the inauguration. Went through D.C. the day before or after the Women's March, I think it was the day after the Women's March, and every night I talk a bit about the the situation in our country and I try my best... My viewpoints-- and I'll share them with you--are that I'm an independent who is moderate. That is pro- women's rights, pro—uh, this is where my learning disability comes in-- L.G. help me Q.
And that's not because I don't-- I'm not less for it because I have a learning disability-- but I'm pro-most.. but I'm also pro-small business and I also run a small business and I'm-- and and I find all of this--so I say that to illustrate that perhaps I could find a positive. (long pause) I'm finding no positive. I'm finding some rhetoric that's really scary. And I'm sensing that our audience is finding it scary, too.
I'm trying to add a little bit of a reminder that the music scene is about building something together. Being together. Working together. And being stronger together by accepting each other for what is the same and different about us, and trying to get people to discuss with me and each other, how we do that now in this world-- in this political climate. And this would all be so much easier if our president was inarticulate in a funny way like Bush was George H. W. Bush was, I mean W. Bush was, he was inarticulate and you kind of--I disagreed with almost everything the man said, but I kind of got a good chuckle out of it, at least...
Nucular and all that...
...but I find the tenor to be abrasive, frightening on purpose, seemingly. Intensive...with the intent of scaring the people more than who-- he's scaring our people more than, for example, Iran today. I don't know what to make of that.
I do think though-- my personal way of dealing with--my personal way of dealing with Trump on a minute by minute basis is when, I try not to listen to what he says, but I'll read it in Chris Pratt's voice, and it's indistinguishable from Andy Dwyer, in my mind, like it's just as ridiculous as anything Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation would say. (long pause)
On the other hand, I hope he becomes a phenomenal president because he's the one we have and we need one.
Thank you. We're going to go cry now. (We laugh and wrap up the interview.)
Of course, the camera stopped rolling but the conversation carried on. He revealed he was once a pro-skater, joking that music was his Plan B, and talking about sponsorships and his skate deck. We snapped a photo, continued chit-chatting, I made a last minute ticket and photo pass request to his tour manager who rejoined us in the room. Chris thanked us, told us to find him after the show for drinks, and we were on our way.
The show was great, of course, though the crowd was a bit chatty under the low ceiling areas of the venue which is par for the course at HoB. Che Cafe should be pretty amazing with less than 20% the capacity of HoB. I'll be there. I wouldn't miss it.