If it seems like Chris Carrabba was just out here, it’s because he practically was.
Not only did Dashboard Confessional play the OC Fair last July, but he also put on a set in the Constellation Room of the Observatory with his band Twin Forks less than two months before that. In the nine months since the veteran songwriter was last able to munch on the elotes of Southern California, Carrabba spent most of his days birthing the long-awaited Dashboard record that he’d been looking to release for quite some time.
But rather than going the Chinese Democracy route with an overly drawn-out project that doesn’t please fans new or old, Crooked Shadows is as quick and raw as Carrabba’s earliest works. Although far more mature and complex than anything Dashboard Confessional would’ve released in the early 2000s, the band’s ringleader opted to go back to his recording roots and give his latest release an intentional sense of unfiltered emotion and immediacy.
“The immediacy [of Crooked Shadows] was by design,” Carrabba says. “I recorded it in my basement, so I would write a song at home and then literally go from the couch to the microphone 10 minutes later. Maybe it won’t be the most well-performed version of the song that there will ever be, but I think it’s possibly the most connected I’ll ever be to that song.”
Of course, connecting with his own songs is all well and good for Carrabba, but it wouldn’t be worth much if listeners couldn’t feel the same way. With six records of material his fans already know and love, the frontman knew that bringing new music on the road for the first time in nearly a decade could turn sour pretty quickly. But even while promising to play all of the older hits night after night, the guys in Dashboard have seen audiences come around to the new tunes far more than even they expected. With little difference between the crowd’s reaction for Crooked Shadows and tracks from the ‘00s, one could even say the first run for a new record after all these years has left Carrabba feeling vindicated.
“The one thing that I can hope and dream will happen is that [Crooked Shadows] will be meaningful to these people — it’s obviously meaningful to me, or I wouldn’t have bothered putting it out,” Carrabba says. “The idea that I’m able to connect with different people and some of the same people that I have in the past is really a dream come true for me.”
Regardless of where Crooked Shadows ends up sitting within Dashboard Confessional’s discography at the end of the day, just being able to put out a successful new record 18 years after their debut is a testament to the band’s staying power and fans’ commitment. With an audience that’s equally split between older millennials who have grown up with the band and younger fans who may be discovering the group for the first time, the quartet’s latest work isn’t meant to remove or replace any of the older tracks from fans’ hearts — and Carrabba won’t even refer to them as “old” at this point. After all, even though “Screaming Infidelities” is now older than most of the high schoolers who are using it to get through their first breakups, it doesn’t feel any less fresh to the songwriter when he busts out his acoustic guitar to play it each and every night.
“The songs in the original batch don’t stop being ‘new’ to me because I play them in a new setting every night with the influence of an audience that wasn’t there the night before and won’t be there tomorrow,” Carrabba says. “It takes on the meaning that they carry with them, but I wouldn’t have known that when I was young and the songs were new. I didn’t know if they’d have legs, but now I know why they have legs — and that’s because people care about them and give so much when they’re in the moment of the live show.”
Aside from their upcoming shows at House of Blues and the Palladium on Friday and Saturday nights, Dashboard will also be spending their Saturday afternoon playing an acoustic set at Fingerprints Music in Long Beach for Record Store Day. Although some well-known and established acts consider in-store performances and other miniscule shows more of an inconvenience, playing to dozens of people rather than thousands is a pastime that Carrabba hopes to never give up.
“I didn’t come up the traditional way where you get discovered by some cool A&R guy; I came up playing basements and backyards and record stores,” Carrabba says. “I’ve never wanted to lose sight of how important that was, so I’ll often do shows like that or I’ll do secret shows after the show at a tiny club. Sometimes we’re popular enough to be in an arena and sometimes we’re not, but even when we’re big enough to be in an arena, I feel like I must go play these small shows somewhere or I’ll lose that thread that’s so important to me.”
Dashboard Confessional will be at the House of Blues on Friday, April 20 at 5:30 p.m. Tickets start at $33.60 and are available through the venue’s website.