Chris Carrabba calls Dashboard Confessional’s upcoming fi fth album “a return to form” — which is saying something for a guy who’s reeled off two consecutive gold records and a platinum DVD.
But “The Shade of Poison Trees,” which comes out Oct. 2, does indeed take Dashboard Confessional back to its roots. Centered around Carrabba’s acoustic guitar and stark, but still rocking, arrangements, it hearkens back to the first Dashboard albums — 2000’s “The Swiss Army Romance” and the following year’s “The Places You Have Come to Fear the
Most” — after a louder and more electric turn on 2003’s “A Mark A Mission A Brand A Scar” (2003) and last year’s “Dusk and Summer.”
“It’s the ‘just a kid and guitar kind of thing’ again,” says Carrabba, 32, who began working under the Dashboard Confessional moniker in 1998, initially as a side project to his rock band Further Seems Forever. “Maybe I’m not a kid anymore, but I can still get to that place when I pick up an acoustic guitar and it’s unadorned.
“I think that (with) repetition, for a songwriter, you either get lazy or you get uninspired ... or both. So I consciously decided to walk away from keeping those (acoustic) parameters before that became uninteresting to me. I decided to make electric records, which I also enjoy.
“And just before I got to the point where I was tired of that, I thought, ‘Here’s a good opportunity to step into this old role that I’d kind of missed. It was like putting on a comfortable shoe or something. It felt nice.”
There is, however, an element of risk in steering Dashboard back towards its past.
Though the first two albums and their angstfilled paeans won a strong and loyal cult following for Carrabba’s project in the burgeoning emo rock world, the electric entries were far better sellers and significantly increased the size of that audience. He considers “The Shade ... ” “a gift to (old fans) for waiting so long for something like this,” but he readily admits he has no idea if the more recent Dashboard crowd will embrace it.
“I don’t see why they wouldn’t; I think the music is good music,” says Carrabba, who calls it “the most personal album I’ve written in many years. I think if you like our band, you’ll like this, but if you really liked the way that it was before we were, like, big, I think you’ll be very satisfied.”
And, he adds, Dashboard’s fans “seem to have this patience with me. They seem to allow me to kind of go in whatever directions I’m gonna go in. I think most of them have allowed me to grow and change. That’s a real lucky stroke.”
Carrabba says he’s also fortunate that his record company is willing to put out “The Shade ... ” on his terms, too — with “such little fanfare. I don’t want to market this in a huge way.” He’s not even planning to release a single, explaining that “I think it would be a stretch for any of these (songs) to get played on the radio” — although he hopes that some “real believers” might start playing “Thick As Thieves,” which has widely been disseminated via the Internet.
But he’s also putting a lot of stock in word-ofmouth. “I like that discovery of an album,” he explains. “I think this is an album that’s gonna be better for people having discovered it on an individual basis as opposed to, ‘I’ve heard it enough times on the radio. Now I think I should buy it.’ “
Carrabba plans to do his part, meanwhile, by hitting the road and returning to roots as a solo acoustic performer — kind of.
“It’s me and, as I did in the old days, whoever I guess I invite that’s there,” says Carrabba, who’s already “about 14 songs” into “The Shade’s ... ” successor. “I’m sure Johnny (Lefler), my guitar player, will be around traveling with us and probably be on some portion of the show. But mostly it’s just gonna be me by myself.
“That was the old rule — just go out by yourself, and if you feel like having other people, let them come on stage. But it’ll be a wing-it kind of thing, which is really fun.”
Chris Carrabba performs a solo acoustic Dashboard Confessional concert at 8 p.m. Friday (Sept. 14) at the Meadow Brook Music Festival on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester Hills. Tickets are $20, pavilion only. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com. Dashboard Confessional returns with Augustana and John Ralston on Nov. 2 to Clutch Cargos, 65 E. Huron St., Pontiac. Tickets are $27.50. Call (248) 333-2362 or visit www.livenation.com
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