Posted September 8, 2013 by Jeff in Tunes

Chris Carrabba shifts musical directions with Twin Forks

Best known for his emo-ish project Dashboard Confessional, Chris Carrabba is a folkie at heart. At least that’s the impression you get from listening to his new band, Twin Forks, which pairs him with mandolin player Suzie Zeldin, bassist Jonathan Clark and drummer Ben Homola. The band’s new self-titled album features a collection of upbeat, folk-inspired tunes that’ll appeal more to fans of, say, Mumford and Sons than of The Promise Ring. Carrabba recently phoned us from his Florida home to talk about the new disc and upcoming tour.

Talk about how this project came together?
As I was looking for a new direction and feeling boxed in by the parameters of the style of music I was allowed to write and what I thought my audience wanted, I was chasing something I felt was a little more fulfilling. I had a lot of writer’s block. I spent two years learning how to pick, which is a different style than what I’m used to. Your fingers play the melody and it’s like you have two guitars in your hand. I took that approach in a really delicate way and wrote small and intimate songs. I had some help from my friend Jonathan Clark and Ben from Manchester Orchestra both helped when I was ready to record. While we were doing that, I started playing covers and as soon as we started playing covers there was this element of boot stomping. We played a bluegrass festival and when we played those covers, there was a bit of eureka moment. The whole time we were doing that, we kept saying we wouldn’t be a band. We came home and decided we were a band. It was really natural.

To what extent did your 2011 covers album influence the music on the Twin Forks EP?
That was the first step and Jonathan helped me that. I started writing those more delicate songs. It was very slow. We kept saying we wouldn’t be a band; we were overextended. We just thought we were too busy. One day we just realized this thing was staring us in the face and that was it.

When I first started playing music, I was playing hardcore and that’s what I was listening to then. Then, I played what I was listening to before hardcore.

As much as it’s a change in musical direction for you, it also hearkens back to the music that you grew up listening to.
Looking back with perspective, I realize I worked through my influences in reverse order. When I first started playing music, I was playing hardcore and that’s what I was listening to then. Then, I played what I was listening to before hardcore. The earliest music I remember gravitating toward was this folk music. Or maybe it’s not folk music. I’m thinking of Simon & Garfunkel and John Denver and Townes Van Zandt and Willie Nelson. It’s this weird mix of boundaryless music. My parents would be listening to the Stones or Cat Stevens or whatever. When I started doing Dashboard, my attempt was to take the folk singer approach but without what I saw as the trappings of folk. I thought of that term really loosely. What we do is this weird mixture of folk, singer-songwriter and bluegrass and a bit of indie rock. With Dashboard, I was trying to avoid the trappings of what I listened to while growing up. I didn’t want to feel like I was treading on my influences. As I became a more confident player, I realized it was a traditional template and not something to be avoided but something to excel within.

The songs are so upbeat and joyful. Do they reflect your current state of mind?
I’m not sure my last band was really reflective of my state of mind. If you came to the shows, you realize there was joy in the performances. That was something I was really aware of. It’s hard to be joyful in music. I think that it’s easier to be tortured or pensive in music. But to allow joy in music without it being saccharine is tricky. That’s the trap. If it’s joyful, it possibly lacks punch. We allow there to still be musical tension. It’s a reaction to how much fun we have together as friends and players.

“Scraping Up the Pieces” sounds like a traditional number or something by The Pogues.

It’s no secret listened to The Pogues listening up. I have this one tooth that I keep breaking. I think if I just leave it, I can be closer to The Pogues. I think that comes from embracing a more traditional template and trying to infuse my own storytelling style into that. It has that brogue approach. On Thursday nights, I play with friends at a British pub; only 100 people fit in there. That’s one of the bigger influences on how that song came to be. The funny thing about that song is that it spilled out as a story. I seldom write lyrics without singing or playing at the same time. I wanted to work on it and then went and took a shower and then wrote out the whole song and it spilled out.

The EP has five songs on it. Do you have more tunes worked up for the live show?
Oh yeah. We have a full-length ready to be released. We won’t shy away from playing those. Plus, we have tons of covers we have already released. And we’ll release two more before the tour. And we have a free EP we put out. There’s no shortage of songs. I think we have an appropriate length for a set.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Sept. 17

Sept. 18

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The Social – Orlando, FL

Jack Rabbits – Jacksonville, FL

Masquerade – Atlanta, GA

The Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC

Local 506 – Chapel Hill, NC

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue – Washington, DC

Santos Party House – New York, NY

Great Scott – Allston, MA

North Star Bar – Philadelphia, PA

Grog Shop – Cleveland, OH

Shelter – Detroit, MI

Subterranean – Chicago, IL

The Triple Rock Social Club – Minneapolis, MN

Slowdown (Front Room) – Omaha, NE

The Riot Room – Kansas City, MO

The Firebird – St Louis, MO

The Vanguard – Tulsa, OK

Austin City Limits – Austin, TX

The End – Nashville, TN

Gasa Gasa – New Orleans, LA

Holy Mountain – Austin, TX

Austin City Limits – Austin, TX

Hi-Dive – Denver, CO

Club Sound – Salt Lake City, UT

The Vera Project – Seattle, WA

Star Theater – Portland, OR

Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco, CA

Troubadour – Los Angeles, CA

Detroit Bar – Costa Mesa, CA

The Irenic – San Diego, CA

Pub Rock – Scottsdale, AZ

Low Spirits – Albuquerque, NM

Three Links – Dallas, TX


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].