For 20 years, the band Dashboard Confessional has been helping make people who wear their heart on their sleeve cool.
This is in part because of the band’s biggest albums, “A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar” and “The Place You Have Come to Fear The Most,” which launched hits like the rousing “Hands Down” and the tear-jerking “Screaming Infidelities.” Though the band broke up for several years, it re-formed in 2015 and released its latest album, “Crooked Shadows,” in 2018. It recently marketed the fan-approved compilation, “The Best Ones of the Best Ones.”
When the band comes to The Truman in Kansas City, Missouri, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, it will be a celebration of the songs that likely provided the soundtrack to many disaffected 20- and 30-year-olds, along with new fans turned on to the lyrics of lead singer Chris Carrabba through rappers inspired by him like Lil’ Peep and Juice WRLD.
Before Carrabba performs, he took some time to talk about his legacy. Some answers have been condensed for space.
St. Joe Live: What have the past couple of years been like that Dashboard has been back together?
Chris Carrabba: There’s something to be said for loving something so much, walking away before it burns you out and then coming back (to it) so you can enjoy it.
In the beginning, you’re just making a name for yourself. You’re just hoping that this will last one more show, one more tour. And that can become this dogmatic exercise. It’s not exactly the same as like trying to stay on top, but it’s trying to hold on to what’s special. And now, I realize I’ve got the thing. So now it’s like (I want to) be careful with it ... Handle it with as much joy as I can because it’s cool. It’s really glorious.
SJL: That’s what I wonder — Because you were so young, like, when you see the ‘MTV Unplugged’ performance and you see the fans singing louder than you are, were you able to enjoy it or was it overwhelming at the time?
CC: It was overwhelming. Because how could it not be? It was so unique and strange and special. And it and it was overwhelming, especially in a real, practical sense. (I’m) like, ‘Oh, OK, I see here. I’m really just part of this show. I am not the show. I’m definitely not the headliner of this event.’ That was one thing I truly did appreciate from day one, from the first time it happened, which was at the first show, and every time it’s happened since.
SJL: You’ve heard over the past 20 years how much ‘The Places You Have Come to Fear The Most’ and ‘A Mark, A Mission’ have meant to other people. What do these albums mean to you?
CC: They were phenomenal moments of my musical experience and of my life. They’re not like little snapshots of who I was. They’re the big, thick novels of who I was. There’s a lot to decode in there for me.
I can’t speak to how people interact with the records ... But I know what how meaningful it was to make those records, to write those records. So I’m brought back to a place that may be different than the listener. I’m brought back to the place when I wrote the song.
And let’s face it, it’s an honor that people connected so deeply with the songs and if it had only been for a moment of time, that would have been enough. But the real shocking bit of truth that came to be is they’ve embraced it for 20 years.
And I know what that's like, because that's how I feel about R.E.M. and The Cure and a bunch of these hardcore bands that so heavily influenced me and these punk rock bands. But when I listen to R.E.M. and The Cure, I was at an age where I was impressionable, that I was going through things that were difficult and couldn't make heads or tails of things and I found a lot of value, a lot of wisdom in those songs. And when I listen to them now, it's not nostalgic. It surely it brings me a little bit back to where I was, who I was when I when I listened to them, but they're meaningful to me now ... They're also informative for my life right now.
I think that's the best compliment I've had, is hearing that that's the case with my records for people. It's quite a thing to be told that (for) something you made when you believed no one would ever hear it.
SJL: I remember, going along with that, like when one of my friends discovered your music on Napster, like he we listened to, like, Cash Money Millionaires.
CC: I was too! I was too. (laughs)
SJL: He would make mix CDs and it would be a Juvenile song next to one of your songs from probably 'Swiss Army Romance.' And it was so radically different from what us in our small town that didn't have like a record store or anything had ever heard. And then going into college, seeing your influence and what you had on the singers that would do open mic nights and stuff. Like, you could tell they had that sort of they had your look and they had that sort of vulnerability in their in their songs. We watching it take over.
CC: That's a piece of it that I never encountered. Really, I was just on the road, doing as many shows as I possibly could. So I I didn't really ... There were certainly bands that got popular in the mainstream later or within our scene or underground scene that I always took it as we both had similar influences. I had difficulty seeing it, even though now, looking back, I can see that they were influenced by me. But I had difficulty seeing it at the time. I kind of just couldn't take couldn't get my head around that, which I hear that often. I dropped out of college to be in Dashboard. So I was not going to open mics and watching people do this. I was out there.
SJL: This was the heyday of like contrarian critics and Pitchfork and things like that were like, I think that type of vulnerable music - you could could call it emo or punk or whatever - that it would just wasn't taken seriously. And now we're seeing sort of this critical re-evaluation of all that from the generations that did take it seriously and continue to do so. How does that feel for you?
CC: It feels pretty good and I say that without a lick of self satisfaction. But I guess there is an unexpected satisfaction that comes over you. You say 'Okay. I guess I was, I was right to stay the course, to believe that. And you know, you mentioned Pitchfork and when Pitchfork came out, I really liked the fact that from the very beginning, it was like a tastemaker thing. And I can take my licks. It's okay for me to accept the people like my records, so it has to be okay also to accept that people don't like my records. What I really started to find grating was like this accumulation of snark that began to permeate all things, not just Pitchfork, but everywhere, and certainly on social media, on comments. And I feel like we're not there and will never be there again.
But we are sort of in a post-snark moment and I really like that, where people can say, without fear of people judging them, what influences them, where people can write music that is meaningful and honest and say things that are, I don't know, naked, which is always an easy target. It's a good time for people that are exploring honesty in music because it's like a safer place.
SJL: You're playing here with your friends in The Get Up Kids. What does it mean that all of you have made it on the other side of this?
CC: It feels beautiful to do it. The Get Up Kids, they're like a handful of people that I look at as my generation. You know, these really short, two-year generations of musicians, of musical scenes. The Get Up Kids, they foster music and musicians in a way that prompted me to do the same and took my band Further Seems Forever and gave me shows and then they gave Dashboard shows. They gave all our friends shows. They believed in the things we were doing and then, when some of us became bigger than The Get Up Kids, who were, let's not forget, they are a huge band. And at one point, they were the hugest band in all the scene. They had no ego. It was incredible.
So more than 20 years of friendship later, we're still out playing the shows and we're still spending all this time together. I still speak or text with a Get Up Kid, there's not a week that's gone by in 20 years where I haven't. So this is a special tour to be out with these guys that are, in my opinion, among the elite, the most influential bands to ever exist. And I still get to play shows with them. It's just incredible.