Interview by Jonah Bayer
You're probably familiar with Chris Carrabba through Dashboard Confessional
, but from 1998 until 2001 he was the singer for Pompano, Florida-based emo act Further Seems Forever,
who never achieved the same level of mainstream success but whose legend has only grown with time. After Carrabba left the band, Further Seems Forever continued to make music with other vocalists, however, four years after their 2006 break-up, something unprecedented happened: The original line-up of FSF got back together to play some shows despite the fact that Carrabba was already a household name.
Now, two years later, the band are gearing up to release Penny Black
, their first recording with the original line-up since 2001's The Moon Is Down
— and what's even more impressive is how seamlessly it fits into the band's celebrated catalog. From driving rockers such as "So Cold" to post-hardcore anthems such as "Rescue Trained," Penny Black
sees a band who are on top of their game, largely due to the fact that all of the members stayed active and in touch even when they weren't playing together. We caught up with Carrabba to discuss the band's past, future, and why this project will always have a special place in his heart no matter how successful Dashboard gets. Check it out, spin album-track "So Cold," and grab Penny Black
when it drops October 23 via Rise Records
PureVolume: What happened to Further Seems Forever the first time around?
Chris Carrabba: We had always been very close friends but we hadn't figured out how to be close friends when we were in a band together. I really thought the only way to be a band was to tour and I don't think those guys, having just finished years of touring with Strongarm, were ready for that again. So when I split, there was a very brief period where we weren't getting along. I went off and I did the one Dashboard tour that I had planned, and thought I was coming home to figure out a new band, but Dashboard sort of took on a life of its own and as soon as they got a new singer, they started coming out on tour with Dashboard. I think for a long time a lot of people thought we didn't get along, or there were burned bridges, but they forget that Further were on all these Dashboard tours once they had a new singer.
PV: So how did you end up back in the band?
CC: When the last incarnation of Further Seems Forever broke up everybody was home, we were all spending a lot of time together, and we were asked to do a reunion show or two. That was really fun and made us start spending time with guitars in our hands instead of just playing pick-up basketball. When we made our first record, obviously no one was paying attention or had expectations, and it gave us a lot of freedom—and it felt that way again even though so much time had passed. I don't think it's very often that a band gets to experience that twice within a career path, because usually everyone is paying attention to the next record until they're not paying attention at all ever again.
PV: Penny Black definitely sounds like FSF but it doesn't sound dated. Is that something that was important to you?
CC: I think we carried along the tastes we gained along the way as musicians and players. The stuff that we did in the '90s or the' 00s sounded contemporary at the time because that's what things sounded like then and that's what was influencing us. Between now and then, that's twelve years of listening to new bands every day and approaching our instruments differently all the time. So we're always going to sound like us, but for us to sound like we did back then we would have to try; we would have to decide to make a conscious effort to deconstruct those songs and figure out why they work to recreate that, and that's something that we weren't interested in doing.
PV: What was the writing process like for Penny Black?
CC: It took a really long time, I'll tell you that. In my experience in other bands, you write a song and you kind of know where it's going even if it takes time to get there. With Further Seems Forever we write parts and there's no proprietary feeling for the parts; in other words, just because a part comes out during the course of writing "Song A," we're just as happy to take it away and put it in "Song J" later on and say, "screw it, that goes over here." Often it's a bit of a mystery even for us and it's not really obvious where the songs are going until they're completely done.
PV: Who is your audience now, personally?
CC: I don't know anymore. In the beginning it was all Further fans, but that's a long time and a lot of records ago, so for some of those folks this is like a brand new thing which is kind of exciting. There is a subset of FSF fans who are judging it against all three records, and then there's a contingent of Dashboard fans who are probably going to either love it or hate it because it's so different, which is kind of great. Then there's going to be the people who maybe never heard of Dashboard or Further Seems Forever, where this will be an introduction to any music I make, which is exciting. I would put this up there with the music I'm proudest of so if this is someone's introduction to me, I would be thrilled.
PV: What's the status of Further Seems Forever as far as how active you think the band will be?
CC: I think we're all really dedicated to making this band as much of a priority as we can in our lives. I have an advantage because I can already make music for a living, so if those guys say "these are the two months I'm free," then those are the two months I won't do a Dashboard or a solo tour. I think one thing that's important to us is we're not setting out to become the biggest band in the world. What we're out to do here is make a record that we're really proud of, and play as often as we possibly can, but we never want the clubs to not be sweaty. It'll only be as full-time as the other guys can do, which means a hell of a lot more than the last six years when we did nothing.
PV: Do you have an ideal short-term plan?
CC: We're doing these shows around the release of the record, and early in the year I'd like to do a full tour if the guys can manage it, and then we'll take it from there. It seems like every time we make plans for the future we break up, so we're just taking it as it comes. [Laughs.]