Dashboard Confessional

Chris Carrabba, the man who is the focal point of Dashboard Confessional, is a huge Beach Boys fan.

Go figure. Behind the emotional and often angry lyrics is a guy whose favorite song is “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” the Brian Wilson-penned pop chestnut with a breezy, upbeat melody but lyrics that belie the sadness at the heart of many of the band’s best-loved tunes. Actually, it’s pretty fitting. Carrabba – who toiled in his pre-Dashboard incarnation with punk bands such as Vacant Andys, The Agency, and Further Seems Forever – sees himself today as a singer/songwriter, but one with an edge.

“I’ve said this before, but I find The Beach Boys to be a really huge influence on me,” Carrabba told POLLSTAR. “Everybody says, ‘Well, where is it? Because I can’t really hear it.’ And to me, that’s the thing. Why do you have to marry the obvious? Like, where’s the contrast?

“I think there’s a great contrast in making a really pretty, wistful-sounding song and when you finally listen to it for the 20th time and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, this guy’s not happy; he’s miserable!’ And vice versa.”

Carrabba has been pretty miserable in his day. It surfaces in songs with titles like “Screaming Infidelities,” “The Best Deceptions” and “This Bitter Pill” from his second (and breakthrough) album, The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most.

And he’s managed to channel all that potentially negative energy into songs and a stage show that have earned him a loyal following of younger post-adolescents who know every word to every song in Carrabba’s repertoire. His concerts are definitely audience-participation affairs, and Carrabba thrives on it.

“It’s incredibly amazing. I don’t really know how to explain it,” he said. “The fact that they sing in unison, louder than I do, and they steal the show out from under me. Every last word.”

Carrabba’s manager, Rich Egan of Hard 8 Management, told POLLSTAR, “You know, it used to be 100 kids a night. Now it’s 3,000 or 4,000 kids a night, so it’s gotten a little crazy.

“It’s almost cult-like. And you know there’s the kind of shout-alongs that all punk rock shows have anyway. But not to this extreme. … these kids connected so much to the songs and then just were able to overcome the sheer volume factor to sing over the electric guitars and drums.”

Carrabba acknowledges it’s a tough choice between playing smaller venues, where fans will likely be turned away, and playing larger venues, where intimacy is usually the first casualty.

“That’s why I prefer to bounce around,” said Carrabba, who estimates he plays close to 300 gigs a year. “It’s so important to be able to have every kid get in. But there’s an intimacy that I expect should be lost because of the number of people in a room.”

Dashboard Confessional

He’s going to see his share of diversity in the remainder of 2002, according to Egan, including a Dashboard Confessional tour that will be just Carrabba and his guitar. He normally tours with a band comprising a revolving cast of friends, most consistently with Mike Marsh (drums), Dan Bonebrake (bass) and Johnny Lefler (piano, guitar).

Before he goes it alone, he’ll be out supporting Weezer in July and August and as part of the Vagrant America arena tour, Egan said.

“Then he’s going to bring it all back around and he’s going to do small, tiny clubs.”

It’s a long way from Boca Raton, Fla., where Carrabba first wrote his songs of betrayal and pain to share with a few friends, to having to bare his soul every night for a couple thousand fans singing his words right back at him.

“I felt like it was some kind of glorified exorcism or something,” Carrabba explained of the autobiographical nature of Places. “Like this will purge me of this feeling and then I can be over and done with it, and I won’t have to deal with it anymore. Now, I realize I get to deal with this every night instead of never again!”

And what of Dashboard Confessional if Chris Carrabba ever gets deliriously happy?

“I know the songs from a more personal standpoint than you could ever know them, so it’s really strange for me to think about how to get inside your head and see how you view it,” he explained.

“I recently put out an EP called So Impossible that seems to be resounding really, really well with my fans. It’s four songs that tell one incredibly happy story and it doesn’t seem to have put anybody off,” Carrabba said.

“[The fans] are amazing. They’d let me write sad songs, happy songs, sit up there completely alone and naked onstage – not literally – and they have allowed me to get up and be surrounded by close friends … and give something more to the songs.”

And really, if you listen closely, The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most “is really hopeful,” Carrabba said. “Like, well, I expect this isn’t how it’s going to be.” Kind of like a Beach Boys tune.