The Boca interview: Chris Carrabba


For Chris Carrabba, everything old is new again.

The singer, guitarist and Boca Raton resident launched his career in Pompano Beach in 1998 when he joined the upstart rock quintet Further Seems Forever. Three years later, the band released the seminal album “The Moon is Down,” an independent record inspired by groups like Sunny Day Real Estate, which performed an emotionally naked mix of quiet melodicism and passionate hardcore music that its supporters, and later its detractors, labeled as “emo.”

“The Moon is Down” would be Carrabba’s first and only album with Further Seems Forever—until 2012, that is, when he rejoined his former bandmates to record “Penny Black,” an LP that picked up exactly where “Moon” left off. The subsequent tour, which has yet to include a hometown show in South Florida, has played to packed houses of energetic fans who have waited more than a decade to see Carrabba, 37, once again front his first band.

A lot happened in between Carrabba’s two stints with Further Seems Forever. In 2000, while still in Further, he formed Dashboard Confessional. Initially a solo project, it chafed against the grain of the punk and hardcore environment in which Carrabba grew up. Fans at his earliest shows, which would feature Carrabba and his acoustic guitar opening up for much heavier, faster bands, would watch in puzzlement, if not outright hostility, as Carrabba would exorcise his relationship demons on tracks such as “The Sharp Hint of New Tears.” The songs were so, well…confessional that they made brash punks feel uncomfortable.

But then people started relating to them, and Dashboard Confessional would ultimately get the last laugh. It wasn’t long before Carrabba was recruiting band members for a more muscular sound, signing to a major label, playing sold-out shows, opening arenas for Bon Jovi, writing songs for blockbuster movies and recording an “Unplugged” session for MTV. His songwriting and musicianship matured, and his audience ballooned.

Few would predict that Carrabba’s next move would be to reunite Further Seems Forever, but he’s never been one for predictability, from playing unannounced “secret shows” in small South Florida clubs to raising $3,500 for victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti during a series of legendary concerts at Lynn University.

Is there something special about playing shows in your hometown?

I can’t help but think of that show I did at Propaganda [a tiny bar in Lake Worth] a few years ago. Steve [Rullman, a local promoter] announced it the night before the show, and the place was on fire. They went bananas. I find in South Florida, specifically, that fans enjoy a smaller show. And I’d rather do multiple small-room shows than one big room show.

South Florida has been a hotbed for pop-punk, emo and alternative music, scenes that you’ve been involved in. Why do you think this area has birthed this kind of angst-y music?

I don’t know if we do more of that than anywhere else, but I do know that bands don’t come here as often as we’d like them to. It’s just a little further out of the way for most bands, just because of the logistics of it—fuel prices, the distance to get down to South Florida when they can sweep in and possibly do Gainesville or Orlando. So I think that in the isolation we have here, we developed our own music that was pretty vibrant, and that’s a tradition that stands today.