Dashboard’s frontman confesses

Christopher Carrabba defines his brand of punk and previews the coming album

Keri Carlson

With dark eyes, black hair slicked back like James Dean’s and arms covered with sleeves of tattoos, he looks like a bad-boy punk rocker. But with an acoustic guitar and lyrics such as “This is where I say I’ve had enough / and no one should ever feel the way that I feel now / a walking open wound / a trophy display of bruises,” he’s too honest and emotional to be a true rebel.

This is why Christopher Carrabba, the singer-songwriter for Dashboard Confessional, fits nicely into the increasingly mainstream genre of emo. It’s a little punk and a lot of broken hearts.

In 2001, Dashboard Confessional became a TRL heartthrob with the bitter ex-lover harangue “Screaming Infidelities,” paving the way for groups like Bright Eyes and My Chemical Romance to enter teenage living rooms across the country. Recently, Dashboard went on tour with U2. Now they’re finishing up recording for their next album.

During a break in the studio, Carrabba talked to A&E about Dashboard’s beginnings and gave some insight into the upcoming record.

Roots

“When I was really young, I listened to a lot of Beach Boys and Elvis Costello ” all stuff my mom listened to around the house.

“Somewhere along the line I discovered punk rock, bands like Superchunk and Fugazi. You know it’s just the best music when you hear it and think, “this was written specifically for me.’ “

As punk as Ashlee Simpson?

“I would consider my sound punk rock the same way Elvis Costello is punk rock, but not punk rock like the Sex Pistols.

“The ethics of punk shaped the foundation of Dashboard, like being insular, being autonomous in the music and in the band, in doing as much as I can to put out records myself, screen-print T-shirts myself. It taught me: This is the way you do it. You do it yourself. And I’ve continued that. I can only do things the way I believe them.”

Back in black

Carrabba on Dashboard using a parody of the AC/DC logo:

“They (AC/DC) haven’t asked us to stop. It’s pretty tongue-in-cheek to use their logo. I think they would see it as fun. I am a huge fan though. “Thunderstruck’ has some of the best riffs in rock history. I think I was playing that during sound check, and I’m pretty sure that’s how it started.”

The new album

“I wanted to make this record to show where I’m at as a writer. I’m going at it from a writer’s perspective first and foremost. But I want relatable and not over your head. It should be beautiful.

“Traveling with U2, I understood what power they have. They have an elemental way they carve out a song. There’s nothing pompous about it. They find the root of the power in each song and use it.”