When Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba unearthed his folk roots by writing more traditional singer-songwriter material, he didn’t expect it to put him in the company of what’s arguably the hottest musical trend of the past three years.
His new band Twin Forks’ lively sound is marked by foot-stomping tempos and traditional instruments more likely to be found at a hoedown than in a punk club. The rollicking, gleeful quartet plays Evening Muse Friday.
“What we were chasing dovetailed with what became popular,” the youthful 38-year-old frontman says. “If you’d asked me what was the next big thing, I would’ve never guessed music with roots in traditional folk and bluegrass. That’s a long shot. We just did what we love and suddenly there’s the Lumineers and Mumford (& Sons). I don’t know how similar what we do is. Fundamentally, we’re using the same instruments and feeding off older influences. With any of the kinds of music I’ve played, I’ve never paid attention to what’s popular and what has the chance to be popular. I don’t want to be an interloper, but we can only do what we love.”
After a career playing riff-driven, angsty emo and more direct arena rock, Carrabba taught himself classic fingerpicking technique over the course of three years.
“That was a big process for me,” he says. “At some point, you have to radically change what you’re doing if you’ve been envious that one guitar sounds like two guitars. You play the bass line with the thumb and the melody with your fingers. You’re like a one-man band. The reason for that change was that I could find a new way into the songs.”
Carrabba honed his skills touring solo, and the four-piece Twin Forks grew out of that solo work almost by accident.
“It started out of a different project where I was writing these traditional, delicate singer-songwriter songs,” he says. “I wrote about a whole record of that and did some cover songs that had a sort of spark in them, with the adrenaline and stomping. We did the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (in San Francisco) and when we played those covers in that arrangement, it was illuminating for me. That’s the way I want to play.”
It’s also given him a chance to press “reset” on a career that at one point had him opening Bon Jovi’s arena tour.
“I don’t have any of that rock star mentality of I’ve got to have the biggest dressing room,” he says. “I prefer the tactile nature, feeding off the crowd and being able to see everyone in the room and interact with them. For every arena tour, I would also do a week of shows in smaller clubs. The bigger the room, the more it’s about the grand gestures as opposed to the power of the songs. I connect first and foremost with the audience with the songs.”
And Twin Forks is doing that as well, winning over roots-music festival crowds who often have no idea who Dashboard Confessional is.
“They don’t know us from Adam,” he says. “It’s liberating. There’s no net.”
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