Chris Carrabba is a pretty exceptional guy, both exceptionally cool and exceptionally interesting. (And, to be honest, he’s not someone I ever thought I would be speaking to, as a fan of his music.) Carrabba’s been in a few of the bigger alt. rock (which I’ll just use as an umbrella term) bands of the past two decades, packing amphitheatres. However, for the time being, he’s given that up for Twin Forks, his Americana outfit, a band that has him exploring his young love of roots music, and that has him back to sweaty, 300-capacity rooms for the first time in probably a decade or so.
Twin Forks have been playing live for about a year and a half now. Last September saw the release of their debut EP and their first full-length hit shelves this February (each are self-titled). While the instrumentation behind Twin Forks may be relatively traditional and “stripped,” their songs each ring as rollicking anthems of the American south, as accessible and fun as they are sentimentally profound (Which would seem to be the most “Americana” thing about Americana music.) Carrabba’s sound in Twin Forks is along the lines of Butch Walker (of whom he’s worked with) and Tom Petty (of whom he’s a major fan of) at their most country. It’s really the perfect music for existential musings on sunshine-laden drives through highways of yesteryear. It’s actually the perfect summertime album for people who yearn for more than beer kegs and Frisbee games… although it could probably lend itself to those things as well.
I recently got a chance to chat with the exceptionally down-to-Earth Carrabba, who is not only exceptionally excited about his current project, but admirably nonchalant in his acknowledgement of the fandom he achieved through previous projects. When I ask him about the highlights of the band, who are still pretty brand new, he tells me that the evolution of the band as a unit has been the most exciting part of it: “The highlights happen within the band, for me, as friends and as players. We really do feel connected in a special way and I think that really shows in the live shows. The people that are coming out are sensing, immediately, the spirit of joy, a sense of Euphoria.” But he also clarifies that the band behind Twin Forks started with Twin Forks itself and not with any of their previous individual projects.
“One thing that is important to us is that we’re really not training on our collective lineage. We’re playing these smaller venues and we’re trying to limit the promoters’ use of our other bands’ names. The band should have the chance to succeed or fail on our own merit. You’ve got to take your own path and we’re proud to be doing that. It’s like, ‘We’re gonna take a roll of the dice.’”
Twin Forks currently have even more new music in the works and are even working on a new garage recording space, however, Carrabba tells me that touring is what the band are most focused on right now. They’re currently on a US tour (and there are apparently more in the works) that will have the band stopping at our very own North Star Bar this Friday, July 11th. And since this is an explicitly Philadelphia-based publication, I always find myself inclined to ask veteran touring musicians their thoughts, or favorite memories, of the city, but rarely do I get such an enthusiastic and detailed account of not only his time in the city, but his memories of the North Star Bar itself.
“I love Philly. I spent a lot of time there growing up. I grew up not too far from there and around college age a lot of my friends went to school there, so I would go see them and spend a lot of time around Penn and skateboarding around the city. When I started Dashboard, Philly was among the first places where a fanbase really got behind us, so I’ve spent a lot of time there both professionally and non-professionally. I feel like I’ve played every club there… and basement. And I love the North Star because the merch table is pretty much in the middle of the room and I get to have a conversation with everyone in the room before or after the set. The last time I was there I actually played a second set in the parking lot afterwards and did some Dashboard songs.”
At one point I ask Carrabba if he’s written any songs with Twin Forks that are especially meaningful to him, telling him that “Scraping Up the Pieces” resonates quite significantly for me, for its combination of a punk attitude and tempo with classic finger-pickin’ of the most epic kind of country. He laughs and tells me that that’s one of his two favorites, as well, and then inadvertently begins discussing the nature of a Twin Forks live performance.
“It’s interesting because that comes at the end of the set and, for me, it’s tied for my favorite with ‘Can’t Be Broken,’ which comes toward the beginning of the set. The beginning of the set and the end of the set is the same every night and the middle is kind of loose and me improvising. The reason I’m drawn to those two particular songs is there’s a strong relationship. They’re like cousins, like two parts of the same story and it’s neat for me to bookend a set like that. It’s like, we know what we’re gonna start with and we know what we’re gonna end with, but then we’re left with everything that could happen in-between.”
I ask Chris Carrabba what exactly can be expected of a Twin Forks show and the experience he describes for me sounds very much in-line with the old-school honky tonks that housed the sounds of the band’s earliest influences about half a century ago: “A lot of the experience is loose and fun. There’ll be a lot of laughter, a lot of audience participation – I’m so glad that carried over from the last band I was a part of. I just love that part of the experience: the snapping and the clapping and the whistling.” And although he and his band are very much focused on their own music, Carrabba admits that those Dashboard Confessional fans who turn out and show adequate support for Twin Forks’ material can maybe expect a handful of extra-pleasant surprises: “If I can tell the people have really given us a chance and aren’t just waiting for the songs from our previous bands, I’m more than happy to play a few of those songs for them.”