All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth and Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba Talk About Their Co-Headlining Tour

All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth and Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba Talk About Their Co-Headlining Tour
David Bean
Earlier this year, indie rockers Dashboard Confessional [pictured] released Crooked Shadows, their first album in more than eight years. The result of "a near decade-long period of immense self-examination," the album finds frontman Chris Carrabba writing highly personal songs and delivering call-and-response anthems such as “We Fight” and “Heart Beat Here” as well as tender pop ballads like “Open My Eyes.”

Last year, the pop-punk band All Time Low returned with Last Young Renegade, a collection of righteous punk tunes propelled by the band’s sharp power-pop impulses. It's another triumph for the group, an Alternative Press favorite.

This summer, the two bands have teamed up for a co-headlining tour that comes to Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica on Friday, Aug. 10. In separate phone interviews, All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth and Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba talk about the tour.

How did this tour come to be?
We’ve crossed paths throughout the years. I grew up as a Dashboard fan when I was high school, and my band was just getting started. I’ve seen them play through the years. As my band got more well-known, we wound up on the same label all these years later. The band was working with my friend Colin [Brittain], who mentioned he was working on a record with Chris. I heard some of the music, and I loved the progression of what they were doing. I thought it was cool they were making a comeback; it had been years since they had done anything. It felt like the perfect culmination of events. They were putting a record out, and we were putting a record out. We are labelmates now and it made sense that we should take this thing on the road. Why not? We worked it out. Sometimes, it’s tricky working out co-headlining tours. There can be pride involved. It can bubble over, but these guys are awesome, and everyone made it happen. It’ll be a lot of fun. It’ll be a really good vibe.
Carrabba: I think last summer or maybe the summer before, [drummer] Rian [Dawson] and I were talking and he was saying that the only band they wanted to coheadline with was us. I said, “What! That would have been the most fun.” That was the first seed planted, and we’ve been talking about making this happen since then. They’re so supportive of the band. Whenever we come through town, they’re there. Whenever we’re in the same town, we’re together. They’re just great guys. It’s going to be a fun time.

How will the bands complement each other?
At the end of the day, it’s all about songwriting. We love big ol’ hooks. It’ll be a lot of sing-alongs. Dashboard brings a lot of energy with these big choruses and hooks. It should be a good balanced night. It makes for a good all-around show.
Carrabba: I don’t know exactly. There’s some stylistic overlap. I know we have an overlap in our fanbase. I can’t even tell you the pieces that make up our music, let alone how the parts will work with the two bands, but both bands have big sing-alongs and we’re guitar driven in a time when that’s less popular.

What influences did you draw upon early on?
It’s all over the place. I grew up in the ’90s and early 2000s. Nirvana and Green Day and NOFX and the Foo Fighters and Third Eye Blind were big impactful bands. They showed me the raw energy that can go into songwriting and live performance. To me, it was about being on stage. The recording was secondary to getting out there and playing for people. Sometimes, bands operate the opposite way. I love recording music, but for all Time Low, it was always about facilitating the live show and capturing that energy. These bands showed me that.
Carrabba: It’s a serious mish-mash. That would be normal now because we all listen to Spotify and make our playlists. It’s the Cure and the Misfits and hip-hop and country and whatever is in between. Before, if you were a metalhead and you wore a Morrissey T-shirt, your other metalhead friends would punch you in the shoulder. I listened to hardcore and post-hardcore. I’m heavily influenced by the Cure more so than any other band. I listened to a lot of hip-hop growing up and then stopped and became obsessed again in the early 2000s. I think the two that had the biggest influence were the Streets and Wu-Tang Clan. Though that’s not easily evidenced in my music, it might show in the spitfire nature of my lyrics.

Does the term “emo” apply to your music?
I don’t know. It’s an interesting one. I’ve always resented that label. I think all music is emo and it’s kind of a ridiculous premise. Does that mean all other music doesn’t come from an emotional place. I don’t really care. Some people think of us a punk band and some people think of us as rock band. As long as people like what we’re doing and want to see us play, I don’t mind. It’s all rock ’n’ roll. I don’t know that All Time Low even came from that emocore world. We don’t have a ton of hardcore influence. It’s an incredible genre, and it’s progressed in interesting ways over the years. You had bands like Dashboard and bands like All Time Low that some people put in the same category and some people don’t.
Carrabba: Yeah. I think it applies. It applied to a genre that existed before I was around. When my band got successful and writers were calling us emo, I thought they were misappropriating the term. I became comfortable with it when I got a nod from those bands. There was a period where two things happened. The scene itself got watered down and the term became an insult. It became the new term for “wimp.” That holds sway a little bit still. I’m personally okay with that term and some friends from my era who never liked and don’t like it now. Some of them liked it then, but don’t like it now. I always bring up Sunny Day Real Estate because they were like the quintessential emotional band. It was like listening to R.E.M. and U2 rolled up into one.

How has the band evolved over the course of its career?
Fifteen years ago, we were genuinely poor kids in a basement writing loud-mouthed fast music. There wasn’t much organization or structure to what we were doing. It wasn’t done with a plan. It was just energy and raw untapped. Over the years, we learned to rein it in and put more focus on it. Not only that, but our influences have shifted and molded as we’ve gone along. You hear us wearing different hats. Some bands stay brand centric and don’t deviate from what they do, but we’ve tried different things. Our fanbase has given us permission to do that without blowing up in our faces. That’s a nice gift. We can explore the rock ’n’ roll side of things and then be synthy and mellow or anywhere in between.
Carrabba: It’s almost old enough to vote. We evolved in was that are obvious and less obvious. It used to be just me as the only person in the band, playing acoustic guitar or playing the other instruments poorly. We evolved into a band, and our songwriting evolved and the prowess that you gain over years of trial and error has helped us. More than anything, we’ve grown as people, and that informs the kind of music you make. That’s hard to quantify. I think we’ve become better people. Music is helpful for that. it’s almost like meditation and self-reflection and exploring who you are. You show people this window that lets them see who you were for those two months.

What kind of response have you gotten to your most recent album?
It was interesting. We took some chances and it sounded different. I think it threw some people off. When the songs started to come out, it was polarizing. There were people loved it and people who vehemently didn’t. It’s a kneejerk culture we live in. people want to have a loud and polarized opinion. What was cool was watching it progress. As it sat with people, it changed. I remember people tweeting at me, “What have done?” Later, people started to get it and make playlists so they knew how the songs fit together. That was the ultimate reward. It’s important to let these songs find a place. It’s cool to see that come around with our fanbase.
Carrabba: The reception has been great. It’s been somewhat mixed. We must have done a few things that our original fans didn’t like. The tried-and-true diehards have had some kind things to say. What I usually hear is that fans are excited that I’m making music and they want us to make another one. I’m already working on the next one, which feels more Dashboard than Crooked Shadows did.

Warped Tour came to an end this summer. What’s your favorite memory from performing on the tour?
I have so many good memories. In 2007, it was the first year we did it on a tour bus. It was one of the first tours we did on a tour bus, and it felt very real. We were the young kids on the tour. There were so many veteran bands like New Found Glory and Less Than Jake and all these bands we grew up listening to on punk compilations. It was pretty daunting and we didn’t want to step on any toes. We were driven to make our mark. That was the first year we started cracking into the scene.
Carrabba: I never did it. I begged to be on it for a long time. All my friends were on it. I didn’t have a band at the time, so that made it difficult. When I did start Dashboard, one of the first big hopes I had was that I would get to do Warped Tour, but they weren’t interested for the first couple of years, and they weren’t wrong. Then, I got some success, and they asked, but I was doing my own thing at that time. It was like ships in the night. I’m sad to see it go as a fan. I don’t think I’ve missed one. I went to the first one. I had to be dropped off, and I told my mom I was going someplace else because it was in a bad part of town. I walked a couple of blocks to get there, and that night was a game changer for me. How many great bands started because some kid went to the Warped Tour?

What do you like about playing in Cleveland?
Cleveland has been a great city for us. I hosted the Alternative Press Awards show there, and I have fond memories. That’s not to mention the football rivalry. I’ve been there for Ravens game.
Carrabba: There’s a long tradition of embracing bands there, and it’s one of the more interactive crowds, which I love. That’s a big deal for us as musicians. We get instant feedback, and I like the energy we get there from the crowd.

Name one band eligible for induction that isn’t in the Rock Hall but should be inducted ASAP.
Let me think. I’m not sure who’s in and who’s not but chalk me up for the Cure. They should definitely be in.
Carrabba: The two I would pick would be the Cure and Fugazi.

All Time Low, Dashboard Confessional, gnash, 7 p.m. Friday, April 10, Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, 2014 Sycamore St., 216-622-6557. Tickets: $35-$39.50,

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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