For an unproven band with little material to its name, Twin Forks has a leg up on most of its peers. After all, the four-piece is fronted by Chris Carrabba, who has already earned a legion of fans as the singer-songwriter behind Dashboard Confessional. When promoting the new project, however, the freshly minted band has taken care not to exploit the fame of Carrabba’s past work.
“We just did a European tour, and we asked the promoters not to put ‘so-and-so from whichever band’ on the flyers,” the singer explains during a phone call with the Straight. “We want to do it on the merit of what it is, not trade on what we’ve done in the past, because we feel this is the best thing we’ve ever done. We feel like we can earn it the old fashioned way, from the bottom up.”
The band has been in the works for a couple of years, but it’s only been in the last few months that it has became a full-fledged collaboration. Carrabba had been working on a batch of delicate solo tunes with help from multi-instrumentalists Jonathan Clark and Ben Homola, but as the sessions progressed, the ensemble—which also includes singer-mandolinist Suzie Zeldin—gravitated towards a more lively sound.
“There’s a palpable joy in the songs and in the performance,” he reflects of Twin Forks’ barn-burning Americana sound. “This feels celebratory all the time.”
Certainly, the band’s free digital Tour EP Vol. 1—which is also available in physical form at shows—is a major departure from the melancholia that Dashboard Confessional is commonly known for. “Back to You” and “Scraping Up the Pieces” are euphorically boot-stomping originals with a rustic sonic palette that incorporates mandolin, banjo, and vigorous acoustic-guitar strumming. The four-song collection also includes a countrified cover of Talking Heads’ “And She Was”, while a rendition of Gillian Welch’s “Hard Times” ends the EP with graceful restraint.
The tracks have a freewheeling, organic sound, so it comes as no surprise to learn that they were largely recorded live off the floor. “If you listen closely, you can hear laughter,” Carrabba observes. “You hear a lot of cheers, because I have a tendency, when somebody does something cool, to respond vocally.”
Throughout the upbeat conversation, there’s no mistaking Carrabba’s enthusiasm for the project. This is a change from how he felt when working on Dashboard Confessional’s most recent album, 2009’s Alter the Ending, which left him feeling creatively stunted. He admits, “By the last record, it felt like the parameters were predefined, and there was a little loss of freedom in how to write the songs, because there was so much expectation of what a Dashboard song is.”
That’s all changed now, and the songwriter talks excitedly about the musical free-for-all that ensues when he and his new bandmates are in the same room. They plan to release an official EP in stores within the next few months, and their debut full-length is already complete.
So does Carrabba see himself sticking with Twin Forks for the long haul? “A hundred percent,” he says with certainty. “I don’t remember feeling this excited about my future.”