Exclusive: Read an Excerpt from ‘Anthology of Emo’ Featuring Chris Carrabba
When starting my Washed Up Emo podcast six years ago, I knew I had to get Chris Carrabba to tell his story. He was there at the beginning, survived the boom and has continued with his career with music. We had a few mutual friends, so it just took a bunch of scheduling to finally get time with him in New York City when he was doing press for a Twin Forks release a few years back.
Early on, I could tell he was super excited to talk and felt super engaged. During the interview, I asked Chris for his take on the emo revival. He admitted that he hadn’t heard about it. With a family and kids, I don’t fault anyone for not knowing about a trend, but you could see the intrigue and excitement in his eyes after mentioning what was happening. He was surprised that emo had survived.
After the interview, his publicist emailed me saying that Chris couldn’t stop talking about our chat. It ignited Chris and his interview subsequently ignited the podcast. Chris had to be included in volume one of the book, his passion for the scene and understanding of what has come before is a true testament to his staying power. Fittingly, there’s a new album from him early next year.
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MULLEN: What was one of the first records that you heard that got you excited about music?
CARRABBA: I don’t think the first records I bought, or were given to me, really gave me the bug to play guitar. I remember getting Purple Rain. It’s a great guitar record, it’s just hidden in a great pop record. He’s Jimi Hendrix, he’s a phenomenal, phenomenal, otherworldly guitar player. But the sheen of it all, it’s sort of hidden in there. I don’t think it was until I was given a hand-me-down, maybe it was Blood on the Tracks (Bob Dylan) and Bookends (Simon and Garfunkel), where it’s just the dude, or dudes and the guitar. And that’s when it started to resonate with me like, wow, you know, there’s a way to frame a story here with such simplicity, but have it amount to so much more.
MULLEN: How’d you find out about bands then?
CARRABBA: Well, my stepbrother was a bit older than me; he was really into metal. So that’s how I found out about all these metal bands. And I had a cousin who was in classic rock, the Stones and what have you, and he would make me tapes. And then I had a girl down the street that I liked, so I’d listen to whatever she liked, that sort of was a repeating trend. I think I’m trying to recall what, well, I guess the most important in-road for me for finding music was skateboard videos.
MULLEN: So many people have said that. One of these things, those videos, those bands. You watched them so much that it’s sort of ingrained.
CARRABBA: And surf videos too, I remember. I didn’t even surf but I watched the videos because I was like, I can discover music this way. I remember that’s how I found out about Jane’s Addiction. And just really went down the rabbit hole with Jane’s Addiction. Operation Ivy from skate videos. I remember this specific H-Street video that I just wore out. And you couldn’t find, you know, it would say who’s the bands at the end. But there were no independent record stores, and I had no idea how to order from catalogs. You couldn’t Google it back then. Maybe someone in the neighborhood knew.
Finally, a skate shop opened close enough that we could get to it and we could ask them, those were the older, cooler guys that actually had the records. And then they would help us out. It was a great little assembly line they had there. They were teaching the kids to skate so they would be the next guys working the shop. But also teaching them how to have taste in music. But also teaching them how to discover things for themselves, which I think is part of the skateboard and surf community, it’s like, this journey of self-discovery in all things, you’re meant to blaze your own trail in that world. It’s not a team sport. And it’s not a joiner culture.
So, all the music seemed to be counter-culture. It made me a bit of an opinionated snob because of it. Looking back, I don’t know if I should have been snobbish over some of these bands. But I was snobbish about the fact that no one else knew them, you know? And I took a point of pride in that. They were ours.
MULLEN: But it took a little bit of work.
CARRABBA: It took work.
MULLEN: You had to look at the back and say, all right well this guy thanked this guy, oh, he was in that other band. Let me go find. It wasn’t five seconds you’re hearing everything on Spotify and you’re done.
CARRABBA: And you’d hear about one guy — Ian MacKaye. Why is this guy so important and how do I track down everything he’s connected to? And then everything that guy’s connected to, and down the road. And I found out about Minor Threat, which led me to Black Flag. Black Flag led me to Circle Jerks. Fugazi came out and changed everything. It taught me about groove and also ethos, which I didn’t understand at the time. Like, wait a minute, so I got a political stance that I got in music, the way that we’re going to conduct our band. Our shows are going to be six bucks forever, stuff like that. When you have an allowance that’s five bucks a week, or whatever, like a six-dollar show, but they’re doing this for me, and all the other kids like me. And I thought they were champions.
Those artists were similar to the cats of the skate shop; they wanted you to be invited in. And there’s this whole feeling, that early punk rock scene was about exclusivity and leaving people out, and I didn’t find that to be the case at all. You don’t charge six dollars if you’re leaving people out. You want everyone to come in.
MULLEN: You pick someone up if they fall, that whole mentality.
CARRABBA: Absolutely. You stop the show. Don’t get hurt. No fighting, don’t be a dummy. Get out.
(Photo credit: Michael Dubin)
Anthology of Emo: Volume 1 is the new book from Tom Mullen, founder and editor of washedupemo.com. Originally a destination for the entire history of emo, the site has since turned into a hugely popular podcast. Mullen is now ready to launch his first book, featuring some of his conversations with bands like American Football, Rainer Maria, Texas Is The Reason and The Promise Ring.
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