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Habit of the broken heart

Chris Carrabba takes Dashboard Confessional's decade-old debut album back on the road



Chris Carrabba doesn't want to shatter any popular myths, and he's content to let sleeping dogs lie. But when it comes to The Swiss Army Romance — the dark, decade-old debut of his brooding emo outfit Dashboard Confessional — there are a few things he'd like to clarify. And the main one concerns the album whose poignant loved-and-lost numbers ("Screaming Infidelities," "Again I Go Unnoticed," "The Sharp Hint of New Tears") are still resonating with crowds on an anniversary tour in which he's playing the full album from start to finish.

"Sure, I had a broken heart and all this shit you have when you're young, when you feel love for the first time and you think you're gonna marry some girl," the singer, now a wise old 35, says with a sigh. "And you're young enough to think that that's the right decision, and then suddenly she's gone, she dogged you out and you're writing sad songs."

The handsome, heavily inked artist reckons that impression of Swiss Army is an indelible one. "I know the record, for everybody, is just this breakup album, but there are a lot of reasons to feel heartbroken," he adds. "When I made the record, there was a tragedy that I had gone through that I never did talk about — we had a murder in our family, and I was crushed, and that made its way into the music and it made you feel everything heavier. So yeah, I was writing songs about this girl, but obviously I'm feeling the weight of the more important loss."

When Carrabba penned and recorded his bow, it was basically a cathartic side project. He was working as a teacher in an after-school program by day and rocking out by night with his band Further Seems Forever (which he's recently re-formed). "And if there's a God up there, He made it so I was guileless on that day," he recalls. "I was so keenly aware that no one would ever hear these [Dashboard] songs that I was able to say some of that stuff. But I was a young songwriter, and it showed."

On the band's last tour, Carrabba says, fans kept asking how he'd commemorate the album's anniversary. "And obviously, this record is important to me," he says. "It changed the course of my life, gave me a career that I could've never expected, and I celebrate that every day by being able to have a job! But it didn't occur to me to go out and sell it and parade it in front of people. It felt a little .... garish, I guess? To go out and do a big thing about it."

Eventually, the Floridian decided to just roll with it. So he's just embarked on his Swiss Army Romance anniversary tour, which will also include a selection of catalog classics following the album run-through. Carrabba has also reprinted vintage Swiss T-shirts and posters, and reissued the album as five 7-inch records in an army-knife-shaped package.

All in all, the artist seems pleased with the decision. Reconnecting with this early material, and the sadness that surrounds it, he says, "gave me a different perspective than I've ever had on what it means to be an 'adult.'

"And for the first time, I've also realized that working on this music thing was an adult thing to do. I hadn't quite figured that out before."

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