By Falyn Freyman
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Chris Carrabba's short time in influential posthardcore group Further Seems Forever amounted to a mere blip in the group's seven-year history. But those formative days held great value for the singer/songwriter. Carrabba sang lead on The Moon Is Down. Released in 2001, it is considered the preeminent album of the scene that later became known as emo.
Carrabba might be the biggest name of all of the Further Seems Forever bandmates, but in reality, Joshua Colbert was the group's driving force in songwriting. This fact often escapes the casual The Moon Is Down fan. In addition, it was during the months prior to its release that Carrabba's solo career — under the pseudonym Dashboard Confessional — began to gain impetus, forcing Carrabba to make the difficult decision to leave the group and pursue a solo endeavor.
The rest of the story is well-known. Carrabba struck gold with Dashboard Confessional, selling millions of records and going on countless world tours. His Further Seems Forever friends did not fare as well. Although achieving a level of critical admiration, commercial success never befell the fellas.
The good news is that the whole band is back and writing songs. It appears that the rumors circulating for years about a reunification of the original, classic Further Seems Forever lineup were not unfounded. The formerly Pompano Beach-based band has been coy for the past four years, denying allegations at all costs. It was easy for the seminal South Florida rock quintet, since original members Carrabba (vocals), Colbert (guitar), Chad Neptune (bass), Steve Kleisath (drums), and Nick Dominguez (guitar) are tight friends till this day. Carrabba, in 2010, went so far as to tell New Times: "Every time we go out for barbecue, people begin gossiping that we were reuniting."
As it turns out, the original lineup has been steadily working on a new record all along. The news was confirmed when the group signed recently to Oregon-based Rise Records. The posthardcore label will release Further Seems Forever's fourth studio album (second with Carrabba), Penny Black, on October 23.
New Times tracked down not only Carrabba but the group's rhythmic backbone, Neptune, to discuss the big news.
Thirty-six-year-old Neptune, in his laid-back drawl, said the group purposefully kept the recording sessions under wraps to a certain degree. "We decided it would be best not to say anything about the new record until it was completely done," he says now. He says the group did not want the album to become a pressure-cooker situation. The five of them sought to avoid any stressors, should the public find out the band had plans of getting back together. "We really wanted to keep this project pure and not let in any other garbage."
Neptune and Carrabba stressed that Penny Black was a complete "passion project" for the band. "Every one of us has a pretty good job," Carrabba says. "I've got a gig in music, and that's still where my heart is at. We didn't need another musical outlet." While in Connecticut visiting family, Carrabba illuminated details on how the reunion came about. Seems Carrabba was first to vocalize the idea. The moment happened about four years ago, while the group was gathered at Carrabba's studio. "Hey, guys, this is happening. I know it seems like we are goofing around, but we are writing songs," Carrabba said he told the four others.
"Personally, it was a release for me and so much fun," Neptune of the early Penny Black sessions in Carrabba's studio. "Just like when I first started playing in hardcore bands — it was for the simple enjoyment of playing music. In the beginning, we had no aspirations of putting out a record or any grand illusions." According to Neptune, the idea to reunite the original Further Seems Forever tribe had crossed every members' mind, but all thought Carrabba would be unavailable. "Chris has always been so entrenched in what he was up to, we didn't think it would be realistic," he said.
Additionally, there was the fact that the five of them had moved on to other chapters in their lives. "Matters are so much more complex now than when we were kids and first starting out — getting all of us together is a monumental occasion," Neptune, a father of two, explains. "You get married, have kids, get older, and your priorities change."
Both Carrabba and Neptune pointed to the successful 2006 reunion at Bamboozle and the endless letters of encouragement they received as validation for reuniting.
As to why Penny Black took four years to realize, each of them offers varying explanations. "It's a matter of timing. We all have so much going on, so we all concluded we would do this record at our own pace, without any label burden," says Neptune. Carrabba describes it as "one of the slowest writing projects" he has ever worked on. "It is Josh who comes with the ideas most often, and then everyone adds their input and the song goes through a process that's very similar to the tumble cycle of the dryer."
Both are optimistic about the reception of the new effort. "Nostalgia aside, I feel Penny Black contains the best songs we have done, or at least equal to the best songs we have done," Carrabba says.
"We didn't waiver too much from our original formula," Neptune says. "There is some aggressive stuff, more moody stuff, and a couple of songs that are more current-sounding."
Coming full circle, Carrabba, with all the fame that has come his way, has never lost appreciation of his time in Further Seems Forever. "I idolize Josh to the point that his strange chord choices influenced the choices I made in Dashboard," he admits. "Their impression on me was profound. These guys are brilliant musicians, and I was blessed to get to learn by their side."