An Interview with Chris Carrabba from Further Seems Forever: Pick Your Battles

With a powerhouse of seasoned musicians at their disposal, the music Further Seems Forever has written is ringing in clear this fall with a brand new album release under their belts. This is the first record since 2001’s The Moon Is Down with this outfit’s founding vocalist, Chris Carrabba, in the mix. Upon the departure of their first singer, two different artists filled the void in the meantime for the works How To Start A Fire and Hide Nothing. The key ingredient in the band’s strong comeback is not only the return of their original frontman, but the direction that the group has honed in on for the making of Penny Black, available now through Rise Records.

The enduring attributes of the guys of this outfit are on display in their video for the single “So Cold,” a track which is not only solid in the vocal department, but in the continuous rhythm that reigns supreme on this record. After two years of work on Penny Black and the reconvening of Further Seems Forever, the group will play a select few locations in their U.S. tour this autumn. While on the road in support of this album, vocalist Chris Carrabba took some time out of his day to speak with The Aquarian about all things Penny Black. Here is what he had to say:

Why did you choose “So Cold” as the first single and video to be released off of your new record, Penny Black?

Well, I don’t know if we chose it in the way that it was the one that really needed to go on the radio or something like that. That song was one of the two songs that kind of sprung into existence really without… usually we take weeks or months to write a song and I think we took a night or two to write that song. That’s really kind of unusual for us, for songs to spring out of the woodwork like that. When the label reacted positively to it, they wanted to release it as the video; we said, “Oh, that’s great, perfect.”

Where did the album’s title come from?

At the time I was reading this historical fiction book and it was about corrupt upper class manipulating the lower class. Penny Black was mentioned in the book. And so the theme of that song kind of follows the theme of that book. It’s not really referencing that book, but that’s what we think of as I was thinking about the topic. I thought about that as sort of an anchor for it, for the lyrics.

How did you guys approach the recording process for Penny Black?

Well, no, our studio is my rehearsal space, so we never went into the studio. We just, like, got together, and that is where we would get together. It’s all a one-stop shop. So, it’s really just like work on it as we go. It took two years because of that, it might have taken longer if we had waited, because we write very, very, very slowly. So, if we had to write it all and then go record it, I’m not sure we would have finished the record. If the song was done we would just record it in the same night, and I think that helped us a lot.

Was there any music in particular that was inspiring you at the time you wrote the album?

Oh, like bands that we were listening to? I think we were… we were eyeing a lot of things at that time. We were on a real Zeppelin kick for a while, I think that really shows in Steve [Kleisath, drummer]’s approach to groove. I mean, he is a very dynamic drummer in the first place. He is known for being an excellent drummer and having extremely complicated rhythm. I would say the thing that he brought in from that is like, because we are obsessed with Zeppelin as a group, is the idea that there needed to be a groove to anchor all of this weirdness at all times. He concentrated heavily on that. I, for one, am really into the band Constantines, they’re from Canada. They really, for me, were like a template on how like a punk band grows up, eventually. And so, I used them as sort of like a quality control, like a bar to reach for. Separately, I think we all have really different tastes. I think that is part of what comes into play, the combination of the group.

Who are your musical influences right now?

Mine range from old punk to hardcore to pop punk to singer-songwriters to old singers to old country guys to new country guys to The Beach Boys. I have the most. I have very, very eclectic taste. It’s all over the map.

What are you listening to right now?

I’m really into… my favorite guy that I’m obsessed with right now is an old country singer named Guy Clark.

Were there any outside influences on Penny Black besides the music you mentioned earlier?

I would say… it’s so hard to know that for sure until looking back from a little bit of time, after the passage of a little bit of time. I think, gosh, it’s so hard to know this close to having just done the record.

What is the story behind the song “Rusted Machines?”

“Rusted Machines” I think is about kind of accepting what you can and can’t change. I think it’s about understanding that you can’t win every battle. Maybe life isn’t about winning every battle. Maybe it’s about the way you choose to fight the battles.

Since you do have quite a range, what kind of regimen do you follow in order to maintain your voice?

I just work on it all the time. I just make sure that I am always… I just make sure that I sing every day. Especially with Further, that kind of screaming stuff every day to keep it strong, strong as it can be. I warm up every day, just like a runner would or whatever. I actually find that it’s like I have to stay physically fit too, or my voice starts to go. I don’t know what that’s about, but I just kind of feel like it’s all connected, you know what I mean?

Would you say that you were a self-taught singer?

I think that I am absolutely untaught. I think I have learned a lot through the years. I did some vocal lessons maybe five years ago, a handful of them, they really helped. I’m not really a schooled singer. I learned about singing just from being in a band.

What was the last show you have been to?

Oh yeah, I played a bluegrass festival and I stayed for the whole weekend to watch all these bands that I love like Justin Townes Earle and The Lumineers, Elvis Costello, Chuck Ragan. It was a great time.

Is it possible for you to pick a favorite track off of Penny Black?

Absolutely not. I do like “Staring Down The Sun” though, a lot. I like all of them, I couldn’t pick a favorite. I do happen to like “Staring Down The Sun.” I feel like it has got, for some reason or another, it’s really a testament, for me, to who the band really was when we first started. I’m not sure, sonically, that is sounds that way, but when we play it, like we did last night, like, I look around and it feels just the same way as being in our cramped, tiny garage, learning these songs in the early days of being a band together.

What short-term goals do you guys have as a band right now?

Well, it’s time for a new goal. We just met our goal, which was to eventually release another record. I think our goal is to not break up.

Further Seems Forever are doing a little touring this fall. What plans does 2013 hold for you?

I guess it depends on what the guys are able to do. They all have… they’re all successful in their fields; music isn’t their profession the way it is mine. It all depends on what they are able to do. I think for sure we’d like to do a lot of festivals in the summer. I’d like us to do a tour in January, that’s what I have my eye on. Like a full six-week tour, that’s my goal. So, we’re just going to wait and see how things line up for them when the year starts.


Further Seems Forever will be at the Theatre Of Living Arts on Nov. 1, and the Gramercy Theatre on Nov. 2. Their new album, Penny Black, is available now. For more information, go to