An Evening with Dispatch

By Felipe Vallejo, Photo via Boston.com

Demo sat down with Brad Corrigan (vocals, drums, guitar, percussion, and harmonica) and Chad Urmston (vocals, guitar, bass, and percussion) of Dispatch before their show at the Opera House on December 13. Based in Boston, Dispatch first emerged in 1996 and recently released America, Location 12 in June 2017 after a long hiatus.

So, I have a couple of questions for you guys that I have been dying to ask. I want to start with the name of the album: America, Location 12. Why the name, and what made you want to record this album specifically?

Chad: The name is from a missile silo we wandered into in Northern California that said America: Location 12 on it. And why this album?

What drove you to create this specific sounding album?

C: I don’t know, a mixture of a cold cottage in New England with the warmer Pacific coast.

Brad: It’s very outdoorsy. We spent a lot of time in a Boston cottage on Chad’s family farm. It has a wood-burning stove and snow outside, just one with the elements. We also spent time in Stinson Beach, California with trees taller than these guys [points to a fern in a pot] and they smell better too! The ocean was just a 15-minute walk away and the environment felt very organic, very woody.

Did the current political climate have a big impact on this album? I know in the past Chad has been very vocal about his political beliefs.

C: Well that’s interesting because there was a bit of lag-time in the creative process. When we were recording the album, Trump was only just elected. But there are still political songs [in the album] like “Skin the Rabbit” and “Be Gone”. If you mine it, you can find that it is political, but it is not directed at [Trump’s election].

B: I wanna say we were doing the vocals for “Rice Water” either the day or the day before Trump was elected. We were singing the line “You will climb faster than the wall that they’ll build” and even though Chad wrote this a year or year and a half before, there was a timing to it, this surrealism that “oh my gosh we’re singing a song right now that is the first counterpunch against this wack job that is coming in saying that we’re going to build a wall.”

Like a perfect coincidence

B: Yeah, just the timing was pretty dubious. [chuckles]

With this special tour, “An Acoustic Evening with Dispatch”, in which you play the entire new album in order you–

C: Wait how did you know that?! [laughs]

Setlist.fm

B: Chad, they’re onto us!! [laughs]

You’ve had a bunch of great artists fill in the gap that Pete Heimbold left when he announced that he would not be touring with you on account of his mental health. How’s the tour feel without Pete?

C: We felt weird the first few shows without Pete. It’s a wild experience to play with different people. The important part is that we’re not replacing Pete with just one person, we replaced him with three people. It’s its own thing, and that’s helped us fill the gap that he’s left.

B: The people playing with us are such great guys and great musicians. If we went back 10 years and found ourselves in the same position that we’re in right now, I would have never thought of playing without Pete. But as a fan of art, and as a fan of music, I imagine Pete is in a really healthy place. I think he would be proud of the guys we brought in, and he would really enjoy the dynamics. I want Pete to find life and stability for himself, his wife, and his kids. If he wants to tour again, sweet, but man oh man, when you see someone that you love go through living hell, you don’t think about your “job” or travelling or making music.

What has been the biggest difference between the Dispatch of today, and the Dispatch of 20 years ago? How’s that journey been?

B: We know how to play our instruments now [laughs].

C: Well, without Pete that is probably the biggest difference, touring now without him. We’re older–

B:–less ego. Sorry [chuckles], speaking of ego. What was the question??

C: Basically what Brad is saying is that our egos have settled down. We’re older and we appreciate each other more for what we are instead of wanting to be something else. We’re more mature and honest. We’ve really tried to have this policy of honesty. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, it’s what tore some of the fabric of the band before. So that’s been really helpful. And you know, just being really supportive of each other, and telling each other that we love each other, and stuff like that.

B: And we took it for granted too. There’s such a big difference in the way I felt when I was 23 compared to 43 now. I feel so grateful, grateful that we still get to do this, grateful for my health, grateful for my family, and grateful for the stars aligning so that all five of us [in the band] are available to tour. This is really not going to last forever and we should soak it in.

You’ve been around now for a long time, gaining the status of a tenured band. So how has the band adapted to the constant change of the music industry; going from peer-to-peer file sharing to music streaming apps like Spotify and Apple Music?

C: We were Napster darlings, so the strength of our careers has been based on the touring experience. We never had record labels or radio, so for us, not a lot has changed really. It’s not like we’ve made a bunch of money from albums before. So we’ve weathered this huge change of the industry because we’ve never really been tied to the industry in that way.

B: We’ve never written or made band decisions on how we can have the industry respond to us. There was no connection there, so we made decisions for the band, and for the three of us. We also have two really great managers that have been with us for 15 years. They’re really good at having us continue to be independent but also help us with things like Apple Music and Spotify, and you know, radio for the first time?! We’ve been a band for 20 years and this is the first time that we’ve had radio time? That’s a first baby step, and it’s really exciting.

So this ties in with the next question. You’ve been known as one of the most successful independent bands out there, having great success without a label. Right now, everyone seems to need to have a record contract to make it big. What is your opinion on some current artists being successful without the need for the label, like Chance the Rapper?

C: I was just gonna say, Chance the Rapper.

B: He kicks ass. He is so incredible, he is MASSIVE.

C: Yeah, it’s great. He showed that it can happen. It’s great because anytime that you don’t need to rely on the suits is always good [laughs].

Well, I think that’s it, so thanks again for your time, and good luck with the show!

C+B: No problem and thanks.

Condensed and Edited for Publication 

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