By Molly Barber
Photos by Molly Barber, Allen Ralph, and Joshua D. Huver of Must Have Media
Dispatch. I can remember the first time I was introduced to Dispatch. It was a burned CD given to me by my cousin Neil. It was a mix of their songs, some live, some from their albums and it was amazing. It was so unlike anything I’d ever heard before. And that’s it, I was hooked. I learned every song they’d sung. I committed every lyric to memory. They didn’t just write catchy, up-lifting music, the lyrics spoke volumes to me, words that resonated in my soul. It was a culture that I didn’t know I was missing and once found had become a part of me.
Chadwick Stokes Urmston, Pete Heimbold and Brad Corrigan formed Dispatch in college. They played gigs while in school and after graduation decided to move the band to Boston. They continued touring, cultivating their live show that left many in awe. Little did they know that something huge was on the horizon. Something that would propel their music to thousands from coast to coast.
In June of 1999, Shawn Fanning, John Fanning, and Sean Parker launched Napster. Napster was a peer-to-peer file sharing website and it allowed Dispatch fans to share their music across the country. They quickly became a hugely successful band and did so without a major record label.
By 2002 the guys decided it was in everyones best interest to take a hiatus. In 2004 they scheduled a free farewell concert at Hatch Shell in Boston. They said it would be considered a success if they got 20,000 to 30,000 people to attend but fans flocked from around the world and over 150,000 people were in attendance.
During their time apart music was never far away, each embarking on solo projects and/or other bands. In 2007 they announced “Dispatch: Zimbabwe” a benefit concert that would be held at Madison Square Garden. The first show sold out of tickets almost immediately, so the fellas decided to throw in another show the following night, which again sold out. So they added a third show and played to a sold out venue each night. The money they raised from ticket sales went mostly to help charities in Zimbabwe dedicated to fighting disease, famine, and injustice. The rest of the cash was going to US charities the band supported like The Elias Fund.
Chad had spent time in Zimbabwe and while over there teaching he met a gardener named Elias Sithole. Elias shared with Chad his wish that one day his three sons would receive a university education. Chad, being the extremely talented, poetic song writer that he is turned the experience into a song that found it’s way onto Dispatch’s debut album Silent Steeples and into the heart of EVERY Dispatch fan. The song inspired the foundation which is still around today.
In the years following the band would get back together for a show here and there and in 2011 the band decided they’d been on hiatus long enough. They started touring together again and released Circles Around The Sun.
Earlier this year Dispatch announced they would once again hit the road with the release of their new album America, Location 21. The same day, they dropped a single- Only The Wild Ones. Since then it’s spent 11 weeks on billboards alternative chart and has cracked the top 20 for national airplay.
This new album is so impressive. It was recorded just north of San Francisco at the Panoramic House which looks down on Stinson Beach. The songs, solely written by Chad, are filled with the classic Dispatch harmonies, powerful lyrics, and catchy Americana beats. You can listen to this album through and through and each song can stand on its own. This album is one that any veteran Dispatch fan can feel at home with as well as new comers.
Having the opportunity to get to hangout with these guys was something I’ll never forget. Not only do they create the music that is on the soundtracks to my life but they are amazing men. They quickly calmed my nerves and joked with me, bringing about this feeling of old friends just talking music.
On this new album is there a favorite song you guys like to perform?
Chad- I guess I feel like, Curse+Crush carries the most weight with me when we play it.
You guys have written all the songs, on all your albums, is there a lyric that stands out to you as one of your favorite lyrics that you’ve written? Maybe most important?
Brad- Can I please answer with two phrases? “Go now you are forgiven” from The General, it gives me the chills and tears each time we’re playing it and singing it with the audience. And then Chad’s written such a beautiful song in Painted Yellow Lines and there’s a line that I have to sing (actually singing it) “just to be present in a moment before it all goes away” that’s it, that’s getting me.
Those are great ones. I love Painted Yellow Lines by the way, that’s such an awesome song.
You guys are big social activists and I know you had some projects that were education based in the past, do you guys have anything on the back burner this time around?
Chad- We do because of Pete’s absence in this tour. He’s been struggling with depression the last few years and it kinda got the better of him this winter. And so he wrote a letter a few months ago saying he supports the band but right now he can’t play with us. So we are kinda dedicating the tour to mental wellness, mental health and having little (tent) villages in each venue where people can go to find out about local organizations that can help but also just to have like tents that support mental wellness and just talk about it, destigmatize it if we can because we all struggle a lot with different shit.
Brad- It’s such a universal tie-in too to PTSD with veterans or what the Native American community is facing because they in large part, they’ve had their identity mostly usurped or torn from them. So I think emotional, physical, spiritual stuff- like holistically- we need to address the whole as opposed to the symptoms in anything we’re approaching. I mean we’re trying to figure that out in our own lives, so it’s a privilege to get to follow Pete’s bravery and courage and then also get to try to create a space where hopefully our fans can also share what they choose to.
If you could have another artist cover one of your songs what would it be?
Brad- oh I like that question.
Chad- Joni Mitchell doing Painted Yellow Lines…It’s like you can kinda hear it
Brad- That was a great answer. That was pretty fast Chad. Did you know the question ahead of time.
Chad- Yeah, she sent me all these questions… Or like Rage (Rage Against the Machine) playing like Time Served.
Brad- I was even thinking like Chili Peppers. I think maybe the Chili Peppers on Time Served. Kiedis would do something crazy with it.
Chad- Or Alice in Chains but Layne’s not around. So many of them aren’t.
Chad- Oh yeah
Brad- Final answer… We love Pearl Jam
You get challenged to a Lip-Sync battle what song to do you pick?
Chad- Summer of ’69
Brad- I’m gonna go with Car Radio by Twenty-One Pilots right now.
Brad- I had to impress my niece. Learned the whole thing on a two hour drive in the mountains.
Where’d the band name come from?
Chad- Brad’s cousin. We were One Fell Swoop and we needed a new name
Brad- because we found another One Fell Swoop
Chad- Or they found us but Brad’s cousin Russ was a dispatcher at a lumber yard.
Brad- And then you in the same week or something you had a Shakespeare class where dispatch was talked about. So we felt we were being sent a message.
There’s just something so catchy about Only The Wild Ones. New and old fans, I just feel like it’s got something that everyone can appreciate.
Chad- It surprised me. I wouldn’t have thought that was the jam. I would have thought it would have been Begin Again or Curse+Crush
I’ve never seen a Dispatch show, but I got to see State Radio in Chico while I was in college
Chad- old Chico. It’s such a rad little town.
Yeah it is. So I’m not sure if you guys do cover songs but is there a cover song you like to do?
Chad- We played Suck My Kiss… I think that was stretching my guitar abilities.
Brad- We tend to put a lot of snip-it, you know references, into songs and then keep going. In Out Loud we’ve done that a bunch.
Brad- We have a little Pink Floyd up our sleeves for this coming tour. And Uncle John’s Band– The Grateful Dead, we’re working on that right now and that’s going to be so fun.
I read online that Circles Around The Sun, was written about a friend of yours, and there’s some controversy around it?
Chad- Yeah, right, it’s like myth/conspiracy theory. I worked at a camp for people with disabilities that was the oldest camp for people with disabilities in the country. So he, from the age of six, when I worked with him he was 50, had been at this camp or going to it in the summer time and he’s an adrenaline junkie although he can’t walk or talk, there’s youtube videos of me running around carrying him if you look at Dispatch at the Orpheum. So the old legend is that he had been used by NASA to test space, when they treated people with disabilities with no respect, like animals, totally dispensable. So that’s what that songs about. Like in came the suits and the government and took him away.
Dispatch was always a special band for me but I’d become a fan of theirs after they’d gone their seperate ways, so to be able to see them play as Dispatch and hear all the songs I’d grown up with was amazing. On top of that Chad dedicated Painted Yellow Lines to me during the show and at the end Brad gave me one of his drum sticks.
If you’re a fan of Dispatch, see them live. If you have never heard of them, give their music a try, some of my favorite classics are: Elias, The General, Flying Horses and of the new ones: Rice Water, Only The Wild Ones, and Painted Yellow Lines.
They are also amazing guys who donate tons of time and resources to causes close to their hearts. Brad has a non-profit called Love, Light and Melody and Chad has a non-profit called Calling All Crows.
Dispatch was one of the bands that shaped me during my formative years and still impacts me today. And the only way that sums up how I truly feel about my kindered spirit relationship to them is from a book I read once:
“And I thought about how many people have loved those songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs. And how much those songs really mean. I think it would be great to have written one of those songs. I bet if I wrote one of them, I would be very proud. I hope the people who wrote those songs are happy. I hope they feel it’s enough. I really do because they’ve made me happy. And I’m only one person.” ― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower