In 1996, three Middlebury College grads, Chad Urmston, Brad Corrigan, and Pete Heimbold, came together to form Dispatch. After relocating to Boston, the band's live shows - marked by sweeping jams which showcased the trio's chameleonic musicianship - soon started to attract the attention of the indie music community.
For the next six years, the trio combined this relentless touring with the healthy dissemination of their music through Napster - a decidedly DIY approach which saw Dispatch defy their lack of mainstream airplay to go on to become one of the leading jam bands of all time.
Despite their successes, increased tensions between members lead to Dispatch announcing a hiatus in 2001. The band bowed out in style with a show at the Hatch Shell in Boston on July 31, 2004, to an audience of 110,000 - one of the largest concerts in independent music history.
This spectacular feat did not mark the end of Dispatch, however. After seven years of pursuing solo projects, the trio reunited in 2011 to commence a sold-out world tour. And having dipped their toes back in the water last year with a six-track EP, next month will see Dispatch release their first full-length studio album in 12 years, Circles Around the Sun.
We recently spoke with Dispatch's vocalist and guitarist, Chad Urmston, to find out how it feels being back after all this time, and to uncover some of the stories behind the new album.
Chad Urmston: It's always challenging to put an album together with three different song writers. But being 12 years older and taking all that time away helped as we had a better appreciation for each other.
Songfacts: The general consensus is that your new material is taking a more 'rockier' direction. How would you say Dispatch have sonically progressed since Who Are We Living For?
Chad: I think WAWLF (we love that acronym) is pretty rocking. I'd say there's a bigger difference in our first (Silent Steeples) to third album (Four-Day Trials) than there is our fourth (Who Are We Living For?) to our fifth (Circles Around the Sun).
Songfacts: How about lyrically? Are you drawing inspiration from different things than you were 12 years back?
Chad: Not really, there's some very topical songs about the education crisis in this country and a Native American massacre, while there are also songs that lean more towards stories and poems.
Songfacts: "Circles Around the Sun" is a real foot-stomper! I understand this song is based on Larry Perry, a young disabled man who was sent unwillingly into space by NASA in the '60s. Why was you inspired to write about this?
Chad: Larry is an old friend of mine. He passed away last year but I'd known him since I was 17. Whether or not this legend is actually true is still hotly debated among experts and conspiracy theorists.
Songfacts: "Josaphine" is just stunning. Was that written with a special someone in mind?
Chad: When I was on the trains in White River Junction along the border of New Hampshire and Vermont, we met these taggers who were painting up a junker freight going nowhere and one of the girls had a large "Manchvegas" tattooed across her back. I don't remember her name...maybe it's Josaphine... maybe it's Maybelline.
Songfacts: "Not Messin'" is another rocking cut from the new record. But there is a lot of debate among the Dispatch fan community over what it is actually about! So could you possibly enlighten us?
Chad: It's a collage of experiences I've had - most of it has to do with a guy who's trying everything just to stay afloat in today's rough economy.
Songfacts: Do you have a favorite track on the new album that we are yet to discuss?
Chad: I like "Never or Now" quite a bit. It rolls quite easy, like a lazy river and sounds a bit like songs from the '50s.
Songfacts: On Four-Day Trials, you covered Beastie Boys' "Root Down." In the wake of Adam Yauch's passing, I wondered if you could elaborate on the influence Beastie Boys had on your music?
Chad: We were so saddened to hear of MCA's passing. We love the Beastie Boys - especially Check Your Head and Ill Communication - those grooves just slayed us. Pete and I worked in a shampoo factory to earn money for our first recording, which was done in New York City at Tin Pan Alley where Ill Communication was done. I like to think that we are like the Beasties in that they came in through the side door of rap by way of punk rock and we came in the doggie door by way of folk.
Chad: It's more relevant today than it was when I wrote it. I've always been fascinated by war and been lucky enough not to have the hands in experience. But I can understand that it must be hell and that there's also a deep sense of brother/sisterhood that is unique to that experience. The song came after a summer of playing Hendrix's "Castles Made Of Sand" constantly. Hopefully it will be less relevant in years to come.
Songfacts: I am interested to find out what is your personal favorite Dispatch song of all time? Is it a deep cut, or one of your well known hits?
Chad: "Mission" - so much fun to play - pretty 'Dispatchy' through and through. I also like "Everybody Clap." ["Everybody Clap" is 30 second instrumental. Chad is being slightly sarcastic here.]
Songfacts: How has your songwriting process changed over the years, and how do you do it now?
Chad: It's about the same. Watch a made up band in a dream and then realize upon waking that the band doesn't really exist and then trying to remember my favorite song by them.
July 20, 2012. Get more at dispatchmusic.com.
More Songwriter Interviews