With a return to touring this summer, Dispatch got a fresh start — not just in a new album, “Break Our Fall,” but in the lineup of the band.
Although not initially what Chadwick Stokes or Brad Corrigan had planned for the band, both results were for the best, they said in a joint interview in June.
The three original founders of Dispatch – guitarist/vocalist Stokes, drummer Corrigan and vocalist/bassist/guitarist Pete Francis – have already been through rough times and hoped they would come out stronger than ever as a trio.
But that wasn’t the case, as Francis, who battled depression and struggled with life on tour, left the band in 2019.
“It’s definitely the hardest decision we’ve ever made as a band, but also the fairest. said Corrigan.
Corrigan and Stokes decided to move on after considerable effort to make things work for all three band members. A “renewed excitement” existed in 2015 and 2016 on tour, Stokes said: “That winter Pete hit lows he had never seen before.”
Stokes and Corrigan said they tried to find a solution and went through hours of therapy with Francis. Dispatch even toured without Francis for a while, hoping the time away from the road would sort out the issues before finally restructuring the band.
“It turned out to be very complicated, very difficult for all of us, but also for Pete to realize that the road is not a healthy place (for him),” Stokes said. “We really tried to navigate it all as friends and partners.”
Going forward, Stokes and Corrigan decided against looking for a new bassist. Instead, Dispatch is now officially a duo, but with two longtime touring band members, guitarist Matt Embree and percussionist Jon “JR” Reilly. Mike Sawitzke (The Eels) also joined the band after co-producing Dispatch’s last three albums. The five-piece unit worked together in the studio and on tour.
“I consciously think we weren’t just going to replace Pete because it’s impossible,” Stokes said. “So it was more of a thing where we pivoted to that kind of thing, and it was slightly different.”
The recently released “Break Our Fall” kicks off the changes. However, this is not the album that Stokes and Corrigan originally planned to release.
They actually entered the studio with Sawitzke and co-producer John Dragonetti (The Subs) in January 2020, emerging with a 10-song album that was supposed to be ready for release ahead of a major summer tour.
But while Stokes and Corrigan listened, they weren’t sure it matched the potential they were hoping for. When the pandemic hit soon after, they decided to put the album on hold.
Looking back, Stokes and Corrigan say the tour’s cancellation due to COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise. The rush to release the album – the flaws and all – no longer coincided with a tour. Stokes, Corrigan, the producers and the band members could take time to polish the existing material. Stokes wrote new songs that turned “Break Our Fall” into a 15-song version.
It hit shelves and airwaves last year and was hailed as one of Dispatch’s finest albums in a career that dates back to 1996, when Stokes, Corrigan and Francis embarked on their DIY journey. In the first six years, the trio released four full albums, toured extensively, and by 2002 had become arguably the biggest rock band most people had never heard of.
Within the band, tensions and musical differences grew, to the point where the band members needed a break from each other. They announced an indefinite hiatus to pursue other projects.
In order to say goodbye to fans, Dispatch scheduled a farewell show in their hometown at Boston’s Hatch Shell for July 31, 2004. It drew 110,000 fans, stunning a music industry that largely ignored the mouth- Earphones next developed, as the band’s music spread to early file-sharing websites like Napster and LimeWire. The band also gained a reputation as a stellar live act.
Popularity was confirmed in 2007 when Stokes, Corrigan and Francis reunited for three gigs in New York’s Madison Square Garden to raise funds to fight famine and disease and to support social justice in a timely manner. All three shows sold out.
But it took almost four more years before the trio decided to officially reunite and create a self-titled EP in 2011, followed by a full-length studio album, “Circles Around the Sun” in 2012, backed by great tour.
Then came another pause.
In 2015, Stokes, Corrigan and Francis came together for a meeting to chart a future path for Dispatch. The trio decided that Stokes would take on the role of lead songwriter and began working on new music. The band released two albums – “America, Location 12” in 2017 and “Location 13” in 2018 – both from the same recording session, before reluctantly parting ways with Francis.
“Break Our Fall” retains the signature blend of fluid, upbeat folk and rock, but adds new dimensions to Dispatch’s established sound. An example can be heard on ‘The Legend of Connie Hawkins’ – telling the story of a star basketball player who fell victim to a college point-shaving scandal that falsely tarnished his reputation. It’s an epic multi-faceted track, with dreamy, psychedelic sounds and strong pop hooks.
“May We All” is a concise and punchy track that shows a less pronounced power pop facet to Dispatch’s sound.
Still, “Break Our Fal” continues the band’s tradition of staying relevant to current issues, particularly in the area of social justice. For example, “May We All” refers to movements like Me Too and Black Lives Matter, as well as George Floyd. “Promise Land” weaves together commentary on racism (with a scathing reference to former President Donald Trump), corporate power and climate change.
“There was no shortage of lyrical subject matter and protest,” Stokes said. “I think ‘Promise Land’ was a bit of a reflection of that.”
Dispatch is finally on tour in support of “Break Our Fall”. The first outing is a co-headliner with OAR Dispatch who will play a shorter than usual set that will likely favor catalog material over songs from “Break Our Fall”. This will make creating set lists a bit more difficult than when Dispatch headlines its own shows.
“It almost feels like a festival backdrop, like every time we’ve had festival backdrops, just trying to pack in as much as we can,” Corrigan said. “So we’re going to do something similar to that.”
Dispatch and OAR will perform at the Live Oak Bank Pavilion on Saturday, with doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $27.
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