Inside The Dispatch Reunion
At the height of the modern jamband boom in the late ‘00s, Dispatch seemingly came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the biggest independent bands of the decade. The band’s signature style—a mix of pop, folk, rock, jam, ska, funk and hip-hop—helped introduce a generation of young music fans to the world of underground rock and the network of grassroots clubs and communities that exist beyond pop radio. Dispatch was one of the first bands to truly benefit from Napster and file various file sharing networks that helped spread the band’s music across the country. After frequenting clubs like Wetlands and The Middle East for years, in 2001 the group started to sell out theaters and ballrooms across the country.
But in 2002, just as Dispatch was about to break into the mainstream, the band’s three members—Chad Urmston (guitar/bass/percussion), Pete Heimbold (bass/guitar) and Brad Corrigan (drums/guitar)—decided to go their separate way. The musicians’ friendships had strained during the band’s later years and all three members of the group felt the need to forge their own musical identity. After making their late night debut on Late Late Show, the musicians shifted their focus elsewhere. Urmston formed the politically-charged rock group State Radio while Herimbold and Corrigan forged folk-influenced solo careers. They also all donated their time to a variety of charitable endeavors. The band reconvened for an official free farewell show at Boston’s Hatch Shell in 2004 that reportedly drew up over 100,000 fans before officially disbanding.
Though the members of the group collaborated periodically over the years, Dispatch surprised most of its community in early 2007 by announcing a reunion show at New York’s Madison Square Garden with all proceeds benefiting the people of Zimbabwe. The show swiftly sold out and the band added another two shows at the Garden which also sold out within hours. After the show, the members of Dispatch once again went their separate ways.
Dispatch’s MSG shows opened up the door for a more formal reunion and in 2008 the musicians came together for an acoustic benefit show at Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center. The musicians’ friendship continued to evolve and earlier this year the band started considering a proper reunion tour: Dispatch will play six cities in 2011 and fifty cents from each ticket sold go to benefit education in each local market.
On the eve of Dispatch’s reunion announcement, Urmston discussed the band’s reunion plans with Relix.
Let’s start with Dispatch’s upcoming reunion shows. It’s been just over three years since the band played a proper show together. When did you initially start tossing around the idea of a full reunion tour?
I was hanging out with Pete in New York this past March or April, and we both kind of felt like enough time had gone by where Brad, Pete and I were all in a good place—both individually and together. When we take our hiatuses it is never, “I never want to see you again.” We just had other things going on. For me, I felt good about where State Radio had gotten to as a band, and it seemed fun to get together with Brad and Pete for a few weeks in the summertime. So it was a fairly fluid thing—I just felt right. I also think the education bit was a really important cause. Even the little bit of money donated with each ticket can have a nice ripple effect in terms of other socioeconomic factors that can be uplifted because of children getting a good education.
In terms of State Radio’s development, did you feel like the band had fully emerged from Dispatch’s shadow?
I really felt like it had become its own entity, and that Chuck Fay (bass) and Mike Najarian (drums) and I had started our own band. In the past few years I’ve felt a lot more secure with the identity of State Radio and what we were doing. It feels quite separate from Dispatch and that was one of the reasons I felt quite good about broaching the subject of returning to do a mini-tour with Brad and Pete. To oversimplify, things felt pretty good all around. The field feels pretty open as far as what we can do—everyone is a good place.
With Dispatch touring this summer, do you plan to tour with State Radio as well in 2011?
I think we are going to go out in March and possibly go over to Europe. And something will happen in the fall. I recently did a series of solo shows that benefited Calling All Crows [Urmston’s social action organization]. We had a great tour and, in October and November, I was working on a solo record for the first time. That was interesting and fun. I recorded with John Dragonetti. He used to live in Boston but now he is in LA. He flew out and we did the record in Martha’s Vineyard. It is more acoustic—songs that didn’t quite sound right for State Radio or Dispatch for that matter. It just felt like there were these songs that I didn’t know what to do with. People have been trying to get me to do a solo record for a while so eventually I caved in [laughter]. It was fun though—I had some of my family members come in and sing with us on some big group moments. We would press record slap tambourines against the wall in this big living room in Martha’s Vineyard. It was fun.
Though Dispatch’s final studio album [2000’s Who Are We Living For? ] felt like a natural evolution of the group’s sound at the time, listening back you can hear the seeds of each of your solo projects. Some songs on the album even feel like early State Radio songs. If Dispatch stayed together, do you think the band would have continued in that direction?
If Dispatch had stayed together I feel as if we would have kept going in that direction a little bit more. Probably not quite as much as State Radio goes there but that is definitely where I was leaning. With State Radio’s inception, I had just a little more freedom to be more political and ramp things up a little but. That is how I was feeling at the time. The one Dispatch song we play with State Radio is “Time Served” [from Who Are We Living For? ] and Mike and Chuck do such a great job with the tune. So there is a little bit of that overlapping.
Was there a specific point where you felt comfortable enough with Dispatch’s legacy and State Radio’s future where you felt like you could start playing that song again?
We actually play that song more than you think. We play “Time Served” every five or six shows. It hasn’t been a mainstay—there are two of three songs we play every show—but it has definitely been in the mix for a while. But for the first two or three years we didn’t play it all. But it really lent itself to the way Chuck and Mike play so it just works quite well. But there are no real plans to incorporate more Dispatch songs in the State Radio set.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
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Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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