The Higher Road


dispatch

By Lindsey Lowe Osborne

I believe that everything has its time—these days, it’s the time of the Whole30 program and restaurants whose names are interrupted by an ampersand, of shiplap, artisan doughnuts, and Joe Biden memes (actually, those might be less trendy now, but I still find them delightful.)

But I bet I couldn’t find one person who would disagree with me that it’s always a good time to spread a message of hope and love, of acceptance and peace and other good things that make the recipient of such feel like he or she just ate a warm chocolate chip cookie. On second thought, if I posted the above on Facebook, someone would probably disagree. But I digress.

This month, I had the joy of talking to Dispatch, who is playing Iron City on June 22. The band not only wholly embraces all those things I mentioned above, but also good—no, great—music and proactivity. Comprised of Chadwick Stokes, Brad Corrigan, and Pete Francis, Dispatch has been putting out good music and good vibes since 1996. They took a decade-long hiatus, from 2002 to 2011, though during that time they held several reunion concerts. The Boston-based band—which is not a part of a record label—has sold out Madison Square Garden three times, concerts that raised money for Zimbabwean humanitarian efforts; they’ve played their music to a crowd of 100,000 people; they’ve been on world tours. In short, they’re a successful trio, and the world loves their music, which is equal parts easygoing, inventive, and important. But it’s what they’ve done with that success, and what they hope to do with their music, that is even more impressive. Stokes says that the driving force behind it all is that universal language we all know (and that most of us love): “We’re trying to chase down songs and turn them into something recordable and something that means something…something where there’s a release in singing it. And ideally, if it’s a protest song, it contributes to the movement,” Stokes says. “In Zimbabwe, playing guitar in the townships [was an ‘aha’ moment]. Even if we didn’t speak the same language, we could bond over music.”

Their most recent album and their sixth full-length LP, America, Location 12, is an ode to that idea.  “We saw an opportunity to sing songs about issues that were of real concern to us socially,” says Corrigan of the new album. He also notes that it was recorded during the 2016 election, a time during which the band felt that its message was especially timely. “This album is a result of our recent experiences and that of our friends: some immigrants, some refugees, some native Americans, and some veterans,” Stokes explains. The first single of the album, “Wild Ones,” is based on a Jack Kerouac quote (“…Chargin’ down the craggy mountains with our thrift store friends,” Stokes sings) and, like the rest of the album, was written by Stokes a couple of winters ago when he camped in the woods “with not much more than a wood stove and endless inspiration, from 14th-century poetry to a magazine donning Bob Dylan on the cover to newspapers reflecting the rise of a terrifying new populist sense of power.” 

“There are all sorts of parallels and it makes sense that it is happening,” Stokes says. “For whatever reason, it felt like some of those issues that I wrote about are now really intense issues. Everything feels like it’s coming to a head. If we can be a band in today’s climate that brings these issues up in a nontraditional way, then that’s really fulfilling to us.”

Stokes has been aware of the power and beauty of music since he was a teenager; he says that he continues to be awed by how it brings all of us together, no matter our backgrounds. “Music was everything, a way out; it made life better. I guess I could’ve been a farmer but I liked writing songs and the open road too much,” he says. “I hope our music does what music and my favorite artists did for me. It takes you higher. I think it matters that people connect to it but that’s not the reason for it. I love being in a band and being on a mission and I love writing songs—hopefully people keep coming to shows, but I’d keep writing even they didn’t.” 

Upcoming Events:

5/10:

The Wind + The Wave at Workplay.

First listen: “Grand Canyon.”

5/20: 

Wanda Jackson at Saturn.

First listen: “Funnel of Love.”

6/7: 

Glass Animals at Iron City. 

First listen: “Gooey.”

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