Interview: Dispatch – Well Marinated The Second Time Around
Boston-based indie/roots band Dispatch just released their first studio record in twelve years a few weeks ago.
Circles Around the Sun is the first new LP from Chad Urmston, Brad Corrigan and Pete Heimbold since 2000’s Who Are We Living For?, and to celebrate the band is currently out on the road for a full tour. (They’ll stop by the Hollywood Palladium on September 26th with Sleeper/Agent – grab your tickets now).
I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to speak with Heimbold about the band’s second wave (having re-formed a few years ago after a long time off), the new album, touring, and what it means to be in “the most successful indie band of all time” in 2012.
Enjoy – it was a personal thrill to have this chance, and I thank Pete and the band’s management team for giving Concert Confessions this shot.
CC: Thank you for speaking with us. This is actually quite a privilege.
Pete: Thank you.
CC: I’ve been listening to Circles Around the Sun all morning, and…first of all, on a personal level, it sounds phenomenal. I was new getting into you guys because I didn’t find out about the band until the first extended hiatus. I was sad that I wasn’t able to see you live, but then you did the Greek Theatre show in Berkeley last year, and I finally had that chance. Now that you guys are fully back together – what made you guys want to get back together again and make a new album & tour rather than just play a few shows?
Pete: Well, I think it’s always healthy to take a break from each other, and I think we took a healthy break – everybody worked on solo projects and got to grow as musicians and as people. I think we’re just open to trying to see what would happen with some new music. And we were pleasantly psyched.
CC: Some of the songs on there, especially ones like Come to Me – is that you singing?
Pete: That’s me, yeah.
CC: That one seems very…the word I like to use is ‘sprawling’, because it seems experimental. How did a song like that come about?
Pete: I think that formed with me just strumming out the progression and trying…I worked on it with a friend of mine, and then bringing it to the band. We sort of wanted to get a cool guitar tone with the maestro phaser, which was totally sweet. That song basically came about from a few acoustic guitars and then it became a Dispatch song when all the vocals – all three members – are singing on it. And then it has that Dispatch sound.
CC: Yeah, I was listening to Silent Steeples recently, and it helped me really remember just how much of the Dispatch sound comes from the three of your vocals all at the same time.
Pete: Yeah, exactly. That’s a good way of putting it.
CC: Regarding the single Circles Around the Sun, I read something that intimated that it is based on a real story. Is that so?
Pete: I don’t think that it’s based on a true story, but Larry – the guy that the song’s about – is a real person. Sadly, he passed away this year but he was a good friend of Chad’s. He had very limited…the way he communicated with people was only through his eyes or blinking, I can’t remember, but Chad was kind of imagining a story that NASA would send a disabled person into space. Chad could tell you about it better than I could, but that’s what I take from it.
CC: Once it starts going you can really tell it’s a lyrical song, as a very interesting story unfolds.
Pete: Yeah, I’m glad you like it.
CC: For fans of yours that have not heard the album yet, where would you say Circles Around the Sun fits as compared to the other records, and was its creation as organic and enjoyable as your earlier material? Or was it different because of the long break?
Pete: I think it’s different because of the long break, because the three of us were kind of more open to each other’s styles. Like any relationship that – we had time to marinate in each other’s songs and also not be too critical of each other. So in that sense, I think it’s a more mature record. Musically, it kind of fits in somewhere like the Band, maybe, or a little bit Tom Petty. That’s where I think we were subconsciously drawing from. We had all watched Runnin’ Down a Dream, the Tom Petty documentary, it’s just so good. We were all really inspired by that, and we were calling the song Circles Around the Sun Tom Petty for the longest time.
CC: That’d have been a fun title for it to end up with, too.
Pete: Exactly, yeah.
CC: It’s probably too early to tell, but what do you think will happen to Dispatch after you release the album, you do the touring, you do the festival shows and all that. Are you going to see what happens, or do you plan on putting 100% back into Dispatch in the future?
Pete: I think it’ll be more “we’ll see what happens”, because I don’t think that we’ll just dive into it, you know – “we’re committing our musical lives into everything, into the band”. I think we’re just playing it by ear, you know?
CC: Speaking to that, what would you say is the band’s place or role in the music world today versus how it was in your first run? So much of Dispatch’s – and to that effect, State Radio and your own solo material – your catalog always tends to concern human rights, peace, and obviously with Chad’s stuff political issues. Where do you think you guys fit now versus how you did in the beginning?
Pete: Good question. Hopefully we still represent an independent spirit among musicians and people that say ‘okay, we can build something on our own’. I think that’s something that has always been important to us. Whereas…in the early 2000s the focus was on Napster, it was something everyone could grab onto. A lot of people heard our music through Napster. So now, since we’re on to iTunes, I’d probably come back to that ‘do it yourself’ attitude.
CC: Okay. Sometimes the buzz phrase thrown around when referring to Dispatch is ‘the most successful indie band ever’, and that’s an important thing to realize when you consider what you guys did with no label, doing it on your own and what kind of trend that caused.
Pete: Yeah, exactly. I guess we hope that younger bands feel inspired that they can build something on their own, and then later on take advantage of the music business. I would say that initially it’s a great feeling to be able to build a following on your own.
CC: I wanted to ask a couple of fun questions about your shows. What’s your favorite song to play live now – since you have so many songs to choose from? How many of the new songs do you guys plan to bust out?
Pete: That’s a good question. I hope we bust out a bunch of ‘em. We better start practicing. I love playing Passerby. That song…because we can get into some ferocious jams with that one. It’s one of those songs that continues to build, and I just love playing it. I would say that’s one of my favorites.
CC: That album (Who Are We Living For?) was actually my introduction to you guys. That song, Headlights and Prince of Spades just floored me when I first heard them.
Pete: Thanks, man.
CC: It’s good to hear that as an answer. I’m pretty sure you played it up at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley last year and it was awesome.
Pete: Yeah, I think we did. That Greek show…I’ll never forget that.
CC: When you were up in the rafters, up by the lawn, that was great. I wish I was closer to that area.
Pete: Cool, man.
CC: We’ll end it with this…what’s your favorite venue to play? Now that you just talked about the Greek. You’ve headlined Madison Square Garden –
Pete: It’s definitely up there. Red Rocks, Madison Square Garden, the Greek – those are probably the top three.
CC: Are you going to do any more of those Zimbabwe benefits or is that another ‘wait and see’ kind of thing?
Pete: I think it’s a wait and see.
CC: It was so successful the first time.
Pete: It was great, yeah. I hope the country and the people are doing better, and I hope we can help in any way we can.
CC: In closing, is there anything you want to add – about Dispatch’s second reunion, so to speak, or the future?
Pete: I would just say that I’m so psyched for people to pop this record into their players, or whatever, and just turn it up and play it loud.
CC: I will be doing that, sir, and I thank you for this chat.
Pete: Thanks so much, have a good day.