“Lyrically, I’m always really inspired by the news, what’s happening and different stories along with my own experiences.”
Roots rock legends Dispatch have a new album coming out next year, but they’re doing something a bit different leading up to its release. To give fans a taste of what to expect, the New England band has been releasing instances of music in phases.
Phase 1 came out on Oct. 23 as a three song EP, while the subsequent Phase 2 came in the form of the single “As Old As I” on Nov. 19. It’s an approach that’s out of the ordinary, but bandmates Chadwick Stokes and Brad Corrigan have never abided by standard norms. It’s one of the many reasons why they have gained a dedicated following in Boston and beyond.
Stokes and I recently spoke about how the past few years have inspired the music for the upcoming record, going through transitions and changes, and doing virtual events to help those in need.
What do you consider the main inspiration behind this multi-phased approach leading up to Dispatch’s eighth album?
The combination of us all being together when Trump was elected four years ago and some level of grief that occurred then as well as a massive change for this country, at least for me. To go from Obama to Trump and simultaneously during that time Dispatch was losing the third member of the trio as Pete Francis was battling his own mental health problems and kind of fading from the band. These past four years have brought a lot of change, Brad [Corrigan] just got married and had a baby which is obviously a huge milestone in his life. I’ve lost two first cousins, one to an accident and one to suicide, so there’s a lot of change and a lot of grief and change isn’t all bad. It’s wonderful that Brad is married and has a kid, I just had my third kid with my wife Sybil and everyone is always going through a transition to some extent, but a lot has happened over these last four years.
Phase 1 and Phase 2 are already out, so do you think each of these releases stand apart from each other in different ways?
We tried to have them stand apart and have their own vibe, but musically that can sometimes be hard and lyrically there’s a lot of edges to be picked up in order to make it work. The first phase is a bit of a microcosm of the album, it shows what the album is going to sound like and it’s a bit of a taste of three different things. The following phases are a bit more cohesive amongst themselves.
You always convey a message with your music, whether it’s your solo material or what you’ve done with State Radio and Dispatch. 2020 has been quite the eventful year. How much has this tumultuous time affected you when it comes to writing songs and the subject material you cover with your lyrics?
I think it has everything to do with it, just in the last few months with George Floyd’s murder and so many countless others before his murder and after. COVID-19 and the Trump administration’s response to it has been tragic and so devastating. There’s a lot of pain out there, there’s a lot of collective pain in our country and massive division. It’s incredible to basically see our country split down the middle with 70 million here and 70 million there being so opposed to each other. It’s a bit scary in that way, I hope for the future that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the right unifiers who reach across the aisle because it’s been so long since that’s happened.
Lyrically, I’m always really inspired by the news, what’s happening and different stories along with my own experiences. My daughter and I have been going to a daily protest that happens on Martha’s Vineyard where someone talks about a Black man or woman who’s been killed by the abuse of power that comes with police brutality. Then we kneel for eight minutes and 46 seconds, which is how long George Floyd had an officer’s knee on his neck. Both bands I’m in are very influenced by all of the shit that’s happened and it definitely works its way into the music.
You’ve been doing a ton of fundraising this year for various charities through your nonprofit Calling All Crows by putting on virtual events. How has the experience of doing these online shows been for you and do you like how it’s another way to connect with fans despite it being relatively unconventional?
Thankfully for that stuff I’ve had my brother Willy join me during most of those so it’s always great playing with him. We kind of get the family around every day at 5pm to put together a 20 minute show and it’s some kind of action piece that people could do through our virtual service projects. It’s been comforting to do that, even though it’s also strange. Just to know that during this very hermit-like time that we’re able to reach one another in that way was really quite nice, especially when people would write in and we’d be able to answer back. I felt a little bit more connecting than we’d usually do so there was some comfort in that.
I’ve watched a couple of them and I thought it was really cool to see you interacting with tons of people who were commenting on the feed. What are your feelings on music in 2021?
The vaccines have definitely given me more hope, before the news came out about it I was thinking that we were going to be playing live until next year. I don’t think it’ll all be up and running back to usual by the spring or summer, I think it’s going to be a bit more metered and a bit more careful even with the vaccine. It also depends on how it’s being administered and how many people can get it. I think it’s going to be slow and I’m hoping by the summer of 2022 that we’ll be back at it in full force as far as the music industry, bands, and fans being able to really go out to shows. Summer 2021 is going to be a little bit of testing the waters and a little bit more than what we’ve seen as far as drive-in shows and those kinds of things, maybe a little bit cozier than that but not too much.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.