“We’ve been called the biggest band nobody’s ever heard of,” says Brad Corrigan, one of Dispatch’s three singers and multi-instrumentalists. “People either know everything about us or they know nothing. There never seems to be any middle ground.”
How Brad Corrigan, Chad Stokes, and Pete Francis met in college, formed a band, and — with no radio airplay, major-label support, or significant press coverage — became arguably the biggest independent rock band in history, is a remarkable story. Though Dispatch hadn’t released a full-length album since 2000, and officially called it quits in 2004, its music continued to capture the hearts and minds of new generations of rock fans through word-of-mouth. A 2004 farewell show at the Hatch Shell in Boston drew 110,000 people, including fans from Europe, South America, and Australia. The concert became the largest independent music event in history.
Over a span of four years, Dispatch managed to compose three successful studio albums. 1996 marked the year of their debut album, Silent Steeples, followed by Bang Bang in 1998, and Four-Day Trials in 1999. Following these achievements, major labels approached with promise of making Dispatch the next Dave Matthews Band. While most would perk up at the proposition, the trio took it in another light. “We knew it would kill our creativity. We don’t have a desire to be anything other than the first Dispatch.” Their self-determination to forge their own path was refreshing and exactly what the music industry needed.
Despite this success, the band decided to part ways. “We were just incredibly burned out,” Corrigan says. “We had no real friendships outside of each other and we wanted to have lives outside of the band and be part of our communities again.” “It actually felt dishonest to play for our audience when the relationships within the band were breaking down,” Stokes says. “It just didn’t feel right.”
The band scheduled a brief re-appearance at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in the interest of raising funds for Zimbabwean humanitarian efforts. When the show sold out, marking Dispatch as the first independent band to sell out the storied venue, they announced two more shows. Both of which also sold out immediately, and in total raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in relief efforts. In 2009, the band performed an all-acoustic show, held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., at the request of Zimbabwe’s very appreciative Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai.
In June 2011, having repaired their friendships and reconciled their issues, Dispatch regrouped for a sold-out U.S. tour, that included three shows at Boston’s fabled TD Garden Arena, three shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, and the first-ever concert at New Jersey’s 25,000-seat Red Bull Arena. Dispatch’s passion for social responsibility sustained, as the band rolled out their ‘Amplifying Education’ campaign during the tour, which focused on curbing the issues plaguing America’s education system. The band donated one dollar per ticket sale to corresponding local markets. In addition, they were overwhelmed by the efforts of their dedicated fan base, who followed suit in making a difference by attending several Dispatch-sponsored volunteer events throughout the tour. “I’m always amazed when people show up for these volunteer events, because everyone’s busy and has a lot going on in their lives,” Stokes says. “But our fans are so passionate about the band, and that seems to lend itself to their wanting to do more than just come to the show.”
They followed up a successful US route with their debut European tour, making stops in London, Paris, Berlin, and Zurich before returning stateside to play Bonnaroo. The band continued to release new material, including a six-song EP and their first full-length studio album since 2000, Circles Around the Sun. The album features cinematic, expansive production by Peter Katis (Interpol, Jonsi, The National), which compliments each of the multi-talented band members, ultimately creating an eclectic all-American rock and roll record that delivers the gutsy storytelling, radiant harmonies, and good-time grooves that Dispatch is known and admired for.
Their recommitment to both touring and recording honored not only the alchemy that occurs whenever these three gather to make music, but also the powerful bond they have forged with their fans over the last decade.
From first meeting at Middlebury College in Vermont and performing around local colleges, to several successful debut album releases and sold out worldwide tours, it would be an understatement to say Dispatch has accomplished more than most. Nonetheless, the band is determined to continue their journey, sure to add accomplishments to their already overwhelmingly impressive list of achievements.
Some may ponder what stirs this determination. While there may be many reasons, it all begins and ends with the fans. The band is continuously motivated by their fan base who has supported them from the beginning. “It’s a dream to know that your music is actually a part of people’s experiences and becomes tied to special moments in their life,” Corrigan says. “That makes it all worth it. Also, it all just feels fun again. We’re so fired up to be great friends and to travel the world and see places we’ve never been before. I mean, come on. It doesn’t get much better than that.”