Who is Dispatch? Answer: One of the biggest independent rock bands in history.
“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."
Members Corrigan, Chad Stokes and Pete Francis met at Middlebury College in Vermont in the early ‘90s. By 1996, they released their debut album, an acoustic-driven folk-pop affair called Silent Steeples, on their own Bomber Records label, followed by 1998’s reggae-flavored Bang Bang.
The 1999 release of Dispatch’s third album, Four-Day Trials coincided with the launch of then-illegal file-sharing service Napster, which enabled the band’s young, tech-savvy audience to freely share MP3’s of Dispatch songs like “The General” and “Bang Bang” and grow the audience in the process. “We played a show at a college in Pomona, California — a state we’d never visited, and a thousand kids turned up and sang along to every word,” Francis says.
Though Dispatch hadn’t released a full-length album since 2000, and even officially called it quits in 2004, its music continues to capture the hearts and minds of new generations of rock fans through pure word-of-mouth. Not one, but three 2007 soldout shows at New York City’s Madison Square Garden - the first independent band to sell out the storied venue. A 2009 all-acoustic show, held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., at the request of Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, sold out in less than two minutes. When Dispatch regrouped for a U.S. tour in June 2011 – every date sold out, including three shows at Boston’s fabled TD Garden Arena, three shows at Red Rocks in Colorado, and the first-ever concert at New Jersey’s 25,000-seat Red Bull Arena.
In March 2012, Dispatch embarked on its first-ever European tour, performing at theatres in London, Paris, Berlin, and Zurich, before appearing at the Bonnaroo Festival in June, followed by the August release of the band’s first full-length studio album in 12 years, Circles Around the Sun. Featuring production by Peter Katis (Interpol, Jonsi, The National), the album is an eclectic all-American rock and roll record that delivers the gutsy storytelling, radiant harmonies, and good-time grooves that Dispatch are loved for.
“We all bring different influences to the table, whether it be Led Zeppelin, Traffic, Radiohead, or Cat Stevens, and just kind of throw it all together,” Stokes says.
Social responsibility has always been a major component of the Dispatch culture. During its June 2011 tour, the band rolled out its Amplifying Education campaign, which focused on educational issues in the U.S. Not only did one dollar from each ticket sold go to benefit education in each local market, but audience members were encouraged to sign up to volunteer, which they did eagerly.
“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.”