Analogue Music | Dispatch


By Matt Conner

Chadwick Stokes and Brad Corrigan were ready for that road less traveled.

Maybe that's more accurately described as the road less familiar for the members of Dispatch when referring to the writing and recording of their latest album, Break Our Fall. It's the sort of release that feels like a summit only reached after steadily climbing for years in this very direction, the musical results of a veteran band still stretching in new directions yet built upon the chemistry and experiences of the last 25 years together.

To hear Stokes and Corrigan detail its creation, Break Our Fall was about toying with sonic ideas that didn't have an obvious handle. They were interesting yet not immediate. It was the ideal way to move into a new sort of season that stretched what it meant to make a Dispatch record in the wake of a world on fire and internal changes within the band.

We recently caught up with both Stokes and Corrigan to hear about the album's creation and how, even after a quarter-century together, they still can't say they'll be around in just a few years.

Analogue: Listening to the new album, I got the sense that you couldn’t have written these songs before now, with the perspectives and sounds you’ve got here. Does that feel true to you?

Chadwick Stokes: I like the way you said that. For me, there’s a big watermark on this album where one of its identities was that we were thinking of the live show but we also wondered how we could go where we’ve not gone so many times before. A lot of the songs we gravitated toward were songs that didn’t necessarily sound like Dispatch.

Brad would say to me, ‘I know exactly how to handle song x, but I don’t know what would happen if we followed the road for song y.’ Whether our fans come along on the ride with us on our different winding turns or not is something else, but for us it’s really following that creative sense to keep pushing it a bit.

"A lot of the songs we gravitated toward were songs that didn’t necessarily sound like Dispatch." -Chadwick Stokes

Brad Corrigan: Song Y would be an amazing album title. [Laughs]

Chadwick: It would. [Laughs]

Brad: Chad had three kiddos and my wife and I have a ten-month-old. To be in our mid-40s, to be dads, is to look at the world through a very different lens. It’s not ego and adventure and where to go and what to do. It’s more like a couple layers deep in social justice, economic inequity or systems put in place where some are stuck and others flourish. I don’t want to call it mid-life, but it’s an intriguing mountaintop and you’re looking at what world you want to fight for to give your kids the best chance to live well and not inherit all of our shit.

I would say for Chad’s songwriting, it feels like a confluence of so many things he’s written about over the years. Now to have a little more time researching mass incarceration or a little big about hunger here Stateside or a little bit about education reform and then we’re both really passionate about indigenous realities here in our country.

So we’ve had our toes in a lot of things that we’re really interested in but are not experts in, have not done a deep dive toward one in particular. But this album in particular calls it all out. We’re not offering up answers, but we want to ask a lot of questions through the songs and say, ‘All of us are a part of how we got here and potentially all of us could be a part of going forward.’

Analogue: That seems to infer something about your belief in the power of art to change the world.

Chad: I feel like we don’t necessarily throw out the songs so that they will change this and that, although if they do, we welcome that. But a lot of it is more personal in our own lives where this song feels important to us now and important for our own growth or our connection with each other as a band. If there ends up being some social change that comes from the song, that’s great, but it starts on a more micro-level.

Brad: That’s the most eye-opening thing is to realize the only thing you have control over is changing yourself. We’re experiencing this first-hand. If anything makes us super-mad or brokenhearted like the loss of a loved one to suicide or the opioid crisis, if anything has a personal touch to it, if it floats to the macro-level, that’s an amazing thing, but most of it is your inner work and writing songs as to where you are and what you need in terms of some therapy or catharsis.

But wait… Chad, tell Matt about "Connie Hawkins."

Analogue: [Laughs] I’m glad you brought that up because I saw this song titled after an old NBA player and I’m thinking, ‘I’ve got Connie Hawkins basketball cards.’

Chad: Wait, you have Connie Hawkins basketball cards? That’s amazing! Will you take a picture of one?

Analogue: I’d have to hit the basement and find the card collection. [Laughs] But why did Brad bring that song up?

Chad: Well, I was making a fire and crumbling up paper and stumbled across some obits from the New York Times and found Connie’s story. The whole band loves sports, loves basketball, but I’d never heard of him. I’d also never heard the injustice of his story. It almost read like a song. I remember thinking at the time that if I could create something out of this story that works, I’d be so psyched.

The song is just a succinct story from beginning to end. It’s almost like a little opera. Meanwhile, we’ve gotten to know Connie’s grandson and we’re trying to see what we can do to get his story out there more. The NBA seems pretty afraid of his story being told, so we’re digging a bit as amateur diggers, but we’re excited to play the song live and connect people to this story of injustice and racism.

Analogue: Not only do you have this longevity as a band, but that also means you have relationships with fans that go back for that long or at least a big part of it.

Chad: It’s one thing to be a solo artist and stay around for a long time. As long as you’re alive, you’re still around. [Laughs] But what bands are still playing now? Bands come and go because it’s hard to keep it together, so it’s exciting that we still have this. Who knows if we’ll be here in five years? We never know, but it’s fun to think about touring and being out there again because you do continue this relationship with people now for 25 years. That’s starting to feel really special.

"Bands come and go because it’s hard to keep it together, so it’s exciting that we still have this. Who knows if we’ll be here in five years?" -Brad Corrigan

Analogue: Wait, you’ve been at this for long enough… are you really telling me you don’t know if you’ll be here in five years? You don’t have the sense that it’s likely?

Brad: [Laughs] Well, I hope we are. There’s something about the ripple in the water. The world is such a wacky place right now that it does encourage you to stay in the moment. Chad and I and our bandmates have so much fun playing, so there’s no risk there. But there’s also so much life happening to each of us that we’re constantly trying to figure out where we are supposed to be—not by obligation, since no one wants to feel obligated to play or tour or write.

I think it’s more that we’re realizing how fragile life is. I try not to plan too far into the future, because all we’ve got is today. That’s not to sound too morbid or philosophical, but I think it’s a good thing to stay rooted in the present. We usually get as far out as two weeks. Chad, are you now planning into three weeks?

Chad: I mean, I always loved that Pete Townsend thought that The Who was going to last three weeks tops. They didn’t know how things could possible work. You could almost say that about Brad, Pete, and me in the beginning. How could this trio possibly stay together?

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