By Justin Lyons
Prior to this week’s Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, AL, I was able to interview Chad Stokes from the recently reunited rock band, Dispatch. If you’re going to Hangout, be sure to catch Dispatch perform on Saturday at 5:15pm at the Hangout Main stage. Look for their first full length album Circles Around The Sun on August 21st. Follow Atlanta Music Guide on Twitter for Hangout Music Festival coverage all weekend.
Last year’s Dispatch EP was your first studio album in a decade, what was the motivation to get back in the studio?
Mostly because if we were really going to tour again, I don’t think we could stomach the idea of touring without playing new music. If we were playing the same show that we played when we toured in 2002, there is something a little depressing about that. We all write a lot so we had tons of stuff to share and bat around. We got together one night in NY and there was a big blizzard, so we drank a lot of Guinness and played music.
The whole EP is great but the one song that stood out to me was ”Broken American”. Its really driven by the banjo and it has a political theme as well. What was the inspiration and message behind the song?
I think with that song I had that first progression and the first few chords and it was one of those songs that’s been banging around in my head for quite some time. It almost came to fruition with different projects, but it was never quite there. I just had that first line “we speak in broken American” and I wasn’t entirely sure what the song was about, but as it developed I got more excited about playing it with the Dispatch guys. I knew Brad (Corrigan) would like it because it has a very rhythmic guitar part and he is so fun to play drums with. He feeds off the rhythm of the guitar so well because hes a guitarist himself. When he plays his parts they blend into the song in a really cool way. Its fun to play banjo because it comes from Africa, but its become such an American instrument. Its such an exciting and emotional instrument to convey the story where people come over to America. In a lot of ways, especially with the recession, the “American Dream” isn’t what it used to be, if it was ever there, but now its a tough row to hoe. The main idea is you’re over here, learn the language, then you get shipped off to war and you’re fighting this war you don’t believe in. Its an old story, but its this idea that language is “broken English” and “Broken American” has the double meaning of being an American, from whatever country your grandparents originated from, yet the American dream is no longer there.
The reunion tour was last summer and had stops in the US and also Europe, right?
We went to Europe for the first time as a band and that was exciting. Then we did a full album and that’s coming out soon and we shot a couple videos for that. We’re doing a lot of things that we never did as band and that’s exciting for us.
Circles Around The Sun is the new album and comes out later this Summer? What can fans expect on the album?
It’s not far off from the EP in sense and sound. Both the EP and album were produced by Peter Katis, who worked with Interpol and the National, in Bridgeport, CT. It has a few hallmarks in its sound, but it has one song thats hip-hop, some Americana and folk, but not much reggae or ska like we had done in the past. The timing just wasn’t there for those types of songs. The album has more banjo…it was fun to be in the studio. Like you said, the its been so long before the EP and this album so we’re kind of catching up on our studio time.
“Not Messin’” is the first single and is out for free download now. Are you excited to play it live?
We don’t know what to do with that song live. A bunch of these songs, we’ve never played live. That’s the first time as a band that we’ve ever done that. Usually you play songs live for years before you record them. Since we hadn’t been touring, the new songs were studio first and then live. Its a little backwards not knowing what the new songs will sound like live, but it will be a lot of if we can pull it off.
A lot of the older material has a reggae feel and influence and some of the new music has Americana and banjo. It all seems like a perfect fit for Hangout, had the band been approached by this festival’s organizers prior to this year?
No, thats another reason it is fun to be back together now because people know about us to a certain extent. Whereas when we toured before, the only people that knew about us were Dispatch fans. Now the band has been around awhile and because of some of the big outdoor shows we did, our “last show” and the show at MSG, people know about us enough to take a chance and book us for Hangout and Bonnaroo.
What can fans expect in Dispatch’s performance at Hangout? Any surprises?
Hopefully, we’ll have a some extra musicians filling out the tunes with banjos. We’re asking people to bring books as part of our Amplify Education initiative that we’ve been doing since we’ve been back touring. Just encouraging people to volunteer in their nearby schools and get involved in the education world because its an important place that needs a lot of help. We have 75 minutes to play so a couple new ones, but a lot of old ones.
Are you gonna be around Hangout for the entire weekend? Any other performers you want to see?
I think we’re gonna check out the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We’re just psyched to hang on the beach.
There aren’t many festivals like Hangout. Are there any festivals that you want to play or revisit?
Dispatch hasn’t done many festivals, so its all pretty new to us. State Radio, the other band I play in, played at Bonnaroo a couple years ago, so I’m pretty excited to go back there. We’ll be going out to California in August. We’re pretty new to the festival scene. We’re used to just playing in front of Dispatch crowds because we never really opened for anyone. Its new for us, but a fun challenge.
Do you feel like that alleviates some of the pressure, since Hangout isn’t not going to be a 100% Dispatch crowd with some people who’ve neer seen you before?
It brings pressure in some ways because you have this one chance in front of people who don’t know you. Dispatch fans will forgive you for whatever you do. Its fun because we’re just another band up there and part of the whole festival. Its not riding on us.
The song “Elias” is a classic fan favorite. Can you explain the Elias Fund for people that don’t know about it?
Its a fund we started years ago. It basically helps people in Zimbabwe, especially one town I lived in when I was 18, and it helps micro agricultural efforts, making water accessible and getting people involved in building houses and volunteering.
A lot of fans in Atlanta that can’t make it to Hangout are excited for Dispatch show this October at the Fox Theatre.
We had two favorite shows from our last tour, San Francisco and Atlanta at Chastain. Such a great crowd.