Dispatch Back on the Road, Premiering Songs From New Album 'Location 13'

Allen Ralph
Dispatch

The longtime touring pros are raising awareness on sexual assault at shows, indigenous rights and mental health.

Dispatch is back, hitting the road once more in support of their second album in two years, Location 13, continuing a marathon playing legendary venues like Red Rocks in Denver and The Greek Theatre in the heart of Hollywood. 

“The Greek is intense,” says frontman Chad Urmston, who rocked the Hollywood amphitheater on Thursday with hits like “The General,” “Bang Bang” and “Only the Wild Ones,” plus a sing-a-long cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band."

 

“The last time we played there (in 2011) was with Stephen Marley and the backstage was crazy,” says Urmston. “There must have been 100 people back there -- it was the full world of Bob Marley, it was amazing."

Dispatch is back on the road for the second leg of their of 2018 tour while releasing a new song each week from their forthcoming album, Location 13, recorded at a redwood retreat along the banks of Marin County in Northern California. As the group has done since forming in the late '90s, it is using their shows to raise awareness on a host of rarely-discussed issues, including poverty in indigenous communities and calling out the persistence of sexual harassment and assault at shows.

"We make sure security and the venue staff are prepared,” says Urmston. "We’ve been doing some training at pretty much every show with volunteers and we provide staff with tools they can use when they see it happening.”

Despite the emergence of the #MeToo movement and increased awareness, harassment at concerts still happens according to a recent online survey. The study of music fans in Chicago conducted by OurMusicMyBody found the 90 percent of female respondents reported having been harassed at a concert. Urnston says many fans don’t know how to recognize or address harassment when they see it, so his group trains fans how to react and use techniques to stop bad behavior.

“Distraction is the biggest one -- maybe you see something going on, you don't have a ton of information and you can't really feel it out by the body language," says Urmston. "One thing you can do is approach the situation and ask a question like, 'Do you know where the bathrooms are?’ -- or any other type of question to slow the situation down and make sure everyone is OK."

“It lifts the illusion of isolation,” adds guitarist and singer Brad Corrigan. “Anything that you can do to go in and open things up so the perpetrator and the victim both realize they're in public. They're no longer in this little bubble and it takes a lot of the energy and momentum away and often that can diffuse the situation.”

Most venues responded positively, Urnston says, although a few “get pretty cagey with the bigger promoters.”

Prior to the tour, Dispatch completed recording Location 13 -- a follow-up to last year's America, Location 12, with both albums recorded at John Baccigaluppi’s famed Panoramic House and studios in Stinson Beach, just north of San Francisco.

‘It's an incredible found-object-built house that feels like a tall ship lodged into the side of a mountain,” Urmston says of the location, which has been used to record My Morning Jacket's Waterfall, Feist’s Pleasure and Band of HorsesWhy Are You OK. While there, Corrigan and Baccigaluppi were able to paddle out for a few surf sessions in the beautiful Bolinas Bay, home to sweeping views of Mount Tamalpais and occasional white shark sightings, as well as hike to some old Coast Guard barracks built after the Pearl Harbor attacks in 1941.

“We found these old missile silos overlooking the ocean and someone had scratched 'America Location 12’ inside the cave’s wall,” says Corrigan, explaining the inspiration for the title of last year's album, which happened to be their 12th recording. This year’s followup album is an extension of "the recordings that we didn't finish, with the same production team for these songs that had been on the cutting room floor as well as a bunch of new songs," Corrigans says.

The band is releasing the album one track at a time and their latest song, "A Letter to Lady J," tackles the increase of police-involved shootings of unarmed individuals.

"The impetus of the song started when Eric Garner was killed in Staten Island [by New York police officers]," says Corrigan. “It was basically another innocent black man killed by the overuse of violence by authority and a subsequent lack of accountability that followed. The song is like writing a letter to Lady Justice asking where are you? We need you."

All the news songs are available for free on Soundcloud. The band has embraced digital music sharing since the early days of Napster, crediting the internet for building their audience and allowing them to build their careers on their own terms.

“People used to come up to us and apologize for burning our CD, but we’ve always been an independent band that benefited from Napster and whatever came next,” explains Corrigan. "We're all in favor of streaming."

Last year, Dispatch played Nashville and were invited to the Johnny Cash’s ranch where Corrigan was gifted one of the outlaw country singer’s guitars.

“I’m kind of intimidated to play it,” says Corrigan, “but one of these days Johnny Cash’s spirit is going to write a song through that guitar for me."

Now on the second leg of their 2018 run, the band has 10 more dates ahead, stopping Tuesday (Aug. 21) at Oakland’s Iconic Fox Theatre, as well as Huntington Bank Pavilion in Chicago (Sept. 15), Philly’s Mann Center (Sept. 19) and two home town close out shows (Sept. 20-21) at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion in Boston. 

“We were also able to spend some time at Pine Ridge Reservation with our opener Nahko and Medicine for the People,” says Urmston, whose also invited Raye Zaragoza and Scatter Their Own as openers.

Dispatch has always had a charity component and brings a global action village to raise awareness for concert-goers on issues like gun safety, voter rights and mental health. The latter of those issues is one that strikes particularly close to home for the band since founding member Pete Francis's decision last year not to tour with the group because of his lengthy battle with depression.

"He feels a lot better than he did last year and it takes hard work,” says Corrigan. "Brad and I just are so impressed by his ability to share that with everyone and we think about him constantly, especially being on the road. It's a really tough situation for all of us, especially for Pete and what his daily life is like. But we both feel in our communication with him that he's better than he was feeling six months ago.