“All in all, it was a great experience," says Dispatch singer and multi-instrumentalist Pete Heimbold of the recording sessions for the band's ridiculously catchy new album, Circles Around The Sun. "Because we had taken such a long break from each other, we really grew as people and musicians. If we had kept on as we were, making record after record, this one wouldn't have such depth."
Ten years ago, the Boston-based trio (which also includes singers and multi-taskers Brad Corrigan and Chad Urmston) were the biggest jam outfit this side of Phish. "We were above ground as much as we were underground," says Corrigan. "People had to search us out. They couldn’t turn on the radio or TV and expect to find us. Somebody had to tell them, ‘Hey, you’ve got to check out this band.’ So when people did tap into our music and our story, they went for kind of the full thing."
And right as things were going good, the band called it quits in 2002 - basically because they weren't so good, at least not as far as group morale went. “It got to be too stressful," says Urmston. "We weren’t connecting on a friendship level. It got weird, particularly since our songs are so personal. We had to go our separate ways."
A series of one-off reunion concerts (including a three-night stand at New York's Madison Square Garden) lead to a full-on reformation in 2010. The group issued a rapturously received, self-titled EP last year, setting the stage for the Peter Katis (Interpol,The National)-produced Circles Around The Sun.
According to Heimbold, age, maturity and that thing about time making the heart grow fonder had a dramatic effect on the band. "Ten years ago when we were making records, we’d walk on eggshells around each other," he says. "This time, with all the experiences we’ve had, we learned not to get too caught up on the small things. We're not on each other’s backs. Our discussions are constructive; we're more accepting of each other. To me, those are big steps in the right direction.”
For the most part, recording sessions were loose and casual, with an eye on capturing live, off-the-floor performances. “Sometimes we’d keep the guitars and bass, and other times we’d keep just the drums," says Urmston. "Pete’s song, Feels So Good, was all live and we added the vocals. On other tunes, we’d do things in parts and stages. Sometimes we threw everything at songs, all this different instrumentation. So there wasn’t just one way we recorded. We went for it and took chances sonically.”
Circles Around The Sun will be released on 21 August, and Dispatch will hit the road soon after. For fans dreading that this could turn out to be a one-album, one-tour affair, Corrigan stresses that the band's story will continue.
“The vibe between the three of us is as good as it gets," he says. "It’s all fresh to us. We don’t have to do this, we don’t need it – it’s a gift. Before, we used to feel enslaved to the band. Now it’s something that we really get to enjoy. That's a tremendous feeling."
On the following pages, Heimbold, Urmston and Corrigan walk us through Circles Around The Sun track by track.