Sat. Feb. 14
32 Ann St.
"Guantanamo" from the album Year of the Crow
The name Chad Stokes will always be attached to one of the most unusual success stories in rock history. As singer/guitarist for the group Dispatch, he was part of a band that stunned the music world by selling out three nights in Madison Square Garden in 2007 — despite having been defunct for five years and being unknown to much of the music world.
By the time of those historic shows, Stokes was fully immersed in his new band, State Radio, while his Dispatch bandmates, Pete Francis and Brad Corrigan, had also moved on to solo projects.
Oddly enough, that popularity hasn't carried over to any of the three musicians' post-Dispatch projects.
"When we started doing solo or bands, we thought it was going to be easier maybe, like there would be more of a crossover," Stokes says. "We still play shows and people will come up and be like, 'Wow, you sound just like the guy from Dispatch.'"
But if State Radio didn't make the initial impact one might have expected, things have started looking up for the band more recently. Last summer, they gained considerable attention for performing with Rage Against the Machine at an anti-war rally that coincided with the Democratic National Convention in Denver. The group also played a few shows with Tom Morello, guitarist with Rage Against The Machine, while gaining further attention for a fall tour for its "Take the Country Back" tour of swing states last fall. During the tour, fans were encouraged to vote, get involved with local action groups, and learn more about a range of issues relating to human rights.
The concerts, coupled with strong reviews for State Radio's current album, Year of the Crow, have raised awareness of the band and its politically charged music. Produced by Tchad Blake (the acclaimed producer known for his work with Peter Gabriel and Pearl Jam), and recorded at Gabriel's Real World Studios in England, the album takes State Radio's mix of reggae, pop, and folk-rock in a harder-rocking direction, particularly on punk-fueled tunes like "Unfortunates," "CIA," and "Rash of Robberies."
Across the album, Stokes covers a wide range of issues, including unlimited detention and treatment of terror prisoners ("Guantanamo"), the conduct of industrial military complex companies ("Gang of Thieves"), and a child's hopes for the future of Darfur ("Sudan"). His interest in writing political and topical songs was one reason he moved on from Dispatch — plus the chemistry between the three members had gone stale.
Stokes said there are no further plans for the group at this point. Instead, he is fully focused on the future of State Radio. With bassist Chuck Fay and drummer Mike "Mad Dog" Najarian, Stokes has been hard at work on a third album, which could see a release by this fall.
Stokes says the third CD will have songs that feature the rougher edge of Year of the Crow, but the album also has a bit different vibe.
"It sounds pretty rocking to me," he says. "I think it carries on with some of the Crow-ness, but there's something about it that feels even less, I guess, less thought-out in a way. It just feels more like a band getting in a room and just playing together. At these shows, we'll be playing two or three new ones from the new album, two or three from the first album. I was thinking of bringing in even some older ones that aren't really properly recorded, but that we used to play two or three years ago. So the live set is always a mish-mash. We like to keep each other on our toes a little bit."