Dialects: “The fact that we’ve spent so much time on it, led to it being a good end result.”

An interview with Dialects' Conor Anderson

Dialects: “The fact that we’ve spent so much time on it, led to it being a good end result.”

By Mark Johnson

Nov 13, 2017 10:54

After an agonising wait and various line-up changes, Glaswegian instrumentalists Dialects are finally on the cusp of releasing their debut album ‘Because Your Path Is Unlike Any Other’. The quartet released their debut EP ‘LTKLTL’ in 2015, delighting post-rock fans with their heavy, technically-savvy style and though the album was written soon after the release of the EP, the band have been forced to negotiate several obstacles before finally being ready to unleash it on the world.

We took the opportunity to catch Dialects at The Hairy Dog in Derby for a glimpse of some stunning new tracks from the upcoming album, and were joined by guitarist Conor Anderson, who filled us in on the album’s journey to this point.

At this year’s StrangeForms festival, Dialects emerged as one of the highlights of the entire weekend thanks to their  engaging and passionate performance. The chance to relive that experience prior to the release of a highly anticipated album, especially at a free gig, should have enticed a large crowd, but sadly the turnout is far from ideal. If you discount the members of the support bands in the room, you don’t need more than your two hands to count the rest of the crowd on.

Sadly, Anderson isn’t surprised by the scant turn-out: “It’s a self fulfilling prophecy in the UK at the moment. Everyone who travels through here says that playing the UK isn’t that good but you have to do it. Most of your press is here and the publications are here so you need to do it as a right of passage, but the promoters don’t promote the shows as the bands expect, so they start to lose interest and prefer to play in Europe.”

If the UK is struggling to provide a thriving environment for independent artists, it should take heed of the current scene in Europe, where bands are only too keen to expand and make a name for themselves. “Europe’s supposed to be the promise land,” Anderson laments. “Everyone band I know that’s played there says it’s way better; you get paid better, you get put up in really good accommodation, get fed really well. It’s the same in Canada and the States. I’m not saying the UK is bad – we’ve played some phenomenal gigs in the UK, like ArcTanGent, Damnation, and the one that you’ve been to at StrangeForms, but just doing normal touring shows is so much different.”

It’s not just touring where the scene in Europe shows signs of salvation for Dialects. The band have signed to German label Through Love and it’s through this partnership that their long-awaited debut album will finally get its release. “There have been a lot of setbacks; a lot of things have held it back. The album was done but we wanted to have the biggest platform to release it on and at the time we were speaking to two or three labels: one in the US, one here and one in Germany. Then a bigger label came in and promised the world and were offering big things. They strung us along and it properly screwed us up. It caused beef with our booking agency because they were like “when the hell are you going to release this album because we can’t get your tour booked unless you’re releasing an album.” We didn’t really know until it was all sorted, so it became this whole thing.”

Often in this industry, who you know can be more essential than what you know and thanks to Dialect’s manager Joe Danher, and a glowing testimony from Brighton band We Never Learned to Live, the band struck a deal with Through Love. “Our manager plays in a band called FOES and they went on tour with a band called We Never Learned to Live, who released a record via Through Love back in their inception. Apparently Through Love were a huge part of getting them out to Europe and getting their name out there, which eventually led to them getting picked up by Holy Roar. We Never Learned to Live spoke very highly of them to FOES and said if they were planning to release an album in Europe, these are the guys to go to.”

Despite the long, arduous journey to this point, the band have found a home with Through Love and are impressed with what the label is offering so far. “It’s so difficult now to get a record released through a label if you don’t have the capital. I can understand why: instrumental music is so niche, it’s a difficult sell, unless you’re on a label that has done it before and know what they’re doing. Through Love have worked with God Is An Astronaut and bands like that – it was such a different conversation.”

After suffering through their fair share of unreplied emails and empty promises, Through Love demonstrated the kind of attention and commitment the band were looking for. “All the email we sent to labels in the UK, they’d take ages to get back to you or there’d be barely any response, or they’d string us along and promise big things. Through Love took the album, listened to it, emailed back and said “yeah we like this.” We were sick of waiting; we liked these guys and they seemed to like the record, so we just pressed on and did it. They’ve been so easy to work with. The previous labels, we spoke about different coloured vinyl and they weren’t so sure because the cost of it, with Through Love we were like “can we do two colours of vinyl” and they were like “oh, we were thinking of doing that anyway.” We knew everything they were doing from the off.”

With the backing of the label, Dialects are now looking forward to unveiling a record that has been in the works for well over a year. Recorded in March 2016, ‘Because Your Path Is Unlike Any Other’ took shape in a studio that holds a lot significance for the Glaswegian act: “We applied for a grant with Creative Scotland and they gave us quite a sizeable amount of cash, so we went to Chem 19, the same studio that Mogwaii recorded a few of their albums in. As a Scottish band, we obviously like Mogwaii. ‘Young Team’ was one of the first albums I heard and on the wall they have a first press of it. That was a wee bit of an emotional moment.”

Seemingly unable to do things the easy way, the band suffered even more setbacks in the run-up to recording the album, this time juggling multiple line-up changes. “Our original drummer left the band and we were maybe six songs in and we needed to get a new drummer. We got a second drummer in [Liam McAteer], who played in my old band. He did the Canada/America tour with us and we recorded the album with him.”

With a well-paid career outside of the band, McAteer was unable to commit to Dialects full-time, leaving the band’s drum stool vacant once again. “It was another setback, we just recorded the album with him. Basically, the songs that were ready, he recorded most of the drum parts for them, so the drums sounded completely different. In turn, we’d re-written some of the guitar parts to suit them. Some of the sounds and effects we used got tweaked, so it was like a second iteration of it. There are songs that we wrote without him as well, so the album’s a combination of six musicians just because of the changes we’ve had. It’s taken a while to get it done but the fact that we’ve spent so much time on it, it’s what’s led to it being a good end result.”

With Szymon Ostasz taking on drumming duties, Dialects have a renewed line-up and based on tonight’s show, the reinforcement has only made them stronger. Despite the changes in personnel, there are no issues in their continuity, either during their seamless, watertight live performance or on record, something that the band were keen to ensure. “We’ve tried to make it as cohesive as possible. The drums are all tuned according to the key of the song and most songs starts in the key that the previous one ended with, so it sounds like it’s one continuous piece.”

Across the record, Dialects manage to move from complex, heavy sections to uplifting, reflective beauty and thanks to this attention to detail, everything knits together into one flowing piece. The transition from ‘Illusory’ to ‘When You Die, You’re Truly Alone’, previously released as a double A-side, is a perfect example of the band’s ability to carefully weave multiple aspects of post-rock to create a uniquely engaging and original composition. One of the most surprising of these aspects is the inclusion of vocals.

“In some tracks we’ve put in some vocals, which surprises a lot of folks. There are three songs with vocals in total. ‘I’m Not A Comedian’ has like a Gregorian chant in it, which pays homage to a Botch song. We wanted to put that in the track to add another layer. When we do it live, we build up a crescendo but on record, because the guitars have clean tapping and the bass is more of a driven, sub-bass, the middle felt a bit lost, so we added vocals to fill the space. We’ve said from the beginning that we’re not averse to using them if we feel a song needs it.”

Where fans haven’t been happy with Dialect’s lack of voice is on Spotify and Apple Music, but that’s now changing, as the upcoming full-length will be available on both platforms, and the band’s EP ‘LTKLTL’ has recently been added. Like many independent artists, Anderson struggles with the royalty share concept provided by music subscription services, but has had to accept the inevitability of the modern music model: “I’ve had such a chip on my shoulder about it that I held off putting our EP on Spotify or Apple Music and everyone’s complained about it for ages. I just didn’t really want to get £0.004 per play! You can pay £5 for something I spent two years writing instead. I buy so much of my stuff from Bandcamp, and the whole subscription thing there is cool with the rewards and things. That’s more the way to go, I think.”

If you prefer your music in physical format, ‘Because Your Path Is Unlike Any Other’ will be available on vinyl, and there will be plenty of opportunities to purchase a copy at one the band’s upcoming shows, which are currently being planned: “We’re planning a tour right now and we’re planning to do more next year.”

We’re hoping the turn-out will be significantly more substantial for these future shows, as once again at The Hairy Dog, Dialects prove themselves to be a hugely impressive and engaging live act. With their excellent debut album just around the corner, now is the time to get excited by, and support, this rising post-rock powerhouse.

‘Because Your Path Is Unlike Any Other’ is set for release on November 24 and pre-orders are available here.