Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article
The West Lothian four-piece, who formed in 2019 and quickly created a buzz with their insanely catchy debut song, Anthem for a Doomed Youth, have put lockdown to good use and emerged from it sporting a new deal with independent Edinburgh label, Blackhall Records.
With influences ranging from Gorillaz to Primal Scream and London Grammar, Dictator have created their own unique blend of electronic indie pop over the last two years and been hailed for their heartbreaking ballads and foot stomping bangers.
Candlemaker Row, the band’s first single with Blackhall Records, is due for release on November 5 and looks set to cement their growing reputation as Scotland's next 'anthem makers'.
"It's great to finally get it out there to let people hear it. It feels like we've been sitting on it for ages," admits front-man Michael Campbell, explaining, "It's been about 12 months in the making; it was done during the weird bit in between the pandemic lockdowns, around September last year, and it has been going back and forth between the guy who recorded it, the producers and everybody who remixed it for the last few months."
Comprised of singer/songwriter Campbell, Joe Murty on bass, Zach Tarimo Goodhur on guitar and, on drums, Allan Ramsay, the members of Dictator initially met while they were pupils at St Margaret's Secondary in Livingston, although it was a few years later that the band was born.
Campbell recalls, "We launched the band in November 2019 with the release of Anthem for a Doomed Youth. We'd all been in various band's before and weren't really sure what we were going to do but knew we had found a sound that we really liked. Anthem surpassed any expectations we may have had and, in February 2020, we played Sneaky Pete's. It sold out, which was phenomenal, and then the world shut down."
If Anthem for a Doomed Youth put Dictator on the radar, lockdown left the band in limbo-land, although they quickly turned that to their advantage.
"The message we were trying to get across in Anthem really landed. It was just a shame we couldn't capitalise on its success in a traditional sense, but that just made us determined to capitalise on it digitally,” says Campbell.
"We quickly became marketeers, that's the life of a modern musician, it's not just about writing a song; you could write the best song but if nobody hears it... as the old saying goes. So we decided we had to work out how to do this all that sort of stuff. Our ethos was, if we're rubbish at it now, give us six months and we'll see where we are at. Slowly but surely things started to snowball..."
As they did, Dictator caught the attention of one A-list celebrity who soon became a fan, taking the band by surprise when he championed them on his social media.
The 28-year-old singer recalls, "That was mad. Robert Carlyle is into his new music and, one morning when I was out golfing, I randomly got a tweet... he had picked Anthem for a Doomed Youth and shared it with his followers as one of his Saturday tunes. He has since shared four or five of our songs. He backs new music and seems to like our stuff. It's all a bit mental."
Hopefully, Candlemaker Row too will get Carlyle’s thumbs up.
"It's our first official single as a joint venture with the label; we've signed a record deal with them for a couple of singles and an EP, so we're kind of buzzing about that," says Campbell, confessing, "I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes but it's a bit weird, we've been doing our own thing for so long, we're used to just pressing on and not asking permission before we do anything. Now we need to make sure everybody knows what we are up to."
The song itself is inspired by a clothing brand and Campbell's fascination with that particular area of Edinburgh's old town.
He explains, "There's a clothing brand called Pieute, based on Candlemaker Row. Back in 2019, for our first photo shoot, we messaged them to see if they could sort us out with some gear. They were brand new and gave us everything we needed. So, from that moment on, whenever we play a gig, there's normally one of us wearing a Pieute jumper, t-shirt or polo shirt.
"So that was the initial inspiration. When we were writing the song I was wearing one of their tops, it had the address of the shop on the front, 19, Candlemaker Row. It's a name that has always fascinated me, even as a young boy I wanted to know where the name came from. So one night I read up on its history.
"We’d already discussed writing a song with the word Pieute in it and that basically started off a thing in my head... the two came together. I became absorbed by the history of the place… and to think, that was all triggered by a clothing label that has been a huge supporter of the band right from the start.
And as the live music scene slowly returns, Dictator will come back to the stage with a gig at Stereo in Glasgow on December 18.
"Then we'll play Edinburgh early next year," promises Campbell, "That will be our hometown gig. Having played our first gig at Sneaky Pete's we always think of an Edinburgh gig as a homecoming."
You can preorder Candlemaker Row here: https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/dictator1/candlemaker-row