Interview: Employed To Serve

“We’re very diverse people when it comes to our music tastes, we listen to everything, but with this band, it’s all about being heavy and abrasive.”

It’s common knowledge that hardcore music lives in the underground, and like most genres, it goes through cycles of popularity. Nevertheless, 2017 has seen a resurgence of heavy bands bubbling underneath the surface. Amongst the wave of bands leading this upturn is Employed To Serve.

Formed out of a bedroom project by vocalist Justine Jones and guitarist Sammy Urwin in 2012, the Woking-based band released their second full-length, The Warmth of the Dying Sun, to plenty of acclaim this past Spring. “The response has been amazing. We’ve been very happy. You always worry, as a band, that putting out your second record; are people going to like it as much as the first one?” says Sammy as we meet him and Justine at the recent 2000 Trees Festival. “It still has lots of elements of the first one had but we’ve switched it up a little bit. People have welcomed the newer material we’re doing.”

Coming just two years since the release of debut LP, ‘Greyer Than You Remember’; a frenzied outing with a technical undertone, ‘The Warmth of the Dying Sun’ looked to subtly expand the band’s pallet and were keen not to make the ‘Greyer…’ II. “We wanted it to be different but still maintain our sound. I feel we’ve achieved that,” explains Justine with Sammy adding “we wanted to mix it up. We always want to be heavy and abrasive, to us, that’s a very important element. We always want to be an extreme and heavy band, but we’re also big fans of Will Haven and Deftones, bands who have got a bit more groove to them. We wanted to try our hand in something of that kind of vein. We’re very diverse people when it comes to our music tastes, we listen to everything, but with this band, it’s all about being heavy and abrasive.”

Undoubtedly, ‘The Warmth of the Dying Sun’ carries on the ferocious tone of its predecessor, even coming off as even heavier in places, yet it sees ETS become more dynamic. For example, the album’s title track includes a harmonious mid-point, while ‘Apple Tree’ offers a downtrodden, sludgy build-up.

When it comes to discussing the prospect of leading heavy music forward for UK bands, Justine explains it’s not just down to them. “We’re one of the few bands. There’s Venom Prison and bands like that, there’s a nice little collective of us that feel like we are pushing boundaries. It’s great because a lot of press has been jumping on it, and that’s amazing because you need heavy bands on those festival slots. You need your next wave of heavy bands to fill those slots.”

While ETS have firmly found themselves at the forefront of UK hardcore, they have also shown a willingness to step out of it when it comes to touring. Their imminent run with grunge-pop quartet Milk Teeth and emotional rockers Wallflower is just the latest in a run of diverse bills ETS have found themselves on.

“That’s what we love, even though we’ve been saying about being heavy, we do also try and not to pigeonhole ourselves too much. We’ve been quite lucky to play with so many different bands,” states Sammy. “This year alone we’ve played with people like Dragged Into Sunlight, then the next minute we’ve done a tour with Black Peaks, then Mare and then we’re doing a tour with Milk Teeth and Wallflower. So it has been such a variety of different bands.”

Understandably, Employed To Serve’s brand of abrasive hardcore isn’t going to win over everyone they play to yet as Sammy explains it’s vital to the band’s growth to play to different crowds:

“I’m sure there are people at those shows, we’re not their cup of tea, but we’ve always been pretty welcomed and dug it. It’s great playing to different audiences, and I think as a band, it’s important you do that if you want to grow.”

While Justine suggests gig-goers are now, in general, more impartial to styles of music, “I think people are really open-minded, especially now with music so accessible with Spotify. People are open to new bands and listening to new things. You rarely see people leave while you play. They’re often like ‘oh I’ll check this out’. It’s important. Their favourite band has to start somewhere.”

For Justine, when she’s not fronting Employed To Serve, she can be found working at the band’s label – Holy Roar. Having worked for the label for three years, her experiences in both roles have been beneficial to its growing roster of bands. “It’s great because from a label point of view, I know how a band is feeling; I’ve been there and done that. It’s easy to relate to bands, and Alex [Fitzpatrick – Holy Roar owner] has been in bands too. You know the lay of the land. It works very well together.”

As for Holy Roar itself, 2017 has been an impressive year so far, with Jones enthusiastically stating the label has released an album every month for the past year. Amongst those releases are albums from Brutality Will Prevail, OHHMS, Wren and The Tidal Sleep. While the forthcoming release of ‘Debt’ by Helpless is described Justine as “really abrasive and very dark”. The label has also been making its first steps into America via a recent partnership with Deathwish Inc. “We can now give our bands a solid platform out there [in the States] and it’s with such an amazing label like Deathwish. They’re definitely one of the labels we looked up to,” says Justine.

Like Holy Roar, Employed To Serve have aspirations of going over to the States, although it’s not so straightforward for an independent hardcore band. “It’s just getting the right timing. We definitely intend to get out there.” says Sammy with Justine expanding by saying, “we’ve been working on it for awhile. The thing is with America, is that the visa application takes a lot longer than other countries, and then at the same time with DIY tours, it’s hard to book that far in advance. There’s a lot of obstacles but we will overcome them. We’re trying our best.”

While the US may have to wait for Employed To Serve, it’s clear they have a determination to carry forward the momentum ‘The Warmth of the Dying Sun’ has given the quintet. Whether it’s leading the charge for heavy UK music or playing to diverse to audiences, you can’t ignore Employed To Serve and their growing importance.

‘The Warmth of a Dying Sun’ by Employed to Serve is out now on Holy Roar Records.

Employed To Serve will be touring with Milk Teeth and Wallflower on the following dates:

27th The Flapper, Birmingham
28th Star and Garter, Manchester
29th The Plug, Sheffield
30th King Tuts, Glasgow
31st The Key Club, Leeds
1st Epic Studios, Norwich
2nd Bodega, Nottingham
3rd Joiners, Southampton
4th Borderline, London

Employed To Serve links: Website|Facebook|Twitter|Bandcamp

View more of Already Heard’s coverage from 2000 Trees Festival 2017 here.

Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86). Photo by Jennifer McCord.


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