by Hywel Davies
The uncompromising rage of the hardcore underground has always kept the British scene the most exhilarating culture on planet Earth. In 2017, no one could have ever predicted that bands could become even more rabidly vicious than their forebears. Employed To Serve, a name that is universally revered from all walks of rock music, are the voice that radiates an energy that is unparalleled only to a freakin’ supernova. Fresh off the tail of their sublime sophomore release, The Warmth Of A Dying Sun, it has been nothing but magazine covers, sold out (and very sweaty) shows on top of a lot of ass-whooping for the five-piece.
Sitting down with vocalist Justine Jones and guitarist Sammy Urwin at ArcTanGent festival last month, Vulture Hound’s Hywel Davies babbled out a few nonsensical sentences that resembled questions for the Woking outfit and got the scoop of where this sound came from and where it may lead…
First of all I have to ask, where the living fuck did Warmth come from? ‘Lethargy’ is like my tune of 2017!
Sammy Urwin: I don’t know, we started writing as soon as Greyer [Than You Remember, 2015] was out. The song you mentioned, ‘Lethargy’, that was the first song that was written and had a demo for. I don’t want to sound cliché and stuff, but it all sort of came naturally. The only thing that we thought about was that we didn’t want to do the same record twice; we didn’t want to do Greyer… again. We were trying new things out and we didn’t want to keep spinning out the same record; that was the main thing.
Justine Jones: [We were] just stretching our creative muscles a bit and challenging ourselves, really.
I was going to say, it’s one of the most challenging records I have listened to this year, which is a really good thing. How would you describe yourselves as a band?
JJ: Dark and groovy!
SU: Compared to where we come from, I think we identify less with the hardcore scene, because we’re just a heavy band. We definitely still have hardcore elements, but we very much like to be seen as a heavy band. We wanted to be somewhat subgenreless. We’d like to be able to play with different bands and stuff like that. I think things are changing for us. If you listen to our first EP, it was at that point where you could tell we absolutely loved bands like The Chariot and Norma Jean. Though it’s still noticeable in our songs, it’s not as prevalent.
Many bands these days write separately over the internet, how do you guys go about doing it? Is it done separately or together? Because it all sound very organic to me.
JJ: It’s a combination of both. Richie [Jacobs, guitar] and Sammy, or sometimes Robbie [Back] our drummer come to practice with ideas, or like Sammy and Richie will programme drums at home and do a rough run through and send it via WhatsApp and stuff. Then sometimes we write entire songs together; it’s a really good mix.
SU: Yes, it is, and it’s so important in a band to have that mix and make sure it isn’t literally just one person who has that initial idea for how a song should be. Sometimes I will write a whole song by myself, but I want people to take it apart and say, ‘Not sure about that bit,’ or ‘That doesn’t fit.’ I’ll give Rob my programed drums as an idea, but he’ll be like, ‘Nah, do this groove instead,’ and it’s like, ‘Ah yeah!’ I just wouldn’t think of that because I’m not a drummer, you know?
JJ: Doing it that way, it just utilises all members and it’s obviously going to be better having more points of view and more riffs in the bank.
SU: It’s all about being open minded. It’s kind of an interesting one, because musically, we have all this in common, but we all have our own things that we like and we don’t all share the same tastes. But when it comes to writing our music, there’re never really any scraps or disagreements. We all come to the same conclusion.
JJ: It’s all pretty amicable. No one ever really gets offended if something doesn’t sit. Everyone is really good at just taking things on the chin.
What kind of mind-set did you guys go into when you were writing this album and did you achieve everything that you wanted to do?
SU: Oh, yeah definitely! The one thing I talk about when we’re writing anything new is that you just constantly worry about how it’s going to be received. For example, are people going to like it as much as Greyer…? Stuff like that. So, that sort of stuff we, not necessarily worry about, but is still motivation to do our best.
JJ: I feel like that should be second to what you actually want to achieve. Because at the end of the day, we’re not making any money from this band, and if you don’t like what you’re playing, then what’s the point?
SU: So, never have any compromise to the music you want to make, but at the same time, you want to put out jams that people are going to like.
JJ: It’s important to be self-critical and be like, ‘If I was a fan would I really liked this?’
SU: Exactly! Just write as much as possible and cherry pick the good from the bad.
What does it take for a band to survive in this age from your experience?
SU: The thing is, if you’re really passionate about it, that’s the key. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I feel like anyone is under the illusion we’re doing these crazy wild luxury tours, we’re still at a point where some days are really tough. Sleeping on peoples’ floors and stuff, you just got to learn to love it. You’ll soon find out the people who aren’t really into it, because they’ll do one tour and be like, ‘Nah, this isn’t for me.’
JJ: It’s not for everyone.
SU: You’ve got to have the passion, because at the end of the day if you’re not going to be arsed about it, I don’t see why anyone else should be particularly arsed about your band.
JJ: If I’m not doing this, what else am I going to do? I’m not being morbid about it, but I just don’t enjoy anything else as much as this. Even if I can’t do it as much when I’m older, I’ll still be doing it to some capacity, because it’s more of a need to do it rather than a want.
SU: I think that’s it, because sometimes I’ll be completely burnt out and stuff, but I’m still going to get up and carry on and keep doing it. That being said, I don’t want to make it out it’s like this all the time, it’s very important to keep it fun. I do feel like bands need to go through this and have this learning curve, but it’s important to try and not run yourself into the ground.
JJ: It’s just being more economical with your choices. There’s no point in playing London five months in a row, people are just going to get sick of you. It’s all about being worth it for the band and ‘Am I going to have fun?’
SU: The community of it is such a key part. Find familiar bands that play similar music to you and book a tour. That’s the most economical way to get around. Our first tour ever, we used to always make sure we had enough money for petrol just to get from A to B.
JJ: We’ve been really fortunate that we’ve rarely lost out on tour, just because we’ve been really nit-picky with costs and stuff like that.
The fans have always been the corner stone in keeping the scene alive. How have you perceived the underground at the moment, because there are still people who say that “rock is dead”, what are your thoughts on that?
JJ: I think it’s thriving! The people who say “rock is dead”, that’s their problem. They’re the reason why people assume that it is! It’s like, what’s the last album you listened to? It’ll be like a Converge album from 2001, like Jane Doe, and that’s their fault because they haven’t reached for anything else.
Because this is a niche market, has it ever impeded on you creatively by wanting to expand to a wider audience?
SU: Not really. I couldn’t think of anything worse than putting out music that I didn’t like. For me, the best thing about being in a band, besides playing in shows and meeting really cool people, is that one tangible record you’ve made, you’ll look back on it in a few years’ time you can go, ‘Ah sick, this is something I did!’ You made that record and if you’re really proud of the music, it doesn’t matter how many copies you sell, or how many people you play to.
JJ: At the end of the day, you’re not remembered for how much money you make. It’s the things that you create that really make life worthwhile.
SU: Bit of a weird person to mention, but Ed Sheeran has been in the press a lot recently for deleting his Twitter because people heckle him for the music he makes. You can argue that the dude is super rich and he sells enough records and he headlines Glastonbury –
JJ: – But he’s still a guy with feelings!
SU: He seems to me like a dude who, materialistically, you’d perceive to be a person who seems to have everything, but I feel like he might be a little bit unhappy about the music he’s putting out.
I heard that he wanted to release stuff that was like FIGHTSTAR, which is interesting. Not sure he’d survive in our world, but it’s interesting none the less.
SU: I think if he’s genuine about it, there’s no real why he shouldn’t do really.
Speaking of interesting music, what was the most influential album that made you both want to make music in the first place?
SU: Oh wow!
JJ: Can I do a couple?
Sure thing, go nuts!
JJ: Awesome! Around The Fur by Deftones and self-titled Daughters. They’re so sick. I just think that creatively, they’re just genius albums.
That’s the thing about Deftones, they are getting more and more relevant as time goes on.
SU: That’s a sign of such a great band though.
JJ: They never release the same album twice, it’s always something different. Diamond Eyes rekindled my love for that band, because I had lost touch with them for about four or five years. Then they drop that album as a way of saying, ‘We’re back!’
SU: That’s it, even their not so good albums are still sick!
JJ: They are their own calibre, aren’t they? It’s like, not good for Deftones doesn’t mean it’s not good for us!
So true! Sammy, what’s your album of choice then?
SU: If we’re talking about my life, I say it a lot but it has to be Slipknot’s self-titled. I don’t think anything has affected me as much as that record did. Musically and just in terms of me getting into heavy music. I remember just staring at that album cover and being absolutely fascinated by it. Still love it to this day!
Do you think we will ever have bands as big as those guys from our world again?
SU: I’d say so, yeah!
JJ: Mastodon, they are on the up.
SU: Yeah, Mastodon are like a really good candidate. Avenged Sevenfold I think’re still classed as being a metal band. Even if they aren’t particularly my thing, they are metal. But I just think I would like to see the likes of Code Orange reach that status.
JJ: Oh yeah, Code Orange are definitely the new Slipknot.
SU: And when you look at the self-titled record by Slipknot and Iowa, they’re really abrasive, whereas Avenged Sevenfold are like, and by no means am I slagging them off, but it’s quite poppy.
JJ: Avenged Sevenfold, they’re definitely vital because they will be a pathway band where they can basically entice people in with just the music, but when you dig into the depths of their stuff, they used to be really heavy. Deftones were a pathway band for me and led me to heavier things, like Funeral For A Friend, they were the first proper band that I got into and got me into that sort of scene. Then I went a little bit deeper and I got into Alexisonfire because they had that pallet that stretched from Funeral For A Friend and Deftones; that sliding scale of heavy.
This album has been received very well, and I think it’s just going to continue to grow and grow and grow. Where do you see yourselves in five years time?
JJ: Hopefully still releasing records that we’re proud of and just touring. We want to be tired, we want to be away all the time. We’re just really hungry for it.
SU: Yeah, basically that. We want to keep writing new stuff and we’re already in the middle of writing eight new jams at the moment for the next record.
JJ: If anything, my enthusiasm for this band is just growing by the month at the moment.
The Warmth Of A Dying Sun is out now via Holy Roar.