Interview with Employed to Serve @ Download Festival 2018: “It’s an exciting time for heavy music at the moment”

Employed to Serve are a band that had largely passed me by, until this past April when I saw them support Code Orange, they put on the type of show that makes you stand up and take notice. I was able to catch up with Vocalist Justine Jones and Guitarist Sam Urwin to discuss bringing in new fans, playing Download Festival, the current state of the rock and metal scene, teaming up with Jamie Lenman for a song, as well as Holy Roar Records, playing their latest album ‘The Warmth of a Dying Sun’ and when we can possibly expect the follow-up from them.

I was able to catch you guys over on the Avalanche stage earlier. You guys absolutely battered that tent, so how was the show for you.

Justine: It was wonderful, we couldn’t have asked for anything better really.

Sam: We’ve been wanting to play this festival for yours, so to be able to come and play it and have a turn out like that… well, we couldn’t have asked for me really. Everyone has been really cool here as well, all the stuff have been cool.

Justine: Everyone’s been really friendly and it’s really well organised. We are lucky to have this festival.

Did you have the moment before you went out there, where you thought you might be playing to 10 people.

Sam: It’s always a bit like that at festivals, because someone will finish and then people start filtering in from the other stages, but it’s sick to be here regardless and to actually go out there and have a full tent was awesome.

Justine: It was definitely our biggest show to date.

I saw you guys support Code Orange a few weeks back at a show in Portsmouth, and that was the first time I’d ever heard you guys and to be confronted with that was mind-blowing. So how were those shows for you and how does it feel when you pick up new fans along the way from doing these support slots.

Sam: It’s cool because we’ve been very lucky to have these opportunities to play with quite a diverse selection of bands, we did a tour a while ago with Funeral for a Friend, and everyone always says to me “Oh, that’s a bit of a weird mix” but to this date I still get people coming up to me and saying they saw us on that tour and I think that is so cool that you can go out on a tour like that with a band that’s so different to you and pick up new fans along the way.

Justine: My first ever show was seeing Billy Talent, and I went for Billy Talent and opening for them was Reuben and they introduced me to heavy music, bands like that, and the support bands when you are a kid and have no concept of music, you are almost told what to listen to, so when heavy bands come along and you’re like “Woah, what is this?” and you fall in love with it. It’s kind of nice to be that token heavy band on the bill, it hopefully inspires people to listen to more bands like us.

Sam: It was cool with Code Orange because we were playing to some new people there as well. But sometimes it is nice to go out with some people who are drastically different, you’re not going to win everyone over, but then you don’t want to, you want some people who aren’t into it, as well as those people who are, it’s the marmite effect.

Justine: They were one of the bands that for like two years people were telling us that we needed to tour with them, it was nice to finally tick that off and they are all super lovely, and they are doing some great things as well, you can’t deny that they are really paving the way for heavy bands.

You mentioned Reuben, and Justine, you have just recorded a single with Jamie Lenman. How did that come about.

Justine: We got invited to play Lenmania which is a festival, we played that and we got to know him through that and asked me to sing on the track which was really awesome and we did a video for it, and he’s just really awesome to work with, he’s just one of those really intensely creative talented nice dudes, and it’s just one of those things where I feel lucky that it’s part of the UK scene.

The album The Warmth of a Dying Sun is a year old and you will be doing a few select shows in July playing the album in full. Looking back on it a year later did you know how special the record was and did you anticipate just how well it would be received, especially being Kerrang’s album of the year.

Justine: No, not at all. Those things blow our mind, and it blew our expectations out of the water. Obviously, when we were writing it we were very proud of it, and we were very happy with it, we just didn’t think that people would be as into it as we were. It’s just really nice.

Sam: We wrote it and we recorded it, we couldn’t be happier on a personal level, this is the album that we wanted to do, but to have the response that we had, and especially a bit more on the mainstream scale, as opposed to the first album has been so cool. It’s an exciting time for heavy music at the moment and it seems like there are some pretty aggressive sounding bands,  like Code Orange once again who are making waves in the mainstream press and it’s awesome to see.

Justine: Also the backing of PRS music foundation which is a UK lead funding thing, we didn’t even know it existed before we applied for it, and I think it’s great that the UK has funding for these type of things. We are a really heavy niche band, the fact that PRS and Spotify are out there funding heavy young bands is brilliant. It is expensive, and it is nice to have that creativity to concentrate on music and nothing else.

You are also in a really good space with the label you are on, Holy Roar records who are producing some really exciting bands right now, Is it nice to be a part of that family and helping to signal a real change in the scene.

Justine: 100%. I get the best of both worlds because I label manage Holy Road Records as well, so when I’m not on tour with my own band I get to help smaller bands from the UK grow,  all bias aside I just absolutely love our roster and I’m constantly looking out for great new UK bands.

Sam: This year has been crazy, Holy Roar has had Conjurer’s debut record, Mol’s debut album, Svalbard’s second album, it’s definitely a label that it’s been a privilege to be associated with.

It reminds me of that late 80’s, early 90’s period of Roadrunner Records where they were producing nothing but classic albums and the best bands.

Justine: That’s a big compliment, thank you.

What are your thoughts on the current music scene in the UK

Justine: It’s exploding, and there’s just so much talent. and there’s more bands cropping up that I’m stoked about.

Sam: It’s really diverse as well, no one is peddling the same sound at all.

Justine: I consider our peers to be bands like Black Peaks, Milk Teeth and Venom Prison, I mean how different are those three bands to us, and then from each other, but they are our friends and we are just so stoked to see how well they are doing. There are bands like Palm Reader and Loath as well and you hearing them doing cool shit and I think it’s all helping the bigger scene, there’s no ego’s and everyone is just helping each other.

So when can we expect a new album from you guys. Will there be another touring cycle to let The Warmth of A Dying Sun get it due course or will you be writing the next one sooner rather than later.

Sammy: The new one is recorded and it’s done.

Justine: We should get our final mixes back this weekend.

Sam:  New music by the end of the year, I can’t give up the album release date just yet.

Justine: We have an idea but we want everything to be in place.

Maybe something for people to put on their Christmas lists…

Sam: Definitely some new tracks by the end of the year.

Justine: We’re super excited, we have some ambition for this album after the momentum from the last one and we have lots of big ideas, and we want to do our best to achieve them.

Sam: On a personal level we feel like this is our best album yet, we’re really really happy with the songs. Usually, we always wait two years to do another a record, but all the songs came about and it was here, so let’s just keep it moving and get it recorded and even though it was a quick turnaround it didn’t feel rushed at all. We’re all really happy with the songs and still had time to write even more songs if we needed.

Justine: We had two songs spare that we really liked, so it’s nice to have too much material.

Even as still quite a young band, what would you say is the most important thing being in a band has taught you.

Justine: Be nice. Just be polite, just go up to people and say “Hi” not like in a contrived way, but you make new friends and you help each other out, it’s very much a scene based on people you know you and because you make friends with your peers who are band, you feel like you’re achieving something when one of your mates bands does something, it’s nice o when you’re not on the road there’s a lot of downtime so when you see others doing cool shit it keeps you inspired

Sam: For me, it’s always been the importance of playing shows and getting out there and not getting ahead of yourself. Quite a few of us went to a music university and there was always the people that would be like “When we’re playing Reading Festival or Wembley” and it was always looking for this big things and getting way ahead, but you need to take it one step at a time, and have personal goals along the way. For me, some of our first tours are some of my favourite tours, at this point in the bands career if you want to call it that, we wouldn’t want to go and do them now, but at that point in time it was perfect and you need to do that to cut your teeth.

Justine: You need to earn it.

Sam: With us, it’s been a gradual build up to this point, it’s not like we’ve come out of nowhere and been given Download Fest and all this other stuff, we feel like we’ve really grafted for this and I think that is so important.

Justine: We feel so ready for this, if we had this a year ago, we would have been fine doing it but I just don’t think we would have had such a good experience.

Sam: Don’t get blinded by all the big stuff now, you’ve got to work up to it.  I’ve seen it with a couple of bands where they’ve had a lot of the big stuff earlier on and I don’t think it’s a healthy way to do it. You’ve got to start out and work your way up.

In closing do you have any final comments for our readers out there.

Justine: Stay sick.

Sam: Expect a lot from us, we’re not planning on having any breaks any time soon, new music and a lot of touring in the near future.

Tickets and Dates for Employed to Serve’s July show can be found right here:

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