Woking’s Employed To Serve have been setting the bar for heavy music in the UK for a while now, releasing album after album that destroys everything in its path and leaves other bands trying to catch up.
With the cycle of their last record ‘Eternal Forward Motion’ drawing to a close around the same time that the pandemic hit, the band spent their time well to focus and write its follow-up. Not content with that, vocalist Justine Jones and guitarist Sammy Urwin also started a hardcore side-project called Glorious and set up their own label, Church Road Records.
Refusing to be derailed and stop like a lot of the world, we spoke with Justine at Download Pilot to talk about lockdown, their upcoming album ‘Conquering’, plans for Glorious and Church Road Records, and more.
DP!: How did you find your set earlier today? Did you have any anxiety before you went on stage with it being so long since you last performed in front of people?
J: Do you know what? Usually I get quite anxious before playing live, but at this point I was just like “Just enjoy it.” It’s been so long, people have just been off for a while and what happens happens. I enjoyed every second of it up there today.
DP!: You’ve done some livestreams over the past few months whilst the word has been in lockdown. How do they compare?
J: They’re very sterile for sure. You literally feel like you’re in the middle of an episode of Black Mirror. I’ve enjoyed doing them because it’s just nice to be doing stuff that’s related to what you love doing, but it really just doesn’t compare to a live show.
DP!: Do you think they’ll stick around in a post-COVID world?
J: I think so, or at least livestreaming of real live shows anyway. I think it’s quite nice to have that alternative, especially for fans who can’t be there in person for whatever reason. It’d be good to give them a chance to be able to tune in and be there in that way. I’ve enjoyed watching them myself.
DP!: You finished your new album a little earlier this year, and I saw the poster on the other side of the site here during the weekend. From what I can make out it’s called ‘Conquering’ and it’s coming out this September? Tell me more about that and your new single ‘Exist’ which you played earlier.
J: Yeah, that’s right. So, ‘Conquering’ is the name of the new record which will be out at the end of September, and it was mainly written during the height of the pandemic and the first lockdown, because we’ve had three of them now, and then we recorded it over a couple of months in the winter of last year and also early this year too. We did it with Lewis Johns at The Ranch in Southampton, who we’ve done all of our other records with too because he’s so brilliant. We’re just really excited and it’s been something that we’ve spent a really long time on — not a long time in the grand scheme of things, but because we’ve had concentrated time. It’s been nice to really be able to fully focus on stuff and it’s made us really appreciate the process a lot more rather than take things for granted.
DP!: Where does it pick up from your last record, ‘Eternal Forward Motion’? Are you trying out new things or going in a different direction, or have you refined what you were going with for that album?
J: I feel like we’re definitely in a more metal direction this time around. Our guitarist and drummer, Robbie [Back] and Rich [Jacobs], left last year to pursue normal life stuff like a family, and it’s just nice to see them do some other things and be happy. But our new line-up is a lot more geared towards metal, like our new drummer Casey [McHale, also of Breather] is like a double-kick pedal fiend, and I feel like it translates well to the album because we wanted to go into more of a metal direction.
DP!: Not long ago you also did a collaboration which I never thought I’d see, which was with Ashnikko for a metal-ised version of her song ‘Cry’. How did that happen?
J: Haha, yeah, that was great. Honestly though it was as boring as their manager got in touch with our manager, but I have no idea how that happened in the first place. It was really fun to do and I loved doing it during the last lockdown because I like her and I like her tracks, so it was nice to put our stamp on it. I never saw it happening either, but it was really cool. It’s nice to see more mainstream leaning artists like her picking up on and pushing metal forward with their platform. On top of that she seems to be a metal fan too, so it worked well for sure.
DP!: You’ve also been keeping busy with another little side-project called Glorious. How did that come to be? Is there a plan to do more, or was it more of a one-off release project?
J: So Glorious is like, not that Employed To Serve isn’t fun, but it’s more free wheeling. It’s a project and something to do when I’ve got a free weekend and everyone else in the band has also got a free weekend too. We’ve just recorded a new Glorious EP so that’s been really fun to do, and hopefully we’re going to be playing some shows soon too. I think we’re going to play Upsurge Festival in August so we’ve got to start rehearsing for that and learning those songs.
DP!: Not only that but you and Sammy have also built up Church Road Records into a fully fledged record label in the past few months, and of course you picked up a few bands from Holy Roar after what unfortunately happened there. I imagine those first few days getting that kickstarted were really, really stressful.
J: Oh, it was so, so stressful. It honestly could not have been more stressful, but I really am super grateful for all of the bands that came over from that and effectively helped us out and did us a solid really. In turn I feel like we did those records justice hopefully with what we had at the time. It is what it is, but I’m glad that we’re doing something positive with what occurred and we’re striving forward.
DP!: Absolutely, and obviously it’s a clear sign that all of those bands that did come over trust you so much to put out their records on what is effectively a brand new label, and some of those albums were just weeks away from being released.
J: Oh, yeah, it is hugely flattering, and I’ll never be more grateful to Svalbard, Palm Reader, and Respire for really being our first bands to join. It’s just nice to have that support.
DP!: On top of that I guess it’s also nice to have more of a definitive say on what new bands you sign onto the label with Church Road considering it’s your label.
J: Yeah, for sure. I mean, it was always pretty diplomatic over at Holy Roar about who we signed anyway, but now it’s quite nice to have the final say. I’m really into grunge and shoegaze and sort of the more heavier sort of metal, and Sammy’s really into black metal and death metal, as we both are. It’s nice to have an even broader spectrum of bands that we want to push and help with records we believe in.
DP!: What else is planned with Employed To Serve for the rest of the year so far?
J: Honestly other than the album I think that’s pretty much it that’s been confirmed, because with COVID and everything it’s just one of those things unfortunately. Hopefully we’ll be touring, but who knows. We didn’t want to announce shows to then have to keep pushing them back. Not talking shit on any bands who did do that, but we just didn’t want to keep moving dates because it’s so stressful. But, yeah, fingers crossed there’ll be an album that’s followed by touring.
Employed To Serve‘s fourth album, ‘Conquering’, is out on September 17th 2021 via Spinefarm Records.
Along with the release of lead single ‘Exist’ on Friday (June 25th 2021), pre-orders are also expected to go live.