Two years separate Conquering (2021) from Eternal Forward Motion (2019). Two years during which Employed To Serve has been grumbling, like the rest of the planet, not being able to take the road to defend their excellent third record. And rather than waiting for it to happen, the Woking band got back to work to deliver this new album, destined to destroy everything in its path. We took the opportunity to cut the fat with Justine Jones (vocals) and Sammy Urwin (guitar/vocals), partners in life and on stage. The opportunity to discover humble, accessible musicians who are delighted with all the doors that seem to be opening to them.
Hi Justine and Sammy, how did you manage this complicated period of staying at home?
Justine Jones (vocals): Pretty well to be honest! It wasn’t bad to be able to spend some time together at home and have some time to think about things. But apart from the fact that it was very boring at times, it went well.
Sammy Urwin (guitars/vocals): Yeah the period we all went through at the beginning of the year was really hard as we were expecting to be able to go out again, see our friends and go to gigs and then a new peak of the pandemic came along. But now it all seems very far away, and we can’t wait to get back on the road!
Justine: We’ve got five shows scheduled in the next month, in cities where we haven’t played for at least five or six years. We can’t wait to get out there! It’s going to be a sort of celebration of the album release and a little warm up for the intense year of 2022 ahead of us!
Sammy: We’ve only been able to play one show in two years and the prospect of having to go straight on tour with Gojira, while having to play a lot of new songs that we’ve never played live, was too scary! So we set up these few dates to smooth the transition.
How do you apprehend this upcoming tour with Gojira?
Sammy: We’ve been fans of the band for so many years now. We discovered them with From Mars To Sirius and it’s such an honour to be able to say that we’re going on the road with them. It’s a dream come true, something I’ve wanted to do since I saw them live in 2006. They contacted us a few years ago because one of their opening acts cancelled at the last minute and asked us if it was possible for us to replace them. Unfortunately we were already involved in another plan so we declined the invitation. But we’ve been in touch ever since and we were secretly hoping that it would lead to a tour one day! And it did!
Justine: I remember we watched their show at the last Hellfest, it was incredible.
Speaking of Hellfest, why did you have to play with your jackets on that looked like they were keeping you super warm on stage?
Sammy: (laughs) Oh man but it was so hard! I think the temperature was easily over 30 degrees and we couldn’t stand playing with our jackets on! I think that was one of the dates where we sweated the most, where it was the hottest.
Justine: That same year we had to play in Arizona, in the United States, and it’s super hot there. We were warned about the heat and we said: “oh don’t worry, we played Hellfest wearing our jackets!” (laughs). That’s why we made the decision to cut them off afterwards!
Do you feel that this upcoming tour with Gojira is a step forward in your career?
Justine: Absolutely. To think that we’re going on a three month tour, playing over 30 shows with them, every night in venues with as many people as if we were playing a festival, is incredible. I think Conquering is also the perfect album for this tour. It’s our best album to date and it has this unifying metal vibe that I’m sure will fit perfectly with Gojira‘s set.
Sammy: When we started working on the album and we realised that it was going to be a very unifying album, with a lot of big choruses, we were hoping to get the opportunity to bring these songs to a massive audience. And that’s when Gojira called us to go on tour. It was perfect.
Justine: The universe stepped in and did us a great favour!
Indeed, this new album seems to draw its inspiration from more traditional metal references. Did the recent change of drummer push you in this direction?
Sammy: Not really, let’s just say it all worked out well once again. We wanted to go in this more metal direction. Our previous drummer had a more punk/hardcore style, which suited us perfectly at the time. But we were starting to feel like we wanted to do something else. We were able to explore our desires without restricting ourselves because we knew that he would be able to follow us and give us the necessary energy.
Justine: Once again, the universe helped us a lot!
You’ve stated several times that Conquering is an album with a positive message. Did your experience with the pandemic influence this?
Justine: I’m sure it did. When we started working on the album, we had just come out of months of confinement and we were having a great summer in England for once! (laughs) We felt very lucky to have gone through all the horrors, and at the same time we saw the horrible situations that many people were going through. Many of our relatives lost their jobs because of the pandemic. So we didn’t want to write a negative album at all because we didn’t feel that was what people wanted to hear. We wanted to put out a record that would motivate our fans to get through it.
Sammy: We wanted to put out the album that our fans will get through when they’re having a bad day or when they’re in a bad mood, to get them out of a negative spiral. That was the vibe we wanted to convey. We hope that our album will empower people to take back control of their lives and get away from all the shit that’s been thrown at us for the past 18 months.
How have your fans responded to this message of hope?
Justine: Pretty well I think. I’ve had a lot of tweets from people playing our album during their workout! (laughs)
Sammy: Our music is always serious, the lyrics are first degree and not necessarily funny. But with our videos, we try to give a lighter mood sometimes. I don’t think people want to see another clip that shows them despair and misery.
Justine: We want to have fun. Our rehearsals aren’t just about working hard, very seriously. It’s also a lot of fun and simply the pleasure of being together after having been deprived of it for months.
Aren’t you afraid of losing fans by leaving the cliché of the metal band that wants to be dark and serious?
Justine: Our ambition is to become their favourite guilty pleasure band, that they listen to even if they want to sound very serious! (laughs)
Sammy: It all depends on what the band is into. I don’t think our band has done everything to make us look serious. Of course we are very serious about playing music but I don’t think our band has that image overall. People know us and know that we are not like that in real life. As a result, the band is an extension of our personalities and thus presents the various aspects of our lives.
English bands seem to have the ambition to bring a greater social dimension through their music than in the rest of the world. It doesn’t seem to be enough to make a negative statement about what’s wrong with the world, many bands promote a message of solidarity in times of difficulty. Is this something that drives you as well?
Sammy: Of course. There’s a lot in this world that we don’t control but we still suffer. So what we have to do is to promote a positive mentality that will inspire people to do good at their level. We’re not going to solve the ecological crisis through our album, but we can encourage people to adopt a positive mentality that looks outwards and encourages them to do good.
Justine: As you get older, you get out of that teenage rage and realise that you have the opportunity to send a positive message and have an influence in that direction. It’s little things like encouraging people to use a water bottle instead of plastic bottles, or just being kind to your fellow man.
So this tour with Gojira is a significant progression for Employed To Serve. How do you see the future?
Justine: This tour is already going to give us the opportunity to leave our city for several months, and that’s great. We love our city but it’s getting a bit boring over time! (laughs) As for the future, obviously we’re trying to grow and get bigger but even if that doesn’t happen, the goal is to keep playing music we’re proud of, meet new people and have the opportunity to play with the bands we love. We’re just really happy to be doing this job.
Sammy: Initially, our goal was just to play with local bands that we respected and eventually sign to a cool label. So obviously when you get the opportunity to tour with Gojira, everything that comes with it is a bonus that we enjoy. We have the ambition to grow and play in front of more and more people, but our ultimate goal is to keep playing music, no matter where. After that, of course, with this album, we want to tour as much as possible after having spent almost two years at home. Usually we release a new album every two years, but this time we’re not planning anything because we really want to play this album live as much as possible.
Seeing bands like Bring Me The Horizon or Architects, coming from the underground metal scene to become the behemoths we know today, does it inspire you and make you want to follow this path?
Sammy: Not so much to be honest. Of course Architects‘ music is very aggressive and to see them play in front of so many people and so big is great for the UK metal scene. But I think we draw our inspiration from bands with maybe a more linear progression, like Lamb Of God or Everytime I Die.
Justine: Or Gojira of course! We like to see slow progressions. We prefer to follow the model of bands that have been playing for a long time and are solid from album to album.
Sammy: BMTH and Architects are wildly successful and totally deserved. But I feel that these types of bands sometimes put a lot of pressure on themselves to release albums that will put them over the top. We prefer to play our music without thinking too much, be proud of it and build a career little by little. I think Everytime I Die is a perfect example. They continue to release quality albums every time, but don’t play arenas every weekend and yet sometimes turn to more accessible, or more underground artists.
Justine: There’s also the fact that the music BMTH and Architects play is much more accessible than what we’ll ever play. Our band isn’t geared towards becoming so pop. I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate their music, I’m just saying that they’re playing in a different register which, of course, brings them a different audience and a different kind of fame. It’s so hard to write pop songs! BMTH have been a pop band for a few years now and they have a mad talent for writing these songs, which we don’t have. We’re a metal band, and we’re fine with that.
To conclude: as our website is called RockUrLife, what rocks your life?
Justine: Oh… Coffee!
It’s amazing how many artists respond to coffee…
Sammy: Coffee and riffs! That would make a great album name by the way.