One of the tours unfortunately cut short due to the lockdown in March was Employed to Serve’s headline run. Some were lucky enough to catch them and support act Palm Reader on the UK stint. Two bands who are close friends and allies from Woking, Surrey. Both bands have had slightly differing fortunes since those early years. Even though Employed to Serve have ended up on a subsidiary of a major label they have stood by their pals and signed them up to Justine and Sammy’s new label, Church Road Records, for the release of their highly anticipated fourth studio album Sleepless.
We have been lucky enough to hear three tracks from the upcoming effort and it is definite evolution in their sound sonically, but still filled with the aggression and vigour they are known for. Latest single ‘A Bird and Its Feathers’ accompanied by a video, a preview for this promotional livestream. In said video we were given a glimpse of the location. Filmed at the beautiful St Edmund’s Church, Rochdale. This stream, if done right, would be nothing short of tremendous.
Opening with new track ‘Stay Down’ you are immediately hit with how brilliant the new album will shape up to be, the perfect entrée to this stream and a taster of what is to come. Heavy guitars and harmonies produced from a bolstered line up. The Palm Reader crew are joined on third guitar by the talented Matt Reynolds of Haggard Cat and Kyle Thomas, a friend of the band, on keys and general electronics, who we have been told was his first ever show (what an introduction to live shows hey?!).
They tear through singles from the new album ‘Willow’ and ‘Hold/Release’ like they have been in their set for years. Every member in their own space fixated on their own performance. Somehow staying so tight without a cursory glance at each other. You can tell that the collective have rehearsed intensely to get this right.
But this is not just about the music, the location, lighting and camera work is nothing short of stunning. Directed by Sam Lees, well known for his work with bands such as Black Peaks amongst others this is no surprise. The multiple crew operating the cameras somehow weave there way between candlelight, monitors and kit finding glorious shots of each musician wrapped up in the moment. Josh Redrup on bass caught a couple of times with his bass being flung high and low, the breath of drummer Dan Olds after ‘Coalesce’ later in the set. Catching a moment in the cold. Even small details like vocalist Josh Mckeown turning sideways, his portrait against the huge stained glass window towering over the band just adds to the spectacle.
As well as new material the band play a variety of their previous tracks, but not necessarily the faster paced tracks such as ‘Swarm’. They choose a more atmospheric and heavy hitting tracks like ‘Inertia’. Songs more suited to this grand setting, rather than a sweaty venue packed with stage diving fans. And that is perfectly fine.
They close with album finisher, ‘Both Ends Of The Rope’ which ties (pun intended) the set up beautifully. The credits roll and the final word is simply the place where they started ‘Woking’. A recognition of how far they have come and how far high they definitely should fly in the future. This band have done the graft over the years and been criminally underappreciated. That time should end now and we hope to see them in a venue reproducing performances like this in 2021.