Getdown Services: The Hell of the Grind

Genre-defying duo Getdown Services are on something of a roll. Never content with sticking to one style, they have made a name for themselves not just on the Bristol gig circuit, but are beginning to make an impression further afield in the rest of the UK and Europe. Singing about everything from evil landlords to Jamie Oliver, they never fail to take things on the chin and have fun on stage, making it easy to laugh or sing (shout) along. 

Their debut album Crisps, due for release on cult Bristol label Breakfast Records sees the band assemble a collection of tracks – some of which will be well recognised amongst fans who have seen them live, along with new songs that are a departure from their well-known electronic punk stylings. Still, they never fail to lose their sense of humour, while ranting about working life and class differences. 

Getdown Services have mastered the art of staying relevant whilst never taking themselves too seriously. While this could be confused with arrogance, the album shows that what’s at the heart of their music is a deep authenticity, a place for them to process their honest feelings. Similar to their live shows, at the core, the album is a space for the band to just be themselves.

Sitting down with co-leaders Josh Law and Ben Sadler in a local kebab shop, we chatted about their long-lasting friendship, being silly and angry, and what the Bristol music scene is doing right. 

Thanks for sitting down with me. It seems like you’re both very good friends. How does that figure into your music?

Ben: We’ve been friends for over 10 years. We used to sit next to each other in maths. Josh had a nickname, which was Yeti, because he had friends and I had none at all. But over the years we developed a dynamic and we started doing music together, in really shit bands. 

Josh: I’d say we became friends because in music class in year 9 we had to make a band. I played guitar – we were 13 at this point – and Ben had learned drums because he noticed a gap in the market for drums and thought that way he could make some friends.

Ben: Yes, because I had none at all. 

Josh: It was a very entrepreneurial approach to friendship for a 13-year-old. Since then, we’ve been thick as thieves, we’ve done everything together, worked together – we sold icecream together, we worked in cafes together – and this might shock you, me and Ben have been to India together. We’ve just done everything together. But I think a significant thing to point out is we didn’t do music together for about 10 years before doing this. 

So what made you want to start making music again?

Ben: Over lockdown, Josh and I started doing it loads and loads. Eventually we got good enough that we decided we may as well start putting it out, really. 

Josh: I think we started making music together because both of us had more free time. We were bored and if there’s anyone I’d probably do music with it was going to be Ben. By default – no offence.

Ben: None taken.

Josh: We were making kind of jokey songs to begin with. It was just a fun way to pass the time. Then we started putting them online. But in terms of the friendship again – how we act on stage is how we’ve been acting since we were 13 together. It’s quite a key part of the band, whether we realise it or not. 

Yeah, you seem quite comfortable with each other, you can be quite silly on stage. Do you think that’s because you know each other so well and you feel safe to do so?

Ben: I think so. 

Josh: Yes, we know each other well and we know what will make each other laugh. That’s what I’m trying to do most of the time on stage; make Ben laugh. I think the bottom line is trying to entertain each other, and I think that’s probably a result of being such close friends for a long time. There’s a comfort there – maybe too comfortable sometimes. It was comfortable and now it’s developed into arrogance. 

So how does this project affect or change your life?

Ben: I think it’s the main thing we both think about now. As we said, it started out as something just between the two of us, and I think it is still that, but we’ve always been quite performative socially and now we’ve managed to manifest that into something that allows us to go to places we’ve never been and meet loads of people.

Josh: I think the thing for me is, I hated school and I hated work, I dropped out of uni twice. Like everyone, working life is kind of hellish for me. So the fact that I’ve now got something to focus on that isn’t the hell of working gives me a sense of purpose. Now I feel I work to fund the band.

Ben: Also, I think we’re both really into music and really enjoy going to gigs and enjoy doing it. But I think the reason we stopped back in the day was because it was all just a bit too serious, it can be draining and sucks the fun out of it. So doing it in this way makes it far more enjoyable.

Josh: It’s a good way to have something to do to dull the pain of working life, it’s a good way to hang out with each other in a new context and it’s a good way to get our negative feelings out. It’s a controlled space to rant about things and go a bit mad. It’s a bit like therapy.

You mentioned working life and how it’s been hellish for you. I think a lot of your music is tangentially political. Is that something you’re doing on purpose or is it just your own experiences coming into the music?

Ben: I think it’s political because the main thing that makes life shit is the state of things. 

Josh: I don’t think I’m driven by making any kind of political statement. I’m more driven by trying to get things off my chest that happen to be political issues. Obviously the music we make has a political edge to it, but I also think our music is quite violent and aggressive and not particularly nice. It’s more of an emotional dump for me. I don’t feel like I’m on a crusade to persuade people, it’s much more self indulgent than that. It’s that work and the daily grind I think is quite a horrific thing and it affects me a lot in my mental health and I feel a lot of anger about that.

Ben, you live in Manchester. Do you think you’ve brought any of Manchester to Bristol or the other way around?

Ben: Not really.

Josh: Ben speaks with a northern accent on stage.

Ben: (Laughs) I do have a slight twang. I think it’s a self defence mechanism. 

Josh: I don’t think the Manchester sound though. If either of them, then probably more Bristol. 

If we’re talking about scenes, what scene do you feel more at home in?

Both: Bristol!

Ben: Manchester doesn’t have one, so. 

Josh: Bristol has been so massive for us. I don’t think we’d have gotten past doing one or two gigs if we hadn’t been doing it in Bristol. 

Ben: I think the Bristol music scene is very welcoming and very accessible. It’s made music a social thing for me, which is what a scene is, it’s a social group. Like last night, I bumped into you and a few people you see at gigs. It’s nice seeing familiar faces sometimes. People involved in bands in Manchester who we’ve spoken to say the same thing, there is no scene like that there. It’s too competitive. I love Manchester, but when it comes to the music scene I think it needs to get a grip. 

Josh: I think the Bristol music scene has shown me that there can be a community of people based around music. It’s not based on the genre or whether you even like the music, it’s just that we want to encourage each other because making music is a good thing to do in and of itself. It helped me break that bubble of thinking that music I don’t like is a crime. If people have a community-based attitude towards it, it’s a good thing and should be encouraged, and Bristol does a good job at that I think. 

Words: Clara Bullock // Photos: Caleb Byrne-Smith

‘Crisps’, the debut album from Getdown Services is out November 9th via Breakfast Records. Pre-order and stream the singles via Bandcamp.

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