Founded in Colchester by brothers George and Johnny Marriott, Pet Needs have quickly risen through the ranks to share stages with the likes of Muncie Girls, Buzzcocks, Maximo Park, PiL and The Undertones. Forced off the road in 2020 by you know what, Pet Needs took this as a sign to complete their long awaited debut, 'Fractured Party Music'. The 11 songs that make up the album are a topical blitz upon apathy, beautifully captured by none other than Frank Turner, who has been a fan of the band ever since he saw their set at Camden Rocks.
We caught up with vocalist Johnny to talk about the debut album, starting a band with your brother and being taken under the wings by Frank Turner.
PRT: I read that the band got its start when your brother landed on your sofa after abandoning a job in a Midlands petrol station. Was it at first just something fun to do together without too much thought put into it? Or did you already mean business right from the start?
Johnny: It was definitely the former. We initially both started playing because we were both there and both had guitars. I had a solo thing going doing introspective folk music at the time. I woke up one morning to the realisation that I was playing music that I wouldn't necessarily listen to. Inspired by the Against Me! lyric "We can be the bands that we want to hear", George and I continued to write punk tunes together. Initially the songs were quite throwaway party numbers as I wanted to get as far away from what I'd done before, but two or three tunes in, and the angst started creeping in again!
PRT: I don’t know if you have been in other bands previously to Pet Needs and so I don’t know if you can compare, but what is it like to be in a band with your brother? Does it make for brutally honest communication?
Johnny: It's an interesting relationship. It was hard at the beginning, to be honest because we were both competing to write. George's writing style is polar opposite to mine, so our songs were kind of jarring. George is an incredible musician, much better than me, and has a real ear for arrangement, whereas I'm all about words and melody. Nowadays we have a great process whereby I get a rough structure together and then I pretty much hand the tune over to George and the band to arrange! I trust him implicitly with it. It can sometimes still get tense and definitely brutally honest, but we're a proper team.
PRT: Your only other releases I could find were two EPs dating back to 2017. How come it took up until now to record and release more songs?
Johnny: We released a few singles in 2019 and 2020 but took them down as a couple of them were going to make it onto the album and as the band grew we wanted their first listen to be the new recordings. And also we hit gigging hard! We were always still writing but were concentrating on getting the live set as good as possible. Summer of 2019 we did 16 weekends of shows in a row whilst holding down full-time jobs, which was knackering but so much fun, and left little time to record.
PRT: Was it already the idea to write and record an album last year? Or is this one of the few positive things to come out of corona?
Johnny: Without lockdown, we would never have had an album, as we would have continued the cycle of dropping singles and building the live show. Back in March, my bro George and I both got furloughed from our jobs and our busy summer of gigs was ripped from us. We went for a walk around a reservoir with a couple of cans and thought, "If not now, when?" We booked the studio time and got writing! It was great to be able to still have a creative focus throughout lockdown.
PRT: Your debut album is out now on Xtra Mile Recordings. Is ‘Fractured Party Music’ just the album title or is it also intended as a description of the band’s sound?
Johnny: Exactly that! The name "Fractured Party Music" came from an early interview where I was clutching at straws trying to describe our sound. "Well, it's party music, I suppose... We have a party when we play it... but it seems deeper than that... like it could all come crashing down at any moment. It's kind of fractured, y'know?"
PRT: I really like how the songs are angsty and frenetic yet also highly melodic and accessible and there is no one genre you can be categorized under. Which made me wonder who your musical influences are?
Johnny: Thanks mate! We grew up on our dad's record collection. I was drawn to Sex Pistols and The Clash whilst George was routing through his Beatles collection. I love lots of old punk music - X Ray Spex being one of our biggest lyrical influences ("Plastic Bag" is sublime), but then also love bands like The Streets, Nick Cave and of course more modern punk like Against Me! and PUP. What I love about AM! and PUP is that they are also unafraid of big pop choruses. Something you can pump your fist to and sing at the top of your lungs.
Our bassist is pure punk through and through - proper Black Flag kinda vibes, then our drummer is into some mad prog that he's promised to take me to. He reckons I'll have just as much fun sitting down watching an operatic prog band as I would being upside down in a pit crowd surfing to Rancid! I've promised to approach it with an open mind... life is for living, right?
PRT: The album was mixed and mastered by Frank Turner, who kind of took you under his wings... is that the correct way to put it?
Johnny: He absolutely has, haha! I'm really proud to work with him. We were big fans before working together and now seeing the process from the back end, are even bigger fans now. He was a joy to work with on album one, and we are going to be working together even closer on album two, so watch this space.
PRT: Your debut album, which you have toiled and slaved over is out now. But there’s still a pandemic raging, which means no shows. What has it been like for you to work toward this moment and then not be able to take the next logical step?
Johnny: It's been weird, but there are some cool things in the pipeline to look forward to. I'm really grateful that we have been able to keep a creative focus throughout the pandemic. I know lots of people in bands who have really struggled. I, as has everyone I'm sure, have struggled with my own mental health at times, especially with all shows being torn away, but am definitely optimistic about the future. I'll be upside down in a Rancid pit before I know it!
PRT: What is the one thing every pet needs?
Johnny: Someone to love them as much as I loved my little kitten, Smoko. We dedicated "Fractured Party Music" to her.
And food. They all need food. I'd say food first, absolute besotted love second.