Interview: Johnny Marriott

Founded in 2016 in Colchester by Johnny Marriott and his brother George, Pet Needs are winning plaudits for their high-energy live performances and songs that take a wry look at 21st-century life.

Ahead of their visit to Norfolk tomorrow, PAUL HAMMERTON put the questions to frontman (and UEA alumnus) Johnny.

Your visit to Voodoo Daddy’s marks the start of your UK tour. Which cities are you most looking forward to playing?

Norwich is up there as I studied psychology at UEA and lived there for three years!

There are also a lot of places we haven’t headlined before – Cambridge, Oxford, Reading and Liverpool – so it’ll be cool to visit them, too, as well as playing Ipswich, which is as close to a hometown show as we get for a while.

I’ve just realised I’ve now mentioned every show… What an unintentionally diplomatic answer!

Were there any particularly memorable gigs you attended during your time at UEA?

The Streets were incredible, Public Image were the loudest band I’ve ever seen, Jamie T was mind-blowing, Rancid, Frank Turner (before we were friends!)… The list goes on!

Norwich is so lucky to have such a brilliant venue. 

The last time you played in Norwich you were supporting Frank Turner. You got a great reception from the Norwich crowd with lots of Pet Needs T-shirts on display. Did you get a similar reception at other gigs, or is it just us warm-hearted East Anglian gig-goers?

The reception was awesome everywhere – I think that’s massively down to how much Frank championed us before the UK tour. And by that time we’d already spent months on the road together around Europe and the States.

It feels that when people (“fans”? Still feels like a weird word to use) are into our stuff they really champion us and wear our merch with style.

UEA was particularly good fun. I think being back at my old stomping ground helped!

Pet Needs at UEA last year (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
Pet Needs at UEA last year (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

You have been touring extensively in the US and Europe over the last year or so. Are there any particular highlights of your time on tour?

We were on the road in the US with Frank Turner and The Bronx. When the tour passed through Louisville we were asked to do a midnight headline show at The Bronx’s bar, which culminated in me and Matt from The Bronx letting huge fireworks off the roof of the bar in the middle of the night!

Frank Turner is a great champion of Pet Needs. How did he first get to meet you?

We invited him down to a show in London and he turned up! We hit it off from there and two years later he’s living round the corner in Essex and taking us round the world.

We definitely have Frank to thank – not just for the touring opportunities but for producing our albums. He is an incredible producer and pushed us hard.

Our albums wouldn’t be what they are without him.

How big a step was it to give up your jobs and commit to the band full-time? Were friends/family/partners supportive?

It makes you re-contextualise everything. We are definitely currently cash-poor but experience-rich.

I was talking to my bro about this literally yesterday. Making ends meet to pay this month’s rent is going to be a challenge as we haven’t gigged for over a month, but in the diary we have another year of adventure!

Missing partners is so, so hard. America was the worst for that with the time difference.

My partner and I recently got a dog, so she now has some company next time I leave for tour!

Do you have any advice for an upcoming band in a similar situation to you?

Be prepared to be poor financially. The best way to support yourselves is through brilliant merch, so take time designing it, and get it made in fantastic quality.

Try to live in the moment as it could all end tomorrow. And be comfortable with that.

It’s healthy to look at progression, but also take the time to look around and go, “This is pretty awesome”.

Johnny Marriott and friends are heading to Norwich for the first night of their tour (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
Johnny Marriott and friends are heading to Norwich for the first night of their tour (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

Finally, what can we expect at the Voodoo Daddy’s gig? Is there any new or recently-released material for us to look forward to?

We will be playing tunes from two albums – our debut Fractured Party Music and our most recent release Primetime Entertainment, which came out in September.

As for new tunes, album three is in the works and I’m trying to persuade my bro George to let us play a tune from it. We will see…

Pet Needs play Voodoo Daddy’s, Norwich, on Monday, January 30; The Blue Moon, Cambridge, on Tuesday, January 31; and The Smokehouse, Ipswich, on Thursday, February 2.

Click here for tickets to the Norwich show and here for Cambridge. The Ipswich show is sold out.

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