Image: Vanessa Sollner

‘I’m so proud of this album’: Pet Needs’ Johnny Marriott on brand new album Intermittent Fast Living

Pet Needs are an explosive, contemporary take on punk. They have been on the road for three years building a fanbase through their live shows. With a touring cycle that can only be described as rapid, supporting Frank Turner, The Lottery Winners, and Skinny Lister in addition to headlining their own UK and US tours. During this time, they have released three albums, including their most recent project Intermittent Fast Living. Certainly, the balancing act between touring and personal life experienced by the band has been difficult. An experience that is surmised within the album. Ahead of the release of Intermittent Fast Living, I sat down with vocalist, Johnny Marriott.

Navigating life changes can be a daunting task, and none is bigger than being catapulted into life on the road. Pet Needs have experienced a relentless three years of back-to-back touring, which is depicted in Intermittent Fast Living. However, the recording process of Intermittent Fast Living offered the band a change in pace. Working in VADA Studios near Birmingham is the first time the band has worked in a residential studio. “It’s a converted church and we got to stay there for a couple of weeks and apart from our drummer and bass player leaving halfway through to do a big shop, none of us left the site for two weeks. So, we can literally just live and breathe the music.” Marriott describes the creative process as being immersed in and appearing in awe of the experience offered to the band. “And it’s amazing because we can be creative basically 24 hours a day, which is really cool.”

These changes in production style are evident as Intermittent Fast Living is also notable as being the first time the band hasn’t worked with Frank Turner as producer, instead working with George Perks, who has previously worked with Enter Shikari, You Me At Six, and Skinred, amongst others. “George is amazing,” says Marriott, “he was definitely the person we wanted to work with, and it was amazing that he wanted to work with us.”

I think about 90 per cent of what we do the spark is autobiographical 

Johnny Marriott, Pet Needs

From the moment that first single, ‘Separation Anxiety’, dropped, this change in production style became obvious. The single also exposed listeners to the theme of love which permeates the album. Marriott describes his wife Lorna as “one of the least openly romantic people in the world.” In this sense, the fact that ‘Separation Anxiety’ is not a traditional love ballad makes perfect sense; instead, the song serves as an expression of their love, but is done in Pet Needs’ style. Marriott explains, “With ‘Separation Anxiety’ I wanted to write a subverted love song which was a little bit twisted as well.”

Despite the desire to create songs that are “subverted”, the album does not shy away from a more traditional long song, with ‘Lucid’ sharing similarities with ballads. Marriott notes, “It’s a slower kind of more romantic one.”  Marriott’s approach to songwriting is apparent in this song, as he explains, “I thought at the start I was writing a piece of fiction but as I was looking back, I was pulling so much from when we [him and Lorna] first met.” Marriott describes how the fictional and the real blend together in the storytelling of ‘Lucid’, even if it is unintentional.

This kind of narrative lyricism is rife in the music of Pet Needs and ‘Lucid’ is just one example of this. Another example Marriott pinpoints from Intermittent Fast Living is ‘Buried Together’, inspired by a holiday in France. “We ended up in this tiny little village,” explains Marriott. “In all the graves partners were buried together in the same coffin. Lorna thought it was the most gothic thing she had ever seen. I thought it was really, really beautiful and I held onto that little idea.” It is these little influences that are important to Marriott as he explains, “I think about 90 per cent of what we do the spark is autobiographical.”

Autobiographical sparks are apparent in the depiction of touring in the album. Having been on the road for three consecutive years, Pet Needs has had a rollercoaster ride experiencing the highs and lows of touring. “So, my favourite thing about being on tour is definitely the people we meet,” Marriott reminiscences, “because now we’ve got groups of friends and people, we stay with all across America and Europe. They’re people who will offer you real-life experiences as well. We’re not just doing ‘touristy’ stuff. They’ll be like ‘oh, we’re going to cool bars’ or like ‘oh, this is a really beautiful park or this art gallery’. To be so welcomed by people all over the world and go somewhere like Chicago, for example, and feel like I know the city because I’ve been back four times and been to a load of bars.”

I’m just super excited to get the album out


In contrast, the worst part of touring is “100% missing home,” something that you can feel in their lyrics. Marriott’s homesickness has worsened since he got his dog, Eddie, but it has made him feel better about leaving his wife; “it makes me feel much happier leaving knowing she’s got someone to look after her.” It is clear from the discussion of touring that a sense of place and the people in those places are really important to Marriott.

Touring is a crucial part of the Pet Needs experience and Marriott is excited to perform tracks like ‘Fingernails’ and ‘Trip’ live due to their respective “really fun vocals” and “real heavy groovy guitar riff.” The band debuted ‘Burning Building’ recently to great success. “We just wanted to write a song that was pure chaos and wasn’t super commercial. We wanted it to be really fun and chaotic live. So, when we tried it out and it was absolutely chaotic, that was super cool.”

“But let’s be honest, I’m just super excited to get the album out,” Marriott notes. On top of this excitement is the obvious sense of pride Pet Needs has in the album. As Marriott simply puts it, “I’m so proud of this album.”

This love for Intermittent Fast Living has made looking towards the future sound of Pet Needs difficult, “It’s always like when one door shuts, another one opens.” Marriott makes it clear that although he has no idea where the band is heading until after the release of album three, he is still very excited about where they go next. “Now I’ve been kind of experimenting with some spoken word but with really heavy music in the background,” Marriott says. “It sounded odd but quite exciting so that may be the direction we go.” Potential changes in sound could come in the form of collaborations. While Intermittent Fast Living doesn’t feature any collaboration, their sophomore album, Primetime Entertainment, featured punk singer, Bridget, so collaborations could also be on the cards for future releases. Thinking about dream collaboration, dead or alive, Marriott’s thoughts turn to Self Esteem, “who is a female, kind of ‘poppy’ but also kind of ‘punky’ attitude as well,” Marriott explains. “She’s one of my favourite lyricists, she’s got an album out now called Prioritise Pleasure which is just absolutely incredible. I really look up to her as a vocalist and as a songwriter but especially as a lyricist. So to actually try to co-write something would be amazing.”

Pet Needs are a refreshing group of punk rockers

The admiration the band holds for other acts is clear. An admiration that is heightened by the ‘Bottom of the Pops’ album campaign for Intermittent Fast Living which riffs on the iconography of Top of the Pops, an institution in the British music industry. So, of course, I had to ask what Marriott’s favourite Top of the Pops performance is. He points to the punk attitude of Nirvana’s 1991 performance of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, a performance where the band swapped instruments in protest of the BBC’s rule that artists had to mine their performances. Marriott also highlights seeing the Spice Girls on Top of the Pops for the first time, a performance that changed his life. “I fell in love with all of them immediately and got really thrown into them, they were the first album I ever brought.” Marriott also describes the family ritual of sitting down together to watch Top of the Pops: “The four of us, my Mum, Dad, Brother, and I, we used to sit down and watch Top of the Pops. So, the thought of hopefully being a part of that top forty legacy in a few weeks is mind-blowing.”

And finally, influenced by the track ‘Sleep When I’m Dead’ and its lyrics about Wetherspoons, I had to inquire as to Marriott’s go-to order. The answer: a burger and drink meal, specifically with a bottle of BrewDog’s Elvis Juice. Apparently, due to the percentage of alcohol and volume of liquid, one bottle is equivalent to two standard pints. A life hack that Marriott is happy to share with Warwick students.

Pet Needs are a refreshing group of punk rockers, who are just as excited about their future as fans of the genre should be. Given the band has made it clear online how excited they are about Intermittent Fast Living they resume their rapid tour cycle this spring, with their UK album tour. Equipped with punchy guitar solos and poignant lyricism, they are ready to return to touring, ready to prove that punk isn’t dead.

Intermittent Fast Living is available now.


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