Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls & PET NEEDS at O2 Guildhall Southampton, 14th October 2022
Interview – PET NEEDS
PET NEEDS played the final night of a USA and UK tour at the O2 in Southampton last week. It was the culmination of weeks on the road, coast to coast across North America, touring with Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls.
I managed to catch up with two of the members of PET NEEDS after they’d finished their sound check. The other bands were still on stage so we decided that we would go outside and sit in their tour van for a chat. The first thing Jack (drums) and Johnny (lead vocals) did was to apologise for the state of the van. I told them that after such a long tour, it had every right to look well lived in (it really wasn’t that bad at all). Looking out of the van window, we could see the queue for the gig building already.
I started by asking Johnny how the USA Tour had been for them…
The tour has been nuts! The reception we had in the States was overwhelming. We could see the momentum building as the tour went on. We even had people buying flights from the east to the west coast just to see the next show! Our favourite gig was probably the Las Vegas one, it was wild! As a place, it’s the complete opposite of my ideological position, but I think that’s why it was so surreal. It’s like the Toby Carvery of life, just too much of everything, all at once!
I see you’re heading back out for a headline tour soon
Yeah, we can’t wait, it starts in December, we’re playing Germany and then to the UK, and we’re back in Southampton too. We have a show at The Joiners which we’re so excited about. We finish the tour in Colchester for a hometown finale and it’s already sold out! That’s going to be such an emotional night!
I happen to be one of the City Managers of Sofar Sounds in Southampton and I know you’ve played a Sofar show in Oxford. How was that for you?
We absolutely loved playing it, it’s so nerve racking though. We knew that we were walking into a room where no one really knows our music, so it’s a strange experience. The audience have no idea who they’re coming to see because it’s a secret gig, as you know, but the audience was so full of love, and it was obviously made up of real live music lovers. They really are special gigs to be part of.
I listened to some of the lyrics you write and thought that some were really on the money, I particularly liked Only Happy. Where do the song ideas come from?
Lyrics are important to us. I [Johnny] write most of the lyrics, sometimes it’s based on true stories. Only Happy is based on a woman I met in a park in Germany. We were chatting about her life and her plans for the future, and she was convinced that she was going to meet the person she would marry in that city. She seemed almost obsessed with the idea. It started me thinking about whether happiness is a thing you’re aiming for or whether it’s about life being a journey of ups and downs. I hope that come across in the song.
Are all the band involved with the writing of the music?
The songs are born in my spare room on a battered acoustic guitar, and I bring them to the band and they bring their musicianship to build it to the final version. It’s all about trust, something I really enjoy compared with being a solo musician.
How is it working alongside your brother (George – lead guitarist)?
It’s really good, although challenging at the start. We both brought our own ideas, from different styles. George excels at arrangements and after about a year, we found a way so our joint creativity can show through. It now works so well for us all. We all get on so well together. We’re now on the final night of the tour and there’s not been a cross word between any of us.
So how do you see the future panning out?
We just want to keep this going. This is our life for now. We’ve got some festivals planned for next summer, but we can’t give you any details at the moment. We really want to get back to the States while we have the visa, so maybe a solo tour, or with another band. This tour with Frank really has changed our lives. It all began when one person saw one of our shows, that was the catalyst to being asked to tour with Frank, we left our jobs, and here we are. We’re really enjoying the ride and want to keep it going.
The gig itself was certainly a mix of genres. The opener was Mash Pea, a solo Afro Beats artist whose mix of singing and rapping certainly started the evening off with some energy. He was then joined on stage by Truck Stop Honeymoon, a couple from Texas, who played some wonderful Americana Country style guitar and double bass. They really engaged with the audience by telling stories from the other side of the Pond that had everyone smiling.
We then got to the PET NEEDS set. The emotional end to their epic first tour. You could tell that the lads were at the end of this emotional roller-coaster, but they played with confidence, skill and unabashed enthusiasm! From the opening bars to the final note, their energy burst through any nerves.
I’m used to photographing rock bands, so am usually ready for moving around the photo pit to get the best angles, but Johnny’s energy had me racing from side to side to try and keep up with him! If I hadn’t known this was the band’s first major tour, I’d have thought I was shooting seasoned professionals.
The rhythm section (Jack on drums and Rich on bass) drove the music perfectly, precise musicianship and an obvious joy in what they were doing. The two brothers, Johnny and George, were clearly loving every minute of their stage time together. There was an emotional pause in the set for Johnny to thank Frank Turner and everyone else who had made the tour possible. When he told the audience that they had all quit their jobs to make the band their sole focus, there was a huge cheer. Johnny joked that the audience took the news far better than their parents had! The set continued with the same energy as it started. George’s guitar solos and Johnny’s vocal working perfectly together. The only downside was the ever-problematic sound in the O2. The room acoustics are not great for punk! Some of Johnny’s lyrics, which are superb, were occasionally lost, so I look forward to seeing them at a festival in the summer so that I can hear every word and enjoy another performance.
With the audience well and truly warmed up, Frank Turner walked on stage to a huge reception. His ever-engaging style and confidence meant the crowd were in the palm of his hand from the outset. He gave his usual speech about how he wanted the evening to go. He told the crowd that they were as an important part of the show as the band. He told them the rules… “Get involved…. If you know the words, sing. If someone next to you is having a problem, help them… and above all…. (which is when the crowd joined him in shouting) Don’t be a d***head!!” Huge cheers, everyone understood!
The set was polished and full of atmosphere. An obviously well-practiced set from the tour, as well as showing Frank’s desire to have the crowd involved throughout. From my spot in the photo pit, I could hear the crowd singing as loud as the PA as it blasted Frank’s vocals. They loved it!
It was a welcome return to Southampton for Frank and his band. By his own admission, it had been far too long. I met and photographed Frank in March when he played an intimate solo gig at the Brook in Southampton, but this show was a full-on, full band experience. It was clear that the final show of the tour was a special moment for Frank and, as he said, it was a home-town show for him, and special for lots of reasons.
Review, photos and interview by Peter Nicholson
17th October 2022