The Heavy Pets
Our latest New Groove of the Month is The Heavy Pets. As the band prepares for its third consecutive Langerado appearance, guitarist Jeff Lloyd took shared his thoughts on the band's development and upcoming plans. Lloyd is joined in The Heavy Pets by Mike Genius (guitar), Joe Dupell (bass), Jim Wuest (keyboards) and forthcoming drummer Jamie Newitt, whose seat is currently being warmed by Julius Pastorius, now putting in a guest stint with the band.
Can you talk a bit about the development of the group? How did you meet? Come to think of it, a number of you are from the northeast, correct? How did you end up in Florida?
Jeff: Mike, Joe and myself met at Goshen High School in NY State in 1995. We played in a band then, called Anthem. We all headed in different directions when we graduated, but continued playing together by booking gigs at each others' colleges and such. That is where I met Jim – at Syracuse University in 2000. He was an easy addition to the line-up, it was kind of a non-decision. After graduating most of us continued kicking around upstate NY, while Joe moved to Florida and started a successful internet marketing company. He offered us an opportunity to start a whole new project together down there in the sun.Speaking of Florida, some bands have found it a challenge to sustain careers playing original music in the state of Florida. What are your thoughts?
Jeff: It is a challenge to sustain careers playing original music anywhere. Florida offered us the opportunity to be part of a growing scene. We saw that and decided to get after it. Florida has been real warm. We have met some great people, and made some really great friends.
Of course Langerado has been a Florida staple for some time now. Can you talk about your appearance there in 2007 and what it means to be back in 2008?
Jeff: Our first appearance there was actually in 2006, so this is our third year in a row. 2006 was our first blip on the festival radar screen, and was a powerful catalyst for our booking conquests both locally and nationally. Last year was very special for us for two reasons: the way we got in, and the way we got there. We were actually not booked to play the festival by the promoters. They held a fan vote to choose the opening act for the 2007 festival. The Festival promoters whittled a list of applicants down to I think 8 bands and then they let every ticket-holder vote. Thanks to a ton of local support, we won. Perhaps, riding high on our luck, we bought a small bus from this guy Smokey. It was an airport shuttle-bus that said "Red Roof Inn" all over it. Langerado was her maiden voyage, and of course, the oil pump failed and we absolutely destroyed the engine to make it to our set on time. I think we all literally forgot about the whole fiasco during our set, but then getting it out of there was a whole different trip. We had to haul the thing out of there on a AAA wrecker. We brought the damn thing right back to Smokey, who, out of the kindness of his heart alone, wrote us a check for the full amount we paid-minus taxes and fees. It just turned out to be a very expensive one-way ride to Langerado.
Lately you’ve been performing with Julius Pastorius. How did that come about?
Jeff: Julius and his family are from Ft. Lauderdale. We played a double-bill at Tobacco Road in Miami with Way of the Groove, the band that he plays in with his brother Felix. We are going through a transition from having Ryan Neuburger to our new drummer Jamie Newitt. There was about a month gap before Jamie could move to Florida and join us full-time. Julius was available to play the dates, and the rest is in the recordings. He is a bad, bad man. We are doing a show with the Pets and Julius' main band the Bendy/Pastorius Group, March 21st at the Culture Room, in Ft. Lauderdale.Can you talk a bit about "The Book" which appears on your website?
Mike: The book on our website is a selection of pages from a spiral notebook that was kept on the coffee table at the band house during the first few weeks of the band's existence. The idea of the book was to kind of organize our thoughts about the band, write lyrics, or just anything that comes to mind. It sort of documents the birth of the band. It was our web designer, Dave Naeder who actually thought to put it on the site after seeing it at our place.How about your name, is there a story behind that?
Mike: Much like the Treeman on Youtube, we knew it was something people wouldn't forget.
How often do you rehearse? What do you focus on when you get together for rehearsal?
Jeff: We practice almost every day that we don't have a gig and sometimes even on a show day. We mostly just focus on newer material, and freshening up the older stuff. Doing this work with Julius Pastorius was totally different and has given us the opportunity to reinvent some of our material. We have focused on material that Julius can tear apart, I mean he could tear up anything, but stuff that really fits well with his style.
Who writes the band’s music? How it is typically presented to the group and how does it then come together?
Jeff: Mike, Jim and I all write for the band. We all have completely different styles and strengths, and all write a lot, which really serves to help motivate us. It is kind of a friendly competition. These days, we have been charting everything. As songwriters, we all are pretty specific when it comes to our own material. The final arrangements that make their way to the stage are ultimately up to the whole band, but as players we all respect what the writer intended. It is a give and take thing, and we all take turns being leaders.
Some tunes were written by Mike and I together, like "Operation of Flight" and "Lakeview." These are the result of presenting unfinished material and collaborating. Mike and I are an efficient but atypical guitar duo and songwriting team, in that lately I have been writing songs for him to play lead on, and vice versa.
How do you approach your original songs in the live setting?
Jeff: It is not uncommon for us to get through a whole set or a whole show without really jamming at all and not even notice. We really try not to rely on it, but to jam when we just can't help it. We take plenty of solos for an undetermined length of time, but they have a specific start, a specific end, and a very specific direction. With 3 songwriters, we have plenty of material, and most of it doesn't really need to be messed with. It's well-written stuff. Other nights we just jam the fuck out.
What about covers, can you talk about what songs you toss in from time to time? Who selects them? In terms of cover tunes can you talk about any spectacular successes and failures?
Jeff: We haven't done any covers with Julius, except playing the head of Freddie Hubbard's "The Straight Life." We have tried all sorts of things. We don't call them failures, just tunes we have only played once.
Can you talk about some of your performance highlights thus far. Is there a gig or gigs that stand out? Why?
Jeff: We just played Saturday at the Knitting Factory, so that is kind of fresh in my mind. It was one of our last performances with Julius, and he just tore it up. The sound on stage was pretty tough, but the crowd was great and we really got cooking in the second set. It wasn't a perfect show, or the best show we have played, but the energy was great and we all had a lot of fun.
What about the next release, where do things stand there?
Jeff: We are all pretty anxious to get back in the studio. By the time we had finished producing Whale we had 20 other tunes that we wanted to record. We should break ground on the next one this summer, but I can tell you there won’t be twenty tracks on it, and it will probably fit nicely on one CD.Any final thoughts to folks across the country who may be hearing about you for the first time from this piece?
Jeff: Please check out the band.