Features By Stu Kelly / May 14, 2017 The Heavy Pets are poised for another monumental year as the band is making serious strides to push themselves creatively. As artists and songwriters, The Heavy Pets have consistently grown and blossomed into an incredible driving force of inspiration. The band is armed with five uniquely different songwriters and three vocalists that give them a certain range and depth to explore that’s considered a luxury among artists. The end result is a well-crafted foundation that serves as a lunching pad of improvisation. Currently, The Heavy Pets are gearing up for a tour that will take them back out to the west coast and one that will feature their debut performance at the Oregon Eclipse festival. The band will also release their first full length studio album since 2011’s Swim Out Past The Sun later this year. Armed with a plethora of new material, the band is looking to their roots when they hit the studio and record their songs on their time and in their own way. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jeff Lloyd after the band played Gypsy Sally’s in Washington, D.C. to talk about the band’s traditions, their friendship, the new album and how they plan to push themselves to new musical heights. With over 1,300 shows under their belt, 12 years experience as a band and countless moments to look back on in celebration, it still seems like the best is yet to come for this incredibly diverse and talented band hailing from south Florida. You had a busy Fall and winter tour with dates sprinkled in the south and all the way up to the north-east, including your first ever performance at the Bear Creek Bayou festival in New Orleans, how was it making your debut at that festival? Jeff Lloyd: Well, that’s sort of complicated question because although it was our debut performance at the Bear Creek Bayou in New Orleans, we’ve played the Bear Creek festival four times when it was stationed in Live Oak [Florida], at the Spirit of the Suwannee and it was exciting just to get back there and feel that vibe again. With certain parts of the lineup they were definitely trying to recreate that vibe and in some ways they succeeded and in some ways they didn’t. It was still exciting for us to get up there and play a festival in New Orleans, other than playing Jazz Fest late nights we’ve never been in a festival atmosphere in New Orleans. The Heavy Pets recently presented the fist annual Winter Ball at the Crest Theater in Del Ray [Florida] to benefit Toys For Tots, how did that event come to fruition? JL: This was our first annual event in the sense that we called it our Winter Ball, but we’ve been doing something similar for years. For many years we’ve been doing a show around late December right before we all break for the holidays and we like to do that show in south Florida. We’ve incorporated doing food drives and toy drives, but this was the first time we did it right. We put a lot of effort into making it something a little more than just a holiday based Heavy Pets show. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and the response from not only our fans donating toys, but also local businesses were willing to donate gift cards that we could raffle off so we were able to donate a bunch of money in addition to a bunch of toys for Toys For Tots. The Heavy Pets recently returned to the Green Parrot, in Key West, for two nights and six marathon sets. The band seems really inspired and loose when you return back to that venue. What is it about the Green Parrot that works so well and brings that out of the band? JL: There’s a comfort level that comes from doing something that we’ve been doing for a long time, it feels like home. They put us up in a band house that’s adjacent to the venue and when we roll in; we set up once, play all weekend, we break down and then we go home. Everything that happens in between is so laid back and we never feel rushed. From the beginning we always decided we weren’t going to repeat any songs, so that was something special and fun for us – especially when we were a younger band and we only had so many songs. We had to use our material like tetris to make each set pop in an appropriate way. The afternoon sets obviously have to be different from the evening sets. We had to use our material to spread out our upbeat tunes and our ballads, that was kind of how we looked at it at first. Now we have a surplus of material that we can pull out at any given moment so we look for different themes and ways to make the whole weekend a cohesive thought and a statement. This past run, we recently learned a bunch of Grateful Dead songs for a different themed Dead night at the Dunnedin Brewery, so we had a bunch of Grateful Dead songs to choose from. Tony writes the setlists and he threw in a new Dead song each night which was really exciting for me. I don’t think people were expecting to hear “Terrapin Station” [laughs]. Didn’t you cover some Phish as well? JL: Not during this run, but in the past we have. I think that’s the only place [Green Parrot] where we’ve covered Phish. We’re over 1,300 songs deep, and I personally love that band, but we’ve never taken that direct route of covering Phish. I think we did a “Weekapaug Groove” one night but other than that we shy away from doing any straight covers of Phish, and we had done the same with the Dead for years until we did this recent Dead set. We figured that if we have them we may as well use them. Speaking of Dunnedin Brewery, you recently returned for your 5th annual spring beer jam in March. It’s a big celebration, it’s got the collaboration “Jackie Bones” beer. What makes this event so special and what does it mean for the band? JL: It’s similar to the Key West gigs in the sense that we can make that venue our home. We don’t feel the pressure of having to get it all out in one set. We just feel so relaxed and when that happens we play better. We leave a better band after play these gigs like Dunnedin or the Green Parrot. If we can harness that kind of free-spirited vibe that’s when the magic really happens. The Heavy Pets are working on their first full length album since Swim Out Past The Sun. What can you tell me about the new album? JL: It’s long overdue [laughs]. We’ve had some great opportunities over the years to work with some great producers and we made some records that we’re really proud of. At the end of the day we’ve really grown as songwriters and we’re growing as players. A lot of fans still come up to us and ask us to play more Whale songs. There’s a certain innocence and a bliss that comes from that album, we did it entirely on our own and in our own way. We weren’t over thinking things when we started Whale, it was all us. We’re trying to get back to that same band vibe with the new record. We’re getting back to doing everything on our own and pay a tribute to our early years in a sense. We’re still very far from a finished product but it’s already reaped so many dividends for the band. We just feel so inspired. In one sense we’re super excited for the future but on the other hand we’re wondering why we didn’t do this years ago [laughs]. We’ve got a lot of great material to drop and I think we’re finally doing it in the right way. Do you have a title penned for the album yet? JL: We don’t. This is something we just started thinking about, especially for situations like this. Take me through the writing process. It seems like you’re more focused on your roots, but you’re also inspired and looking towards the future. JL: This is always a difficult question when people talk about the creative process for The Heavy Pets. I usually do the interviews and it’s almost impossible for me to adequately describe the process because I’m only one of the five song writers in the band. We have five different creative, vibrant musical minds always working and always creating something and doing different things. For each of us it’s a different process every time. Some songs literally get thought up overnight, after a couple of beers or a BBQ or something. Other songs are works in progress that take a lot of time, so much to the point that some of us can be hesitant when it comes to bringing them to the table. Every song has a different path to life in this band. Each one of us as songwriters has different kinds of methods we utilize to bring material to the band. As far as the album and the selection process, we’re just really focused on the freshest material. There’s also a couple old tunes, that were never recorded by the band, that we recently took a stab at to see how they would sound with the context of the rest of the material. So we’re giving them a shot, I don’t know if they’ll make the record or not but we’re going to give them their due. Most of it is brand new stuff but we’ve also been digging deep into the catalog to find songs and give them the fair treatment they deserve. We’re excited to get back and see how that all works out for those tunes. One of the most inspiring things about The Heavy Pets is it’s so clear and evident that everyone in the band is best friends. There’s a lot of love. What do you love about playing with Jamie, Mike, Tony and Jim? JL: Oh man, well we all put up with a lot. I’m just happy they can put up with me after all these years [laughs]. We’ve all got such a deep connection together, I’ve known Mike since high school and I met Jim freshman year in college. Jim has known Jamie since he was a kid and Jamie has known Tony since he was a kid so we’re able to cut through a lot of the bullshit. Everyone has someone, if not multiple people, that will call them out on bullshit. I think we’re always growing as friends and as band mates. Plus we’re getting closer to refining our mission as a band. I feel like over the years we’re dealing with a lot less bullshit and we’re focusing on the right places and the creative process. We’re just trying to move forward as a band, as a creative entity, trying to make a statement. We’re trying to make new music because at the end of the day that’s all we really are: a group of guys trying to make new music together. The new album is going to be huge for the band in 2017 but what else are you most excited for in terms of the rest of the year. JL: We’re excited to get back to the west coast. That’s an area we’re been exploring more and we’re getting some traction out there. We’re playing a festival called Oregon Eclipse, which is a big break for us and big opportunity for us to get out there. It’s just a whole new world out there, a lot of people haven’t heard of the band out west so it’s a great opportunity to show them who we are. We’ve been touring so long out here [east coast] so we’re just really excited to explore Oregon and California more.