For those of you that were hoping to read another article extolling the corpulent measurements of the recently deceased mega-feline, Chunk…uh…the cat’s about to be let out of the bag.
But if you want the lowdown on a self-described “American rock and roll band whose contagious vibe blends rhythm and blues, jazz-funk and reggae fusion with homegrown rock and roll,” namely, The Heavy Pets? Well…read on.
The band triggered a Sirius musical commotion in 2007 with the release of their acclaimed double-disc debut album, Whale, driven by the hit tracks “Operation of Flight” and “Sleep.” It’s ambitious, if not preposterous for a band to release a dual disc, 20 track colossus as their debut.
But, as if to say “yeah, so what,” The Pets followed it up with an EP (2008’s Slow Motion Conductor) and a 2010 self-titled sophomore studio release and vinyl album, a rare feat in such a short time period.
Jeff Lloyd, Pets’ co-founder and lead guitarist/vocalist, spent some time with me recently to talk about the band’s breakneck musical progression, its diversity, and, oh yeah, the name thing.
“There’s no special story. It’s just a name that I picked out that the other guys liked,” Jeff related. But he added with a chuckle, “Besides, ‘The Strokes’ was taken.”
Some of the band members have been writing and performing together in different projects since 1996, when Jeff and co-founder, lead guitarist/vocalist Mike Garulli met in upstate New York. The Heavy Pets have since added Jim Wuest on keyboards/vocals, Jamie Newitt on drums/vocals, and Justin Carney on bass/vocals.
They now call Ft. Lauderdale home. Can’t imagine why they’d relocate to sunny Florida from frigid Goshen, NY.
Jeff explains, “We were just looking for a change of pace. We spent our whole lives, at least Mike and I did, in upstate New York and I think we were both looking for a change. South Florida was just that. We wanted to do things different. We wanted to do things better. It was like a clean slate.”
And if you’re still wondering whether or not the weather factored into it? Jeff said with a laugh, “There’s only so much a body or an amplifier can take.”
Has Jeff noticed a different musical vibe in the Southeast compared to the Northeast ?
“Absolutely. As musicians we take in a lot from what we’re surrounded by. When we recorded our latest record (2010’s The Heavy Pets), we recorded that out in California. So we spent almost two full months out there, just doin’ nothin’ but workin’ on the record.”
“We didn’t do any shows. You wanna talk about a change of pace and a change in location and how that can affect music? I think that was an incredible vibe.”
One of the first things that you notice about the band is that all five members share the songwriting duties as well as the vocals. Understandably, talking to Jeff about the various musical influences of the band members was a bit like herding cats (there’s that Chunk allusion again!). Each band member has their own influences, which can change from one day to the next.
“For me it was the guitar players. When I was a kid I picked up a guitar for the same reason a lot of kids picked up the guitar – it was pretty cool. And there were some really cool guitar players.”
“My father exposed me to the rock he grew up with. So right when I started playing, I was listening to Mountain – Leslie West is such a fierce guitarist – incredible! Listenin’ to Johnny Winter and of course, Jimi Hendrix, particularly Band of Gypsies, that was an early huge influence. Basically, my dad’s record collection is my biggest influence and probably remains so today.”
Are you listening parents? As Jeff says, “Take care of your LPs”
With five talented songwriters in the group, you might think that The Pets have some challenges with ego management.
Not so says Jeff. “No not at all. What we find hardest is finding time to play everybody’s tunes, which is a quality problem to have. We all do a really good job of seeing out the songwriter’s vision when it comes to anybody’s song. We’re gonna give it that one shot where it sounds exactly the way they want it to, before we go adding our own embellishments.”
With the band’s musical diversity, it’s hard to put the band into a particular genre. Some have described them as a jam band – an accurate description according to Jeff, adding that “jam band is used by a lot of people to just mean great live music.”
“Whale was very jammy. A lot of the songs were written for the jam, you know? We were trying to take the material that was definitely written for a live setting and do it justice in the studio. I think we did a great job. We’re all really proud of that record.”
“With this other record (The Heavy Pets), we were thinkin’, ‘Well, considering that most people listen to records either by themselves or sitting in a living room or in their car, let’s write some music that’s more geared towards that. And let’s focus on songwriting that’s not necessarily about the jam.”
And believe it or not, the band plans to release another album in 2011.
“We’re gonna be releasing another record, hopefully in the spring. We recorded it in January when we did the last record. We did an entire acoustic record when we were out in California. It’s song oriented material.”
We already have plans to begin recording another record which will be released after that, but it’ll be another electric record,” – somehow appropriate for a band that is so plugged in – and continues to electrify everybody who sees them.
So whether or not you’re a pet lover, check out The Heavy Pets.