Interview: Jeff Lloyd of The Heavy Pets

We sat down with Jeff Lloyd of The Heavy Pets on 9/30/14.


The Heavy Pets have been going strong for nearly a decade now. What stands out the most when looking back over the past nine years?

JEFF:  Really just the performances and times we have spent together. Some of these festival appearances that we have done together have been really special. Bonaroo, Jamcruise, High Sierra, Gathering of the Vibes - so many great memories. Getting people together and playing music - it's a great feeling. We’ve thrown 3 festivals of our own in PA and NJ called Pet Zoo. Those were very special performances.

Releasing the albums is always a very special moment for any artist, as well. You put so much work into something and finally get to share it with everybody.


I’ve always been drawn to the name, “The Heavy Pets”, even before I had seen you guys play. How did you guys decide on the name?

JEFF:  I’m not exactly sure how that a name was ever decided on, but I think I might have been the one to come up with it. We were looking for something that was endearing and descriptive. We’ve always felt we were a pretty heavy band, not one of those daisy sniffing jambands. So that fit. And who doesn't love their Pets? And there's the obvious double entendre. There were a lot of different directions visually we can go with the name too, so that's fun.


Every time I listen to your music, I hear something new. Who have been the biggest musical influences for you over the years?

JEFF:  Over the years it’s changed drastically. When I first started playing guitar I was really into Phish, which was a great intro to a lot of different kinds of music. My tastes have shifted to how shall we say - more vocally driven music and just dirty lo-fi sounds. Bands like Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, and Dr Dog have my heart. Ooh and I’ve also been digging on White Denim lately. Those guys really rock.


Where do you look for inspiration when writing new material? Have you had any particular consistencies over the years?

JEFF:  Not really. I’d say my songs are all reflections of how I’m feeling emotionally. It can obviously change a lot over the course of any given time period. I’ve written the love-sick songs, the happy songs when I’ve been content. Sometimes an idea or a story will just strike me as something I can work a song around.

The last song I wrote that the Pets play is called “The Ibis”, which is a bird you find all over South Florida. I woke up one morning and my yard was filled with these birds. I went to Wikipedia and realized the birds are historically significant and pretty badass. So I wrote a song about them. I started writing in the spring and we began playing it live this summer.


You’re obviously right in the middle of a music scene filled with endless amounts of talent. Who are some of your current favorites?

JEFF:  Snarky Puppy is incredible, and we have had the opportunity to be on festival bills with them a few times. They’re a phenomenal band and and amazing inspiration to watch live. There is really such an endless list of bands. Lettuce is another amazing band that we have worked with that’s an incredible live show. The Revivalists really know how to work a crowd. Papadosio blows me away every time I see them.


There seems to be a steady rotation in vocal responsibilities between you, Mike (Garulli) and Jim (Wuest). How is the song writing balanced out amongst the group?

JEFF:  We are a band with 5 songwriters, which is rare. We are very blessed to have that. There has been a steady balance from each one of us. Jamie (Newitt) has me singing a song that he wrote, but for the most part whoever wrote the song is the one who sings it. There is no rhyme or reason for it. It’s just how it has happened. Lately Mike has been on a tear with some new tunes, and Tony has brought a pair of awesome instrumentals to the mix. It is not uncommon for our sets to feature songs from all 5 of us.


You guys have just released “Rags and Aces”, the 2nd EP from The Heavy Pets in the past year. Can you elaborate on why you’ve taken this approach, as opposed to waiting to release a full album?

JEFF:  There are several reasons that we do that. The first of which is that we tour so often that its tough to set aside the amount of time required for a full album. It takes so much time. We can go in and bang out an EP in a few days. We have this opportunity to write a song and have it released very quickly. We go from having an idea, to writing the song, to releasing it in just a few weeks. It has worked out very well for us. I feel like EP fits in better in today’s world what with the public's dwindling attention span. By giving 2 or 3 songs in a clip, people are more likely to listen to the whole thing. With a full-length record, many people tend to find a few songs that they listen to. We feel this gives us the opportunity to let the music settle into people hearts. Perfect portion sizes. No leftovers.


I noticed that John Popper of Blues Traveler appeared on The Heavy Pets self-titled album. David Grisman plays on three songs on “Swim Out Past The Sun”. Can you share a few of your favorite on-stage collaborations?

JEFF:  We have had the opportunity to play with some amazing players over the years. Getting to play with Eric Krasno is always an incredible inspiration. Steve Kimock has sat in a few times. Those are two of the most talented players around. It’s pretty amazing to watch those guys jump onstage with a band that already has 2 guitar players and do what they do.

Working with Grisman in the studio was an amazing experience. He was the consummate professional, but also so wise and funny. He shared stories of Jerry Garcia and playing with him over the years. It was just an incredible experience that I’ll never forget. My favorite moment working with him was when he came in and I just got to play with him to rehearse the tunes. One song of mine in particular is called “On The Waves”. We sat face to face and played live in the studio. When that song was over, he looks at me and says, “Man that is a beautiful song! I really wish we still recorded like this, sitting face to face, the way we used to”. I told him to tell me the time and place and I would be there, haha. I'm still waiting for that call.


What can we expect from The Heavy Pets as you wrap up 2014? Can you share any exciting news about 2015?

JEFF:  We have Halloween coming up right here at home in Boca Raton with our friends from The Main Squeeze. The next day we are playing Hulaween at The Spirit of Suwanee Music Park. It turns out that Hulaween is going to be our 1000th show. So we get to celebrate our 1000th show right here at home on the big stage with our friends and family, which is pretty cool. The next day, October 2nd, will actually be our 9th anniversary. We’re still mulling over a couple ideas for how to actually celebrate.

We are releasing another EP, “Stolen Smiles”, in November. We can't wait to share that one.