The Heavy Pets bring Florida Vibe to the Beachland

I’ll be frank. I’m that girl that sometimes judges a band by its name. I look at the concert calendars for all the Cleveland venues and if I’m not going to enough shows for the week, I take a stab at something new. More often than not, this works out in my favor. (Thank you, music gods, for sparing me from many a terrible band.)

This is how I stumbled upon The Heavy Pets. Hailing from South Florida, The Heavy Pets are “a homegrown American band whose contagious vibe blends rhythm and blues, jazz-funk, and reggae fusion with rock and roll.” Don’t call them just a jam band; this band isn’t about just jamming out and hoping for something quality to occur. These guys work hard to make their music rock.

And does it ever.

Tonight you can catch The Heavy Pets for yourself at Cleveland’s own Beachland Ballroom & Tavern. Here’s a little interview TVD did with frontman, Jeff Lloyd.

Why don’t we start off with you telling me how you guys came up with such an interesting band name?
I think it kind of a pastime for all bands, all musicians, when they’re deciding they want to form a rock band to just come up with a bunch of stupid names and that one just stuck. We thought it was pretty funny.

It is pretty funny. I’m going to have to admit to you, that was what made me pick up a CD and listen to you at first.

Yeah, your band name pulled me in and then I listened and the music was good, so I stuck around.
Oh, right on.

How would you describe your sound?
I think we’re definitely an aggressive band. I think it kinds of depends on the night. Overall, we’re a pretty aggressive band when it comes to live performance. Overall, it’s feel good music. It’s a positive thing.

Who would you say you draw inspiration from musically?
So many different places. Mainly from the other musicians in the band. I mean, we all have different styles of writing and different ways of introducing ideas to the band. And since everybody contributes songs and writes, I kind of get my inspiration from my bandmates.

What bands are you listening to right now that you can’t get enough of?
Uh, that I can’t get enough of… Dr. Dog! I just absolutely love the way they write and sing. And I love the way they incorporate backup vocals into their tunes.

The good ol’ internet told me you attended Syracuse University; what were you studying there?
I was a physics major, then I met Tim up there and we started a band and we played all the time and I didn’t really have the time to continue to be a physics major, so I switched my major my junior year to economics.

What do you think made you choose a musician’s life?
Well, my mom was a high school music teacher, so I grew up with a houseful of instruments and a lot of music at my disposal. And you know, reverting back to your inspiration question, she was probably the biggest outside inspiration musically to me. We’re real lucky. All our parents are really supportive. They always have been, from being a garage band to playing way too loud in our parents’ basements to this day.

Let’s talk a little bit about touring. What would you say your first show was like?
Our first show was right after Hurricane Wilma in South Florida. Most of the city was out of power. And most of the city, the city being Lauderdale, being in that state, you know, with no power and whatnot, there were no shows going on. So we actually called an apartment complex that had power, it was one of those large really nice places in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, with a big wide cool deck, a gorgeous building. I believe it was called the Summit. And a kid that we worked with called them up and said we have this great rock and roll band from out of town, their show cancelled this weekend, and you gotta let them set up and play. So we set up and played out there and it was pretty awesome.

What would you say the best venue has been that you’ve played so far?
Um, I gotta give props to the Georgia Theatre. We were scheduled to play at the Georgia Theater in Athens Georgia the day that it caught fire and burned down. We had just driven up from South Florida and got the news and we were just about an hour out. I loved that place before that had happened and we finally got a chance to go back and play there earlier on this tour and I’m just super impressed with what they’ve done with the place, it’s gorgeous. It might be the nicest theater of its kind, anywhere, that I’ve seen.

What would you say has been the worst venue so far?
Uh, I don’t know, every venue’s got its charm, you know? And we kind of think, hey if we’re playing a place we don’t like, the only thing you can do is make the most of it, and have a lot of fun playing. So I try to really focus on the positive things, it’s really hard to really key in on specific negative things. I hate venues where they allow smoking, it just drives me nuts. I’m a singer, I’m not a smoker.

So you guys have been doing a lot of festival performances too, what would you say your best festival experience was?
Um, well Bonnaroo, that was one we’ve been wanting to do for a very long time. And we got to play Bonnaroo in ’09, and that was just a fantastic experience, absolutely wonderful. We actually had a great time at the Catskill Chill Music Festival in Hancock, NY, which was awesome. It might be the nicest vibe for a festival that I’ve ever encountered. I had both my parents come up for the show, because they live not too far from there and the ending was just so great, it was just a very nice vibe.

What about the Jam Cruise, you guys are going on that early next year, right?

Who are you most excited to hear play on the Jam Cruise?
Oh, man, I think I’m excited for all the stuff that isn’t in the lineup… I’m excited for all the collaborations that take place on the boat. None of us in the band have ever been on it before but being from South FL , it’s the event that people really rave about. Everyone talks about the unique collaborations and sit-ins that occur and that’s what I’m super excited about. I’ve seen just about every band on there. And it’s super awesome. We’ve been dying to get on that boat.

How about a place that you’re dying to play that you haven’t gotten to play yet?
Jam Cruise definitely would be the one. We’ve been dying to get on there. There’s definitely venues I’d love to get into, obviously all of the big ones I grew up going to concerts at. I would love to play Tipitina’s downtown in New Orleans.

Hokiest question- and I apologize in advance for this- but if you could play with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?
Um, well, I think I would have to say Trey Anastasio from Phish. I grew up as a Phish kid and they were just such an inspiration to me, as a young guitar player and songwriter, I think that would certainly be a mind-blowing and very scary experience that I hope I get to have.

You guys are releasing your new album, Swim Out Past the Sun, on October 22, what can your listeners expect on it?
Well, it’s definitely a very different sound from us. If I called it an acoustic record, that doesn’t really do it justice, but that is really the crux of it. We’re using acoustic guitars, piano and an upright bass, but we’re still giving it that edge that we like to call our own. It definitely rocks. There are a couple folky tunes on there, but for the most part it’s us just with like a different sound to it. We’re super super proud of this record, it kind of came about by accident, the idea for it. Then as we started recording it we just felt, man we’re really on to something here. So what began as the idea to just record a couple songs turned into a full album.

What kind of advice would you give for bands that are starting out?
To take it seriously and work at it every single day, but to just remember that it’s the relationships that you have with each other that are the most important thing. If those relationship become strange, you guys aren’t friends anymore, it ain’t fun anymore, what’s the point? Take everything super serious, but remember what the most important thing is: and that’s friendships.

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