[Interview] Jeff Lloyd of The Heavy Pets chats about the Beatles, touring, and a new album.

[Interview] Jeff Lloyd of The Heavy Pets chats about the Beatles, touring, and a new album.

Helping to finish off this year’s Sweetwater 420 Fest, The Heavy Pets graced us with late night, jam band bliss at Aisle 5, located in Little Five Points. The Heavy Pets start their set with “Day Tripper," immediately sending the mood of the show in a great direction. Various virtuosic guitar solos, coupled with driving funky drum beats, and versions of beloved tunes such as “A Hard Day’s Night,” enthrall the crowd. They respond by singing almost every lyric to almost every song. An extended jam of “Hey Jude” brings the show to a close. The overpowering sound of every voice inside the venue singing the undying anthem brings about the encore in no time, a celebratory tribute to Prince with “1999.”

Jeff Lloyd, guitarist and vocalist, spoke with me before the show about the Beatles tribute, longevity, and fun-filled festivals.

How have you been doing recently, any interesting news?

We’ve been doing well. We’ve been on the road pretty much this whole month with a few short breaks where we’ve been able to go home. We did the first two weeks in the northeast, got home for a day or two, and then came right back out. We’re heading home after the show tonight and then to New Orleans next week. The show at The Howlin’ Wolf is the big thing we’re all looking forward to on Thursday night with Karl Denson, Mike Dillon, and the Motet. We have a couple shows after that, but this one is going to cap off a really busy April for us. It’s nice been nice getting back into the swing of things. It’s been a minute since all the guys were piling into the van and spending weeks on the road together.

Were there any songs in particular that you were most excited to put together for the Beatles tribute?

All of them, really. That entire idea came as a gift to our fans, to celebrate ten years of us being a band. We wanted to do something special for our anniversary, and we decided to bring something home to Florida that we’d never done before. Mike came up with the idea, and then each of us compiled a wish list. Obviously, certain songs were on everyone’s list, and certain songs only ended up on one or two people’s list. It’s been really fun to put these sets together. It’s definitely something that we’re discovering that is kind of limitless. There’s such a depth of material to choose from. There’s some more stuff moving forward – there are a lot of tunes that we haven’t tried yet that we’d really like to get to. It’s just such a huge catalog. What was particularly fun for us, was taking some of the older material that as it is on the record, may not translate to a live setting, at least not our live setting, and retooling songs to fit our sound and our style a little bit better.

How do feel the tribute concept has been received? Do you plan on doing tributes of any other groups?

Sure. The tribute thing is really hot in the jam scene, and we had distanced ourselves from it for a long time. We also distanced ourselves from even covering other band’s songs in the past. For us to come out and do an entire tribute set was kind of coming out of left field for us. We certainly felt like a lot of bands in the scene really rely heavily on cover songs as a crutch. We’ve prided ourselves on not doing it, but after we decided, 'Let’s go for it and do the Beatles thing. Let’s go all in,' we found that it is so much fun. I totally understand why everyone loves it so much, why everybody likes to do it. I realized for the first time, staring out in the crowd seeing how many people were singing along to the songs, and realizing even at our own shows, a majority of the people know a majority of the words to the majority of the songs. It was a unique thing to sing to a group of people like that, because it’s awesome when people are singing back at you. It’s a great feeling.

To answer the other part of your question, we just did an 80s tribute at the Aura Music and Arts Festival, which wasn’t even our idea. The founder of that festival, a friend of ours named Daryl Wolff, taps a band every year to do a tribute set. Usually one band covering another band, but in this case he asked us to do an 80s tribute, which is much more broad. We decide what style and sound we wanted to focus on. One of the things that makes the 80s so interesting is that technology became so important in music; the synthesizers and all. It was really fun messing around with that stuff.

You guys have played in Atlanta a number of times. What has been your most memorable experience in this city?

It was probably right here in this room playing a Phish after party we did years ago when this place was called The Five Spot. That was super fun. I’m a big Phish fan as are some of the other guys in the band, not all of us {chuckles}. A lot of friends flew in from out of town and the country, and there was a line out the door and around the corner. We couldn’t even get everybody in. Also, we got to play the Sweetwater 420 Festival right before Karl Denson on the main stage. My how this 420 fest has grown. It’s huge now!

Are there any festivals or shows that you are really looking forward to, or wanting to play in the future?                                 

Yeah! One that jumps to mind that we haven’t done before is the Hangout Music Festival. It’s like right on the beach. It looks like a great time and a beautiful festival and being that we're based out of Florida, it’s not too far away. We’ve been blessed by having the opportunity to play so many different festivals. Jam Cruise is always, well nothing beats Jam Cruise. We got to do that once and we’d love to get back on that boat as soon as we can. Doing Bonnaroo was a huge highlight, maybe well get back there next year. I love all the festivals we play. The middle and smaller sized festivals can be so much fun, they are more intimate with more of a connection with the audience. This summer we’re looking forward to Catskill Chill, which I don’t know if we’ve been announced for yet. I don’t even know if we’re supposed to talk about it or not. Being that we’re all originally from the northeast, that’s close to home for a lot of us. My parents are going to come, and that’s something I always look forward to.

Any updates on your next studio album?

Yes and no. There’s no date set, but we’ve been talking a lot together about what direction we want to go in and how we want to accomplish it. I think, well, I know we’re gonna try to get back to our roots, and it’s gonna be a full-length studio album. We’ve been doing the whole EP thing pretty consistently for the last year and a half, two years we released three EPs. To make the statement we want to make, it’s going to require more songs and more time.

We’ve worked with a lot of incredible engineers and producers over the years, but we want to get back to doing it our own way, on our own terms, and on our own time. We’re probably going to do a lot of tracking at our own studio. We won’t be able to do the entire thing there, but we want the ability to go in there and do things our own way. Get the drums to sound just the way we want them, get that DIY feel to the record, that dirt and that grime that needs to exist in rock and roll. I don’t want it too polished or too perfect. When I say get back to our roots, I mean like the way we recorded our first studio album, Whale. I think it will be very soon that we’ll be announcing that we’re breaking ground on the next record

The band has been going strong for more than ten years. What do you contribute the band’s longevity to?

Stubbornness? I mean, I can’t imagine doing anything else at this point. I think it’s the fact that we’re all friends. It goes without saying, that’s the most important piece of it all. If we don’t like being around each other, then we’re not going to like being in a band together. And of course, relationships evolve and change over the years. No matter what you’re doing or how you know somebody, we’re all family. We’re brothers and have been doing this together for so long that it kind of becomes second nature. We have a total system that works without saying, without needing to say things. It’s the fact that we enjoy what we are doing, because that’s what it’s all about. Even with all the crap we have to put up with around each other, with the ups and downs of the music business, it’s the joy we get from going out on stage, and rockin’ it. That never gets old.

You play so many varying styles and genres seamlessly. Where did you get your musical training?

Personally, my mother is a high school music teacher, a choir director, and she does the school musicals and stuff like that. I’ve been reading musicsince almost as long as I could read. I don’t even remember learning how to read music. I grew up around a lot of instruments. My mother has been my biggest musical influence and always will be. She taught piano lessons out of the house when I was a little kid. I grew up in this environment where I kind of resented it when I was young because I had to be quiet, but my mother was playing some pretty awesome music in the next room, teaching kids how to play. When I realized that I had a knack for it (music) in high school or something, I always wanted to. I was a jock. I thought I was going to play for the Giants or something. {laughs} Then I realized that I was better at music than I was at football, and that I didn’t have to get beaten up. I moved in that direction. Learning from my bandmates too, people I’ve been playing with for over a decade. Mike and I did a lot of learning together starting back in ’95 or ’96. We made our first record back in ’97. I’ve been playing with Jim since ’99. Jamie and Tony grew up together too playing music. We’ve all learned from each other and grown together.

What’s coming up next for you guys?

We’re really stoked about the show tonight. It should be really fun. And then New Orleans next week, basically two shows in the same night at the Howlin’ Wolf. One will be the Beatles thing and the other will be a late night set from 3 a.m. to whenever we want to call it, which will be mostly original stuff. Then we’re playing in Jackson, Mississippi, then Pensacola, and then I’m going to sleep for like a week. April has been an awesome month, but exhausting too.

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