Back in November, upstatemusicandfood.com got to sit down with Jeff Lloyd before a performance. He is the guitarist for The Heavy Pets, the premier jam band from Florida, that has roots in Upstate New York and Syracuse. They are in the middle of recording a full length album, as well as a full tour schedule. We thank Jeff for taking the time to sit down with us.
George DiFabio for UMF: I know it’s a cheesy question that you are often asked, but we are a regional website, so it’s pertinent information. Can you tell me about some of your roots to Upstate New York?
Jeff Lloyd: Yeah, sure. The other guitar player, Mike and I, grew up together in a little town called Goshen, New York. It’s down in Orange County. I have family up here in Syracuse, actually over in Fayetteville and I ended up going to Syracuse University, in large part because of the family I had up here. So I started playing music with Mike down in Goshin back when we were in high school. My freshman year at Syracuse I met Jim, our keyboardist. Mike and I have been playing music since we met, and Jim and I’ve been playing music since we met.
UMF: Were you going to S.U. for music?
Jeff: No, neither of us were going for music. I went originally for physics. I ended up getting a degree in economics and Jim was IT.
UMF: Your 80’s set you did at the Aura Festival and at Catskill Chill. Is this the first year you started doing that?
Jeff: Yeah it was. It was actually Aura’s idea, so to speak. The founder of that festival, Darryl Wolff, a good friend of ours . . . Aura had a tradition of – he would have one band do a tribute set every year. The Main Squeeze did an incredible tribute to Michael Jackson. Kung Fu did a tribute to Stevie Wonder that was amazing. When he gave us the call about it, it was the first year where he decided to go for a period of time rather than a specific artist. So it was cool, but there is a lot of incredible music from the 80’s to choose from, so the hardest part about doing that was selecting what not to play.
Jeff: Inevitably, but then you got people being like, “Oh, I totally thought you were gonna do this” or, “Where’s the Guns n Roses” or, “Where’s the power ballads” or stuff like that. We just chose to kind of stick more on the New Wave and dance music kind of vibe. But we had a lot of fun with that. So we’ve done it now three times- Aura, Catskill, and we did one show down in DC.
UMF: Are you planning on doing any more if it comes up?
Jeff: Uhh, if it comes up, but we’re recording a new album right now and we are kind of focusing our energy on original music, as it should be. But we had fun with the 80’s set and would be happy to do it again.
UMF: Your new album – you literally just stepped out of the studio. Did you just finish recording the new album?
Jeff: No, we wrapped up for a while. We didn’t finish anything, but we got a lot accomplished. We’re recording at our own studio in South Florida. It’s a collaborative effort with the other guy – the guy that actually owns the space – our good friend Mike McCleary from the band Surfer Blood. He’s engineering the record. We’re producing it. We’re doing it all. It’s a really home spun, DIY kind of record. It’s really fun for us because we really haven’t made a record like that since 2007. So we’re pumped at the prospect. We’re really liking the way things are turning out. We were able to get the bulk of three songs recorded in the last couple weeks and once we get back in December we’re gonna go back into it full throttle and hopefully in late Winter / early Spring we’re gonna have another full length record ready to be released. And our first self produced, full length record since 2007.
Jeff: You know, there was ambitions, and it’s hard to say. Once we get going here, we started to realize that there’s a lot we could get accomplished. We didn’t just want to bury ourselves in songs. This is kind of an experiment. We want to make sure that we can get things to where we want them, so we started with three songs. We’re gonna get those songs finished up. We’re gonna take a real critical look. Let our ears rest for a little bit of time and then go back and listen to it. And if it turns out the that way we’re all hoping it’s going to, then we’re gonna go back in December.
UMF: That’s a cool approach. At least you don’t feel like you need to go in and cram out “X” because you have some deadline.
Jeff: Exactly! And that’s what’s nice about doing it at our own place. We’re not exactly sitting around looking at our watches. Not that any of us wear watches, but you know what I mean. We don’t feel that ticking clock. There’s no stress or anxiety there because of that. We get to just kind of experiment and mess around with different tones and see what sticks. It’s fun.
UMF: Anything different about these three songs you’ve recorded. Anything drastic or is it right in line with your style?
Jeff: It’s coming along like we’d expect, but because of the way that we’re recording it we have the opportunity to check out a lot of different guitar amplifiers between us and Mike with the stuff he’s got – Mike McCleary The guy engineering the record. We have a plethora of different amps and guitars to choose from, so even though it’s an “easy” guitar part per say, that I’m going in to record, I’m interested in hearing all these different guitars and amps just to see which ones work.
UMF: Gotta use the best tool for the job, right?
Jeff: Exactly! And now we’re getting to that point where now we just take away – record a bunch of stuff and just take away and leave the best stuff in. We’ll see what happens.
Jeff: We’ve got a band called Space Bacon that I don’t know too much about. We’re playing with them in Philadelphia. I’m excited about that. We just had a band open for us in Albany called the Gang of Thieves and they were awesome! Really cool band out of Burlington, VT. We were totally stoked to work with them, they’re a bunch of nice dudes. And Primate Fiasco has been great. They’re a lot of fun and very different. It’s really cool to have a completely divergent style and instrumentation from one band to the next. I think that’s really important for the flow of a show. And we have the Ron Hollaway Band performing with us tomorrow in Brooklyn. That’s a co-bill. It’s not like they’re opening for us. We’re very ecstatic. He’s a legend and just being able to play with him is gonna be fantastic.
UMF: Any favorite places to stop at in Syracuse when you’re here?
Jeff: Oh man, so many. I used to kick it when I went to school here at Harry’s Bar and Grill a lot. When I was a senior and I could get away with pretending to be a little classier, I would come down here to Awful Al’s. That was super fun. You know, there’s been so many places that have come and gone. There was a place down here in Armory Square that we used to play that changed names a half dozen times.
Jeff: Yeah, it was originally Styleen’s and then it was Armory something or another. Planet 505 was another place we used to play a bunch when we were here. But of course I love Dinosaur Barbecue, and I know that it went away for a while and then came back, but Clark’s is incredible and that roast beef sandwich is worth it every single time! And then the Brooklyn Pickle if you wanna keep going . . .
UMF: Last question – are there any bands that you’re into right now that are just blowing you away?
Jeff: Well, it changes. I had a long drive yesterday and I listened to a bunch of Blitzen Trapper records. They just continue to blow me away. The songwriting and just the way that they put their songs together I think is incredibly creative. We got to play with them last year which was awesome. I really like Doctor Dog. I’ve really been focusing a lot of my listening time on vocal music. I’m a sucker for a well written song, sung well.
You can keep up with the latest Heavy Pets news including the release of their new album by watching their official website or Facebook page.