The Heavy Pets
Jeff Lloyd – guitars/vocals
Mike Garulli – guitars/vocals
Jim Wuest – keys/vocals
Justin Carney – bass/vocals
Jamie Newitt – drums/vocals
You have been on a tour all summer long, and you’re finally returning back to South Florida. Tell us some stories about your adventures on tour.
9/7-9/11 Last week saw three great shows and a ton of old-school, former hometown love for us. The week kicked off Wednesday with a throw-down at the Blockley in Philadelphia. The show had “win” written all over it – one of our favorite cities combined with our favorite band to play shows with: Perpetual Groove. We have a long history together, and in addition to being fans of their music, they are great guys and we always have a great time hanging with them. The city of Brotherly Love turned out a great audience for us, and we had a great set. Many old and new friends, grooving, all hugs and smiles. This is the kind of gig that we live for.
After a long, long, long night we peeled ourselves outta bed just in time for the trek to Syracuse, right through a very flooded Binghamton, NY. The Westcott Theater is a fantastic venue that is pulling in some great bands these days for the ‘Cuse. It is rather new and is a shame that it did not exist when Jim and I went to school at SU. (Actually it did exist with a slightly different format – as an adult theater). We had a great co-bill set up with Thunder Body, old friends but with a brand new band. They play killer down-tempo reggae, real thick sound and great singing. Its the kinda chill yet powerful reggae I like to call the “Icy Fire” When we came out for an encore an audience member enthusiastically called for “Shakedown Street”. Well, we don’t play that and the call was actually Girl You Make Me Stupid. However, a little tease by me upfront turned into a full on song hybrid, with Mike and I eventually singing an altered Shakedown street chorus over a new series of chord changes presented by Justin and Jim. It was odd and very interesting, and the highlight of the night for me. Just another great night in the ‘Cuse. We followed it up with some delicious Dinosaur Barbecue the next afternoon on our way out of town for Catskill Chill.
Catskill Chill went big this year. The sight is fantastic – Frenchwoods Festival of the Performing Arts in Hancock, NY is a summer camp for talented kids who want to learn everything from Cello to Trapeze. It has the perfect infrastructure for a festival like this – a beautiful Catskill mountainside dotted with dozens of cabins complete with bunks and showers. It is a very unique and comforting environment for a festival. They put together a killer lineup full of our friends – Perpetual Groove, Umphreys McGee, Particle, DJ Logic, DJ Kraz, Zach Deputy, Dumpstaphunk, and Giant Panda – all peeps we have done shows with. This made for a wonderful backstage hang. It felt like hanging with family – or maybe thats because my Mom and Dad came out, too! Catskill Chill is the closest festival to mine and Mike Genius’s hometown of Goshen, NY, so that coupled with the early set time made it the perfect set for my folks to catch.
We fired up at 1:30PM. We were the last band added to the lineup and it was the only way to fit us in. Despite the early start a great crowd amassed for our set on the main stage, and we played our best show of the week. The production value was through the roof, and the sound on stage was crystalline. We were really feeling the love, and when we hit it nobody knew what time it was. Afterwards I spent the afternoon hanging with my folks and cruising around the festival. It was the nicest vibe I have felt at a festival like this in a long time. A lot of fans, friends and musicians got to meet my parents and were super chill. We had a real good hang and after they bounced I went down for a little nap to get ready for a long night of outrageous music.
I awoke to a little knock at my door around 7pm – “Jeff can you play a set with tonight with Wyllys and the New York Hustler Ensemble?” – “Hell yeah, I can!” This unique band is fronted by DJ Wyllys spinning House and Nu Disco, and features Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman of Trey Anastasio Band, and Zac Lasher of UMelt. I had a blast. The girls play and sing so well together and I just tried to stay in the pocket and groove with Wade and Zac. A total unadulterated danceparty. Jamie and I actually both got asked to play late nights – Jamie playing with Headtronics, featuring Steve Molitz, DJ Logic and Freakbass. He locked in with them so tight and absolutely tore it up. We jump at a chance to make people dance, and these unexpected late-night opportunities were the cherry on top of a great weekend in the Catskills. What an honor. What a great time. And then I went to Sleep.
Back in 2006, you were selected by South Florida locals to perform at Langerado Music Festival. How much do you attribute your success to that opportunity?
That was a big one. When we first started out our objectives were simple: 1. Make a kick-ass demo 2. Book Langerado. We hadn’t been a band for 6 months and accomplished them both. We recorded “Eat a Brick” in 2005 before we were really playing gigs. I sent the demo to Langerado founder Ethan Schwartz, and he dug it and put us on the lineup. We were just giddy… and oh-so green. 2007 was the real breakthrough. In ’07 we won a fan vote for a single slot. It was a nationwide competition and we were up against some real killer bands. Our chances were slim but our home-field advantage paid off. We got great national press from that, and it really helped catapult us into festival slots across the country. The 2008 Langerado at Big Cypress was our first year being booked outright, where they didn’t make me lose sleep over it, haha. We were also booked for the 2 doomed Langerados as well, so that makes 5 consecutive lineups we have been a part of. I like to think that that festival meant more to this band than any other. It is a shame to see it go the way it did, but I look back at that festival fondly and can only say thanks.
Tell us about your forthcoming album Swim Out Past the Sun. What was the recording process like?
Acoustic instruments are the root of this band. Mike and I write many of our songs that way, Justin is a killer upright player, and Jim sounds fantastic on a real piano. The whole idea behind Swim Out Past the Sun was to capture the realness, to make an acoustic record thats down home and real, but still rocks. So we decided to ditch the effects and synths, and let the songs and instruments really shine. We were working with the Grammy winning producer/engineer team of Scott Mathews and Tom Leukens, so we were able to just go in there and perform without having to stress about all of the organizational things that normally bog down our recording process. We also had a plethora of instruments to work with. Something like a dozen acoustic guitars were used, upright and electric bass, pianos, rhodes, wurlitzers, bells, toy pianos, even a creaking chair (intentionally) made it onto the record. Then of course the collaborations – having David Grisman come in and record was amazing. He is such an incredible musician, and his presence was intense . Sitting across from him playing our tunes was a highlight of my career. I also decided to utilize female voice for the first time and we got Shana Morrison (Van’s daughter) to come in and do a few songs of mine, including a duet (Stay on My Heart). She sounds fantastic, it came out beautifully. The horn parts on Lantern were written and recorded by our friend Mike Kammers in Brooklyn. We sent him tracks, he sent us “guides”, we gave him the thumbs up and he hired a bunch of nasty NY players and made it happen. It was all very exciting – it’s like “hey the horn parts came in the mail today!”
How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
Very organically. We all write and we all write using so many different styles. Because of this we try and look at our band like a songwriters collective – we do our best to play the songs exactly as the writer intended before we go about adding our own embellishments as players. Because of this we have both benefitted and been cursed by a bit of an identity crisis. In terms of evolving, I believe that is where we have covered the most ground. Having tried so many different things we know what works and what doesn’t, and hence our live show is always getting so much better. Also, the deeper into this thing we get, the more musicians we have been able to jam and collaborate with – people we have looked up to from the start are now kind of contemporaries. So that has been a huge help, ya know? To get better at something, surround yourself with people that you can learn from.
This January, you will be setting sail on your inaugural voyage upon Jam Cruise. Do you feel that this opportunity has the ability to take the band to the next level, just like Langerdo did?
I do, I think every festival has the ability to make us better. Like I said before, being around so many talented people has some pretty clear advantages, and will lend to some very unique opportunities. But then there is the whole networking side of it, where many of the people on that boat are from all over the country. So we have the opportunity to pass out seeds, if you will, to people that will bring them back and plant them all over the place. Hopefully on subsequent tours we will have friends and fans in places previously unknown to us. I will say that I haven’t been so excited about booking a festival since we won the fan vote for Langerado 2007, so my gut tells me there are some similarities in terms of what it means for this band.
You are donating a portion of the proceeds from Swim Out Past The Sun sales between its release and until Jam Cruise. What inspired you to get involved with Cloud 9 Adventures non-profit Positive Legacy?
When we found out we were stopping in Haiti it only seemed right. We are based in South Florida, which has a large Haitian immigrant population. We feel very lucky to do what we do and are elated to be on the boat, so we wanted to give back in whatever way we could. and Positive Legacy makes it easy for the bands and Jamcruisers to do so.
Where is your favorite venue to play in South Florida?
Probably the Green Parrot in Key West. It is a tiny stage in an unassuming bar, but we really tear it up every time we set foot on that stage. Part of it is the fact that when we play there we set up once and play for the whole weekend, so we have the patience to look at the consecutive shows as one long musical conversation, rather than some rushed small talk that always needs to start with hello and end with goodbye. The other part is that Key West is fun and we tend to get a lot of good folks from, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties coming down to party with us. It is like a little island takeover and it leads to a lot of, um, shenanigans.
Finish this sentence. Support local music because…
if you don’t there will be no local music to support. If there is no local music to support than the money you do spend on music is going to corporations more-so than musicians. Every successful musician got their start playing in a local band, and we must remember this. So please go and support the scene. And I don’t mean showing up… I mean support. Even if its your friend don’t ask to be on the list unless you did some work for THAT show. If you like what you hear BUY a disc or a download. And most importantly, if you like something, tell your friends about it. Say it loud. That is what it is all about, spreading love through music. And its up to YOU.
10/21 Mojo Kitchen (Jacksonville Beach)
10/22 Record release party at The Stage (Miami)
11/5 with Cope at Skipper’s Smokehouse (Tampa)
1/9-1/14 Jam Cruise (Fort Lauderdale)
3/9-3/10 Aura Music Festival ( St. Cloud, FL)