A refreshing breath of fall weather is slowly descending upon the region. This conclusion to the music festival season is one of the best times to experience live music in an outdoor setting. With this in mind, regional festival enthusiasts should look no farther than Fairhope. Blueberry Jam is back, with two days of jams in the impeccable natural surroundings of Weeks Bay Plantation.
The physical features of Weeks Bay Plantation make for an optimal festival experience. High above a beautiful lake, a path takes attendees past local art and concessions. A contoured hill drops into an unobstructed view of the stage, which sits lakeside. The gentle, rolling incline of the hill creates a spacious, natural amphitheater with stellar acoustics. When night falls, the stage lighting reflects off the lake, creating a backdrop powered by electricity and Mother Nature.
This year’s Blueberry Jam will feature eight bands. The local scene will be represented by Lee Yankie & the Hellz Yeah, Infant Richard & the Delta Stones and Paw Paw’s Medicine Cabinet. Blueberry Jam is also bringing Zach Deputy, CBDB and Little Raine Band. McLovins will be returning for a two-night run. For the weekend’s headliner, Blueberry Jam is bringing The Heavy Pets, who will be performing “Walrus: A Tribute to The Beatles.”
The Heavy Pets are a South Florida band that thrives in the festival environment. Guitarist/vocalist Jeff Lloyd notes two factors that make outdoor performances so appealing to The Heavy Pets. Lloyd likens the festival community to a family.
Over the years, he says, The Heavy Pets have formed deep bonds with not only the bands with which they share a lineup but also the people working production behind the scenes. In addition to the backstage connections, Lloyd also sees festivals as one of the best ways to develop the band’s listening audience.
“People are all there for different reasons and to see different bands,” Lloyd said. “We get the opportunity to play to new audiences. That’s exciting, and we enjoy doing it.”
When it comes to The Heavy Pets’ sound, listeners should expect the unexpected. The group’s music can venture into jazz, funk, rock or an eclectic mix of styles. Their ever-changing sonic identity is based on The Heavy Pets’ truly collaborative writing process. While Lloyd notes that each song “takes a different path to completion,” the musical personality of a Heavy Pets composition depends on the member who introduces it to the band.
Lloyd himself brings ideas to practice to get spontaneous input from his fellow band members, but says other members will share tracks prior to rehearsal in preparation for a collaborative workshop. No matter the method of delivery, Lloyd says there’s one basic philosophy that is factored into the creation process.
“For the most part, once we all get in there together, the goal is that we get to hear your song exactly the way that you want, before everybody starts jumping in and saying, ‘Hey! It’d be a good idea to do this here,’” he explained.
While the band’s catalog boasts full-length releases, The Heavy Pets have spent the past couple of years steadily releasing smaller EPs. Lloyd says using EPs to release studio recordings has been the only option for band, and one that is economically feasible. The band’s intense tour schedule has not allowed them time to go into the studio and construct a full-length. Lloyd also notes that recording a full-length can sometimes make the songs stale. The quick creation process of the EP allows songs to remain fresher for the band.
“We were able to go in, make a record and crank it out quickly, rather than working on 10 or 12 songs all at once,” Lloyd said. “It takes a while to get them all done, get them ready and get them out. It can also be hard to be stoked about it, once you’re finished. You’ve heard them so many times.”
While EPs have served their purpose, The Heavy Pets will be entering the studio shortly after their set at Blueberry Jam. Their upcoming release will be self-produced, the band’s first such effort since their debut, “Whale.” Guitarist Michael McCleary of Surfer Blood will bring his mixing and engineering skills into the studio with the band. If all goes as planned, fans of The Heavy Pets can expect this full-length to be released in early 2017.
“We definitely have a vision in mind for this record, and we’re going to do our best to make a statement,” Lloyd said.
While The Heavy Pets have an extensive repertoire of original material, the band will use the Blueberry Jam to perform a tribute to the Fab Four. “Walrus: A Tribute to The Beatles” was supposed to be a one-time experience in celebration of their 10-year anniversary in 2015. After the performance, The Heavy Pets’ booking agency was flooded with calls from promoters requesting their Beatles tribute. Lloyd says The Heavy Pets have taken the show to cities such as New York, Denver and Philadelphia. While he is hesitant to reveal all their Liverpudlian surprises, Lloyd says their past Beatles sets have included legendary Beatles tunes such as “Hey Jude,” “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and “I Am the Walrus.”
He also says the band infuses their eclectic style with unique versions of songs such as “A Hard Day’s Night.” Ultimately, The Heavy Pets’ love of The Beatles should create a tribute to please even the most diehard Beatles fan.
“They’re some of the greatest rock songs ever written,” Lloyd admits. “I guess my favorite part about playing them is the fact that we get to restyle some of them. People might not know what song it is right away. Then, they’re like, ‘Oh! This song!’ People know the lyrics and sing back at us. That’s always super fun to have that sing-a-long thing going on.”
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