The Heavy Pets have always had a conflicted relationship with cover songs. "We always had a soft spot for covers, but we avoided playing them for a long time because we always thought it was overdone in our scene," explains singer and guitarist Jeff Lloyd, who helped form the band 11 years ago after a move to South Florida from upstate New York. Recently, the five-piece — also consisting of guitarist Mike Garulli, bassist Tony D'Amato, drummer Jamie Newitt, and keyboardist Jim Wuest — changed its tune on cover songs. These days, the Heavy Pets play entire concerts of Beatles tracks.
"It was so far out of the box for us to play Beatles songs that it challenged us vocally and musically. It made us a better band," Lloyd says. Not long after the bandmates first dipped their toes into cover songs, Aura Festival asked them to play a set of exclusively '80s tribute songs. "We weren't ecstatic about doing '80s songs at first, but then we were driving to play a festival, and we listened to '80s music. We quickly picked 30 songs we'd like to play, and we put in crazy hours to prepare them."
As much as the Pets have enjoyed performing covers, the Boynton Beach-based band, whose members have been playing together for three years, are extremely grateful for the group's upcoming Friday-night set at Miami's Fractal Beach. "It's an original set we're ecstatic about. We don't want to forget why we're doing this, and that's to do our own thing."
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Their own thing is something Lloyd is careful not to define clearly because he doesn't want to typecast the band into only one genre. "We like to say there are only two types of music: good music and everything else. We were more of a jam band when we started, but our influences have shifted so many times in 11 years. I like vocal-based music, other guys like jazz or dance music, and we all have a soft spot for reggae."
After a spring filled with touring, the Heavy Pets plan to make time in May to record some new songs. "All five of us are songwriters. We make sure that at each concert, you hear one song from each of us. That also means we have a surplus of songs, so we're all competing for which songs we're going to record."
Which means don't expect an album of cover songs anytime
Fractal Beach with the Heavy Pets, Ott, Thriftworks, Govinda, Truth, and others. 1 p.m. Friday, March 11, to Sunday, March 13, at Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Key Biscayne; 305-960-4603; virginiakeybeachpark.net. Tickets cost $30 to $275 via fractalbeach.com.