Strawberry Mansion: a Big Bomb from the Heavy Pets

A few short weeks ago, our highly venerable Tasty Spoon sent a Music Mondays shoutout to The Heavy Pets, one of the many hidden gems of today’s jam music scene. I’m new to the Banter crew, and wanted to make my intro to you all with a little take on this of my own.

Just yesterday, The Heavy Pets made the major announcement on their web page that they will soon be releasing a new album of original music. Coming nearly 3 years after their last release, a two-song EP called Stolen Smile that came out in 2014, the Pets will be triumphantly sending out their first full album in more than half a decade this fall. As an avid listener of the band since 2014 (go figure), I personally am in shock to finally get a new release from this perennial jam powerhouse and elated to be able to experience their newest sound in real time. However, my opinions on the band and their prospective release are obvious, no doubt, so I’m going to take a step back and try to succinctly paint you a clean picture of the potential tremendous and momentous significance of a new Heavy Pets album

Like many bands, The Heavy Pets have unquestionably seen a transformation and development of their music style and sound throughout their career. Although most of you readers have almost definitely not heard much about them, or heard their popular songs bopping on the radio as you cruise to work in the morning, the Pets are one of the mid-level mainstays of the jam music scene. They’re not at the top, where eternal titans like The Grateful Dead, Phish, and the Allman Brothers are deeply rooted into the very concept of jam music, but the Pets sit comfortably among well-touted crews such as Umphrey’s McGee, String Cheese Incident, moe., and Widespread Panic.

Their initial sound, on their groundbreaking first release from 2007 called Whale, focused on bright reggae, folk, and jazz riffs paired with quirky vocals that almost always descends into explosive jam peaks paired with flawless synchronized playing. As the years went on, and they released more music, the band’s essence shifted slightly to have more of a structure and clear style. High paced jam rippers from the Whale days, like “Sleep”, “So Thank You Music”, or “Precious Mind”, faded to the background and more concise, vocally-focused songs like “No More Time”, “Jackie Bones”, and “Drenched” came to the forefront.

By the time the Pets put out their last studio piece, 2011’s Swim Out Past the Sun, their musical style had even further evolved away from their original high voltage jam sound to a whimsical, semi-acoustic tone that leaves you floating on a cloud instead of running like an antelope. The most recent EP’s, like Rags and Aces and Stolen Smile) have shown that the band hasn’t totally lost its rocking roots, and could even potentially have a stylistic future infused with some funk (see Stolen Smile’s B side, “Sigismondi”).

…Which brings us to Strawberry Mansion. Now that the Pets have had 10 full years of experience together, complete with three full albums and several other EP’s, they have a tremendous range of musical styles with which to craft this newest piece. It’s been 6 years since their last studio album, and that one was acoustic and completely out of left field. Their live shows and radio play still focus on the incredible tracks from Whale, to no surprise, but that sound sits a full decade of experiences away. There is no way for us to know which direction Strawberry Mansion will go, and I think that’s exactly what the Pets want. In the jam scene, this album will be highly anticipated; and the true mystery of what will come out only fuels and drives that anticipation further.

Will it be funky and dancy? Will it slow us way down and be chock full of acoustic ballads and blissful lullabies? Or will it take the band back home to blistering guitar solos and 10-minute elaborate studio jams? That question is up for you all to discuss and for the Pets to ultimately answer for us later this fall. In the meantime, do yourselves a favor and give The Heavy Pets an honest listen. Whatever it is that you look for in music, I am confident you can find a parallel within the canon of the Heavy Pets. Try out their past studio tunes, watch a live set or two on YouTube, and keep an eye out for Strawberry Mansion’s first singles coming out in the next few weeks.

For me, I’ll be waiting with baited breath for what this new album has in store. I’m hoping for a masterfully crafted, harmonious fusion of everything they’ve produced thus far. I want to hear the rock and reggae of Whale, the big-band style and booming power chords of The Heavy Pets, and Jeff Lloyd’s beautiful voice paired with light and happy riffs a lá Swim Out Past the Sun. I certainly have things I’d rather hear over other things, but truthfully the band can’t go wrong in my mind. Whatever direction they take me, I will be open minded and just ecstatic to be right here for this next step in one of my favorite band’s careers.

As I write this, the Heavy Pets staple “Cleetus” is bumping on my Spotify playlist. As I wait for Strawberry Mansion over the next few weeks, I’m gonna sit back, put my feet up, and listen intently to the unique and dazzling musical symphony the Pets are able to produce…I suggest you do the same. 

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