Pet Sounds

Tulsa band Pets. stretches its post-quarantine legs with lively new indie rock singles and shows

“Seeing Stars”, released today worldwide, features some of the more restless drum movement to come of out indie rock in a while. As the song transitions from verse to chorus and back, the instrumental segues feel like a runway takeoff, scrambling along tarmac, then achieving glorious lift. The band behind the new single, Pets., has also been preparing for liftoff for some time.

On May 28, 2021, the Tulsa-based indie rock band released its first single, “Jungle Room”, and it’s comparably more relaxed, like a giddy settling-in before departure.

“Jungle Room” kicks off with a nice rhythmic guitar over a jungle ambiance (water flowing, birds chirping). It builds from there, benefiting from three guitarists and a skilled drummer. Frontman and guitarist Matthew Bradley’s voice is key. Deep and rolling, it pulls the listener through the track without distracting from the incredible instrumentals.

“Jungle Room” comes in at 4 minutes 4 seconds. Matt’s lyrics are replete with beautiful and somewhat enigmatic lines that paint faint, atmospheric images: “green leaves in our tracks/skyless scenery”; “a restless fever/hollow bones will shiver.”

This music has been written and recorded for a while, but it was tucked away like Pets. itself in the worldwide shutdown. 

The band formed in the Fall of 2019 and anticipated playing live shows by March of 2020. Fate, of course, had a different plan. 

“We just practiced all of 2020,” Bradley said. “We just wrote songs. We were really itching to play for an audience.”

The five-person crew met for practice in a space where it could socially distance. Pets. wrote and perfected its music away from the eyes and ears of would-be fans. This process allowed the songs to ferment in private, settling into their sound at their own pace. 

Chayton Burleson, who plays guitar and keys, pointed out that isolation had its benefits. “It kind of resulted in us just playing for ourselves and just having fun,” Burleson recounted.

Drummer Michael Davis agreed. “I feel like it’s kind of a blessing in disguise. We had time to incubate essentially all of our music, our set, and grow as a band of people in a sense versus just musically.”

The maturity shows both in the new single and in the band’s recent performances. As 2020 wound to a close, Pets. seized the chance to perform for Chillout 2020, a virtual concert put on by RSU Radio

Though the quintet performed to an untraditional audience—an empty auditorium and a few students and faculty with cameras—it was an excellent debut. Pets. played a 5-song set, including its latest single and a few from an upcoming EP. Bradley was the only member unmasked, while the other members played their way smoothly through their first official outing. Even in this unusual setting, the chemistry that crystallized in isolation was clear. 

Pets. is rounded out by Nathan Hairston on bass and Jordan Hodges on guitar. Hairston is the newest member, taking the place of Robert Hunt who played on the upcoming EP. 

With lineup changes, an EP recorded, and a year’s worth of practice, the band has already made a full evolution behind the COVID curtain before stepping into the spotlight. 

“It’s strange,” Davis said. “It’s kind of old to us in a way, because we’ve been playing [the music] so long.”

The group is glad to be finally playing shows. More recently, it played the main stage at Mayfest 2021 in Tulsa, OK, to an actual in-person crowd.

“We had played the songs so many times prior to having an audience,” Bradley said of the show. “Being able to actually see how people respond to it was really…” he paused, a lyricist who couldn’t seem to find the right words for it. 

“Our music takes on new lives and new inspiration whenever you see people resonate with it or really have a good time,” Bradley continued. “That show we played at Mayfest was a great first show for us because we were like, whoa like these songs, people are really resonating with them. It’s not just hunkered down in the practice space anymore.”

Pets. is Bradley’s pet project. It grew out of an idea he had for a solo project, then cemented to the band it is now. Traditionally a drummer, he had never sung or played in a band before, but after a year of acclimating to the role, he sits easily as a frontman even if it’s not what he originally envisioned. 

“It’s funny… but when we started we were just trying to go for a more chill type sound,” Burleson, who was one of the band’s earliest members, recalled. “Not necessarily like we are making a rock band but by the time we got Michael and our first bassist, I was like, yeah, this is a rock band. And it felt right.” 

It felt right, and it certainly sounds right. That year of practice has led to a full and developed sound, as “Jungle Room” demonstrates. 

Most of the band’s members are in their early 20s and take influence from the music of the 2010s. Bradley cites The Killers, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, and some late 80s bands like The Cure as groups that made up the soundtrack to his early songwriting process. Davis, however, loves Rush and Prog Rock. The influences mesh into a sound he called “New-New-Wave” and Burleson called simply “Rock-n-Roll.” 

“We had a lot of time to really refine everything and kind of develop our style and sound,” Bradley said, looking back and looking ahead. “Of course it’s going to be subject to evolving and changing the more shows we are able to go out and play now.” 

Elizabeth Wenger
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Born and raised in Tulsa, OK, Elizabeth Wenger is a writer and journalist. She's into absurdist literature, art, and music.
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aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.

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