preserve their underdog spirit on Hats Off To The Bull
their recently released sixth full-length album. That spirit has characterized the Chicago alternative hard rock trio since its independent debut, 1999's Point #1. Shortly after bursting onto the scene, the group made its major label breakthrough on the platinum-selling Wonder What's Next
in 2002 which led the group to undertake high-profile tours like OZZfest. Meanwhile, their next effort, 2004's This Type Of Thinking Could Do Us In
, exceeded gold status and the follow-up Vena Sera bolstered their prominence even further. Most recently, the band scored its highest entry into the Billboard Top 200 with Sci-Fi Crimes in 2009 debuting at #6.
Most artists with over 12 years in the music industry lose their initial fire, but Chevelle burn brighter than ever on Hats Off to the Bull. Rather than simply subscribing to a tried-and-true formula, they made a conscious effort to incorporate new sounds and textures into their patented airtight anthems. As a result, the group composed its most infectious, intriguing, and impressive offering to date. Recorded over a six week period in Los Angeles with producer Joe Barresi
[Queens of the Stone Age, Coheed and Cambria] manning the desk, the group has served up their most heaviest sounding album to date. Ultimate Guitar
's Joe Matera
spoke to Chevelle's singer/songwriter/guitarist Pete Loeffler
to discuss the new release and what's new in the world of Chevelle.
UG: This new Chevelle album Hats Off To The Bull is a really heavy sounding album, in fact I think it is the most heaviest I've heard Chevelle thus far.
Thank you, man. We really worked hard on it. A lot of people don't really think its as heavy as some of our other ones though, but I think it's a little more vibe-y and I think its just plain good and so hopefully they will think the same too.
Speaking of the album's vibe, it in some ways reminded me a lot of Tool.
You know it is funny that we get compared to Tool a lotI don't know, but its probably because I don't change my vocals like Scott Stapp from Creed or something like that, you know where he changes his vocals to that growl. For me, I just sing in my normal voice and I think that's what Maynard does toobut you know what? Tool is an amazing band so there are worse bands to be compared to.
This is your sixth album to date, so does it get any easier now when it comes making albums?
It does, it is a little easier for sure. We get to push people around little bit more and do what we want which is really nice. Therefore you end up making a better record in my opinion, because you know how far you can take your vocals. You can take it a little bit further, where it allows you to up your game from one album to the next. And we really loved working with Joe Barresi on this album. He is a fantastic engineer and producer.
So what did Joe bring to the overall recording process?
When we arrived in Los Angeles we didn't realize how far we were from the studio so we had to drive to it every day which was bit of a hassle. And we didn't actual know Joe prior to making the album so we went out for a few beers first and just talked for a couple of hours and we soon found out we were really close and on the same plane of thinking when it came to making this album. So it was an easy fit and so, it was nice to work with somebody like that.
Prior to beginning the recording process for this album, you originally stated it was going to be either an acoustic and you've always included an acoustic track on your albums - or a heavy album. Obviously you took the heavy route so are there still plans for an acoustic album to still surface some time in the future?
"A & R guy at the label was really trying to get us to cross over to pop radio. And he had this idea about getting us to do an acoustic album."
Yes that was the situation, but what happened was there was a different A & R guy at the label at the time and he was really trying to get us to cross over to pop radio. And he had this idea about getting us to do an acoustic album and so I started writing a few things here and there, but it didn't really fit at the time. So at this point its been put on hold for now. I really enjoy the acoustic guitar and playing it and I do write a lot of songs on acoustic guitar but as far as for Chevelle, since it's mostly a hard rock band, its really hard to bring it down that much, you know, bring the show down and do acoustic numbers. So we decided to just go the other route and put out a hard rock record again.
When it came to the songwriting process, did it differ in any way to the process used for previous albums?
It did differ a little bit this time, where we tried some new things, and went on some really weird diets. Like eating nothing but sugar for a whole day and from that we wrote a song out of it, which is where we came up with the riff to Hats Of To The Bull'. Then the next day we went all went on an all carbs diet. And then the next day we went all coffee only. I have to state, I wouldn't suggest any one trying it.
The first single from the album is titled Face To The Floor' and is a song that taps right into the current state of the public's growing mistrust of economic systems, so are social issues like these what fuels your anger and inspiration behind the music?
Yeah. For that particular track, I watched this show about Bernie Madoff who had this Ponzi scheme and I was so taken aback with the story, as it kind of showed me that it had been happening to more than just the people who he affected over a period of thirty years and we've got issues in the stock market realm where we need some changes.. but anyway that is what Face To The Floor' is about, it is abut Bernie and it is quite an aggressive song to do. I write rock songs so I need to pull from various situations that aren't necessarily happy or sunny. I tend to pull off from different things that I find interesting. So that story was a really good fit for that heavy guitar riff.
Was there any other material recorded during the album's sessions that never made the final cut?
Yes there is a song called Glimpse Of The Con' that turned out to be like a six minute song that we really didn't want to use for the album, but wanted to use it as a bonus track. It came out really great but it's a really dark song, and tackles the topic of the afterlife. Like where do you go to when you die and what you think of when you go to bed at night. And also the way you think about various things that have a darker side of life.
Let's move on to the topic of gear, what did you use for this new, guitar and amp wise?
First and foremost I used PRS guitars. And I have a whole collection of baritone guitars too that I used like Fender baritones, Gibson baritones. Anytime I can find one, I will buy it. They're kind of hard to find, as I tend to go for a lot of the vintage ones. I also have a Danelectro baritone that sounds really good. I have a custom made Ryan Loux guitar too which is being tweaked right now as we speak so I can take it out on the road soon. As for amps, I use a lot of Mesa Boogies, and always the Mark IV or V Mesa Boogies but this time around we also used a Diezel and an amp made by Naylor, which is a small company that makes these really good sounding amps. Also Joe Barresi had a huge vintage collection of amps as he works with bands that will really go for vintage sounds.
When it came to capturing the guitar tones, was there any specific approach used in the studio?
Well I'd sit there for hours and Joe would just tweak away with the amps until we got a cool sound we likd, which is an incredible to work. We also used a pedal called a Jonny Octave made by Zvex pedals. It is a crazy pedal and I used that on Hats Off To The Bull' and a couple of other cool tracks.
How has your live set up evolved over the years?
"I guess I don't like the fact that it is in our human nature to steal things like music, and I wish we could change that."
I've gone through a couple of different rack systems like trying the MIDI system but I always come back to analog because the MIDI tends to break down. So I just use Boss Trem pedals, and EQ pedals to drop the level, and I still use my Sansamp which I love and I just got a Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail pedal which is super cool.
How have the changes in the musical climate, particularly when it comes to downloading, affected Chevelle?
It has obviously affected every rock band out there not just us. But there is a lot of good that comes with the internet too in regards to sharing and all of that. I guess I don't like the fact that it is in our human nature to steal things like music, and I wish we could change that. But one good thing that has happened is that there was a change that needed to be made as artists have always been taken advantage of, it's the way its always been unfortunately. If you don't watch your back you'll really loose out and so there was a big change that needed to happen, where now if you can, you can start on your own and do it on your own and that is a good thing for artists. And that's one of good things to come out of the whole file sharing thing. And it is wholly different world now too because of that.
From all your touring, have you had many embarrassing moments on stage?
There have been plenty of things that have happened. But one that happened recently was when my pants almost fell down. I was playing Face To The Floor' and I was rocking out and my belt came undone and I didn't realize how loose my pants were and they're falling down as I'm playing. So I literally had to spread my legs to keep the pants up.
That would have been a great treat for the female fans though? (laughs)
Yeah, you know what? I guess it wouldn't have been too bad for at least half of the crowd. (laughs)
Last time we spoke you mentioned that your relationship with your brother Joe had not been repaired is this still the case?
Yes unfortunately it is. But you know, people work through things on their own time and its been years now since we last have spoken to each other, which is unfortunate but the older I get, the more people I meet with similar situations like that. Maybe one day we will patch it up and be friends again, but at this point in time, it is not happening.
Interview by Joe Matera