is trying to keep a positive attitude. Despite the fact that his former bassist (not to mention brother), Joe Loeffler
, was kicked out of the band in 2005, Pete has been attempting to stay focused on the future with his latest release, Vena Sera
. The Chevelle frontman was keeping that positive vibe going, too, until another problem reared its ugly head: A magazine editor leaked Vena Sera in its entirety onto the Internet recently.
Even after being wronged by a journalist and the drama with his brother ongoing, Pete
was still completely hospitable and candid when he recently talked with UG writer Amy Kelly
about the ups and downs of the past year.
UG: You recorded the latest album in Las Vegas, which I understand was a change of pace for Chevelle.
We wanted to do something totally different. We wanted to go to a warm climate, where when we were done working at the day, we could actually go out and do things, meet people. We have a lot of friends in Vegas. We came to the heart of chaos! We went in and they have a brand new studio there - I think it's typically more for hip-hop, R&B-type acts, but we brought out our whole rock crew into there and kind of took over the joint for a month.
That gritty, chugging Chevelle sound really drives the opening song Antisaint. What was the songwriting process like on that track?
This record was actually compiled over a couple of years. A few of these tracks had been kind of put aside, then used on our current record. So we kind of revisited a lot of our older material lying around. There are pieces of guitars lying here there. So that riff wasn't a complete song until Elvis (producer Michael "Elvis" Baskette) came in and said, Hey, you really need to work on this riff. It needs to be on this record.
So we actually just kind of mulled it over and Antisaint came out of it.
It's kind of a bitter song. It's a typical Chevelle vibe, where it's melodic and it's heavy, but it's not crushing all the time. It's one of the more negative tracks. It's not a really negative record, but we always kind of gear towards some of the darker material. Antisaint is one of those.
When you developed that initial riff, did you immediately know you had to make it into a song?
I knew there was. It's kind of a chugging rhythm that we had, and the bass line carries that song. I write on bass, I write on guitar. Sometimes I'll just come up with a melody in my head. When I have something that I want to keep, I have my camcorder. I flip it on and I sit in front of it. That way I have a video of what I was playing and how I was playing it. You've got to catch things and then you can always come back to it, bring it to the band and say, What about this?
Humanoid has a great structure, where it sounds like the guitar is doubling all of the vocals. How did you decide on that?
That song is one that we had done before we actually officially started writing for the new record. It was sort of like we knew that it was really good, but we didn't have it fully mapped out yet. We all sat down and said, Well, it needs this. We need to do it a couple more times. It's all about getting together and hashing it out. It's hard to do that when you're on the road.
It sounds like you come up with most of the riffs or first ideas, but do jam sessions really help construct the rest of the song?
|"This record was actually compiled over a couple of years."|
Typically the stuff is there. They give me free reign with writing, Sam (Loeffler, drums) and Dean (Bernardini, bass), the newest member. With our bass player Dean, it was a totally different experience working with him on this record. He gave a lot more input and did a lot more. I guess, he added a lot to this record with his input. He's a really talented bass player and Sam's a really talented drummer. But as far as writing goes, I have free reign. Sam just tells me what is good and what we need to set aside. He's a pretty good cheese meter!
Is it true that you were looking to get away from screaming and stick to more melodic singing?
I think I've done enough screaming for 3 lifetimes now! This album does have it as well. I think I focus on a little bit more of the singing. Typically the screaming should be played at certain key points in the song. You know, we're not a screamo band. We're not a metal band. It shouldn't be the focus. It should be the release. I think I just tried to kind of put it where it's needed and not be over-excessive with it.
I've read in the past that you and the other members had been somewhat critical towards each other in songwriting.
Yeah. It was hard with 3 brothers. We fought a lot on the road. Actually, I think I can say that we hadn't fought that much. It's just we didn't talk that much. It was one of those things where Joe wasn't happy and he didn't know how to get out of it. It was something that he started when he was very young. He was 14 when we hit the road. He didn't know how to change it, he didn't really enjoy it. It was difficult before. But I do want to say that the focus should be on the new lineup and how that's changed and how positive that is for us.
Your brother did have some harsh responses to the situation of him being kicked out. Considering you are brothers, how do you react to something like that?
We haven't really spoken since he left. He's one of those people that when he gets frustrated, he really feels a lot. In a way, I kind of have to back off. He kind of goes there without you even having to say anything. Just his comments, it's obvious that he's a very, very hard person to work with. He makes that known, even in his statements, his rebuttals to us. He even says multiple times that he quit multiple times before. This was the 4th time that he was out of the band. He quit 3 times before. His demands were just unbelievable, the things he wanted to do. The 4th time, we just said, We've tried. You're out. You're not working. You're not doing anything to make it better.
Let's talk a bit more about the songwriting. Were there any songs on Vena Sera that you weren't sure were going to pan out or that you almost tossed aside?
I know that song and it's called I Get It! That's a song that we were mulling over quite a bit and weren't sure if it was going to make it on the record. I'm not sure if it's the best representation of our band, but I think that's a good thing in a way, to branch out and do something different. It sort of has like an up-tempo, almost like a disco beat to it. It's a really good song, but as far as laying it out live it's a really tricky one to do. We have yet to actually perform it live. It's still early on, but it's hard.
What will be the biggest obstacle to translating I Get It live?
The fact that it has 2 guitars in it. It has this underlying tone to it and we're a 3-piece, stripped-down. If I were just to play acoustic, I wouldn't be able to have the guitar for the choruses. So I'm really kind of struggling with it and I'm not sure what to do.
Have you ever had that problem with other songs?
Not really. A lot of the tracks that had to do with it were songs that you could do other things without needing any kind of electric guitar tone. So typically when we go out on tour, we're a rock band and we play our rock songs. That's what we enjoy playing. We understand that radio is a tool that we've used. It's one of those things that you shouldn't shy away from melody. You shouldn't shy away from choruses. They kind of go hand in hand with us. But as far as like the music that we gravitate towards to playing live, they're not necessarily singles. Usually they're songs like Another Know-It-All
, which aren't typically singles. The singles are the ones that people know the best and they sing along. So in a way, they're fun to play as well.
What equipment setup did you use on the latest record? Did you experiment at all?
I did. I used a bunch of guitars. I used Gibson Baritones. I used Fender Baritones. I used Paul Reid Smith Baritones. These are primarily the guitars that I use. I use really old or really new, really hard-to-find guitars called Baritone, which is a longer scale. We tune down to drop A# for most of these songs. That's really hard to do on a standard scale, so I have a guitar that's being made specific.
As far as amps go, I use Mesa Boogie. I use Ampeg B4 heads. I use the old Marshalls. I use pretty much everything you can think of! I use a really cheap pedal as well. That one is called SansAmp. It's a distortion pedal that I use, only it's very hard to control. It's very low-endy. But if you can harness it, you can get an interesting sound from it.
How long have you used the Mesa Boogies in Chevelle?
|"I think I've done enough screaming for 3 lifetimes now!"|
I've used Mark IV heads from Mesa Boogies, I guess since I was 15, 16 years old. They're a company that I really like. I know that they have sort of the corner on the heavy music scene right now, but it all depends on what circle you're in. It's funny because they say that I sort of spearheaded the Mark IV heads! It's kind of compliment to me. Even though I use Mesa Boogie, I don't use the traditional duel rectifiers. I use the sort of lesser-known ones that I think if people were to investigate, they would really find that it's a great amp.
When you're on tour, do you usually use the same setup as you do in the studio?
We're pretty consistent. I change out pedals quite frequently as far as my pedalboard goes. But the backbone are my 2 Mark IV heads. As far as the tone goes, if you pack on too much, it actually gets a little too fuzzy for me. I think, for me anyway, less is more.
I noticed that fans can get a listen to all the songs from Vena Sera in their entirety on the Clear Channel site. Was that your idea?
Well actually, I didn't know about that until a couple of days ago. I got to the site and I checked it out. I want people to have the music as far that getting out there, but at the same time I was a little confused as to why they would put that all out there before the record came out. I'm not really going to touch that because I think that's someone else's thing.
What I do have to say about the whole music industry encompassing downloading and that problem, it became known firsthand to me the other day. The reason why the label probably put it up on Clean Channel and all that was because it actually got leaked recently. They tracked it back to the leak, and that person was an editor at Blender Magazine! That guy got tracked all the way back to it. For some reason, he let it get out on the Internet and that's really frustrating for me, as an artist who is trying to protect it until it's ready to go out. That's just really frustrating and I don't know what to do about that. But Blender is certainly not a magazine that I support in any way. They are really, really brutal to artists and people who put a lot of time in their work and effort into their music. Whether it's rock or whatever genre it is, they're brutal. They stuck it to us as far as our new record goes. They leaked it. That's reality right there. I don't know what the repercussions are of that.
How do you feel about the average kid downloading off the Internet?
It's out of my hands. At the end of the day, you really want people to be excited and to search for it and want it. So without going off on a tangent, it's not going to go away. So hopefully it will turn out to be a good thing in the end and people will use it to support an artist and in some way it will be a good thing in the end. I guess I'm trying to take a whole positive approach to it because it's been a couple years now and it's not going away. We want people to search us out and to want music.
What are your touring plans for this year?
We've been out for 3 weeks supporting the record. We have a band called Strata coming out with us, who are our good friends. They have a new record coming out as well. The other band that is coming is undetermined at this point. We have a couple that are in the works. We're not sure which one is going to come out, but we're going to hit the road and we're going to do headlining gigs from here on out. We did a bunch of radio shows we're going to do with a bunch of other great bands.
It's kind of funny, we're going to do this NCAA basketball thing! We're not into sports that much and we got a call to go out and do this event. We play and then LL Cool J plays! It will be something entirely different, so that will be a huge thing for us. Yeah, we're going to mix it up a little bit!