With its Helmet inspired riffing and Tool-esque vocal stylings, Chevelle have managed to combine their influences to forge a unique sound of their own since having first formed back in 1995. Led by guitarist and vocalist Pete Loeffler and augmented by his brother Sam Loeffler on drums and their brother-in-law Dean Bernardini on bass, the Chicago-based outfit has remained a staple on the rock scene and a familiar favorite on the touring circuit. The band's new studio outing their fifth to date - is titled Sci-Fi Crimes and is the follow up to the band's 2007 smash album, Vena Sera.
As Pete Loeffler explains, "this record represents a natural progression in the band's maturity and sound. We really wanted to take the time to write about some of our experiences and feelings since our last tour, both during and in the time afterwards." Too often the band has been lumped under the "just another hard rock band" moniker, but with Sci-Fi Crimes, Chevelle emerges as an admittedly heavy-sounding group whose wit and intelligence now stand fully revealed.
They have also just completed their "Stimulate This" tour this past summer which saw them team up with Staind, Shinedown and Halestorm as part of a series of shows that offered tickets and concessions at a reduced price. As the band jumped on their tour bus after having performed their last show of the "Stimulate This" tour, Joe Matera phoned Pete Loeffler from his home of Australia to chat about the band's brand new album, their record label woes and being tagged a Christian band.
UG: You've just finished performing the last date of the "Stimulate This" summer tour?
Pete Loeffler: Yeah, we just finished it tonight.
How did it all go?
It went really well and I think it achieved the objective we wanted to happen though some of it we didn't like due to things such as some of the retailers not adjusting their pricings for the tour. But we all did it and I think we did well with it all.
How did the new songs translate live and were received by your audiences on the Stimulate This tour?
They went down really, really well. We had been starting the show with a song called Sleep Apnea which is the first track off the new record and even before we started playing that - and this is before people even knew we had new record coming out - people were automatically digging it. It's a very driving and melodic song and people seemed to get it right away and that's been a really good sign.
You continue to build a solid and ever expanding audience through much touring.
Yeah we've been at this point where we've been at it for a long time now, that when it comes to touring we've maintained a lot of our core fan base especially in the U.S. And as much as we want to build up new fan bases, especially in countries like Australia and the like, it is difficult because you have something that you've done something that you've worked extremely hard for and then you sort of have to start all over again in a new territory.
Many bands find that they may be very successful in their country or elsewhere, but going to new territories can be quite a daunting endeavor for some
Yes like we found out when we came out to Australia once before. It was a complete disaster because the label that we were with there didn't do anything about it, they didn't promote the record, and they didn't even know we were there! And when we were there, we did like two or three interviews and that was it. We would go do the shows and find out that we had fans in Australia that had no idea we were even there because there wasn't even a poster with our name on it anywhere. They [the label] had three people and they weren't even at work! We saw them maybe once the whole time we were there, it was a total joke. It was very disappointing as nobody knew we were even there. So we weren't able to make any sort of impact. And as you know, it is very expensive to go to a place like Australia. It eventually cost us, my brother and I, almost $10,000 each individually. And after all was said and done, the label didn't even cover any of our expenses.
With your new record, the first thing I noticed upon listening to it was that it sounds like a mixture of Point #1, your first record and Wonder What's Next the band's second record.
Well that is a great compliment because that was kind of where we were going with the new record. The whole polished and perfect record thing, you know, we are kind of down on it now because it doesn't really show the band and what they're really like. If you are going to perfectly tune everything, or put samples over everything, that is never going to be what the band or any band really sounds like. So we brought in Brian Virtue [co-producer] and did a record that I think sounds definitely like us, because it is us playing our songs. And if we don't know how to play something then we would write something else that we knew we could play.
With Sci-Fi Crimes being your fifth studio album, how does it feel to have reached album number five into your career?
The best thing is, knowing that we're a career band and to be able to do everything we love for a living is amazing. I appreciate it every single day.
"I used lots and lots of stuff and there is so much stuff that it would be hard to name each and every piece of gear I used."
As you just mentioned you co-produced Sci-Fi Crimes with Brian Virtue (Jane's Addiction, 30 Seconds to Mars, Deftones) in Nashville, Tennessee. What did Brian bring to the overall process?
The biggest thing with Brian was that we both saw eye to eye on all of our ideas. He had the same ideas as we had as far as making a record where the songs are great and the production is great, but really, sounds different to all the overworked music and overproduced music that is out there. We went into the studio knowing that. And he also pushed us to be better players and better musicians. And in turn we also pushed him to push us. He didn't just settle on anything, which was great.
The album has song titles such as Roswell's Spell and Highlands Apparition. And I've been informed that many of these songs were inspired by your previous visit to Australia?
That is correct. It was one of those things where we don't have the skies here in the U.S like those that are in Australia. I mean outside of the cities there, the skies are so incredibly clear that you can see further and see so many more stars. And it was one of those nights where we were driving along and pulled over and we looked up and realized it. And it stuck with us ever since. We had this experience[sic] like after a show one night thereand it was midnight and it was one of those things. But we never really had an encounter with anything. It was more of a joke concerning those song titles and its all tongue and cheek. It is more about the people who claim to have encounters than their actual encounters.
Going back to the album, did you record any other material during the recording sessions for it?
Yeah we recorded three extra tracks but we don't know what is happening with them. We expected them to be on a different version of the record but they have not shown up yet. So we're going to ask our label what the hell is going with that.
What sort of gear did you use for this album?
I used lots and lots of stuff and there is so much stuff that it would be hard to name each and every piece of gear I used.
Can you at least run through a general idea of what you used?
Well of course there was stuff like Mesa Boogie, Bogners, an Orange, a Diezel VH4, vintage Marshalls, Fenderswe used a bunch of things that we have picked up over the years and some stuff that we also actually bought that was new for the sessions. Guitar wise, there was a combination of many things like Paul Reed Smiths, and lots of baritone guitars everything from Gibson baritones to Fender baritones. I mean there was just so much stuff we used.
What about effect pedals?
Again there are so many to mention but there was everything from a MXR Phase 90 to a Boss Tremelo to a Boss Equalizer.
"The best thing is, knowing that we're a career band and to be able to do everything we love for a living is amazing."
What about when it came to capturing guitar tones in the studio, was there any specific method you preferred?
It was a little bit standard for us as we just hooked up a bunch of heads and then got Brian to mike everything up. And we also tried using a bunch of different mikes with the different heads and different cabinets and kept going through them all song by song until we found something we liked. And as different songs went by, we also tried heaps of different angles as well. So every day was an adventure in tone for us.
Have you repaired the relationship you had with your brother, former bassist Joe Loeffler?
No. He has got another band and he is working on some other stuff that he likes. I mean we never really had that much of a relationship with him in the first place to be fair, so there is not really any love lost there.
Your first album was on a Christian label and ever since then the band has courted controversy over it being a Christian band.
To us, it was and is, not that big of a deal. Our first label was owned by a distributorship that distributed to Christian bookstores and things like that. And it doesn't bother us at all to be called a Christian band. Although we have made a specific point to keep our religion out of our band and out of our shows because we believe it is everybody's choice to go and do whatever they want. And though we do have our individual faiths and all those things, it is not something that we'll preach to the people out there. So there were never any misconceptions for us or for our label in that regards. It really was what everybody else was putting out there. We know exactly who we are and what we do. And we love it
Interview by Joe Matera
"We have made a specific point to keep our religion out of our band and out of our shows."