Chevelle Discuss Celebrating 20 Years as a Band, Songwriting + More
Full Metal Jackie recently caught up with Pete and Sam Loeffler of Chevelle at the Loudwire Music Festival in Colorado. In this exclusive interview, they address celebrating 20 years as a band, steering clear of drama, songwriting, recording at their home studio and more. Check out the interview below:
How much do you guys pay attention to new bands and how does hearing new music make you curious to try different things with Chevelle?
Pete Loeffler: To answer that correctly, I probably have to do it bluntly. I probably don't listen to a whole lot of new bands. But, I did hear an amazing band about a year ago called Royal Blood that knocked my ass off. Amazing band. I still want to see them live, I haven't. I've seen them on YouTube, it's almost the same thing [laughs]. As far as them affecting us, we very much have our style and sound and places we go, so I don't think we have much influence from things anymore because we're kind of on our own.
Sam Loeffler: We kind of want to be on our own a little bit too.
I wonder if it's hard sometimes you don't want to listen to stuff because you don't want to pick up anything or anyone to start saying anything.
PL: Especially if it's really bad and it's on a lot, so if you hear it around you're like, “Argh, I don't want that to influence me it's terrible. It's creepy, whatever.” Is there any part of us that seems jaded in any way for coming up on 20 years in the rock/metal scene?
That says a lot, to be a band and still be together after 20 years and still not hate each other and want to continue to do this.
PL: I agree with everything.
SL: Dean [Bernardini] hates me, but that's alright. As long as he does it in front of my face. But we do love our jobs, we love to write and we're able to play the songs every day live that we've written that we like. So, we're performing songs we like and that makes a big difference when you're doing something that you love and are inspired by.
What's been the single biggest factor that affected the way Chevelle has evolved throughout your career?
PL: Wow, that's a big question. For me I think it's writing. When we're writing it's important to not write the same song twice or anything similar [laughs]. Having Dean in the band was a big change, it's been eleven, almost twelve years now too.
A couple of years back, we did an album called Sci-Fi Crimes and we changed how we did things and sculpted the tones ourselves and painstakingly poured over the process of making an album and we learned a lot and we took a lot of that knowledge into the new albums that we did recently. So, that was the biggest change for me personally. It was 13 to 14 hour days, in Tennessee in this tiny little place that wasn't an amazing studio by any means but it was a huge defining point for me as a songwriter.
SL: In the past we had used some producers that were more I think, oriented towards whatever was going on stylistically for rock music at that time. And we didn't want to be a part of that. We wanted to go in, play the music and record it the way we played it and have it be that and not edit it, not use all these different things to change people's voices and all this garbage that you don't need as a rock band. You should be the rock band you are. That record was definitely the first one to change it and since then, we've continued on doing it that way.
On a daily basis how often do you think about music either writing it or playing it or even just listening to it.
PL: Literally every hour of every day. I have probably over 500 little guitar licks on my phone, so I cannot lose my phone.
Did you hear about what recently happened with Kirk Hammett from Metallica? He lost his phone, and I think that's what has prevented the Metallica record from coming out. Is that a nightmare for you?
PL: Actually, I think I read that on Loudwire. Yeah, I do not want that to happen to me.
Back up your stuff.
PL: I did, right before I came to this show. No joke. I think about it all the time.
SL: We are, even if for some reason that day, we're meeting up and we don't play music that day for some reason, we're working on other projects that has something to do with music. Whether it's something for the live show, stage things or set lists -- ideas of songs for different endings, beginnings, and transitions. Or we're just at his studio at his house working on a new pedal or something like that. It's always like that. If we take a break and he says, "Hey man, let's just get out of here, jump in a car and go somewhere," we're still talking about music the whole time. It completely engulfs every aspect of our lives.
How long have you had a studio in your home?
PL: Well, it's a new thing for me. I used to have a basement that I would play in, but now it's an actual… it's a good place to write and I have an isolation booth, things like that.
It must change things for you to have your own studio, because I know with some bands you have to be fully ready to go into the studio because it costs money. So it must change things creatively for you to be able to do that at your leisure.
PL: Yeah, it just gets you into the mindset because it isn't cheap to record. I think it's a great thing. I'm kind of blessed to be able to do it.
Tell me, what would surprise people the most about what this band is like off stage and away from the studio?
PL: What comes to mind to me is that we are the same people offstage as far as friends, all three of us are friends. We hang out together, we go places together and we drink, go to BBQ's and all those types of things… we're friends. A lot of bands after this much time don't get along but we do. That's a good thing.
I have to say, for a band that's been around for as long as you guys have been, there's really not a whole lot of drama that has come out about whatever. It seems like you guys are legitimately friends and like each other.
PL: I think it's the way we were brought up. You don't dig up dirt and talk about it because it keeps you from growing. So when we had a leaving member, way back when we tried to squash it in a way. It does come up every once in a while and sometimes we talk about it and sometimes we don't. To me, personally it's better to just move on and look to the future. That's not exciting all the time for fans, because some drama can be good. Like tonight, we are going to have Sam fall off the drum kit, again, but I don't know... we're actually a lot more sarcastic.
I like that about you guys.
SL: We're trying to give you real answers, but sometimes people don't get it. From our music they think we're so serious but most of the music Pete writes is tongue in cheek and that's fun for us. Yeah, it's just hard to convey that. I remember years ago it was…
PL: We've had a lot of jokes that have just bombed on stage.
Because people aren't expecting you to make jokes on stage?
PL: Yeah, I mean, we were on Ozzfest in 2003 and Sam came out wearing a Dracula cape and a hood and we were just goofing around and nobody got it. Things like that have happened over the years. So, after a while you're just like… we're gonna go up there and throw down because that's what we want to do up there anyway. When jokes happen organically, that's a good thing and then you can connect.
I think your subject matter usually comes across as serious and a lot of thought is put into it. Maybe you need to put a really ridiculous video out from one of the serious songs you have.
PL: Some of the songs are serious. "Take Out The Gunman," which was our last big hit was a serious song. But it was always misconstrued as being about… it was really about the media perpetuating the violence. We're talking about CNN, FOX and all these things that have to loop it 24 hours a day. That's what it was about and we were going to make and video about it and we said, we're going to make a video but it can't be a sniper with cops or someone take him out. We're not going to make a video like that, that's ridiculous. We had 15 different people that are professionals submit videos with snipers and some badass guy taking him out. It was ridiculous. They didn't understand it at all.
SL: We wanted to go a different direction. So we haven't made a video in years and we won't until we the right concept and the right idea and we're all on the same plane. It's okay, though. Come see us live, it's better.
Tell us what is coming up for the next couple of months and the rest of 2015 for Chevelle.
PL: We have a bunch of shows coming up… a lot of weekend things and then writing, hopefully get a new album out in the beginning of the new year. Really would love to do that.
SL: Yeah, if we can get off the road and keep enough, because every time we do a show like this one alone, it takes us a week just to prepare for one show because we have to rehearse four, five, six times. It's not because we have to rehearse, it's because that's how you get out there and do this every day and know what you're doing, because you practice a lot. That's exactly it. So it takes a lot of time away from writing. To do one show it takes a week away.
Many thanks to Pete and Sam Loeffler of Chevelle for the interview. The band heads back out on the road starting on July 17 in Kansas City, Mo. Check out all their tour dates here. Tune in to Loudwire Nights With Full Metal Jackie and Tony LaBrie Monday through Friday at 7PM through midnight online or on the radio. To see which stations and websites air ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.