By Austin Kettelhut
Chevelle, the hard rocking trio from Chicago, has established itself as one of the few bands that has not only survived the “post-grunge rock” phase of the early 2000s, but has also separated itself from the era entirely. Once upon a time the group would have been lumped into a genre of music that was quickly becoming a desolate, unoriginal wasteland. Rock was dying, and maybe it did die in some sense, but Chevelle has refused to get swept under by the current.
Over the last five years or so the band has made it a point to not let themselves suffer the same fate as so many of their peers; and by doing so Chevelle has developed its own philosophy or ideology per se for maintaining success. Chevelle never makes the same song twice and every album has its own flavor, which tastes awfully good on its latest release “La Gargola.” In advance of the band’s stop in Fargo next week, drummer Sam Loeffler took some time to speak with the High Plains Reader about the album and the band’s continued success.
High Plains Reader: First of all I just wanted to congratulate you guys on another great album with “La Gargola.”
Sam Loeffler:Thank you.
HPR: It has to be hard to believe that this is your seventh studio album and, as far as I’m concerned, Chevelle is still getting better as a band. How do you do it?
SL: Thank you, man. Well, certainly we try not to write the same song twice. That’s probably one of our most important things … and really, a long time ago, probably “Sci-Fi Crimes” era, it became apparent to us that we didn’t really want to … we didn’t really care if a song was heavy enough or not heavy enough or whatever, we really just were more concerned with whether the melody was good. So, that’s probably where the music sort of changed and maybe it even got a little better.
HPR: I really enjoyed the “Hats off to the Bull” album and I thought that it was one of your better albums. The toned-down sound of it worked really well. So what was the inspiration to go back to a heavier sound on “La Gargola”?
SL: I think we just wanted to do something different again and you also don’t know necessarily which way the songs are going to go, you don’t know which way they are going to be taken so it was really just sort of a natural thing the way it went. I’d like to chalk that up to something but you know, Pete jokes that he watches a lot of horror movies and things like that. Those are all true things and gives him stuff to write about, but at the end of the day you pick the 10 songs that are kinda together that work best as an album … and that’s basically what we did.
HPR: How many songs do you typically write for an album?
SL: We only write 10 or 11 songs. So what happens is we’ll write a bunch of parts and then we kinda take those parts out and make songs out of them so at the end of it we might still have 20-30 parts of songs but they’re not complete songs but it’ll just be a verse or a chorus or something like that.
HPR: “La Gargola” debuted at no. 3 on the Billboard 200 with 45,000 copies sold in the first week, the band’s highest charting album. Are you guys surprised at all with that kind of success after all these years?
SL: As a rock band I would definitely say I was surprised that we connected as a rock band that … well, because rock is just not in that place right now you know? So I was definitely surprised by that. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised when people purchase the music, I’m always happy when they do. We have a very committed fan base for sure.
HPR: Lyrically and instrumentally the music is still as sharp and inspired as it has always been, does the writing ever get easier with experience or is that one of the more difficult aspects of working on your seventh record?
SL: I think it would be more difficult, especially when it comes to lyrics. Although, you know, for Pete it’s his passion and he loves to sing and he loves to write but I don’t think there’s ever been an easy song. The easy ones, say “Face to the Floor” or something like that, we’re like, “wow man, that verse and that chorus totally worked together,” and then it’ll take you like two months to come up with a bridge for it because it works and how do you add something into that element?
HPR: It’s been 15 years since the release of Point #1, how much longer do you feel like you guys can keep putting out music that you are personally happy with and living the musician lifestyle?
SL: Well, I mean that’s a good question, how long can we go? I mean I’m not sure but I know that we enjoy it and it would be hard to not have this part in our lives. I think it’s good for everybody to have a release and especially an artistic one … and keeping that in mind I don’t know what my life would be like to not have that so it could easily go forever until I literally couldn’t do it anymore.
HPR: I was able to see a show once before back in 2010 when you played in Duluth, Minn. and you put on an awesome show. What are some of your favorite songs to play live? And are there any songs that you are just sick of playing?
SL: Oh yea, playing the singles are … we don’t really want to play them but because you know songs like “The Red” and “Send the Pain Below” we’ve done so many times, but when you play them live it’s different because people sing along and everything and that’s great. We certainly don’t want to play them in rehearsal, although we do. It’s definitely fun to play them live, for sure.
HPR: I find it extremely fascinating that somehow two brothers and a brother in law can live in a bus and spend so much time together on the road. What’s the key to maintaining those relationships without allowing them to deteriorate like so many other bands deal with?
SL: Yea I don’t know what the key is. We just try to treat each other like professionals, I mean you just treat people like ... we need to be in a bus together (laughs) you know, and that’s about all we can really do. You never know what’s gonna work that’s for sure and we’re just gonna have to struggle through it.
IF YOU GO:
Chevelle with Highly Suspect
The Venue at The Hub, 2525 9th Ave. SW, Fargo
June 25, 8 p.m.
October 10th 2023
August 24th 2023
June 20th 2023
May 27th 2023
May 21st 2023
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