Illinois-based rockers Chevelle have a clear-cut formula when it comes to making music: They keep it honest and real. They've never strayed far from their controlled chaos and somehow gentle rampage or their mix of dark magnetism and gothic pop (think early Tool meets The Cure if you haven't heard radio-dominating hits like "The Red").
Their sixth album, 2011's Hats Off to The Bull, sticks to the game plan. Never too flashy, the three musicians remain humble and dedicated to their sound, and it's resonated with audiences.
Singer/guitarist Pete Loeffler sat down with Up on the Sun to talk about being back on the road, crazy fans with guns, not having security because of Dave Grohl, and why he loves Tears For Fears.
Chevelle is scheduled to perform Saturday, April 28, as part of KUPD's UFest at Quail Run Park in Mesa.
Up on the Sun: I know Hats Off to the Bull was released not long ago, but in a February interview, you said that you're always jotting down ideas and writing. Have you started working on the next album?
Pete Loeffler: Yeah, there hasn't been anything that's jumped out at me right yet, but I'm always trying to come up with ideas. We travel so much [that] you can't help but be inspired by your surroundings. It's funny, though. We always joke about being in the back of every shitty club there is in the United States, our bus pulling up to the show and us hopping off by the dumpster. It's the life on tour. Not that that makes me inspired! [laughs] But you know what, I've been wanting to get involved with the ASPCA, and we're trying to set up something on tour for that. It's a little foundation for coinciding with musicians helping out anti-cruelty for animals. That's something I'm trying to get involved in. Maybe a song will come out of it.
Regarding Hats Off to the Bull, do you have a particular song you favor over the others, or does it really just depend on your mood?
Yeah, you know, we're playing about four songs off the album live every night. I've been talking to a lot of our fans after the shows, and they all ask for more and more of the new material. Which is great, the response. Honestly I haven't felt this type of response since our second album, like 10 years ago.
So it's exciting for us, but we're just trying to spread it out over six albums, and we play about 18 songs a night. I'm sure you can hear in my voice a little that it's dry and hoarse. Um, it kinda hits me and my voice starts to fade after like 18 songs. So I'm trying to combine old and new material . . . But maybe I shouldn't even care, right? When you try and please everyone, you're going to be sorry and you will please no one.
When you come to Phoenix for UFest with Godsmack and others, what can fans expect from that show?
Well, there won't be any pyro or anything like that [laughs].
Chevelle seems to keep things a little more subtle
Yeah, you know, it's like with security, too. When we toured with Foo Fighters, we were with Dave Grohl, and he walks across the street with no security or anything in this one busy area. Grohl said, "Yeah, security makes more problems than they fix." If Dave Grohl doesn't need security, why should we? You know, we're kind of just like an honest, honest rock band. We'll wear our street clothes on stage. But we really do love touring and playing live. Hopefully, something interesting will happen during the set. Maybe I'll fall off the stage or I'll whip my guitar at Sam's head, which I've done many times.
I didn't think I'd ever seen pyro at one of your shows.
Yeah, we usually do a stripped-down thing. But we do have a nice lighting rig for the show! But it'll be daytime when we play, anyway, so we most likely won't even use it. But we'll play new stuff, and any day I get to play the song "Face to the Floor" is a great day. It's such a great vibe and fun for me to rock out. That song is about greed, but usually our songs are safe from politics and religion and whatnot. It's more of a come- out-and-have-a-good-time type of thing.
Well, as far as something crazy happening during a set, didn't you have something happen in North Carolina where a guy pulled a gun out while you were on stage?
That was a couple years back. You always meet interesting people on the road if you're lucky, I guess. We're pretty lucky, I guess [laughs]. So this guy -- people were crowded around the bus after the show and we're just hanging out -- but this guy comes, and he was all really excited at first. You know, like he was on something. He was, like, "I just got out of prison!"
Oh, great. Just what you want to hear.
Yeah. And he said he was in there for a year, too, and that he came right to the show. And then his mood totally changed like five minutes later. He came back over and was like, "You don't like any of these people! You don't wanna be here!" And I'm thinking, "This is going nowhere good." And then he puts his hand in his shirt and says he has a gun. And I'm just, like, "See ya." Outta there. And security escorted him away before something bad happened -- there was a lot of people around. And that's a freaky thing when you know someone is carrying a gun. I'm not a huge fan of guns. We've had people come up to us on our days off and ask to go to a shooting range, but I've never had fun doing it. I'm not a fan. Especially when a crazy psycho is carrying a gun.
Well, particularly nowadays, when you hear about shows getting shot up and fans and musicians being hurt.
Yeah, never. It's a scary thing. We live in a crazy world right now.
Has anything comparable to that happened since then at a show?
Well, yeah. But it's all kinda downer stuff though. I don't know if I should talk about it. Guys coming back from Iraq and crying and, I mean, really heavy stuff after our sets lately.
You mean, just people coming back from Iraq and letting you know that your songs helped them get through things out there?
Yeah, like that, but it's taken sour turns again, where this one guy was very depressed, and he was with a buddy that brought him there. He was talking to me and he turned very depressed and didn't seem like he could deal or live with some of the things he's done. It was pretty heavy, and what do you say to that?
It's like, I feel for you man, and all you can suggest is to get the proper help. I can't even imagine. We do have a lot of military people who seem to enjoy our music, which makes me happy.
I can imagine that would be very difficult. So many people coming back and thanking you for being there with your music, but it comes down to our country needing to take care of our own.
I know! Oh, and there was some cool stuff that happened on the Bush tour. One night, their guitarist came up to us on the tour, acting crazy. We were all drinking and having fun. He started wrestling with Dean [Bernardini], our bass player, and he ended up putting him in a headlock. Well, I have a little dog, and he was running around. You know how dogs get excited and start barking. Well, Dean ended up flipping Chris [Traynor, Bush's lead guitarist] over, like, "You're not putting me in a headlock on my bus!" and then they fully landed on my dog, to me screaming, "Holy shit! The dog is under you!" But everything was good and the dog was fine. Then Chris stands up and his forehead is cut open. He landed on his head on the marble and it's gushing blood. And he's looking at us wide-eyed, like, "Is everything okay? What happened?" [laughs]
He didn't even realize his head was cut open?
Ah, well. We're still friends.
I imagine the audience on a Bush tour is different from your usual fan base.
Oh, yeah, lots of girls into Gavin. You know Gavin is a really sweet guy, and, uh, I just wish we could've hung out with him a little more. He was really busy on that tour and was putting out an album. But we hung out a couple times. They like to drink, so we had some beers and kicked back. But I think we hit some new people and made some new fans. I've been a fan of Bush since I was like 15, so it was cool. It was a different tour, you know? And a different vibe.
So I just have one more question for you. What music are you listening to right now on your iPod?
Well, I'm listening to the new Janus album. You know that band?
Yeah, they'll be playing at UFest.
Yeah, they are from Chicago -- really good band, just put out their second album. Middle Class Rut is working on a new album as well; I love that band. You know what's funny? I noticed the other day [that] my collection of music is so much broader than it used to be. Like, it's almost like a time capsule when you go in your bus and go on tour. You have to be careful that you don't get stuck in a certain genre or musical groove. Even though you're in a new city every day, sometimes you get in a grind and listen to one thing. So I've been trying to branch out a lot and been listening to a lot of alternative bands, which is exciting because we're playing with a lot of alternative bands coming up here. And I'll find myself listening to more poppy stuff sometimes. I can't listen to heavy rock all the time. I need to dabble in everything. I listen to a lot of '80s music too, believe it or not.
Well, like Depeche Mode. [laughs] It's kinda funny. You would probably laugh if you saw my music collection -- my iTunes library -- so I don't know if I want to tell you. Laughter. I enjoy all styles. I don't even listen to that much heavy stuff anymore. I think Janus is the heaviest stuff I'm listening to right now.
I think it's good to have a huge collection of music. Plus, in your position you're always gaining inspiration from that stuff. So give me one band from the '80s that you think is embarrassing that you're listening to.
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Tears For Fears.
Oh, that's not that bad!
Yeah, I love it. We'll have parties at home, and that music just makes the vibe fun, and you can kick back and relax. It's perfect for relaxing and hanging out with friends.