I Want to Believe: Chevelle, June 19 in the District of Rock Island Print
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 16 June 2010 12:08

Chevelle

Chevelle's Sci-Fi Crimes raises one major question: Does the band believe in the paranormal subject matter it tackles with such earnestness on its 2009 record?

"Pete and Dean and I have this ongoing discussion about whether it can happen, whether aliens can even reach us," said drummer Sam Loeffler in a phone interview last week. "It's all in fun."

Which is to say that the members of Chevelle -- brothers Sam and Pete (guitars and vocals) Loeffler and brother-in-law Dean Bernardini (bass) -- aren't believers. Yet.

So when Chevelle headlines Saturday's Rock the District event in Rock Island, feel free to share your beliefs, theories, and evidence with the band. Sam, at least, claims to have an open mind.

"It is a fun topic," he said. "It's basically harmless, too, with the exception of those people who claim to have been probed. ... It's not like arguing abortion or religion ... ."

When the band visited Roswell six or seven years ago on a day off, Sam said, "I went in wanting to be convinced, and in fact so did Pete. ... We went into it really wanting to believe, but based on what we saw in Roswell, absolutely that was a weather balloon." He called the presentation of evidence "reminiscent of a third-grade science fair."

So Sci-Fi Crimes, the group's fifth studio effort, is not meant to be taken seriously. It got its theme from the convergence of several unrelated events: a few songs from Pete, a driver in Australia, a painting by Bernardini, and that visit to Roswell.

The driver, Sam said, found out they were from the Chicago area and began telling them that "O'Hare airport is a hotbed for alien activity ... ."

'Sci-Fi Crimes'Loeffler said it was the painting -- which with the addition of skeletons and a spaceship became the record's cover -- that brought everything together. "When we saw that ... open field, everything kind of fit together," he said.

But even though the concept, title, artwork, and some song titles ("Roswell's Spell," "Interlewd") are offered tongue-in-cheek, the songs remain -- typically for Chevelle -- heavy. "The music for sure is pretty much as serious as rock gets, I guess," Loeffler said.

Sci-Fi Crimes had the band's highest sales debut (number six), adding to a résumé that includes a gold album (2004's This Type of Thinking [Could Do Us in]) and a platinum one (2002's Wonder What's Next).

USA Today praised the band's most-recent album as a change-up for Chevelle: "Sci-Fi Crimes scrapes some of the polish off the band's sound. What remains is both sturdy and versatile: the thrusting rhythms of radio hit 'Jars,' the steely acoustic strum of 'Highland's Apparition,' and the sudden bursts of acceleration in 'A New Momentum.'"

Sam Loeffler said roughening up the veneer was a choice, and the band recorded the album mostly live.

"In order to keep up with the Joneses, you have to have these perfect vocals that are Auto-Tuned, and all these samples on the drums, and 35 guitars and all these things," he said. "It essentially makes all these records sound very similar. We wanted ours to sound different. And we wanted it to be what we were actually playing. ...

"I don't know if people can really tell. ... [But] if you play our record versus any other rock record out right now ... , in the actual production of it, you can hear the difference. Nobody complains about the Cult or AC/DC, complain and go, 'Oh, he's a little off-key there.' Because it's about the whole production; it's about the whole song together."

That approach to recording, though, is particularly difficult with the precise hard rock practiced by Chevelle. Sam said that while he recorded the drums for This Type of Thinking ... and 2007's Vena Sera in three to four days each, the process took 11 days for Sci-Fi Crimes.

The band has built a robust career despite regular and appropriate comparisons to Tool. Chevelle has an undeniable general resemblance -- a more direct version of the Tool sound, largely compressed into three- and four-minute songs -- and Pete Loeffler's vocal tone and delivery are strikingly similar to those of Maynard James Keenan.

Chevelle also survived an ugly falling-out with brother and bassist Joe Loeffler five years ago. Sam said that he and Pete now have a strained relationship with their sibling, but he added that keeping the band a family affair has more benefits than pitfalls.

"I don't think we understood the implications of it early on," he said. "It's only more recently that we've realized how much of a benefit it has been that Pete and I can read each other's mind a little bit."

But making it work requires effort. "You know that there are triggers, and you know how to make somebody angry pretty easily," Sam said of being in a band with family. "If you were to not be professional and take advantage of that, I think that your relationship would not last very long."

He also said that Chevelle has to keep band and brotherhood separate: "Today this person is going to be an artist, and I've got to not be that person's brother; I have to be their business partner ... ."

Still, that blood bond intrudes. Sam related that sometimes Bernardini is amazed when the Loefflers screw up in the exact same way: "I don't know what is with you guys, but you both counted three ... , and you did it perfectly, and it's supposed to be four. ... I feel like I'm in my own little world over here, trying to run a race."

Sounds kinda ... paranormal. But Sam won't renounce his skepticism about aliens visiting Earth.

"I find the physics behind all of it to not be encouraging, and I've been to Roswell," he said. "I don't believe any of it at all.

"But there's a lot of things in the world that I haven't seen, and I still believe that they exist."

Chevelle will perform on Saturday, June 19, in the District of Rock Island as part of the Rock the District event. Pop Evil, Janus, and Three Years Hollow will also perform, and Three Years Hollow will play inside RIBCO following the outdoor concert. The show starts at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $28 the day of the show. Advance tickets are available at RIBCO, the Daiquiri Factory, Co-Op, and at TicketWeb.com.

For more information on Chevelle, visit ChevelleInc.com.


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