Chevelle still in the right place at the right time
By SELENA FRAGASSI For Sun-Times Media April 16, 2014 4:26PM
Chevelle | Photo by Andrew Barkules
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday
Where: House of Blues,
329 N. Dearborn
Tickets: $33.50 (in advance)
Info: (312) 923-2000;
Updated: May 19, 2014 1:42PM
Sam Loeffler is waxing nostalgic about the time Chevelle scored its first real gig in Chicago the late ’90s.
“We played someone’s house party in Mundelein, and it just so happened that at the party was a guy who had worked at [radio station] the Loop and would later go on to book the Double Door. When our demo came out, he remembered us,” the drummer recalls of the Tuesday night opening spot, before grasping just how much time and how many travails have passed for the Grayslake band since then. “I was maybe 19 at the time. We weren’t even old enough to be in there.”
Thanks to that early connection and the astute leadership of local engineer Steve Albini, who was behind the boards on the band’s first album “Point #1,” Loeffler, his brother Pete (lead vocals, guitar) and brother-in-law Dean Bernadini (bass) — who replaced brother Joe Loeffler in 2006 after an acrimonious split — have become one of those rare anomalies of modern rock. In 15 years, the trio has sold 4 million albums, devoured radio with hits like “The Red,” “Vitamin R” and “Send the Pain Below,” and just this month scored its first No. 1 entry on the Billboard Rock Albums Chart for the new horror flick-inspired release “La Gargola.”
Even though all still live in the northern burbs and are known to frequent clubs like their recent boys’ night out at Subterranean, Loeffler is the first to admit, “I don’t know that we were ever really active in the Chicago music scene. … Maybe it was because we were from the suburbs or not at every bar every weekend so the connection with the community wasn’t there,” he says, before laughing. “Wait, wasn’t Billy Corgan from the burbs?”
Yet when Chevelle came along, the city’s burgeoning pop-punk scene that would later produce alumni like Fall Out Boy had more or less taken rock’s place. “Those bands didn’t really like us when we played shows with them; we somehow were always the odd man out.”
The Chevelle musicians used it to their advantage, though, gaining a close rapport with their national fan base (who, through social media campaigns, helped their recent No. 1 push) and still keeping on the periphery of the local radar, not much unlike one of their influences, Ministry, who became an integral part of the recording of “La Gargola.”
Listening to that industrial giant’s albums such as “The Land of Rape and Honey” and “The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste,” while simultaneously watching old horror films like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Friday the 13th,” gave Chevelle the push to flesh out the heavier tonal arrangements on songs like “Hunter Eats Hunter” and lead single “Take Out the Gunman,” which cover topics from zombie attacks to the rash of shootings plaguing the country the last few years. It’s not the first time the band has been inspired by the dark underbelly of American culture and what lies beyond, however; the Chevelle album “Sci-Fi Crimes” was released just five years ago to critical acclaim.
“We all share the ideas of the universe putting things out in the world and them coming back to you,” admits Loeffler, trying not to sound too “out there.”
Call it karma, black magic or just being in suburbia at the right time, the idea continues to work in their favor.