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Tuning in with Thomas Conner

A decade in the rearview mirror, Chevelle tries moving forward

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New-chevelle.jpgWhen we caught up with Pete Loeffler (right), the singer-guitarist for the modern rock band Chevelle was kicking back at his house in his native Grayslake, enjoying some unseasonable warm fall weather. But he was feeling a little guilty.

"I pulled a fast one on everybody," Loeffler said. "We just finished this long tour, and everybody was glad to get home to Chicago and rest. But I started writing -- and it's going really well. So now I want to get an album out as quick as we can. We've got some Christmas shows coming up, after the Metro dates, and people have expected us to go right back out [on the road]. But I don't feel like it. I want to see where this new music goes."

The break and the creative energy comes after several months of looking backward. Even though Chevelle (the trio includes Sam Loeffler on drums and Dean Bernardini on bass) has been a working band in Chicago almost twice as long, they've just celebrated 10 years of making records with a "Ten in 10" greatest-hits tour, highlighting their downtuned, heavy-guitar hits from the band's five albums, songs like "The Red," "Send the Pain Below," "Closure," "The Clincher" and "Vitamin R." This weekend, they bring the tour back home, with two shows at the Metro.

CHEVELLE
• 9 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday
• Metro, 3730 N. Clark
• Sold out

Q. What are you looking through there today?
A. I found some old fliers. This one, from the Gateway Theater in Chicago, 1994. We're actually closing in on more like 20 years. We're doing a 10-year anniversary, but it depends on how you do the math. Our first album was out in 1999, but we'd been playing a long time before that.

Q. How does all this look when you stop and gaze back at it?
A. I think I'd do a few things differently, but most of it went pretty well. None of us saw Joe leaving that way. [Another brother, Joe Loeffler, was Chevelle's original bassist. He left acrimoniously after the release of the band's successful third album, "This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In)," in 2004.] Nonetheless, it happened. I wish it would have gone differently, but we just didn't get along. It was always that way. It is what it is. We've moved on.

Q. Have you? I asked about the band's past, and you went right to the Joe situation.
A. Well, it was harder on a lot of other people than it was on us. Harder on the fans, on management. We tried a lot to make it work. The fact that we were three brothers was part of what got us noticed in the first place. It helped our career. We had seven good years of touring, then the sh-- hit the fan. We ended a tour; Joe took a train home, Sam and I flew home. I think I talked to him once after that. It wasn't one thing. He wanted to do something else. He just wasn't happy doing this.

Q. Your second album ["Wonder What's Next," 2002, on Epic Records] put you on the map. Why did those songs hit so big?
A. It sold 1.4 million. That's back when you could sell albums like that. No beating around the bush: It was like pulling teeth to produce. We were in Canada, working with a producer [Garth Richardson, who produced Rage Against the Machine's debut] we didn't see eye-to-eye with. But it was a real eye opener for us. ... I felt like we were such an indie band until we did that album. I really learned how to write a hit radio song then, and "The Red" did really well. But we took some hits for that. I can honestly say we've had a really hard time getting any press at all since that album. It's like, "Now they're a major-label band, and they're no longer interesting."

Q. You've had some friction with producers before.
A. It's always been like pulling teeth, always a struggle with whoever we work with. We're always trying to pull the music away from their expectations, back to what we want. We always feel we're taking our music away from people when we go out on the road. And it's our music! For this last record [last year's "Sci-Fi Crimes"], we used a producer named Brian Virtue, who's very talented but also very open-minded. We really produced that record, because he let us be pretty free with what we wanted to do. It's like, after three albums of working so closely with someone else, on the fifth album we got back to that direction we had on the first one.

Q. What about your music sounds like Chicago?
A. I have a couple of friends in bands that ask me that: Do you feel like you're part of Chicago, a Chicago band? I say yes. It took so long to break and to get people here to come out to the shows. At the same time, I didn't feel like I was part of a scene here, either. I lived here in the suburbs. I sat in Friday traffic to get to the Double Door. It wasn't like I walked down Milwaukee Avenue with my gear. David Draiman from Disturbed is a friend; he says the same thing. He didn't feel part o a rock scene here, because they weren't. I mean, the Smoking Popes were going on when we were playing around. We knew the other bands playing Metro and stuff, mingled with them. But there was no clique, nothing that added something identifiable to how we sound.

Q. You mentioned recently that you're coming back to Metro for these anniversary shows because you saw your first concert there. What was it?
A. I believe that would have been ... fIREHOSE? It might have been. Mike Watt threw his bass in the air and tried to catch it. He knocked a tooth out. He ran out the front door to look for a dentist, that's how they ended the show. I remember how massive Metro looked to me. We have great memories there. Now it looks so tiny.

Q. So tell us about this new music you're writing.
A. If everything goes well, it'll be our sixth record, recorded in January and out by March. ... It will be by far our most different-sounding album. I'm kind of going off the deep end. It's going to be sort of a concept album. In the past, we've put out acoustic songs, one on the end of each album or something. I have all these songs written on acoustic guitar that have never seen the light of day. We're going to take them into the studio and see what happens to them. I'm hoping it's more beat-heavy, more vibe-y. I don't know if we'll tour on it. I just need to do something with these songs before they no longer feel special to me.

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on October 28, 2010 11:00 AM.

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