By staying true to at least one part of their collective vision, which is writing songs with grit, good melody and heaviness, the Loeffler brothers have kept their band, Chevelle, alive and kicking ass. It is laughable to think that Sam, Pete, and Joe would be together as a band since 1995 based on brotherly unity alone, yet the fact that they’ve been brothers since birth might be the cement that makes Chevelle work as well as it does.
Chevelle are currently on the MTV2 Winterfresh Snocore Tour alongside Helmet, Crossfade, Future Leaders of the World and Strata. Drummer Sam Loeffler took some time out to dish on his two band mates, his favorite kind of music, recording, touring, and what a few of the tracks on their recent release,This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In) are about.
KNAC.COM: So, with This Type of Thinking, did you think that it was going to explode the way it did?
SAM LOEFFLER: Well, I guess you always hope it will. I guess I really believe that the music that we write, and that the people that are buying our records are into that kind of music, so I was pretty sure that they were going to latch onto this. This record for us is, it's not an extreme departure of the band while I think that it's a good sort of compilation between the two records before it. Where Point #1 was very dry, very first take kind of a feel to it, and Wonder What’s Next was the opposite, it was very processed, you know, like maybe even a little bit too sometimes, a little bit too processed. And with this record, with This Type of Thinking, it had the ambiance of Point #1 combined with hopefully the good songwriting of Wonder What’s Next. So, I was really hoping that people would latch onto that and I think they did, you know, I think we debuted at like number eight or something on Billboard. That's really, really good. You could never hope for that kind of thing.
KNAC.COM: It is a great sounding record.
LOEFFLER: Thank you.
KNAC.COM: You've got “Vitamin R.” So tell me more about that, what's that really about?
LOEFFLER: Well, “Vitamin R” is really, and it's come up a lot -people have come up and said, you know, is this a major sort of idea about right and wrong about drugs and sedating your children? It's not about that at all. It's about a friend, who got really into, he was misdiagnosed, and so he started taking a bottle of Ritalin a day. And this song is basically pointing the finger at him and saying “Ha Ha, you're an idiot”, you know? Not really an idiot, but it was funny.
KNAC.COM: Was it an ADD (attention deficit disorder) thing?
LOEFFLER: Yeah, he got misdiagnosed with ADD, and he was hilarious when he was on these drugs. And as far as being against ... in that kind of situation I'm an advocate for drugs 'cos he was hilarious and he kept me entertained all the time.
KNAC.COM: Leading us along, huh?
LOEFFLER: Yeah. So, it's not really for it or against it, it was about the thing that sort of influenced that time in his life and in our life.
KNAC.COM: Speaking of drugs, and just uh, you know I hear that you guys are, and I've seen it also, to be genre specific, or probably not specific at all, but, you're a Christian Alternative Metal band.
LOEFFLER: Yeah, you know what? We get that a lot, actually. I can tell you what happened with that. Our first record company was owned by a company that distributed Christian music to Christian bookstores. That was all that happened. So, we got lumped into this Christian music scene. We've never been a Christian band. Never played the churches, you know, all that stuff. It just happened. And there was a band on that label called Sixpence None the Richer.
KNAC.COM: “Kiss Me?”
LOEFFLER: Yes! That's it. And so they kind of did both things. They did this whole, sort of weird Christian marketing thing and, then they would, you know, have videos on MTV. Then we came into this not knowing what this was all like and we're just like, you know, we didn't know anything about it, really. And uh, when it came up we said “We're not going on the church tour here. We' re not doing this for you guys.” Although, to be fair, there's a lot worse things to be called than being called a Christian.
LOEFFLER: But we try to keep not only our religious beliefs and our faith, as well as our politics, out of our music. That way we're able to keep concentrated on one thing, which is good melody and heaviness. Something you can bob your head to. It's a way for people to get away from those things that are holding them down, whether it is politics, religion, school, anything like that. Music has always been an escape for me, and I know it's always been an escape for my brothers. We want to let other people have that same escape rather than coming down on them with our personal beliefs.
KNAC.COM: You know, that's a fresh way of approaching it because, uh, yeah, we want go to a rock and roll show and get release. That's what I want.
LOEFFLER: You don't want to be lectured to.
KNAC.COM: No. Yeah, and personally I don't care what you're doing.
KNAC.COM: Lyrically for you guys, it's intelligent but the mood seems to be a little darker than most bands, yet the message is not based on some kind of impending doom, necessarily.
KNAC.COM: So you're actually furthering the betterment of music.
LOEFFLER: Absolutely. I'm glad you brought up the lyric thing because I think that the lyrics are intelligent because Pete writes not just necessarily the subject but how the words fit together. He doesn't go with your, what would be your first thought. It would be just to rhyme. You know? Most bands would go, they'll just rhyme from word to word, where they have one point, and then it'll just rhyme randomly. Because they think that's what people catch onto, helps them remember it. I don't fucking care what people remember. I don't care. I'm not going to cater to the lowest common denominator and neither is he (Pete). And, so you want to write the lyrics that are about that subject. And so he does. And it comes out, to me, it comes out really cool because I can look at it and I can read it and go “What were you thinking?” And even still, I can ask him about a song and be surprised what it was about.
KNAC.COM: Like you said, you're not adding filler, or extra flour.
KNAC.COM: “An Evening with El Diablo.” What is that about?
LOEFFLER: Uh, “An Evening with El Diablo” it's kind of ... that's a little bit of a joke, too. It's about meeting a person that you sort of randomly meet. I think it's about a specific time when Pete met somebody, and thought “Wow, this person's really cool” and then finds out later on that they're exactly the opposite of everything good. Essentially that they're the devil. Um, not literally the devil, but everything that you would say that is bad in this world that person is about that.
KNAC.COM: The devil's spawn.
LOEFFLER: Yeah. But your first impression is that this person's really cool I wanna hang out with them and do this and that, and then you go out with them and find out that they're snorting everything they can get and that they're bagging every girl they come across ...all this stuff. It was about a time you met somebody like that and it's funny how people can cover up the real things that they're about so that they can get to a certain point and then they unload on you. So it's about finding out later “Wow, I just spent an evening with the devil.” It started out cool and in the end I realized that this guy was crazy.
KNAC.COM: You guys have a heavy rhythm and a heavy bottom. It reminds me of Tool and Helmet. Some of your stuff, like “The Clincher” reminds me of Pantera.
LOEFFLER: Oh, that’s cool. That’s something I haven’t heard before. It reminded me a little bit of Audioslave, actually. But, all those bands …think about who those bands are. Those are some of the most influential bands of our time, if not the most influential. I think that it’s awesome for someone to say “Hey, I hear something I really like or recognize this in this.” I think it’s a good thing. It never bothers me to be compared to great bands, you know? One of the best compliments I ever got was when our manager said of the bridge of the song “Get Some” – he said that it had that sort of Pink Floyd moment that happened there and I was like -- “Pink Floyd?” I didn’t get it at all, but then after I listened to it a couple times I was –“Wow, it kind of has that flow to it.” If you were to do it a little bit slower I guess it really could be a Pink Floyd moment.
KNAC.COM: Ozzfest 2003. What was that like?
LOEFFLER: You know it was great, because it was awesome to be asked. And anytime you get that sort of recognition from a full panel of people, that’s a really cool thing, and we were received well. We played the main stage and we never got booed, which when you’re an up and coming band, and when we had been touring for six years –we did twenty shows in a row with Anthrax and got our asses handed to us. So, after that tour in December of ’99 or January 2000, we had to relearn how to play from that Anthrax tour so we were prepared. When we went to do Ozzfest we were prepared for that because you’re in a situation where you’ve got a lot of fans of some really big bands and they may not care about you. But we carried it through and there a couple of key things you can do to get through it. One of them is that you learn to play fast through your songs. There are no things in between –there’s no space for people to yell at you. We were received really well and it was a cool thing. It was a little bit anti-climatic because we had done the second stage at Ozzfest 2002. And with second stage there’s no other way to be but to be friends with people because you’re all in the same boat everyday. So there is a lot of camaraderie going on. When you’re on the main stage the bigger bands are a lot busier. They have a lot more press; they go to their hotel after the show or before the show. So there’s a lot less going on. We essentially did Ozzfest 2003 as a second stage band. We have a trailer on our bus. We parked our bus behind the main stage everyday with our trailer on it. We got up around 2 o’clock, depending on how late we were up the night before, and went in, did our show and hung out with the main stage crew and our people. The Disturbed guys were awesome, and we had gone on tour with Music as a Weapon with them right before Ozzfest 2003. So we hung out with those guys, but they’re a big band, too and they’ve got other obligations and they can afford to fly home when they feel like it. When you’re a band like us you can’t do those things. You can’t live as extravagantly. Then there was Korn, of course…
KNAC.COM: You guys just finished a tour with them, right?
LOEFFLER: Yeah, we just did a tour with Korn, which was cool. We did ten weeks, which were five weeks of our headline shows and then four weeks with Korn, and the a week of headline shows at the end.
KNAC.COM: Sorry for stepping on you while you were saying something else about Korn earlier.
LOEFFLER: No, that’s fine. I was saying that Korn was busy, they were gone, they all had their own buses, and they had their own parties. And then Ozzy was busy, too, so there wasn’t really anybody to hang out with. So we pretty much hung out with ourselves or hung out with the crew guys, and that was cool, but it was just different than I had thought it would have been because we had done the second stage the year before.
KNAC.COM: It’s kind of funny because of the diversity there—you guys didn’t get a tomato in the face and you were well received. There were bands like Cradle of Filth there and Shadows Fall. As far as you being a drummer, what do you think of Jason Bittner of Shadows Fall?
LOEFFLER: I think that of him, specifically--he schooled me everyday. He is amazing. There are a lot of great drummers out there. What would you call that type of music, Hardcore?
KNAC.COM: Metalcore …
LOEFFLER: Something like that. I think that there’s so much to offer as a musician to get from that music. Whether that’s your style of music or not is beside the point. There’s a lot to get from a lot of different bands. I think Shadows Fall is an amazing band. I actually saw them at some awards show in London that I was randomly at and it was the loudest show I had ever been to.
KNAC.COM: As a trio you guys are tight and you’re brothers. You had to have some good foundation for you guys to stay together. Obviously you remember your humble beginnings, and things have changed since you were an Illinois based band.
LOEFFLER: Well if the question is how do you stay together as a band, I honestly don’t know, but I do believe that’s the key to success – Is that you can actually stand each other. Can we stand each other? Sometimes, but you have to get to a professional level. You’ve gotta start treating each other like professionals, not like brothers. If you treat each other like brothers you’re going to punch and all that stuff because there’s all that baggage from growing up as a kid. There’s no way to get past that. Joe’s quit three or four times. We’ve been to numerous psychologists trying to keep us together. You know what they tell us? This is the famous thing they like to say: “We cannot help you. You guys are un-helpable.” We had three different people say that to us. Yet, we have still stuck it out and we’ve found a common ground. Two things: One of them being that we all feel like
we’ve put so much into it, and that it’s totally worth it to keep going. And then the other thing is cars.
LOEFFLER: Yeah, as cheesy as that sounds.
LOEFFLER: So we have the fact that we’ve done this for so long and then the other common ground thing we have is cars. It’s weird because we’re like stupid about it –just the way people are about football or baseball or soccer in Mexico. That’s what we’re like about cars. Sometimes I thank God for that.
KNAC.COM: So having that common thread is your therapy.
LOEFFLER: I guess it is, and it helps us get through it. The other thing is there’s never an end to what’s over the next hill. When you’re a band it starts out that you want to play this club, right? So that’s like your thing. So you achieve that and you want to play this club, I want to go on tour, I want to get a record deal, I want to put out a record out, I want to have a platinum record. There’s always something bigger. Even at this level when you’re like - “ I want to have one bus, two busses, three busses, two trucks, a bigger show, more lights, all that stuff …
KNAC.COM: Fly home whenever I want.
LOEFFLER: Yeah, fly home when I want, right. I want to be driven around in my own Cadillac, behind the bus, like Frank Black, which I think is really cool. So, I guess that’s something that drives you, too. But that’s way less interesting than the other stuff, as far as touring goes. The thing that will always drive us is that Pete and I love to write music together. We’ll write music together forever. We’ll never stop, because it’s the outlet, and what keeps us from slashing our wrists, you know?
KNAC.COM: What's Joe's input?
LOEFFLER: Well, it's hard to write with two guitarists because you need to have a vision. Most of the time this is how our writing goes; Pete will write acoustic, then he'll bring it to me and then we'll start the structure verses, the choruses, and see what works – whether it needs a verse and a chorus or whether it should all be intro. Then, once we get that down we bring Joe. We start making an actual song together. So, that's pretty much the way it works best for us so far. We've written a lot of songs like that so far.
KNAC.COM: What was your first show, first concert. Who did you see?
LOEFFLER: Well, I don't remember the year. I'm pretty sure that I was about fourteen, maybe fifteen years old. I saw firehose at The Metro in Chicago. It was what Mike Watt and George Hurley went on to do after The Minutemen, after D. Boon died. So firehose was signed to Columbia, and put out four or five records, can't remember. The last one they did with J. Mascis, who produced it. Anyway, I saw them on the Flyin’the Flannel tour, which was their first Columbia record, and I'm so grateful that it was the first show I saw because that's a really good first show. It's not like I saw New Kids on the Block or something. And it was Mike Watt. At that show he tripped on the stage, hit the back of his head on the drum riser, spit out a tooth, played the rest of the song, went downstairs bleeding out of his mouth – selling T-shirts and shaking people's hands. I got to meet him a couple years ago and it was one of those surreal, really big deals, you know?
KNAC.COM: I'm not worthy!
LOEFFLER: Yeah, and I tried to not be stupid about it. I was kind of drunk, not really drunk, fortunately.
KNAC.COM: So bands like Discharge, the old punk, Dead Kennedys, are you into them?
LOEFFLER: Definitely Dead Kennedys, GBH. For some reason I used to listen to the Dead Milkmen. That was kind of a joke but we were into that stuff. The Cult was an influential band to us. The record, Love – remember that record?
LOEFFLER: I don't think that was a very big record. Sonic Temple was the big one that they put out, and it was great, but Love for some reason was a big record for Pete and me. We'd listen to it a lot. When Pete first started playing guitar we had the influence from our older sister and her boyfriends are like in bands are whatever and they'd say - “You gotta learn how to play Eruption.”
LOEFFLER: So Pete did. And he'd been playing guitar for about six months and learned “Eruption.” He said - “Hey, check this out!” My sister's boyfriend was just like - “I can't believe you can play that.” And Pete was twelve years old, maybe thirteen at the most.
KNAC.COM: That still holds up, “Eruption.” Incredible. Which bands are you still into? I know you have a very diverse collection in your library.
LOEFFLER: Well, we still listen to The Cult, actually. I don't really listen to too much Van Halen, but we did back then. It's so weird because I'm trying to remember what my record collections were like back then. There was a bunch of really weird early 90's stuff, even The Cure.
LOEFFLER: Not so weird, but there some really strange stuff back when 120 Minutes was the thing. Like Happy Mondays, stuff like that. Kind of poppy, not metal. Some of it was okay, but then you really had to weed through it to get to the good stuff.
KNAC.COM: You guys have done a few soundtracks.
LOEFFLER: We did The Punisher and we did Daredevil. So both were cool because for Daredevil we go to use this song that we didn't do for the Wonder What' s Next CD. It was cool that we got to do our own version of it, which we produced it, engineered it, all that stuff. The same thing is true with The Punisher. We did another version of the song “Still Running”, which came out on this record. So we did our own version, demo version of it and put it on The Punisher soundtrack. It's really, really strange.
KNAC.COM: I'll have to hear that. I dig “Still Running.” It's great.
LOEFFLER: Thank you. It's a totally different song on The Punisher because there's no bridge to it. We went back and wrote a bridge later on.
KNAC.COM: I know that you guys kept the demo you had originally thought was lame on Wonder What’s Next.
LOEFFLER: At the end?
KNAC.COM: Yeah, at the end. “One Lonely Visitor.”
LOEFFLER: Well we re-recorded that song at the studio - it just sounded so crisp and clear, it was dumb.
KNAC.COM: “Bend the Bracket” is kind of the same thing. Is that going to be your trademark?
LOEFFLER: You know what? It just seems that lo-fi is the way to record acoustic songs, and when you doll them all up and tune them and do all that stuff that producers always want to do they sound like Extreme. I'd rather have it sound like Beck and have it be real. Those were first takes, both of those songs.
KNAC.COM: That’s what’s unreal about those songs. They’re not multi-layered – this is it.
LOEFFLER: In our studio on our own 24 track. It’s the way it is. You can tell, too, because there’s all this hiss, but the feeling of that song is so much better than going back and re-recording it, because then it loses all its feel.
KNAC.COM: I think the feel of the song with Pete’s and Joe’s vocals …Do you sing?
LOEFFLER: Not a bit. I’d like to. I don’t at all. I probably could, I just never have.
KNAC.COM: On the up and comers, who are the new bands you like?
LOEFFLER: There’s this band Muse. They’ve got some pretty good radio play but the record has great songwriting, great musicianship. Every Time I Die, a band from New York. I love that band. I’ve never seen them live, but that record is bad ass.
KNAC.COM: As far as your vision, and your band, what do you want to convey? What is your message?
LOEFFLER: Well, I think the best thing that we can possibly convey is that you should write the music you love. Don’t let anybody tell you that you have to write anything a certain way or that it has to be different. Whatever you love is what you love and write those songs.
KNAC.COM: Do you have a deeper, more personal conviction on that?
LOEFFLER: Don’t slit your wrists! Find whatever it takes not to.
KNAC.COM: Don’t work with your brothers!
LOEFFLER: Yeah, sometimes I can say I don’t ever recommend starting a family band. We didn’t mean too. It seriously happened on accident. I think my brothers are great musicians and probably the main reason that I continue drumming is that I’m such a fan of Pete. I’m a fan of his songwriting and a fan of his singing. So I’m the biggest fan there is, and I’m the one who gets a kick every time I get to sit down at the drum kit behind him and play. That’s cool and a good thing.
KNAC.COM: To know that you guys have been together a couple decades as brothers.
LOEFFLER: And we’ve been together as a band for ten years.
KNAC.COM: Ten years? Wow! Nobody stays together ten years. In California nobody stays married ten years. On that front, you guys are all bachelors?
LOEFFLER: I am actually engaged. I get married in November, is what I’m told. Hope so.
LOEFFLER: Pete has a girlfriend, Joe doesn’t have a girlfriend anymore. Pete’s had one for years. So, we pretty much limit our vices to drinking heavily.
KNAC.COM: I was reading that Pete is the one who gets mobbed.
LOEFFLER: Pete is the front man. He has the recognizable face. Joe, you can’t scare the guy. Nothing scares him. He’ll say anything to anyone. If somebody comes up to him, and is rude, he’ll be right in their face. He doesn’t care. Pete will just walk away. And nobody bothers me. So, I’m usually like the shield. Pete and I have this little thing where he can hide his head behind me, especially if we’re walking past a line into our own show. Usually we can go completely unnoticed, which is good. It’s good to have that anonymity. I bet that Jonathan Davis (Korn) wishes he has it sometimes.
KNAC.COM: It’s a compromise.
LOEFFLER: It is. And I’d never complain that too many people recognize me. That’s not really a thing to complain about. I’m doing fine. It doesn’t bother me a bit.
KNAC.COM: Yeah, you seem like both your feet are on the ground. You’re not too lofty!
LOEFFLER: No. You gotta ride the snake while you can!
KNAC.COM: So who would you say is the visionary? Is it you or is it Pete?
LOEFFLER: It’s definitely Pete. Pete is as typical an artist as an artist can get. He’s very brooding, always thinking. He’s always creating and his mood can change instantly. But he’s great. I love him to death –he’s my best friend. It’s just that he has that disposition of an artist - always creating.
KNAC.COM: In terms of interviews, are you the most accessible?
LOEFFLER: No, we split it up pretty much. I probably do a little bit more than they do, as far as
Interviews go. Pete will do them, but if he’s not specifically requested then they get me. I do a little more than Joe, because Joe doesn’t really like them that much. I think he just doesn’t like to talk that much. I’m still excited about it for some reason, so I’m willing to talk about it.
KNAC.COM: Do you guys write while you’re on the road?
LOEFFLER: Not really. In the past sometimes Pete would bring an acoustic with him and write on the road, but this tour is pretty hectic. We’re pretty busy. We’re doing a lot of seven days in a row kind of stuff, because even on our days off, like tomorrow, we’re shooting a video.
KNAC.COM: I heard you guys are getting up at 5 in the morning.
LOEFFLER: Yeah, we’ll be there all day. That’s your day off, but it is part of the business. I’d rather work seven days a week, seven weeks in a row while I’m on tour, and then go home and actually be home for a few weeks and not have to work. To be able to go out to dinner and be able to work on my house and that stuff, and not have to do interviews all the time. So I will try to push things for during touring time.
KNAC.COM: Chicago is home?
LOEFFLER: Yeah, the suburbs.
KNAC.COM: All three of you?
LOEFFLER: Yeah, we all have houses about a half hour from each other. And we have a studio there, too.
KNAC.COM: So, this glamour thing we call Hollywood, L.A., doesn’t appeal to you at all?
LOEFFLER: There’s some appeal to it because on top of the California warmth and the weather - it’s nice to hang out – and when you tour as much as all of us touring bands do, you sort of get use to the “after a show” lifestyle. For me more than anything, the weather is the hardest thing to be away from. But I don’t want to get pulled into the “my car is bigger than your car”, or “my house is bigger than your house” thing. There’s always somebody with a bigger one, no matter what it is.
KNAC.COM: That’s tiring.
LOEFFLER: I’m sure it is. I think that most people here are adjusted to that and it doesn’t bother them. It’s the people who you go out and see at the clubs that aren’t adjusted to it, and those are the people that you’re competing. But I don’t compete at all, because I still have to stand in line at the club.
KNAC.COM: Yeah, you’d be pretty anonymous out in public. They’d probably ask you what the drummer for Chevelle looked like.
LOEFFLER: I can drop our name and that helps sometimes, but I’d rather not. In fact, sometimes we’ve gone to shows and just paid to get in because it’s easier than having to call and deal with it.
KNAC.COM: The whole ritual of shaking hands and all that.
LOEFFLER: Shaking the babies and kissing the hands.
KNAC.COM: I wanted to ask you about “Panic Prone.”
LOEFFLER: “Panic Prone” is an interesting song because I’ve just recently learned what it’s about. Pete was watching television and one of those commercials came on, ‘Save the Children’ commercials. That song is about making a decision whether you’re going to sit on your couch and watch this happen or you’re going to stand up and do something about it. That song isn’t about if you should or shouldn’t do it, its’ just about – Are you going to do it? Is this my problem? I was really surprised that it was about that. I think one of the lines is actually about one of our friend’s falling off the wagon, too. I think the first line might be about that.
KNAC.COM: You guys appear to be clean and have a teatotaler image, but you’re not.
LOEFFLER: Actually Joe is fresh and so clean. laughs He really is. He’s never drank, never done any drugs. Pretty clean living. Like even now he’s not eating sugar, he works out whenever he can. He’s on top of it. I would love to pickle my liver. For some reason I just love to drink. I love whiskey.
KNAC.COM: What brand?
LOEFFLER: Usually I drink Crown Royal.
KNAC.COM: Crown Royal? In the old velvet bag!
LOEFFLER: I don’t know why but I’m just so drawn to it. I don’t know if it’s the alcoholism in my family, whatever, but I love to drink.
KNAC.COM: Same here. It must be the Irish in me.
LOEFFLER: It might be, but I try to keep control of it. Now Pete, on the opposite end of the spectrum, doesn’t drink that much on tour, but when he’s home he’s plowed every night, which is weird. Almost every night. I’m kind of the opposite. When I’m home I hardly drink at all. I’m also very, very nervous about the whole drunk driving thing. When I’m out here, man, I can do whatever I want. Somebody will get me where I have to go. Unfortunately, tonight I’m going to have to keep it together because we have a shoot tomorrow. There’s nothing worse than throwing up in the car on the freeway!
Chevelle live at the House of Blues, Hollywood, CA on January 29th, 2005 (click on the photos to enlarge):