Chevelle: Revving Up New Music
Written by Eric Mitts. Photo: Chevelle.

After nearly three decades in one of the most reliable hit-making hard rock bands in the country, Chevelle drummer Sam Loeffler has found the secret to success in the music industry—just stay together. 

“And when you’re family, it’s harder to not stay together,” he added, alluding to playing with his brother vocalist/guitarist Pete Loeffler since the two started Chevelle together in Illinois in the mid-90s.

“I think the key to working with your family is treating them like a fellow employee,” he said. “You have to treat each other like if you were in an office setting. Like, would you reach out and strangle him in front of your boss? Would you call him all these terrible things and whip your guitar at the wall? No. So treat it like a professional, and that seems to be better.”

Chevelle famously parted ways with their younger brother, bassist/backing vocalist Joe Loeffler, in 2005, after the smash success of their multi-platinum-selling major label debut, 2002’s Wonder What’s Next, and the platinum-selling follow-up, 2004’s This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In). They eventually replaced him with their brother-in-law, Dean Bernardini, who played with the band from 2005 to 2019.

“Really, Pete and I have had a great relationship,” Loeffler said. “And with Dean, we had a great relationship, but then he left a couple of years ago. And I’m grateful for all that time. It’s just, being in a band is like being in a marriage, but not with one person.”

Bernardini left Chevelle less than a year before the pandemic to spend more time with his family, and focus on his own art. He had played on six albums with the band that saw them dominate rock radio for over a decade and a half.

That dominance continued after the pause of the pandemic, with the release of their last album, NIRATIAS, in 2021, landing lead single “Self Destructor” at No. 1, marking their sixth song to do so. A song about vaccines and science deniers, written well before anyone knew about COVID-19, it was a part of the larger thematic concept of the album that Loeffler said didn’t get the attention it deserved, due to its long-delayed release, and the distractibility of a post-pandemic world.

“It’s sort of the victim of so many albums that came out during that time that people were so busy doomscrolling, and looking for the next thing, that nothing stuck around for very long,” he said. “And we put five years into that record.”

The last album completing their contract with their long-time major label home of Epic Records, Chevelle has been hard at work in their home studio since, making new music for what will be their first independently released album in partnership with indie label Alchemy Records.

Now tentatively slated to come out some time next year, the new album will feature new bassist Kemble Walters, frontman for the post-hardcore group ÆGES, who has previously played with The New Regime, Juliette & the Licks, Rise, and FUEL. Walters joined Chevelle on tour in support of NIRATIAS after the pandemic in 2021, and has since worked with them in the studio recording new songs.

“It’s been over two years, but we’re getting really close,” Loeffler said about the new album. “Hopefully we’ll have new music in like October, November. Maybe we might even play a song on this tour. It should be fun for us, because it’s fun for the band to do something different.”

Producing the upcoming album themselves, Loeffler said they’re exploring both the heavier rock side of their sound that they enjoy playing live, and the more melodic side of their music as well.

“They’re still hard rock songs, but with melody, and some harmony even, which is great,” Loeffler said. “Since we’re producing, we’re really trying to create different sounds that we haven’t created before, which is what you’re always trying to do in an album. So I think two or three of the songs are very different for us, and then the other ones are kind of in our lane.”

The upcoming new album won’t be Chevelle’s first album on an indie label, as their 1999 debut, Point #1, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, came out on Squint Entertainment before the band signed with Epic. Their first record ever, they worked with the late, great Steve Albini (of Nirvana’s In Utero fame) on Point #1, and following the legendary producer’s passing this past May, Loeffler said he looks back on how much they learned from his help so early on in their career.

“I know he’s sort of been polarizing in the past, and he’s got some pretty strong opinions, which there’s nothing wrong with that at all, but he wasn’t really that way with us,” Loeffler said. “He was just very supportive. And he just wanted us to be happy with it.”

Helping instill a strong sense of credibility in the band, Albini’s impact on Chevelle persists to this day.

And with the uncertain impact of AI on the music industry lurking ominously over a band that has always had its eyes on what technology will bring to the future – while still sticking to their guns – Loeffler said he’s optimistic live bands, and rock music, will survive whatever changes are to come next.

“People will keep finding music and they’ll want to experience live music,” he said. “I mean, we’re seeing right now sort of a resurgence with younger people finding rock music, whether it’s Led Zeppelin, or ACDC, or Soundgarden, or Alice in Chains, or our band, it’s happening more and more, and we’re seeing that.” 

Wsg. Tigercub, Return to Dust
GLC Live at 20 Monroe, 11 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids,
Aug. 9, 6:30 p.m. doors, 7:30 p.m. show, $59+