Some critics swear rock is dead. Don’t tell that to Chevelle. With its new album, “La Gargola,” the Chicago hard rock trio is enjoying its first No. 1 on Billboard’s rock charts and a No. 3 debut on the Billboard 200. It sold 45,000 albums in its first week of release, thanks in part to the single “Take Out the Gunman.”
“It’s unheard of for a rock band these days,” says drummer Sam Loeffler, calling from a tour stop in Kansas. “It was pretty amazing.”
Loeffler has a theory about why rock doesn’t perform as well on the charts as it once did.
“Rock and alternative has been decimated by the Internet more than any other genre. People who are fans of rock and alternative are usually teenagers and people in their 20s to 40s that have the ability to exploit the Internet. They don’t have to go to Best Buy or iTunes. That’s why it’s an incredible win for us to be No. 3 on the charts,” he says.
For “La Gargola” the group taps into early industrial influences like Ministry and singer Pete Loeffler’s (yes, they’re brothers) interest in vintage horror, which fuels some of the lyrics. Although Chevelle came into the studio with most of the songs fully formed, producer Joe Barresi provided a playground of stomp boxes, vintage amplifiers and effects pedals, and electronic percussion that adds new colors to Chevelle’s sound.
“He has this studio that’s loaded with gear from all kinds of (eras). That helped to have everything right in front of you. Some people have that ability to do that when they have ProTools, but in between songs you’re playing with all this stuff in the studio. You’d be in a middle of a song messing with something – ‘Would this work on the chorus from this?’ It adds spontaneity,” he says.
“La Gargola” is being hailed as one of the trio’s best albums, with tracks that echo not only Tool (to which Chevelle has long been compared), but Filter, Nine Inch Nails, and others with a more industrial edge. Although it’s considered the group’s most experimental record, that doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible. There’s more ethereal work like “One Ocean,” but there’s also the biting metal of “Hunter Eats Hunter” and “Choking Game.”
“You never want a song that’s boring,” says Loeffler. “When people say something is ‘experimental’ it often ends up being the same part over and over again. The person that writes it will say ‘I love that sound, it reminds me of this space, this studio where it was recorded,’ but no one else knows the background. We have this saying, ‘Just because you wrote it, doesn’t mean it’s good.’ ”
Another thing the Loefflers have been adamant about is sticking to the power trio, which includes brother-in-law Dean Bernardini on bass, whereas other trios at this level often add additional musicians on tour.
“We’ve never added any outside musicians. I don’t know how to add to the dynamic we have. We’re all so close. It would be difficult for people to read,” he adds. “We have something we call the Loeffler lilt where it’s not totally in time. There’s a count and a half that adds tension. Other musicians would come up to us and say, ‘How do you do that?’ It’s the Loeffler lilt.”