Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Interview: Chevelle's 'Letter from a Thief'

If Chevelle had any particular goal with its latest release, "Sci-Fi Crimes," it was to make a record that represents how the band sounds live. And drummer Sam Loeffler says, thankfully, that plan came together.

"We didn't use auto tone on the vocals; we didn't use samples of the drums; and we recorded the whole songs through," Sam said, chatting from his hometown of Chicago. "We wanted it to sound like we sound onstage."

Despite its title, "Sci-Fi Crimes" isn't an album that deals solely with aliens or supernatural encounters. Instead, the title started out as a joke and ended up inspiring the song "Roswell," which lead vocalist and guitarist (and Sam's brother) Pete Loeffler came up with after reading a story about a woman who claims a spaceship took off from her backyard.

"It's a really interesting story, but that's not so much the theme of the album," Sam said. "It was hard to name the record because the songs all have different themes."

Chevelle's first single, "Jars," has nothing to do with aliens. The deep, down-tuned rock ditty is actually a tongue-in-cheek reference to "wanting to save the world."

"It's like you're trying to put the whole world into jars for safe keeping," Sam said. "So it's kind of about recycling and the green movement. Which of course is a great thing; it's just taking it to the extreme.

Like "The Red" and "I Get It" before it, the album shot up the rock radio chart and was the most added song on rock and active rock radio when it was released.

Nobody is more surprised by the single's success than Chevelle.

"We were surprised that song was picked as a single because we really didn't think that it was the strongest song on the record," Sam said, laughing. "But everyone was sort of attracted to it. We played it to friends and people at our label and they'd be like, 'Oh, that's the single.' "

The next single, "Letter from a Thief," is going strong, too.

Overall, the band hopes fans will dig the variety on the album.

"I imagine people will be surprised by the fact we did an acoustic song again," Sam said, referring to the downscaled "Highland's Apparition."

"I don't know if I can say it's our best record, because we're pretty close to the records, but I certainly hope it's our best record," he added. "And if it is I think it's because we developed as songwriters."

The guys - Sam, Pete and their brother-in-law Dean Bernardini on - started Chevelle in Chicago in 1995. Since then, the band has released five studio albums, and Sam says he thinks the group is coming full circle.

"I think if you go long enough in a progression, you'll sort of turn around and come back," he said. "This record is probably closest to point No. 1 than any other record we've done."

And what's it like being in a band with your brother 15 years and counting?

"I can't image what it would be like to be in a band without my brother," Sam said. "My main reason for playing music when I started was because I was fan of what he was doing. I love playing drums and I'll always be a drummer, but I don't know that I would have the drive if I didn't have his music to drive me."

-Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ/NOISE

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