Chevelle’s Sam Loeffler on New Album Theme, Tour + Signature Beer
Chevelle are currently in the midst of working on a new record, and we recently met up with drummer Sam Loeffler in Los Angeles to get an update on where things stand with the new music. We also discussed the group’s forthcoming tour with Breaking Benjamin this summer and more. Check out the chat below.
So you’re in town to work on a new record. If you could, we’ll just start with an update of where you’re at on the progress.
It’s going really well. As far as drums go, I’ve tracked seven songs. We have one more to do right now and a couple of more songs that haven’t been tracked yet. But it’s going really well. There’s a ton of pressure and stress and it’s … well, it’s not quite like Groundhog Day, but you work so hard for so long and then it all culminates into one thing.
We’ve been writing songs for the last year and a half and last year we took time off from the road. We only did 10 shows last year to try and just concentrate on the writing process and it worked.
For you to come out here, I take it that writing is done at this point, or do you still come up with stuff once you hit the studio?
Yeah, it’s never done. Pete’s always changing lyrics, melodies and Joe Barresi our producer, he’ll say, ‘No, this is great. Go ahead and do it’ or then he’ll say, ‘I know you can write something better here.’ He’s really great about that. He can encourage you to get the best out of you. That’s a big part of his job.
The relationship has to be good with Joe, as you’ve worked with him over several records now. What makes him the guy?
Yeah, this is our fourth record. We do work really well together. But Joe is awesome because he doesn’t give a shit about anybody or anything. All he cares about is that it’s great music. If some pop artist were to come in with great music, he’d probably do it, cause that’s what he cares about. He doesn’t give a shit about who people are, and he’s a totally nice, kind, great person to be around, he’s fun, he’s funny and he’s crazy smart, but he just doesn’t care.
If it was bad music, you could offer him half a million dollars and he’d be like, ‘I’m not doing that shit. I don’t care and I’m not going to do anything I don’t want to do.’ That attitude is amazing because we all shouldn’t be doing things we don’t want to do. Life is way too short.
In terms of the new music that you’re working on, are there any themes or things that are inspiring you musically at this moment?
I know for Pete one of the things that was inspiring him was the idea of populating another planet, going to Mars. There’s been a lot of talk about that and there’s a lot of debate about whether we should do it and why would should do it and all of that is interesting to us.
So there’s a little bit of a theme, I’d say interplanetary or Earth vs. Mars or anything that goes into it, because it’s so interesting to think that there are people signing up by as far as I know by the hundreds to get on a rocket ship and go to Mars and never come back to Earth or never have anything that they know from everyday life.
Can you imagine? There are people who are excited about that and those people are amazing. That freaks me out and I’m glad that they’re doing that because you have to explore. If we hadn’t we would’ve never explored outside of the first cave.
When you start talking about other planets, I think back to Sci-Fi Crimes and just wondering if there’s a science fiction fascination with you and your brother, the love of exploration and if it’s something that dated back to childhood.
Not really. I think just as we grow up, we naturally want to be smarter and explore more ideas and we want to learn new things cause that’s fun. The more outrageous, we just like to learn new things and who knows if it will ever happen, because I’ll probably be gone by the time that Mars will ever be populated.
A bit along the same lines, but given the fascination with space, have you followed any of Tom DeLonge and his UFO research?
I’ve followed along a bit. I don’t believe in aliens. I feel that science has shown us that there are probably not aliens who are visiting us. That’s just likely. But I really want Tom to be right, I really do. But you would think there would just be something. Tom claims that there is, so hopefully he shows us soon.
Are you still thinking of getting a song out there this summer?
Oh yeah. We’re going to do this tour with Breaking Benjamin which is 10 weeks this summer and we’re hoping to have a single out pretty early in there. I’d imagine end of July, beginning of August, I hope. I don’t know what would change that, but anything could happen.
Every album gives you a chance to shine at some point. Is there something on this upcoming record that is standing out to you as a favorite moment or something you can’t wait to get out and play?
The last two records we’ve done, I think they were pretty aggressive. We were writing pretty hard rocking songs and I think some of our audience liked that, maybe some of our audience didn’t. But we find that people who are real rock fans, when they hear our records are like, ‘We didn’t know you were as heavy as you are.’
Now that we’ve done that a couple of times, we really did go back to where we made this album more melodic. That’s just the reality and that’s just the way that it is. I’m really excited about that, because I like music and I like our genre, rather it’s Pete screaming or Pete singing melodically. To me, it’s just kind of piling onto this catalog we’ve created. This will be our tenth studio record so we’re just piling music on top of other music, and if you look at it as a whole, within our genre, it’s pretty diverse.
Things did get pretty heavy with the last album. How does that affect your sets?
Yeah, it was pretty intense, and some people loved that about it. We loved that. Our only issue with writing music is that we can’t play all these songs every night because we have too much music. So writing a set list is difficult because you want to play a few songs from each record. If we play three songs from each record, that’s 27 songs.
Our sets are 18 or 19 songs. That’s somewhere between an hour and 25 and an hour and 45 minutes. Your voice only lasts as long as it lasts. Then it starts to get broken up and people start to complain about your singing.
I know there are people who do three and four hour shows. Bruce Springsteen does that, and he’s singing what’s in his range for the most part, with some guitar solos and drum solos thrown in. I know the Pumpkins went out recently and it was a three-and-a-half hour set, that’s kind of amazing. But you have to fill it in with some other stuff. You can play guitar or drums for four or five hours, but your voice is eventually going to give out.
But for us, we’ll do all the songs we can, but then that’s it. I think an hour and a half is a pretty good set time, especially if there is three bands playing.
This summer, it’s you and Breaking Benjamin and there are some other acts as well. Just wanted to ask your thoughts on the bill and if you can discuss the relationship built with your touring partners.
Yes, it’s us, Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace are on it, and two other acts – Dorothy and Diamante. That’s cool because we like to put women on our rock shows. For some reason, we’ve just done it, but we didn’t have anything to do with it here. It was all taken care of before we got there.
I think that you just have to tour smart. The pie is the same size, but it’s cut into many, many pieces now. To go back a little bit, we don’t love to support slots or co-headline slots because then we don’t have the ball. You want the ball and you want to control it and I think that that’s normal for most people. That being said, it was smart to tour with other people, because people are just doing that now. Your money goes further as a fan.
So when it came up, the guy putting it together said, ‘It doesn’t matter if you do this tour or not, you’re already doing it,’ because there’s so much in this genre that everybody knows everybody else already. That was a really good point, and it’s sold really well already.
What we really want is to be in front of people. Ben is super supportive and he’s happy to be doing this stuff and we’re happy to be doing this stuff and it’s just kind of a no-brainer to pair up and do tours now.
You mentioned before nine, ten studio albums?
Well, nine studio albums, but the b-sides record makes it ten.
It just seems like yesterday, but 1999 was the first album.
You know what’s crazy is that we’re finishing our contract with Epic Records for the second time. This is our last record according to our contract, and so few bands have finished a contract for a major label. It’s a handful. When people sign bands, it’s usually a one-plus or a two-plus deal, two firm records with four options to put out the next four records. Very few bands get the chance to do that. We’re really grateful that we have and that we’ve been supported at our label despite having so many presidents and different A&R people. Every time someone’s come in, they’ve supported us and let us do what we do. It’s actually been a good relationship.
It’s just funny to think that we’re finishing these deals, and if you read anything about major label deals, you know that they’re set up for you … I would say for you to fail, but they’re not in the artist favor whatsoever. No contract, no deal that you have to sign is going to be in your favor. I think that’s a general rule for life. So it’s amazing to me that we’re not only getting through our first label deal with Epic but our second. That’s a huge achievement. I kind of want to make a plaque or put it on my hat or something.
Maybe you can speak to this, but it’s rare that bands have the freedom without the label coming in and wanting their stamp on things.
That is true, and that may have been an advantage to us is that we did have so many A&R people and different presidents, but we really do have two of those people right now who are being supportive. Our A&R guy is really great – Paul Pontius – and our president right now, Sylvia [Rhone], is super supportive. She wants us to be happy and write great music and it’s really refreshing to see that. So we’re definitely grateful for where we are. I don’t think a lot of people can say that with their major label deals.
We did move onto new management after 18 or 19 years. People do need to move on to new management companies to get some fresh ideas. That does happen.
Looking ahead to the summer, do you get a chance to enjoy with family and do stuff or does touring take up everything?
We’ll be gone all summer, but we take advantage of every minute. The truth is I probably get a lot more time with my kids than my dad was able to get with me by working his job. My dad worked 12 hours a day, six days a week. And nowadays you’ve got both parents working. So I do get time with my kids and I take advantage of it. I miss them all the time, but how freaking amazing is it that we have Facetime.
My wife and I, we always say when I’m gone, it’s never as long as people in the military. Being a military family has got to be ten times harder to communicate, so comparatively we have it pretty easy.
As long as you’ve been on tour, is it the same thrill? Do you find new things about visiting places and seeing the world?
Every city has a different reason for us to be there, so we go back to those things that we know. When we go back to the Boston area, we eat lobster lunch-dinner, lunch-dinner, even to the point to where our tour manager Chris, who is from the East Coast, he has his lobster roll recipe and we’ll get enough lobster and make it for everybody. That’s the good part about it.
The weird part is I’ve never been, and I’ve been back and forth across this country maybe a couple hundred times, but I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, because who plays the Grand Canyon? It’s out of the way. But you’ve just got to make those things happen.
But we do travel even when we’re not touring. My wife is Australian and we go there every year if we can, and our kids are growing up going to different cities. I’ll go to a show in New Orleans for two shows in a row and they’ll come hang out for four days, so that part is really nice.
Looking through your social media and I see you with a motorcycle and also at a racing event. Big fan?
I watch F1 and I watch some Indy stuff and I watch Moto GP, obviously motorcycle racing. I actually got my whole family on my motorcycle with the baby later.
Do you take the motorcycle out on tour?
Sometimes, sometimes I get to travel with it. I’ll bring a bike out on the road or if one of the crew guys has one we’ll bring a bike out. Sometimes I’ll ride to a show. I have a Ducati that’s an over the road long distance bike that I like to ride. I’m actually going on a trip next month for four days with my buddies before we hit that next long tour. We’ll do like 1,500 miles in four days, which isn’t that bad.
It’s the antithesis of music because you put your helmet on, and there’s nothing like riding a motorcycle. I would never tell anyone to go do it, because it is dangerous and I get that, but there’s nothing like it. If you’re smart and you do things the way they’re supposed to be done, you’ll be fine. It’s just like nothing else in my life and I love it. It’s probably like flying a small airplane for some people, but much less expensive.
Do you have a target date for the album?
We’re really trying to work that out right now. One thing that we are doing that’s cool is we’re hoping to put out a beer with Revolution in Chicago. Hopefully we can make that happen in the next couple of months. Those guys are great and their beer is amazing and it’s just a cool thing to be part of.
Our management reached out to them, but they’re very Chicago, so they were totally into it, so hopefully that will happen very soon.
Thanks to Chevelle’s Sam Loeffler for the interview. Keep an eye out for new music potentially by late summer, and be sure to catch Chevelle on tour with Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, Dorothy and Diamante at these locations.
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