Chevelle Talks "Hats Off to the Bull", Storytelling, "Star Trek", and More
Mon, 09 Jan 2012 10:30:14
"I need to read or watch something funny before I go to bed at night," reveals Chevelle singer and guitarist Pete Loeffler.
Why is that?
"Otherwise, I have these messed up dreams that make me wake up late at night. I always watch really depressing shit like I Survived. There's another show out right now about people who die and come back to life. It always happens to be on when I go to bed. I'll watch it and start pondering the deepest things. My wife keeps telling me to watch something funny."
Nevertheless, Loeffler's pensiveness is one of Chevelle's greatest strengths especially on the band's sixth offering, Hats Off to the Bull. He and his band mates tackle corporate greed with one of the catchiest riffs in modern rock during the hit single "Face to the Floor", while songs like "Same Old Trip" and "The Meddler" illuminate Chevelle putting the "power" back in power trio. Ultimately, in Hats Off to the Bull, Chevelle have fashioned a modern rock epic that's as catchy as it is compelling.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief and Dolor author Rick Florino, Chevelle mainman Pete Loeffler talks Hats Off to the Bull, the stories behind the songs, Star Trek, and so much more.
Did Hats Off to the Bull turn out how you always envisioned it?
To a point, you need to just roll with it, which is what we tried to do. After you do all of your rehearsal, you hand it over to the producer to let him work his magic and get the tones that you're looking for. That's the toughest part. I play in front of a board with the speakers blaring as they're tweaking everything. It can get very mind-numbing. You have to stay really focused. I think it came out good though.
Do songs usually begin with a riff?
Not always, but most of the time. It starts with a mood. A lot of our songs start on acoustic and end up being heavier tracks. I think the sign of a good song is that it can be played acoustically as well. It would be cool to do a coffeehouse kind of tour, play a lot of these songs acoustic, and break everything really far down. A lot of it starts with the riff.
What's the story behind "Prima Donna"?
It's an interesting song. We had a difficult time arranging the track order on the album. It's tough to do. The title is very appropriate and it really sums everything up. For "Prima Donna," I went backwards in my head. I remembered a time where I was probably out with some friends and there were some rich girls that I was hanging around in this wealthy area of Chicago. It was always fun—especially when you're in your teens—but it was weird. The "Prima Donna" title just had to go on there. It's funny when you write songs at different points in your life. Different things come out, and you don't really know why. Maybe I was longing for that time when nothing was really a big deal. That's actually a song I'm going to try to play live. It would bring the show down a little more in between all of the heavy stuff. We used organs on the song, and it added a different vibe. That song grew on me. At the time, I was torn thinking, "Wow, is this going too far?" Maybe we need to go further…on the next album, I definitely want to do less "preparing" and more "just doing" in the studio. We always prepare so much. Being a little more experimental might make the band better in the long run.
Where did "Clones" come from? It's got a hint of old school Chevelle.
Yeah! In fact, I was terrified to put that on the album because when we'd rehearse it, we'd say the same thing. It feels like it should've been on the first record, Point #1. Have we moved beyond and do we want that sound? Sam [Loeffler, drums] was all about it, and I'm glad that he was. Back then, I didn't really feel it as much as he did. When somebody in the band has such strong feelings, you want to get on board because half the time you're all struggling with decisions. The arrangement on that song went every which way, and it turned out that the simplest arrangement was the best for it. Again, this goes back to my youth—not as far back as "Prima Donna" though. It's about getting shit from peers and people saying that you're ripping somebody else off. As you're coming up in the world of music, you're going to get a lot of shit. People are trying to figure out what you are and what you're doing, and they want to label you. I'm thumbing my nose at that conversation. A lot of people will still say that we sound like Tool. It happens every time we put an album out. I'm certainly not going for that; I'm trying to be honest with what I like to play. "Clones" touches on that a lot.
What fosters your storytelling within the songs?
When I'm writing, I try to read a lot of books and things like that. I like to read science fiction. I find when I'm touring and I'm trying to write, it's a good thing. I'm always stuck in the back lounge of a bus, and that's not a good feeling to write music though. You're always exhausted, and you're not thinking clearly. Billy Corgan was recently talking about how he needs to expand and do things other than music. He's opening a Chinese-style tea house in Chicagoland here. You can't just focus on music all of the time. You're going to hit a wall eventually. I try to do the same thing. The best thing I could do is travel. When I get off the road, that's the last thing I want to do though [Laughs]. I'm really torn when I go to write so it's difficult. I toil over lyrics a lot. I'm constantly rewriting them and trying not to rhyme too much. Everyone has their own cheese meter whether or not something sounds cheesy or not. I like a lot of documentaries, and I'll watch those on Netflix. I spend a lot of time in the city, seeing friends, and you can just get an idea sparked from a conversation. Sadly, that's usually in bars [Laughs].
What are some of your favorite movies?
Dean [Bernardini, bass] and I got on this Stanley Kubrick kick. We watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. Anytime it was on, we'd hit record and just leave it running on the bus. At the end of the night, we'd watch it and ponder things. I like all of Kubrick's movies. He was so talented. I remember seeing The Shining when I was ten-years-old, and it was terrifying. Now, I can find the humor in it, but Jack Nicholson is still scary. I just watched all five original Star Trek movies back to back. I remember seeing them when I was a kid, but I never really paid attention. We just watched them in series, and it was so cool. They pick up where the previous film left off.
Have you heard Hats Off to the Bull yet?