Though millions are transfixed each week by “American Idol,” Chevelle frontman Pete Loeffler seethes every time he channel-surfs past it.
“These people are being nominated for Grammy awards, and they’re not even writing their own material,” Loeffler scoffed. “You can say it’s just entertainment, and you can take it lightheartedly and blow off an hour or two watching it, but it’s a joke. Most of the people that go on the show probably don’t have any desire to create new music.”
Loeffler has been so irritated by the pop-culture phenomenon that he attacks it in a song on Chevelle’s upcoming album, due this fall.
“They’re up there to sing what’s already been done solely to try to be famous, as if that’s going to be some life-affirming experience,” Loeffler said. “Music is my life. It’s something I take very seriously, so when I see someone doing it for solely those reasons, it’s something I take to heart.”
But “American Idol” played only a small role in the creation of Chevelle’s latest songs, which are more aggressive than those on the band’s second disc, 2002’s platinum Wonder What’s Next.
“We’re taking what we had on the last record, expanding it, and making the singles heavier,” Loeffler said. “We’re still keeping it melodic, but this record is way heavier. There’s a lot of double-kick drumming, and I’m tuning down lower, but at the same time you can bob your head to these songs easier. The timing and the tempos are a little more groove-friendly.”
The heavier sound is the result of 18 months of touring for Wonder What’s Next. Being on the road so long made Loeffler and his brothers — bassist Joe and drummer Sam — anxious, and that tension came out in the music. Also, touring twice with Ozzfest and once with Disturbed and Taproot on the Music as a Weapon II Tour didn’t hurt.
“We’ve always considered ourselves a hard rock band, so we were happy to be influenced by a lot of the heavy music out there. One of the heaviest songs has a working title of ’Scars.’ It’s really rhythmic, and we’re trying to get it on the new Madden football video game. But at the same time, there’s a track called ’Bend the Bracket’ which is a really cool acoustic song. … We’re doing what we want to do, and we’re definitely being ourselves.”
Chevelle have written 13 songs and plan to use 11 for their new record. They’re currently in Los Angeles’ Sunset Sound Studios with producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette (Lit, Puddle of Mudd). “We’re scooting along faster than the ProTools editor can get ’em done,” Loeffler said. “I’m extremely excited about this new music. I can’t wait to get out there and play it live.”
Though Chevelle can’t wait to return to the road, they plan to take it a little easier this time around. They may stay on tour for 18 months again, but they’ll take more breaks and travel shorter distances between shows. It’s hard enough to tour for weeks at a time, but when your bandmates are your brothers, things can get pretty ugly pretty fast.
“We fight a lot and disagree about almost everything,” Loeffler said. “That makes being on the road really hard. We actually have a new song called ’Emotional Draught,’ which touches upon some of the things I was going through during the touring process. I was just getting that glazed-over look from doing the same thing over and over.”
Fans who want a taste of the new Chevelle right away can check out “Still Running” on the soundtrack to “The Punisher.” The tune was written and recorded quickly in the band’s home studio to make the movie deadline, and the urgency rubbed off on the chugging tune.
“We really like that song, and we’re gonna redo it for the record and change it slightly,” Loeffler said. “We’ll probably add a new bridge and use the existing bridge as the chorus. But it will clearly be the same song.”
Loeffler describes “Still Running” as a motivational song about never giving up. The lyrics were inspired by something a co-worker once told him.
“I used to do carpentry, and once I talked to my boss about how things were going with the band,” Loeffler said. “And he told me, ’When things get tough, put your head down and keep forging ahead.’ That was really good advice. A lot of bands quit before they get anywhere. If they stuck it out, they’d probably do better.”