Thanksgiving's going to be awkward this year at the Loeffler homestead.
More than a year ago, the departure of bassist Joe Loeffler left the remaining members of Chevelle — Joe's bros, drummer Sam and frontman Pete — in a tight spot. With an upcoming U.S. run featuring openers Taproot and 30 Seconds to Mars just weeks away, the Loefflers scrambled to fill the void, enlisting former Filter guitarist Geno Lenardo as a temp before adding brother-in-law Dean Bernadini to the fold full time. At first, the shakeup was attributed to "irreconcilable differences," but Joe later accused his brothers of firing him (see "Chevelle Extend Road Trip Through October").
So, suffice it to say, family gatherings have been nightmarish ever since last summer's drama.
"It's a bad scene," Pete Loeffler explained from his hotel room at the Palms Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, speaking for the first time about the split. "It's rare that we're ever in the same house at the same time. I haven't even spoken to him in over a year, and I probably shouldn't go into it too much, but he's demanded a lot of things and says if we don't give them to him, he'll sue us. So for the sake of my family, my friends and my own sanity, we have to figure it out. I'm not sure what's going to happen. But what fans need to know is that it was never easy, and it was never a good experience."
Loeffler said he and Sam made the right decision in finally accepting Joe's decision to quit. The situation was more complex than just some in-fighting. What it came down to was that touring with Joe became a chore and the brothers seldom got along while on the road — or off.
"We were always covering it up onstage," he explained. "As soon as we got offstage, he would go off and do his own thing. I hope someday we'll be friends again. There were times where you didn't speak for a long time, and you'd still get onstage every night and play. I don't think he liked the lifestyle — the work side of it, the real side of it. People need to know that he quit many, many times before, and that [the last] time, he quit as well. He took a train home from Kansas City, Missouri, and the [rest of the] band flew home. And when we did get home, it was the same old thing — Joe quit again. When he was confronted on it, he denied it, and we said, 'Well, too bad, because now, it's really over.'
"You can only do that so many times, and you can only treat people like sh-- so many times before you have to deal with those consequences," Loeffler continued. "People need to know that it was really his decision — he just didn't want to make it. Well, he made it, and then he denied it. He didn't want to be in the band. He really didn't. I truly do hope someday we can patch things up and be brothers again, which is what I told him the last time we spoke. But he said, 'You'll hear from my attorney.' He hasn't tried to contact us in months."
The writing sessions for Chevelle's forthcoming fifth studio LP, which is slated for release in March, haven't felt any different for Sam and Pete, because Joe "never wrote anything," said Pete. "He would only show up to the studio and have to learn it right there. I've always written everything and I have always brought it to the band, and we go over what we think is good. He really wasn't a part of that. He was more like a touring partner."
Chevelle have been recording the effort in Las Vegas in the Studio at the Palms (the same locale the Killers completed their latest LP, Sam's Town) for just a week or so with producer Michael "Elvis" Baskette (Cold, I Am Ghost), who helmed 2004's This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In). Later this month, the band will head to Virginia, where Loeffler will track his vocals. The finished product should feature a dozen of the 15 tracks Chevelle wrote for the yet-untitled disc (although Sam has suggested Your Terrible Memories), including the tentatively titled "Anti-Saint," "Humanoid," "Saturdays of Our Youth," "Straight Jacket Fashion," "One Cell" and "Gucci Clan."
The band began writing material for the album last year, and then devoted four full months to getting the songs finished. Loeffler said he's asked 30 Seconds to Mars' Jared Leto and Helmet's Page Hamilton to contribute guest vocals to the effort but does not know if their schedules will permit it.
"This record is going to be heavy and melodic, but it's also going to be poking fun at a few things," the singer/guitarist said. "The song 'Gucci Clan' is about those pretty boys who get all done up in their expensive clothes and that whole club scene, which you run into a lot out here in Vegas. So we kind of poke fun at that whole scene, where you've gotta look like you're wearing $10,000 worth of clothing. I think it's ridiculous."
Chevelle don't plan on changing anything about their style to conform to rock's current trends. "It's heavy as sh--," he said. "We're gonna have vintage tones on this record. We're trying to move away from that more typical modern-rock sound and trying to get better tones on this record. Everything is going to sound better, and the music will be a little more focused. I don't know where the landscape of rock is right now, but I don't think it's in a good place. If you do one thing and you do it well, eventually it will come back around for you. I don't know about other bands, but we're sticking to what we know and love."