Losing a co-founding member can be a devastating, even terminal blow for a band. In the case of Chicago hard-rock-alternative trio Chevelle, the lost member was the brother of the group’s remaining two members.
“It definitely was a blow,” drummer Sam Loeffler said of his bass-playing brother Joe’s departure from Chevelle in 2005. “For some bands, it is a death blow, but it all depends on how that member is working inside that camp. Had Joe been contributing more than what he was, it might have affected us, but it never really was his thing, so it wasn’t that difficult of a change.”
Loeffler and his singer-guitarist brother, Pete, didn’t search far and wide for a replacement. They quickly brought their brother-in-law, Dean Bernardini, into the group.
“We’ve known Dean for 20 years and he’s been married to my sister for eight or nine years,” Loeffler said. “He was the only person we ever even considered. I mean, how do you bring somebody into the dynamic of two brothers? It’s gotta be somebody who’s already pretty darn close.”
Keeping it all in the family with Bernardini brought Chevelle the extra benefit of having a bass player who’s also a talented artist. Bernardini created the cover art for the band’s Top 10-debuting album, 2009’s Sci-Fi Crimes, as well as T-shirt designs, ads and posters.
“Things were explosive with my brother, Joe,” Loeffler added. “So it’s a lot more friendly a camp now.”
The Loeffler brothers and Bernardini grew up in the culturally rich Chicago area.
“We were down there in the city every weekend, watching shows, going to whatever events were going on,” Loeffler said. “Because there’s so much winter in Chicago, every weekend in the summer is full of events. It’s a great place to live. We love it.”
Creating songs they wanted to share with others led to the still very young Loeffler brothers making Chevelle a professional entity. But then the demands of attending community college, working full time at a printing company and performing with the band brought Sam Loeffler to a turning point.
“I said to my brother, ‘If it doesn’t connect in another year, I’m gonna concentrate more on my job.’ And Pete’s like, ‘Yeah, absolutely, dude. I get it. No problem. I’ll always write.’ ”
About six months later Chevelle accepted an offer from musician friends to share a tour. During the tour the trio got noticed by an indie record company, Squint Entertainment, which eventually released the Chevelle’s Steve Albini-produced album debut, Point #1.
Tours with Filter, Sevendust and more followed. Chevelle signed with major label Epic Records, which released the group’s major-label debut, Wonder What’s Next, in 2002. The album sold a million copies, produced the hit singles “Send the Pain Below” and “The Red” and helped get Chevelle on the OZZfest tour.
Chevelle’s sixth album, Hats Off to the Bull, appeared in December. Producer Joe Barresi (Queens of the Stone Age, Tool, Hole, Coheed and Cambria, Soundgarden, Every Time I Die and many more), guided the project in Los Angeles.
“We’re big fans of stuff that Joe’s done,” Loeffler said. “He’s worked on so many great records, records that we grew up with, that we were inspired by. He’s a great guy and he knows everything.”
The lyrics Loeffler’s brother, Pete, wrote for the new album are another example of his thoughtful songwriting.
“The title song, ‘Hats Off to the Bull,’ is specifically about animal cruelty,” Loeffler said. “But the title of the record deals more with rooting for the underdog. Another of the other songs, ‘Face to the Floor,’ is about greed. Pete specifically mentions Bernie Madoff, because he’s the poster child for greed and deception, something that has affected a lot of people.
“Relationships, falling in love, falling out of love, have made for many great songs, but there are other subjects that can get us to feel something. Pete likes to write about things that affect people, rather than just affect him.”
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