Rock and Bucking Roll
Hats Off to the Bull keeps Chevelle in the hard rock rodeo
By Wayne Brekke
Among the slew of bands that rocked the early 2000’s, Illinois band Chevelle took its stand with a three-piece configuration that showcased a bare-bones approach to a sound that was being washed thoroughly in the laundry of American pop. With breakthrough songs like “The Red” and “Send the Pain Below” from 2002’s “Wonder What’s Next” album, Chevelle was making it cool to like harder edged, metal influenced rock again.
Since its formation in the late 90’s, Chevelle has been consistently putting out records that offer heavy doses of rock that consistently matured with the years as well as their audience. This consistency was due in part to the singer and drummer being brothers. Initially Pete Loeffler and his brother Sam were joined by their other brother Joe, until a few years later when Joe left and current bass player and brother-in-law Dean Bernardini joined to fill in the gap. Chevelle has been cautious in balancing their creativity and keeping a slow but steady approach to growing their sound, and it shows in their latest offering and seventh album “Hats Off to the Bull.”
“We take small steps in experimentation because we don’t want to lose our core audience and our core sound, we just want to build on it,” says Bernardini. “The three of us also believe that rock doesn’t sound good if it’s too clean or polished either.”
The band recorded their new record with Joe Barresi (Buckcherry, Queens of the Stone Age) in Pasadena California and experimented with different tones and instrumentation. Taking things further they added extra percussion, organ, and expanded guitar sounds. But being a three-piece, the band was also aware of their ability to pull these added parts into their live show.
“We know where our boundaries are when trying to reproduce things live, so we’re pretty solid on that. Or at least we try to be.”
An American tour is currently taking Chevelle to a variety of large venues and festivals in support of their new record and giving the band a chance to test their expanded sounds for a new audience as well as longtime fans. Overall, the record stays consistent with the formula that Chevelle has developed over the years and live, it gives the band a chance to make the most of a three-piece sound that doesn’t get lost in festival sized stages.
“It comes off bigger somehow. I’ve had it told to me personally that it sounds way bigger. You would think as a three-piece that it wouldn’t but it’s something that we consciously thought of when we were recording. Also, we love large stages. Pete loves to not be tied to the mic and we both enjoy running around the stage and interacting with the audience.”
Bassist Dean Bernardini is not only a brother-in-law to the Loefflers, he is also a longtime friend who has known the band since their first gig. Originally a drummer, Bernardini had a band that went up against Chevelle in a local battle of the bands, and won. Over the years they remained close, so close in fact that Bernardini married their sister. When brother Joe was no longer a part of the band, they asked Bernardini to learn the bass and join the band as a full member.
“My wife was out on the road with them on tour as the tour manager at the time. When they asked me I felt like I had nothing to lose, when your girl is away from you, there’s a lot of motivation there. I took six weeks and just learned it. At first I was holding the bass like an ogre, all bent over in the drummer position. It was a total relearning to take up the bass but I did it.”
With a family mentality and a career 17 years in the making, Chevelle continues to keep their music at the forefront of rock and just on the edge of metal. You can hear “Face to the Floor” on the trailer for the movie Act of Valor and catch them live Wednesday March 14th at the Sokol Auditorium with Middle Class Rut and Janus. To hear the full audio interview, visit Worldsofwayne.com.