It was just gone. All of it. The guitars, the drums, the amps, the boards, the risers — all had been hauled off inside of Chevelle's trailer, stolen during the night while on tour last May in Dallas, Texas. All the band was left with was frustration and a very uncertain future concerning their upcoming show dates.
The theft led to postponed shows for the next seven days while the band scrambled to gather instruments and equipment from friends and wholesalers. Adding to the annoyance was the resounding outcry from fans concerning the canceled shows, a lack of understanding that certainly chafed members of the band.
“I almost had a heart attack when our stuff was stolen,” says drummer Sam Loeffler, who founded the band with his brother Pete in 1994. “Then we had to take s— from fans for the postponed shows. They would ask, 'Why not rent gear?' or just call us prima donnas. All I have to say to them is that I hope their houses get robbed.”
It was not the sort of start Chevelle was looking for as they attempted to hype their latest release, Vena Sera, which dropped in early April. Fortunately for the band, the album's music spoke for itself, reaching No. 12 on the Billboard charts. Breaking slightly from their past approach by dabbling with higher vocal melodies by Pete Loeffler and mixing in more harmonies, Vena Sera, wanders into a more poppy territory than the tracks on previous releases. Pete Loeffler's howls are far from absent and the constant crunch of distortion keeps this firmly in the hard rock realm, even if it isn't quite Chevelle's standard fare from previous album This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In).
“Last album was a little bit conceptual,” Sam Loeffler says. “We had a lot of long intros and bridges you could bang your head to.”
There's still plenty of that on Vena Sera, recorded largely at The Palms studio in Las Vegas.
“Living in The Palms was so cool and so different,” says Sam, a car enthusiast who was more than a little excited when offered the chance to drive friend and casino owner Gavin Maloof's Lamborghini while in town. “I don't even like gambling, but we recorded the drum parts in only seven or eight days so I had a lot of time to hang out.”
Though he did hit the blackjack tables and frequent a fair share of parties, one of the most enjoyable endeavors was simply sipping a beer and people watching at the main entrance to the hotel.
“People were fighting, there were drunks, people were trying to steal cars from the valets or at least trying too,” Sam recalls, noting also that the new track “The Fad” was based heavily on the goings on in Sin City.
The recording process for Vena Sera was also the first to feature new bassist Dean Bernardini, Sam and Pete's brother-in-law, who replaced actual brother Joe Loeffler in July 2005, a transition that was not exactly a smooth one.
After the other brothers felt that Joe's perceived aversion to traveling was negatively affecting the band, the band's website posted that Joe was leaving the band due to “irreconcilable differences.” Joe didn't see it that way at all, stating that he was fired and that the message on the website was completely false and that his brothers hadn't spoken to him since.
“It wasn't really any surprise,” Sam says of the contentious change. “We never really got along really well. Things are fine now though.”
That's especially true considering the chemistry that Bernardini has brought to the band.
“It's the best. We've known him for eight or nine years before he married our sister and we grew up together in neighboring towns,” Sam says, though he concedes he doesn't exactly remember when Dean married his sister — for his sake, hopefully Dean does.
Now, five months after getting their equipment swiped, the band is heading back on the road with a stop slated for D.C.'s 9:30 Club Friday, Sept. 14. Tickets are $25.
• For more on Chevelle, visit www.chevelleinc.com.