Music News & Reviews

Chevelle defies odd with its success

In a world when hip-hop and pop acts dominate the music business, hard rock band Chevelle is still going strong.
In a world when hip-hop and pop acts dominate the music business, hard rock band Chevelle is still going strong. Courtesy of Andrew Barkules

Chevelle nears its 20th anniversary able to say its part of a vanishing breed in rock and roll.

They’re the rare hard rock band that is signed to a major label – in this case Epic Records. What’s even more unusual is that Chevelle has been with Epic since 2002, a run of six studio albums, the latest of which is last year’s “La Gargola.”

This stability has occurred even as over the past few years, major labels have dropped rock bands by the dozens in order to concentrate on pop and hip-hop acts that have come to dominate top 40 and pop radio formats. Some major labels have famously suggested that rock music is dead, at least as a genre that can routinely sell millions of albums.

In fact, Chevelle, who performs Tuesday at the Cotillion, has fared better on Epic than top executives at the label. “Every record we have done, we’ve had a different regime at Epic Records, except for this one (“La Gargola”),” Chevelle drummer Sam Loeffler said in a recent phone interview. “L.A. Reid is actually the general manager of Epic Records, and he’s on his second record with us. And he has been good to us. He’s just been like ‘Hey, you guys have a thing that you do and it works for you. Just keep me involved. Let me know what’s going on.’ He’s been great about it. And that’s all you can ask for because a guy that big could certainly come in and go ‘I really have (my own) vision for your music.’ ... So yeah, we feel very, very fortunate we’ve been supported that way.”

The shifting personnel at Epic has meant that things have not always been smooth for Chevelle. But Loeffler likes what he sees in today’s Reid-led label.

“... Epic Records is sort of going through a rejuvenation now. It’s really picking up for them. They’re doing really well. I think they did a great job promoting this (“La Gargola”) record. It was No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200. For a rock band, who knew that could happen?”

That debut at No. 3 in April 2014 made “La Gargola” the highest charting album of Chevelle’s career. It’s not the first time, though, that the group has tasted considerable success since forming in 1995 in the Chicago suburb of Grayslake.

After releasing its first studio album, “Point #1” in 1999 on the small label Squint Records, Chevelle was signed by Epic. The band’s first album for the label, 2002’s “Wonder What’s Next,” put the group on the hard rock map in a big way. Featuring the hit singles “The Red” and “Send The Pain Below,” the album went platinum with sales of more than one million copies.

The 2004 release “This Type Of Thinking (Could Do Us In).” came next and did almost as well. It produced two more rock radio hits, “Vitamin R (Leading Us Along)” and “The Clincher,” and went gold. The next trio of albums, “Vena Sera” (2007), “Sci-Fi Crimes” (2009) and “Hats Off to the Bull” (2011) achieved solid success, selling in the 200,000 to 350,000 range and adding several more top 10 rock radio hits to Chevelle’s resume.

What Loeffler also likes is that the band has continued to progress musically while maintaining its solid level of commercial success. The group members – Loeffler, his brother Pete (singer/guitarist and chief songwriter) and bassist (and the Loefflers’ brother-in-law) Dean Bernardini – have often said over the years that they don’t want to make the same album twice or sound like other hard rock/metal bands.

“La Gargola” certainly offers some new wrinkles, while retaining Chevelle’s trademark melodic, hard-rock sound. For starters, the band puts an industrial feel into songs like “Jawbreaker” and “An Island,” while also exploring a softer-but-still-tense sound on “One Ocean” and “Twinge.” Perhaps more notably, the new album has a darker mood and atmosphere than fans might expect. Songs like the driving and agitated “Ouija Board,” the nervy first single, “Take Out the Gunman” and the relentless “Choking Game” bring an unsettling element to “La Gargola.”

The band is clearly pleased with “La Gargola,” but has resisted the urge to weight its live show too heavily in favor of the latest material.

“We try to split it up between a couple of songs from each record,” Sam Loeffler said. “But it gets hard because people want you to play singles that they know from the radio. Then there are certain crowd favorites and songs we want to play, so writing a set list is certainly difficult.”

Still, the group has been squeezing in about four “La Gargola” songs at each show.

“We’d love to play the whole thing,” Sam Loeffler said of “La Gargola.” “But I don’t think people would appreciate that.”

If You Go

Chevelle & The Used

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: The Cotillion, 11120 W. Kellogg

Tickets: $35-$40;, 316-722-4201