CHEVELLE open yet another doorway on their seventh full-length record, La Gárgola [Epic Records]. After nearly two decades together, six albums, and countless sold out gigs, the Chicago alternative rock outfit—Pete Loeffler [guitars, vocals], Sam Loeffler [drums], and Dean Bernardini [bass, vocals]—confidently sail through uncharted waters and emerge with a collection that's equally intricate and intimate.
Certainly, it builds upon the group's impressive foundation, including the 2002 platinum-selling genre staple Wonder What's Next and the gold-certified follow-up This Type of Thinking Could Do Us In as well as experimental epic Sci-Fi Crimes and, most recently, 2011's Hats Off To The Bull, which respectively debuted at #9 and #19 on the Billboard Top 200. However, their signature style naturally morphs into a powerful and passionate new beast, otherwise known as La Gárgola—Spanish for "Gargoyle."
"I don't want Chevelle to sound like every other rock band out there," declares Pete. "On this album, we experimented with a lot of stomp boxes, vintage amps, effects, and tools that we never had in the past. It nods to the spirit of Sci-Fi Crimes, but we went further than ever. I had a clear path I wanted to follow."
"This is a little more alternative," Sam adds. "It's still us, but it stands out."
The trio augmented its creative arsenal both musically and lyrically. Pete immersed himself in the classic work of fellow Chicagoans the iconic Ministry, culling an industrial sensibility for his latest compositions. That's most prominent within the bruising guitar throb of "Jawbreaker" and the apocalyptic haze of "The Island" where electronic percussion collides with fuzzed-out six-string twang.
"My brother always swore off drum machines," laughs Pete. "I wanted that fast, dark, and aggressive tone so I bought him an electronic drum kit as a compromise. We wrote in an industrial way, adding something else to what we normally would do."
At the same time, when he wasn't writing or riffing, Pete was religiously watching The Walking Dead in addition to horror classics such as Rosemary's Baby and the original Friday The 13th series. A direct correlation happens on their self-proclaimed "zombie song", "The Damned", which packs a fast and focused punch. Overall, Chevelle breathe fresh life into their music from multiple angles.
"I've always liked horror films," the frontman continues. "Watching them is like riding a roller coaster. Your heart rate goes up, and that's perfect for our music. I talk about so many dark subjects on the album. That's why the album title fits. A gargoyle is a very creepy and cool creature for what it means and depicts. These mythical demons are so fascinating because it's actually socially acceptable to put them on the corner of buildings!"
In order to capture their own newfound fire, the band teamed up with Hats Off To The Bull producer Joe Barresi [Queens of The Stone Age, Tool, Coheed and Cambria] once again. They retreated to his Pasadena, CA studio and embarked down an unmapped path together in late 2013.
"You don't want to repeat yourself," affirms Sam. "Joe always pushes us to try new things. He's not content to let us fall into a formula. He wants to seize something different with each song. Every record has to take on its own identity, and he gets that. As an artist, you have to progress."
The first single "Take Out The Gunman" reflects that progression. It locks and loads an ominous guitar lick with a snap before the singer's voice begins to transfix with a breathy verse and booming hook. Simultaneously, it examines a looming social issue without prejudice or pandering.
"Clearly, we have an issue right now with mental illness and those afflicted getting guns," Pete explains. "This is a scenario of someone dealing with that and their perspective as they try to get out of the situation. It's a heavy topic, and there's no easy fix or solution. Every day, there's a shooting in the news. You can't ignore it. The subject has weighed heavily on me. I didn't want to go into my personal feelings though. I just wanted to talk about the situation. How do you get out of it and fight back? Maybe it will make people think and spark up a conversation."
Elsewhere on the record, Chevelle ebb and flow throughout "One Ocean". The track meanders from elegant soundscapes punctuated by horns into a thought-provoking hum from Pete.
"This is more of a serious song," he says. "It's about being called to the ocean for some reason. Every time I'm on the West Coast, I've enjoyed the Pacific. I had been reading up on the ocean's health. If we keep polluting it constantly, that's going to catch up with us. We can't live without it. It's totally different for us."
"We've never written a song like it before," Sam concurs. "That was a special one because everybody really felt it. It's one of our favorites."
Ultimately, Chevelle are inviting everybody to join them in this space.
"This record is more of a fantasy world," concludes Pete. "I don't want to write about fucking breakups. I hope La Gárgola takes people somewhere else. I wanted to create something fun in a dark way. It's meant to be an escape. That was the focus." — Rick Florino, February 2014