Hard-rock tempos fused with squeaky-clean adolescent angst give style and substance to this platinum-selling band of “Generation X” siblings. Performing under the unlikely name of Chevelle, they are named for the popular muscle car of the 1960s. This loud, aggressive, and provocative trio commands more than a second glance from critics, who praise the singing voice of vocalist Pete Loeffler and dote on the refreshing naiveté of Joe, the youngest of the combo, who joined the band at age 14. Eldest brother, Sam, an accomplished drummer, rounds out this award-winning act.
Sam, Pete, and Joe Loeffler belong to a brood of seven siblings raised just north of Chicago, in the suburb of Grayslake, Illinois. Their mother, an amateur musician, home-schooled the children and imparted piano and guitar skills to the boys in the process. Their father, a carpenter by trade, kept the boys occupied on weekends, teaching them how to tinker with cars and taking them to hot-rod shows. Sam, born in 1975, and Pete, born in 1977, were in their early teens when they began to collect sound equipment and purchase musical instruments, funding the effort with a credit card given to them by their father. As the band took shape, Sam developed proficiency on drums, with Pete adding lead guitar, vocals, and songwriting. A friend of Sam and Pete’s rounded out the trio on electric bass.
Among the remaining five Loeffler siblings, younger brother Joe, born in 1981, was destined to become the youngest member of Chevelle when, at age 14, he found an unclaimed electric bass guitar around the house and appropriated the instrument, teaching himself to play while his brothers were already performing. Less than a year passed before Joe joined his brothers on stage for the first time, in 1995, and after little deliberation he became a permanent replacement for the band’s original bass player, who had left the trio to pursue life as a college student.
“[Joe was] wide-eyed [and] scared,” when he joined the group, reported Matt Gleason in a profile of the youngest Loeffler brother in Tulsa World. Joe, according to Gleason, felt intimidated by the audience at his first performance and wore his hat pulled down over his face to conceal his shyness. He developed stage presence quickly and was not yet 21 when the trio joined the local nightclub circuit in the late 1990s, adopting the name Chevelle as a tribute to their father and his love of cars.
In May of 1999, Chevelle graduated from small local venues to full-scale touring, coinciding with the release of their debut album, Point 1, on Squint Entertainment. Produced by the legendary Steve Albini, the album sold 60,000 copies, with the title track earning a following among college radio audiences. In November of that year the band accepted an invitation to entertain at a party in conjunction with the Billboard Video Conference in Santa Monica, California, and by early 2000 the album’s fiery “Mia” track had been translated into a popular video on MTV. Recognized for its aggressive, metallic sound, Chevelle became a staple on MTV. The band, with its timely rhythms, made a natural fit as background music for video action games and on youth-oriented television shows such as Dawson’s Creek.
Although a legal battle with Squint Entertainment put a damper on Chevelle’s output in the early 2000s, the band secured a mainstream fan base over the next three years and returned to the recording studio in 2002. Having secured a new contract with record giant Sony Music, the brothers released a major-label debut album, Wonder What’s Next, on the company’s Epic label in August of 2002. The album went platinum on the heels of a hit single, “The Red,” which made its debut at number 14 on the sales chart. The song then reached number three on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks; and, after hitting number four on Modern Rock Tracks, it peaked at number 56 on Billboard ’s Hot 100. The entire album soared to number 14 on the Billboard 200, and the band made a debut appearance at the Ozzfest that summer, performing on the second stage.
As the clean-cut group basked in the spotlight of newfound fame, brother Joe emerged drained and hypersensitive. “I don’t understand the psycho rock star that gets drunk and drugged up everyday,” Joe said to Gleason of Tulsa World. Referring to Joe’s time spent traveling with the unbridled and uncensored musicians
Members include Joe Loeffler (born in 1981), bass; Pete Loeffler (born in 1977), guitar, vocals; Sam Loeffler (born in 1975), drums; all from Grayslake, IL; sons of a carpenter and a homemaker.
Group formed in Grayslake, IL, by three brothers, 1995; debut album, Point 1, released by Squint Entertainment, 1999; signed with Sony/Epic Records; Epic debut, Wonder What’s Next, 2002; played on the second stage of Ozzfest, 2002, played on the main stage of Ozzfest, 2003.
Awards: Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, Best Hard Music Recorded Song for “Mia,” Best Hard Music Album for Point 1, 2003.
sicians of the Ozzfest, Gleason pointed out that “[Joe has] gone through a baptism by fire with that crew.” Joe stopped performing temporarily and returned to the family home in Illinois, where, according to reports, he recharged his emotional battery. Fortunately for fans of Chevelle, Joe’s recipe for healing was to take a banal job delivering pizzas. Faced with the realities of life in small-town Grayslake versus the memory of his life as a rock star on tour, Joe was won over by the proverbial smell of the greasepaint, and he rejoined his brothers on stage with few regrets.
The all-American Loeffler brothers find their identity very simply as a group of rockers, while voicing a preference for the term “melodic hard rock.” Chevelle takes exception in particular to those who would categorize the band under the umbrella of the heavy metal genre. Neither is this trio to be confused with an Australian quartet called the Chevelles, which consists of Duane Smith, Adrian Allen, Jeff Halley, and Julian Buckland. Chevelle members hold back likewise on other stereotypical musical labels; yet while the band rebuffs the label of Christian rock band, in April of 2000 the Chevelle debut album won a Dove Award from the Gospel Music Association for Best Hard Music Album. Likewise, the riveting hit single “Mia” from that album won the Dove Award for Best Hard Music Recorded Song. According to Crystal K. Wiebe in Lincoln, Nebraska’s Journal Star, Chevelle fits comfortably within a genre of bands that “Don’t fit the usual mode [and] defy definition.” Steve Loeffler, quoted by Wiebe, added some clarification: “It depends on your perspective.”
On tour once again with Ozzfest in the summer of 2003, Chevelle moved up to the center stage. Critics welcomed the band’s aggressive sound and took special notice of brother Pete for his easy vocal style. “Send the Pain Below,” from their Epic debut album Wonder What’s Next, hit number one on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart that year and number ten on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
Point 1, Squint Entertainment, 1999.
Wonder What’s Next, Epic, 2002.
Billboard, August 7, 1999, p. 20; February 26, 2000, p. 27.
Journal Star (Lincoln, NE), March 7, 2003, p. 14.
Journal Star (Peoria, IL), April 24, 2003, p. C2
Rolling Stone, October 3, 2002, p. 38; November 28, 2002, p. 90.
Salt Lake Tribune, March 10, 2000, p. F6.
Tulsa World, February 21, 2003, p. SP13.
“Chevelle,” All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (July 7, 2003).
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