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Chevelle’s career heats up after 20 years.

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COPYRIGHT 2013 ANDREW BARKULES
  • Copyright 2013 Andrew Barkules

Chevelle, the Chicago-based rock band headlining this year’s KATTFEST, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Sort of.

“It’s hard to say when a band becomes a band,” drummer Sam Loeffler said in a recent Oklahoma Gazette phone interview. “Our first record came out in 1999, but we were definitely playing together and doing shows locally in ’94 and ’95.”

The original band was comprised of the three Loeffler brothers, and after a couple years playing local shows, they were signed to the Squint Entertainment record label. The Steve Taylor-owned label specialized in moving artists from Christian to mainstream genres. Whether Chevelle was a Christian act was a furiously debated topic during its early years. It won Dove Awards — the Christian music version of a Grammy — in 2000 and 2001.

Loeffler said the relationship with the label was good for the young band.

“Squint helped us set a tone for what we wanted to be as a band,” he said. “Getting signed helped us to clarify that, and we learned great lessons early. The people at Squint told us, ‘Nobody cares about your band more than you do.’ That lesson has stuck with us. You wake up and you get to work; you push your music because no one is going to work if you don’t.”

That ethic propelled Chevelle to a platinum album in 2002 with Wonder What’s Next, and a gold album in 2004 This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In). However, its seventh album, La Gárgola, released last year, is its most critically acclaimed to date.

That the band released its most critically acclaimed project 19 years into its career is a testimony to its maturity and evolution. It’s also rare. The praise was hard-earned and appreciated given the work that went into La Gárgola.

“It took me two hours to lay down the drums for Vena Sera,” Loeffler said. “That’s pretty typical. La Gárgola took me 12 hours of work.”

Chevelle recorded in-studio using 2-inch tape rather than straight-to-digital. The process is time-consuming and expensive, but the album sounds like a band that knows who it is enough to compotently and thought-provokingly push the edges of hard rock and metal.

“There is nothing wrong with using Pro Tools,” Loeffler said about the popular digital recording software. “We just didn’t want Pro Tools to change the sound of the music.”

Chevelle is already working its next project. Six tunes are “ready to go,” and there are dozens of what he called “pieces” of others. He hopes to release the project by spring, but touring slows things down.

“We call them high-class problems,” Loeffler said. “We have too many shows to slow down and get in the studio. These days, we do a lot of one-off shows, but the travel time is still substantial.”

As with many seasoned rock acts, band members now balance their careers with families. Loeffler has a 14-month-old son, and his wife is pregnant with another boy.

“Having a family does not change what my job is,” he said. “We still have to make music; that’s our job. But it does change ... the way you spend your time. I used to dread long flights, but now I’m like, ‘Hey, an in-flight movie!’ It’s a chance to relax.”

Chevelle plans to play a 16- or 17-song set at KATTFEST, including two or three songs from each of its albums.

Print headline: Critical mass, Chevelle’s career heats up after 20 years. See for yourself what the buzz is all about at Friday’s KATTFEST.

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