Q&A With Chevelle’s Sam Loeffler

So many interviews are with the frontman or the guitarist or bassist – but the drummer deserves the spotlight every once in a while too! Pollstar talked to Chevelle’s Sam Loeffler ahead of the band’s North American tour, which kicks off in Indianapolis.

Loeffler shares Chevelle’s lineup with his younger brother Pete (vocals and guitar) and their brother-in-law Dean Bernardini (on bass and backing vocals).        

The hard rock band released its seventh studio album, La Gárgola, this week. The LP features the single “Take Out The Gunman,” which is currently sitting at No.2 on the mainstream rock radio chart.

During our chat with Loeffler he discussed the new album along with misconceptions about drummers and the musicians who inspired him to take up the instrument.

Interview below …

Photo: Andrew Barkules
Dean Bernardini, Pete Loeffler, Sam Loeffler

Your tour starts April 4. How have rehearsals been going?

Good. It’s just when you have a record coming out and a tour that you’re starting, it’s a little overwhelming, honestly. … I don’t remember ever being this busy. But whatever, it’s cool.

So, this is going to be your first tour of the year. Are you ready to get on the road? Or just overwhelmed, like you said, with everything going on?

Yeah, I’m definitely overwhelmed but I am very happy to be getting on the road. We don’t go very long without doing shows anyway so truly it’s only been about six months or so.

Not too long of a break.

It wasn’t exactly a break because we were writing and recording the whole time anyway.

I was going to ask if you see a lot of your brother and brother-in-law when you’re not on the road or rehearsing or in the studio – but it sounds like in the last six months you didn’t really have a lot of free time.

No, we didn’t have any free time. I mean, it’s amazing how busy we’ve been. We even tried to take a short vacation and it just turned into work, completely. Which is fine – when something is important to you, you’re happy to do it.

When you’re not working, do you even go on vacation with your brother?

(laughs) We did, actually. And after we did that we were both kind of like, “Oh, that was a little much.” … We both said the same thing, like, “Wow. We kind of need a vacation from each other.” And not because we don’t get along but just because we need a break, you know? And sometimes when we’re with each other, it’s all work.

Press about your last album, 2011’s Hats Off To The Bull, mentioned that the band expanded on the group’s sound. Did you continue exploring new territory on the new album? What can fans expect?

I think we did. I mean, at the end of the day I like to think it’s just about however the songs translate. And the songs that we wrote – are they good songs? I like them; I think they are. … The production is a little bit different. We used instruments that we haven’t used before because the songs called for it and we wanted to do something different. There’s a happy sort of place, a fine line to walk between doing something different and not changing so much that people don’t recognize it.  

What were some of the new instruments?

Well, one of the reasons we do records at (producer) Joe Baressi’s studio is because his place is filled with instruments. Obviously guitars and amplifiers and drums. But then all kinds of little stringed instruments and hammer-based instruments and little piano-toy things. He likes to make all the sounds for real, he doesn’t just want to like open up the keyboard. … He likes to just really bang on stuff and see what happens. So it was a lot of that. I don’t even remember what the names of all of them were. There were things I had never even seen before.

I think you have cowbell in the new single, is that right?

(laughs) Yeah, we used the cowbell in “Take Out The Gunman,” which is our first single from the record. That was something we hadn’t done in a long time.

That song is climbing the Mainstream Rock Radio chart, so congratulations.

Aw, thanks. That’s awesome. You’re never sure if it’s going to connect and just because something did well before, doesn’t mean it will do well again.   

Was that song inspired by current events?

Pete doesn’t really like to say exactly what songs are about. But in this case we pretty much know that the song is actually, more than anything, about the fact that the media perpetuates problems by reporting on [them].

It’s that age-old thing – it’s like, do we report on it and let everybody know what’s going on in the world or do we not report on it so that we don’t let it happen again? There are all kinds of reasons for both. But it’s just sort of calling awareness to that.

I know you said the band doesn’t like to go into exactly the meaning behind each song, but can you talk about some other themes from the album?

Oh yeah. I don’t mind talking about them because Pete’s the one who writes the lyrics so it’s him that we need to nail down. The band actually has a song on the record (“The Damned”) that was written kind of about zombies, which is a fun subject. There’s a song called “Hunter Eats Hunter,” which is sort of about being hunted by animals as you’re out in the world. It’s about feeling eyes on you.

Pete doesn’t really to write about the relationships like I, we, she, he, all those things. Because it’s been done before.

You recently started singing backing vocals during a few songs during the live show.

I’ve been doing that for a couple years. It all depends on the song. … If there’re refrains and harmonies where Pete just can’t do every part and Dean can’t do every part, either, they turn to me. So sometimes all three of us sing. But for the most part, I’m mostly good to just play drums, where my real passion is.

I was wondering if it would be tricky to do both of them at the same time.

Pretty tricky. I mean, it’s like anything else. If you were to do like a pattern, you know rub your belly and pat your head and then like to recite something. Eventually you’ll figure it out.

Photo: Scott Legato / RockStarProPhotography.com
Murat Egyptian Room, Indianaopolis, Ind.

What’s one misconception that the world might have about drummers?

(laughs) Gosh, there’re more drummer jokes than anything, right? I mean I think for the most part the drumming jokes fit. (laughs) I think when it comes to drums, every drummer pretty much will tell you – especially the ones that know how to play guitar – that drums are the hardest instrument to master. And it’s because they just take the longest. You can learn everything and then you have to learn everything backwards in every way. So I think the misconception is that drummers are not very bright people. Certainly some of them aren’t, but they’re special in their own way. I’m being facetious – very special.

Was there a certain drummer that inspired you to get into the instrument?

Well, when I was younger some of my favorite drummers were a guy named Matt Cameron, who was the drummer for Soundgarden, and another guy named George Hurley, who played for The Minutemen, which was a sort of pseudo-punk band from the ‘80s. [Hurley] was instrumental in my playing for sure because he never fit into a box as a drummer.

I was looking over your past itinerary and I saw that the band did a co-headline tour with Bush in 2011. Are there any other acts that you’d like to tour with one day?

We’ve toured with a lot of the bands that we’ve loved and then a lot of the bands that we’ve loved and grown up with aren’t really bands anymore. We did a really short Canadian tour with Alice In Chains, which was cool because they’re a band that we’d grown up with and still really like. We’ve never done a tour with the Deftones, which would be cool. Although I don’t know if it would work, even though we are both a sub-genre of rock. That would be interesting to see what happens. But, you know, just because they’re bands that you love doesn’t necessarily mean that they would work together.

Nine In Nails would be amazing … Jane’s Addition is one of those bands that we played with last year. [We] did a couple shows with [them] and we had a lot of fun, just watching them play and stuff.

Photo: Scott Legato / RockStarProPhotography.com
DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston, Mich.

Every album pre-order will give fans a chance to celebrate the album launch in L.A., New York or Chicago. Will fans be able to hang out with the band at those launches?

Yeah, we’ve done a couple things like that before. We give away free trips all the time [and] … and stuff like navigation systems. We’ll find companies that are excited to be involved with us and that’s one of the ways that our whole fan club benefits. We do all these free trips and prizes and you don’t have to buy anything. Just sign up and you can win. And I think that’s one of the things that people like about our website and the way we do stuff. We do posts on Facebook and we sit there for a while and answer questions. We can’t do it all the time but we certainly do find the time. And it’s not anybody but us doing it.

The whole trip thing is pretty fun. We did one in Hawaii where we sent two people to Hawaii to watch us play. We invited them back to the dressing room before the show and we had beers together and hung out. After [the show] we went to a bar and hung out. So it’s definitely something that if you’re going to do it, you want people to enjoy it. So hopefully they enjoyed our company. If they don’t, buy them a beer and they can go away. (laughs)

The first 1,000 people that pre-order the album will get their names printed in the CD booklet. Sounds like you have a pretty cool relationship with your fans.

Obviously at this point it’s amazing to still be earning fans, which is really, really cool. And I think the way we do that is we’re not doing anything we don’t want to do. So that stuff is still fun for us. Everybody who orders a special edition on our website gets a signed copy of it. We’ve had to sign 10,000 of them, which is more than some, less than some. It takes a lot of time. But I think people appreciate it. For me, I’m a fan of bands. I got the Alice in Chains guys to sign a poster for me and I thought that was pretty awesome.

Any other projects you’d like to let your fans know about?

We’re shooting a horror movie video, which is really fun. [It’s] a short film with Nathan Cox, that we’re working on right now. It will be like three scenes, eight minutes long. That’s kind of a cool thing that we’ve never done before.

Does the band get to give any input about the film?

Yeah, we’re working on that right now. Just trying to figure out what we’re all going to do, how we’re going to die. It’s fun. We all want to be murdered in the goriest way, as you do in a campy horror movie.

You can’t have a boring death, right? 

No, no, no. No boring deaths here. (laughs) I mean it’s exciting for us because we’re not actors. So, you know, it could go either way.   

Photo: Andrew Barkules
Dean Bernardini, Pete Loeffler, Sam Loeffler

Upcoming dates for Chevelle:

April 4 – Indianapolis, Ind., Egyptian Room

April 5 – St. Louis, Mo., The Pageant

April 7 – Lincoln, Neb., Bourbon Theatre

April 8 – Springfield, Mo., Gillioz Theatre    

April 10 – Houston, Texas, Bayou Music Center      

April 12 – Antonio, Texas, St. Mary’s University     

April 13 – Dallas, Texas, House Of Blues     

April 14 – Oklahoma City, Okla., Diamond Ballroom          

April 15 – Wichita, Kan., The Cotillion         

April 17 – Chicago, Ill., House Of Blues      

April 18 – Chicago, Ill., House Of Blues      

April 19 – Saint Paul, Minn., Myth (93X Ice Breaker)         

April 21 – Grand Rapids, Mich., Orbit Room           

April 22 – Nashville, Tenn., Cannery Ballroom         

April 23 – Charlotte, N.C., Fillmore Charlotte          

April 25 – Tampa, Fla., Tampa Bay Times Forum (98 Rockfest)      

April 26 – Jacksonville, Fla., Metropolitan Park (Welcome To Rockville)    

May 17 – Columbus, Ohio, Crew Stadium (Rock On The Range)   

May 24 – Niceville, Fla., Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival Grounds (Blazefest)

June 14 – Derby, U.K., Donington Park (Download Festival)  

Aug. 15 – Des Moines, Iowa, Iowa State Fairgrounds (Iowa State Fair)

For more information visit GetMoreChevelle.com