An Interview with Sam Loeffler of Chevelle

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Take a look at the “Tour Archive” page of Chevelle’s website and you’ll notice that, save for a few months between the late spring and mid-summer of 2005, the Chicago-based metal trio is on the road virtually non-stop. Even as drummer Sam Loeffler spoke with Metal Edge, the group was preparing to launch an ambitious spring tour with Evanescence and Finger Eleven in support of its new album Vena Sera – Chevelle’s first CD since bassist Joe Leoffler (brother to Sam and vocalist /guitarist Pete) left the group in 2005. Vena Sera introduces new bassist, Dean Bernardini.

Although back-to-back, sold out tours are a testament to Chevelle’s increasing popularity among fans, there’s a downside as well, as Sam explained. “Suddenly we realized that we needed to think about putting out another album and we didn’t have any new songs written, because we were touring so much,” he remembers. “It was actually a pretty scary time.” With the help of producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette, Chevelle went into overdrive. “After we had written all the material for Vena Sera, we spent twelve hours a day for fourteen days straight in pre-production, going over the songs and learning how to play them properly. Certainly, that was the most intensive pre-production we’ve ever done.” At the end of those two weeks Chevelle had just three days to learn the album before entering the studio. “We had the least amount of time to write this record than we ever have before,” Sam admits. You could never tell by listening though: Vena Sera is easily Chevelle’s strongest album to date

“It seems like nowadays, a band’s revenue streams have been cut down quite a bit,” Sam continues, “so you end up touring a lot more. It’s something that bands have been able to keep in their pocket, which is really good, because you feel like you’ve done your job when you’re able to play a show. You feel a sense of accomplishment. What’s funny is we’re making a conscious decision to take a bit more time off in the future, so we don’t get stuck rushing for the next album.”

Metal Edge: Your new bass player, Dean is also a drummer. What does he bring to Chevelle as your rhythm section partner?

Sam Loeffler: Having another drummer in the band is both comforting and also a bit stressful. I can turn to Dean and he can answer any question I have about drumming because he’s an amazing drummer. At the same time, if I play something and make a mistake, I’ll look at him and be all freaked out. But he doesn’t care at all; he just laughs at me. We have such a good relationship and that’s probably been the biggest difference [since Joe left]. Joe and I grew up together but there’s also a pretty big age difference – six years – between us. In the band, we never really saw eye-to-eye on anything.

Metal Edge: Are there songs on this disc that were particularly challenging to nail in the studio?

Sam Loeffler: Yeah, there were. “Humanoid” was a little bit hard to get through because it’s one of those songs that you can’t really play to a click. You have to write a click to it, because the verses and the chorus are in totally different time signatures. I’m not even sure how to explain the beat; it’s almost like a swing. If it’s not right on, it’s just way off.

Metal Edge: I read in another interview that you had started developing your ability to lead with your left hand. How is that coming along?

Sam Loeffler: Actually, it’s going really well, and I’ve adapted that a little more to leading with my left foot as well. Especially live, I will play some of these beats leading with my right or my left foot – I’ll mix it up. Switching back and forth helps you know the part that much better, which then improves your playing in general by making your left foot stronger. It’s kind of cool when one day, during a song, something will click and you’ll realize you can do something in the opposite way: start this double bass part with your left foot and end with the right – or whatever.

Metal Edge: You’ve been playing drums for a long time. Which players first inspired your drumming?

Sam Loeffler: When I was first starting out I was really into a band called The Minuteman. When their singer D Boone died, Mike Watt – the famous bass player – and drummer George Hurley became fIREHOSE. At that point, George was still a punk drummer, but he took on a bit of a different feel, which was so interesting. He wouldn’t just play a standard punk beat all the time; he was different. George was probably the first drummer who really influenced me with his style of playing. In later years I got into Danny Carrey. He’s one of those people who raise the bar every time Tool put out a record. I also love all the Helmet records. I know there have been several different drummers in that band, but I think John Stanier’s drumming is the one that stands out as the ‘sound’ of Helmet. He certainly was a big influence.

Sam’s Gear:
Drums: Pearl Masterworks
Sizes: 18” x 22” Kick, 8” x 10 and 10” x 10” Rack Toms, 16” x 16” Floor Tom, 6 ½” x 14” Copper free-floating Snare
Cymbals: Zildjian
Heads: Remo
Sticks: Vater

Official Website:

Sam Loeffler of Chevelle

This article was originally written for Metal Edge Magazine as part of a monthly column by Gail Worley (under the pen name Jayne Rollins). With the magazines’ dissolution, the article has been added to the content base of The Worley Gig for our readers’ enjoyment.

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