Throughout his career as the frontman of Chevelle, Pete Loeffler had found room for the occasional acoustic song on albums otherwise filled with crunch and distortion. But on last month's "The North Corridor," the Illinois hard-rock trio had no interest in blunting its force.
"That's how we looked at the record: What do we want to play every night?" Loeffler said last week on the phone at a Boston tour stop. "We wanted those heavy riffs to be able to play live."
With eight albums and more than two decades of experience, Chevelle continues to find success in a genre that feels more niche than mainstream in 2016. Many of its early peers have receded to obscurity or become nostalgic novelties, but "Corridor" debuted in the Top 10 of Billboard's album charts. And with a 30-plus date U.S. tour, including Pier Six Pavilion on Sunday night, the group is still hitting the road hard.
In Loeffler's mind, Chevelle has plenty left to give. Based on the reaction he's seen on tour, it seems fans agree, too.
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"We didn't rehearse as much as I had hoped, but nonetheless, it's been going over fantastic," the 39-year-old singer and guitarist said. "To get that reaction from the new material keeps you going. It lifts your spirits."
Since 1995, Chevelle has been honing its sound, which Loeffler describes as rock and metal. The band formed as three brothers — Pete, along with drummer Sam Loeffler and bassist Joe Loeffler — and broke through to a wider hard-rock audience with their major-label debut, 2002's "Wonder What's Next."
A shake-up wasn't far off. Dean Bernardini eventually replaced Joe Loeffler before the release of the band's fourth album, 2007's "Vena Sera." Pete Loeffler didn't provide details of the split, but said the decision was necessary, and ultimately healthy for Chevelle.
"We couldn't do it anymore with Joe, so we had to move on," Loeffler said. "I'm proud that we moved on and things got better, and we kept going."
Another turning point came with 2009's "Sci-Fi Crimes." The band learned a valuable lesson after deciding to record with someone other than longtime producer Michael "Elvis" Baskette. The shift taught them to operate outside of their normal comforts, and it has driven the act since.
"We just had a huge awakening, and said, 'We cannot keep going down that road, and using the same people to make records,'" Loeffler said. "It was just getting too watered down and too homogenized with the radio. It just wasn't sincere enough."
Loeffler believes "Corridor" is the latest example of Chevelle following its instincts. Produced by Joe Barresi, the 10-track album sets a clear tone with the pummeling opener, "Door to Door Cannibals" — which the band's heavily considering for the next single, Loeffler said — to the eight-minute, appropriately titled closer, "Shot from a Cannon."
Known for abstract lyrics, Loeffler said becoming a father (his son turns 2 in October) influenced the album's tone and direction, including "Young Wicked," a track about his son dealing with new life experiences. Fans should not expect Loeffler's lyrics to suddenly read like literal and linear stories, though.
"That's what's so great about music — to pull what you want out of it," he said. "Yes, I have my meanings for it and I know what they are, but if I tell you and it's out there, then it might change your perspective. And that's not always for the better."
While Loeffler is prouder of new songs than some of his early material ("If I didn't have to play some of these older songs ever again, it'd be OK," he said), he recognizes that it's all a part of the band's legacy. He honors the past and is excited for the future — and knows that no matter what happens, he can be proud that Chevelle operated by its own standards.
"Rock music is not where it used to be, and that's OK. It can shift and then it can come back, or it can go somewhere else," Loeffler said. "But at the end of the day, we write all our own music and I know our fans know that. So like us or not, we do it."