Courtesy of Adrenaline PR

Chevelle’s Sam Loeffler Talks Atlantic City, Muscle Cars, Tours, & More

Three days of rocking out in Atlantic City. Now, this isn’t the first time this has happened, of course, but it is the first time it’s being done with this set of kickass bands and under the stellar Orange Loop name…

Multi-platinum rock band Chevelle has been a staple of rock radio for over two decades. They are one of the headlining acts coming to the inaugural Orange Loop Festival at the Showboat Festival Grounds June 10-12. AQ’s Ray Romanski met up with their fierce drummer, Sam Loeffler, to talk about everything from McDonald’s apple pie to The Minutemen.

Where are you calling from?

I’m home right now. I actually had COVID for a month and am just getting over it.

I heard about that. Hope you’re doing okay.

Yeah, it sucks. I had to postpone a show and cancel a show, which was really good that I did because the night of the Memphis in May show was the worst time I had that whole thing. I thought I was going to die that night. I said, “Either I’m falling asleep and waking up better tomorrow, or if I don’t fall asleep, I’ll call an ambulance and go to the hospital.” I was done with it – I think I was 11 days in at that point. 30 days yesterday, so I’m on antibiotics now and that seems to be helping but I’ve been getting better for like the last two weeks. This is the best I’ve been. We went back to writing yesterday for the first time. Pete and I haven’t seen each other in a month… very unusual.

Do you guys live near each other?

Yeah, we’re only like 15 minutes away.

Writing new material for a new album?

New material for an album coming out in 2023 – that’s the plan. We have a lot of music; it’s just a matter of getting it all together.

That’s a quick turnaround from the NIRATIAS cycle.

We put NIRATIAS out in the pandemic, March 2021, and we said, “Look, this is what we do. We put albums out, we write music. We have to put this album out.” It had been almost five years because we postponed in 2019 in order to do some tours, so we cut the recording time in half. Then when we got back to it, like March 2020. When we were finishing up, we left like two to three days early because that was when the pandemic hit. At the beginning, in LA, they were saying they’re gonna shut the airports down, so we told the producer, “Ah, we’re just gonna fly home a few days early.”

This was your first album where it was largely you and Pete writing. What was that like?

Well, Pete always does the writing. It’s always him. I’m there when he writes it, working on it with him. He writes so much. Like even when other people come in, he’s like, “I enjoy it, so I just wanna keep doing it.” So I’m sitting there, helping him compose, put pieces there, and things like that. But he’s really the one writing it all, especially melodies and lyrics. I’m encouraging him to try a new part here, or “What if you did this or that?,” but that’s more like a producing side.

This album was also your first concept album. To get inspiration, did you listen to a lot of previously existing concept albums? Any prog or anything like that?

The simple answer is we didn’t expect it to sorta be a concept album, but when Pete was writing, we were following a lot of stuff like Spacex, Elon Musk, and NASA. We have a lot of interest in that. Like that new telescope. We watched the whole thing going out to space which is just amazing. Not only amazing that they did it, but we get to watch it happen the whole way. So it was a very natural thing, we weren’t really doing much research into concept albums or anything like that. It just happened on its own.

Are you going to continue doing concept albums with the material you’re currently writing?

I don’t know. I guess it depends how the music all ends up, but I doubt it. Pete definitely wants to. We have 12-15 songs from 2-3 years ago and we’re like, “Alright, let’s put some music out in ’23,” then go back to the songs and he won’t look at any of them. He’ll just start from scratch. That’s always kinda the way he is. It’s not bad, but a lot of stuff goes unfinished.

You said that you’re a big fan of space, but I’m guessing you’re a big fan of sci-fi, as well. Is that right?

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I’m such a fan of sci-fi, and Pete, too. We’ll watch terrible stuff. As you know, there’s great sci-fi and the other 90% of it is like a B-movie of a bunch of people running around in the forest. It’s kitschy. I remember a series, The 100. I put it together, they had a budget of, let’s say, $1 million, and they spent $999,990 on the first four episodes of that season on the spaceship. And the next $10,000 was just them running around the woods for the next three seasons. Hilarious.

You just came back from a tour with Korn and Code Orange. What was that like?

Um, enlightening. First of all, y’know the touring world and shows are coming back but it’s not back yet. I think it’s a combination of a lot of different reasons; some people are not really ready to be around audiences, some people are used to not going to shows and staying home, money is a problem for people. Some were able to work through the pandemic, some weren’t. A little bit of all that, so seeing that in person is enlightening. And then second, it was a great tour. Seeing Korn who are really still passionate about what they do? Johnathan (Davis) sings all those parts, and he did great. Being around Code Orange was nice because it was definitely…. We almost felt like the odd man out on the level of heavy music. It was really heavy and it’s cool because Code Orange is not a huge band, yet they definitely have fans out there who knew every word. I don’t think it was bad at all, I think it was good. They made fans, we made fans. And everybody just gathered around the warm light that is a heavy metal band like Korn.

It’s great to hear you had such a successful tour without a hitch. You hear all the time about tour cancellations, touring visas not being granted, etc.

It really was. Nobody got sick, and I think if anybody did get sick, we would figure it out, which I think is where we need to be. Everyone wants to be safe and courteous but we also want to work. So we’re figuring that out as we go.

I saw that you posted at the end of the tour that you celebrated with a McDonald’s apple pie. Is that a tradition of yours, or was it just a hankering?

We were craving it. It’s the first time, too. What’s crazy is we’re always making jokes about it, then our production person got it for us after the show one night. I’m telling you, dude, two things: first, they taste exactly as you remember it, and second, for some reason they’re able to get the heat of the sun in the center of it. Burns the shit out of your mouth, but worth it.

One of the festivals you’re headlining is the Orange Loop Festival in Atlantic City in just over two weeks. Named after the Orange Loop on a Monopoly board, it’s the first year this festival is happening. Do you have any stories; either Atlantic City or Monopoly related?

I think we all want to wear a monocle, right? That’s where we’re trying to get to in life. I mean, we have a lot of Atlantic City stories; we go there a lot. Actually, the last time we played there was at the House of Blues, right before it closed. That hotel next to it, this huge new hotel, was closing down the next day. After the show, we went there and hung out. There were very few employees and we could go anywhere we wanted in that place. I remember we were in the half-built ballroom. We knew we shouldn’t be in there, but the janitor came in and we were like, “Hey, just looking around.” He’s like, “I don’t care, I’m losing my job tomorrow.” We’re all hammered drunk walking around this place at 2:00 a.m., just this massive venue and you just did whatever you wanted. Not that we did anything wrong, we were just looking around. It was almost like this foreshadowing of what was to come. I think that hotel is still empty. I have stories for days about Atlantic City. I remember another time, it was in the morning and we did the show and the sun had just come up. We were hanging out on all those rocks and one of our friends broke her arm at 5:30 in the morning, and we’re like, “Shit, our bus call is at 6 am.” The ambulance had to come and get her. Almost missed the bus. Just ridiculous, it’s always fun.

It’s gonna be a great time. You, Stone Temple Pilots, Hoobastank, LA Guns, John 5, Puddle of Mudd, and a bunch of other bands all there.

We’re just excited to be a part of something, especially in the first year. We’re working on our setlists. They’re kind of crazy because we have so many singles and that we’ve played over the years, but we’re tired of playing them. One of my friends, actually she’s my business manager Wendy, said, “Well look, you don’t have to play them all every show. Just play a few of them.” I was like, “Really? We don’t have to play them all?” We took that on board and started playing some other stuff we haven’t played in a long time. At this point, there’s 10 albums worth of stuff.

You probably get this question a lot, but do you own a Chevelle?

I don’t, but my hobbies are cars and motorcycles. I try to go through stuff. We’ve had a couple, stuff you’d use for autocross, stuff that’s fun. It’s not about originality with that, we just wanna drive around in something that’s crazy. And we go through anything we can get our hands on when it comes up.

Any projects cars you’re working on?

Pete and I have this 1969 C10 Chevy truck we’ve had for a long time which we used in the video for “Self Destructor.” That’s been a project of ours for a long time. Right now, I have a motorcycle project that I’m doing; a late nineties Bimota. It’s an unusual rare thing. Hopefully I can work on it, but [there’s] summer and kids.

I want to show you something. My three favorite cars are Chevelle, Mustangs, and Pontiac GTOs. (Romanski shows him a tin sign of a Pontiac GTO.)

Wow, look at that. You know who has a red GTO like that, almost exactly like that? Billy Corgan. He drives around the park on the weekends. Like a perfectly restored car. Billy’s going out having fun.

Who are your favorite drummers?

Oh gosh. Well, a lot of people from my generation like the same drummers – Jimmy Chamberlain, Matt Cameron, people like that. One of my favorite drummers is George Hurley of the Minutemen in the early eighties with Mike Watt. The Minutemen turned into a band later on called Firehose, who put a bunch of records out on SST and a few on Columbia through Sony. That was Mike Watt and George Hurley’s other band after D. Boon died. You could hear some of the influence on what Minutemen did but it really was different than that. D. Boon really seemed like he was always angry and was able to get that in a 50 second song or 1:10 whatever it was. They wrote that record Double Nickels on the Dime and…Y you’re wearing a Germs shirt, I don’t have to explain the Minutemen to you. You get it [Laughs]. I have every Minutemen LP they ever made for some reason. It’s so cool to put that stuff on because it’s… the beginning. I just love George Hurley’s style and I heard that first Firehose album, Ragin’ Full On, which has great drumming on it. So then I listened to a bunch of stuff and got really into the Minutemen. I remember seeing George Hurley playing in Firehose in what back in the day in Chicago was the Cabaret Metro. And after the show, they went down the street to the Wild Hare or something like that to go play Minutemen covers and I couldn’t get in. I realize now as an adult that I probably missed one of the coolest things I would’ve seen in my life. I think I was 14, so there was no way I was getting into a reggae bar. Mike Watt was great, and then years later when he was playing for J. Mascis and Dinosaur Jr., coincidentally at the same place, my friend said Mike was backstage and I should go say hello – and I did. It was the best meeting. Just one of the coolest people and one of the best. He had the best mentality and stories, just a great sense of self. It was a pretty great moment in my life. Wow, I hadn’t thought about that in a long time.

That’s a very nuanced answer. Normally, you’d hear Keith Moon, Neil Peart, or Ginger Baker, so I appreciate the thoughtfulness before answering.

All very important and great, but not really a part of what I was doing when I was coming up in music. I didn’t really know those guys until later on as a drummer. Then I was able to experience and understand what they did for drumming and music.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

One thing that’s gonna be fun is the song “So Long Mother Earth” from NIRATIAS because it never really saw the light of day, even though that song’s been out for over a year. So, we decided to do our own video for it which we’re working on right now and will put out next month. I’m excited about that because it’s kind of pushing a single that’s not a single. We feel that song needed to be presented a little bit more. Writing music, putting a record out in 2023, and a bunch of touring. Bunch of single shows and festivals. Touring into the fall and next year, so very very busy over the next year-and-a-half. No one’s complaining about having a job these days.