A quick glance at the fifth Epic album by Chicago-based rock trio Chevelle may give their legions of longtime fans pause. Sci-Fi Crimes song titles like Ã¢â‚¬Å“RoswellÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Highlands ApparitionÃ¢â‚¬Â have the same guys who delivered 2004Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s dynamically crunchy This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In) and the melodic heaviosity of 2007Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s Vena Sera gone conspiracy-theory flaky, wearing tinfoil hats and praying to Mr. Spock.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Much as I love the Flaming Lips, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not going off in that direction,Ã¢â‚¬Â laughs singer/guitarist Pete Loeffler. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If anything, this record represents a natural progression in the bandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s maturity and sound. We really wanted to take the time to write about some of our experiences and feelings since our last tour, both during and in the time afterwards.Ã¢â‚¬Â
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In fact, the title Sci-Fi Crimes was inspired by some off-road adventures with one Ã¢â‚¬Å“friend,Ã¢â‚¬Â whom Pete describes as Ã¢â‚¬Å“this really off-the-wall character, who was driving us around, who believes so whole-heartedly in aliens and UFOs that the subject just really piqued my interest.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In like fashion, the simmering Ã¢â‚¬Å“Roswell,Ã¢â‚¬Â with its plaintive refrain Ã¢â‚¬Å“does anybody ever really see anything?Ã¢â‚¬Â was influenced by a subsequent visit to the Roswell International UFO Museum & Research Center in New Mexico, while the deceptively simple, acoustic-driven Ã¢â‚¬Å“Highlands ApparitionÃ¢â‚¬Â took its inspiration from time Pete and his brother Sam spent in an alleged haunted house Ã¢â‚¬â€œ where an overall eerie vibe and at least one instance of unexplained physical contact took place.
In typical Chevelle fashion, of course, those instances are embellished and expanded upon lyrically, to the point where the real-life details fall away in favor of engaging the listener in an almost tactile emotionalism. Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always been about being more creative than simply reporting our experiences,Ã¢â‚¬Â Pete notes. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It makes the music more multi-faceted.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Sci-Fi Crimes is the work of a band taking stock of itself after a strenuous decade of recording and touring (Ã¢â‚¬Å“Weird to think weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a Ã¢â‚¬ËœveteranÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ band; IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m kind of shocked by how long weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been going,Ã¢â‚¬Â Pete muses) and, especially, a blistering tour schedule behind Vena Sera. After that run, they spend a significant amount of time away from one another before reconvening for Sci-Fi Crimes.
Having reconnected and re-energized, Pete soon found himself toying with ideas for songs. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Usually IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll come up with something on my own, and then bring it in to the guys and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll work it out,Ã¢â‚¬Â he says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“A lot of rock bands out there use outside songwriters, but no one else writes our songs other than ourselves.Ã¢â‚¬Â
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Maintaining control of the material on Sci-Fi Crimes extended to the choice of producer Brian Virtue, whose past work with JaneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Addition, Korn and Audioslave had caught ChevelleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s attention. Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a low-key guy, but real honest,Ã¢â‚¬Â Pete says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He understood what we wanted on this one and he helped us get there, instead of making sure everythingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tuned perfectly and trying to fill every space. That approach can be overdone, which I think happened to a degree on our last record.Ã¢â‚¬Â
As a composer who writes from the heart, Pete Loeffler doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t pay much mind to what may or may not be commercial; the fact that the band continues to enjoy significant airplay with Sci-FiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lead single, the mordant take on eco-friendliness-to-a-fault Ã¢â‚¬Å“Jars,Ã¢â‚¬Â is something he views with bemusement.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m the worst at choosing a single,Ã¢â‚¬Â he laughs. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We played bits of some of the new songs on [Chicago alternative radio station WKQX] and asked people to vote on what the single should be, and Ã¢â‚¬ËœJarsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ was the overwhelming favorite. Fortunately the record company agreed.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Other tracks heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s particularly proud of include the righteously riffing opener, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sleep Apnea,Ã¢â‚¬Â inspired by a friend who suffers from the condition, and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Letter to a Thief,Ã¢â‚¬Â based on the actual theft of the groupÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s equipment on the last tour Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and the eventual return of PeteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s custom-made guitar.
The latter is highlighted by a gorgeously serpentine solo played on the same guitar. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We really won the battle on that one,Ã¢â‚¬Â he grins. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got a great vibe to it, and we plan to play it every night.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Too often lumped into the Ã¢â‚¬Å“just another hard rock bandÃ¢â‚¬Â ghetto, Chevelle emerges with Sci-Fi Crimes as an admittedly heavy-sounding group whose wit and intelligence now stand fully revealed.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve heard a lot about how weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a Ã¢â‚¬ËœdepressingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ band, which I never really believed,Ã¢â‚¬Â Pete says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But if all you do is run away from the pain and the hard work thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s part of your life, then whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the point? WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re trying to show that you can use the bad parts of your life in a positive way, and create good things.Ã¢â‚¬Â
CHEVELLE – SCI-FI CRIMES TOUR DATES
Friday, September 11 Nashville, TN Riverfront Park
Saturday, September 12 Huntington, WV Harris Riverfront Park
Sunday, September 13 Flint, MI The Machine Shop
Monday, September 14 Grand Rapids, MI The Orbit Room
Wednesday, September 16 Windsor, ON CANADA / University of Windsor
Friday, September 18 Sayreville, NJ / Starland Ballroom
Saturday, September 19 Baltimore, MD / Bourbon Street Ballroom
Monday, September 21 Norfolk, VA / The Norva
Tuesday, September 22 Knoxville, TN / Valarium
Thursday, September 24 Orlando, FL / House of Blues
Friday, September 25 Charlotte, NC / AmosÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Southend
Sunday, September 27 North Myrtle Beach, SC / House of Blues
Wednesday, September 30 Richmond, VA / The National
Saturday, October 3 Mobile, AL / Bayfest Downtown
Tuesday, October 6 Omaha, NE / Sokol Auditorium
Wednesday, October 7 West Des Moines, IA / Val Air Ballroom
More dates to come!