The Chevelles are a power pop band from Perth, Western Australia. They formed in 1989 and have toured Australia, Europe, the United States and South America.
Duane Smith's first band was The Freuds, which he formed with schoolfriend Bruce Abbot and Jeff Halley (of The Kryptonics) in Perth in 1987. Ian Tubbs, the Chevelles drummer and formerly of The Lincolns, also played drums in the Freuds. The band was short-lived, breaking up in 1989 despite having a recording contract on Revolution Records.
At the same time Richard Lane was looking for a new project following the break-up of The Stems. For a period Lane moved to Sydney and tried to put together another Stems-style band, without success. Smith and Halley had befriended Lane during the Freuds' and Stems' concurrent careers. When Lane returned to Perth in 1989 they approached him with the idea of forming a new band. Stems drummer Gary Chambers was included and jamming began late in 1989. However, Chambers lived too far away from Perth and could not sustain his involvement in the new band. His replacement was former Freuds and Rackett drummer Guy Douglas.
The band took its name from the Chevrolet Chevelle. They played their first headline show at the Coronado Hotel on 15 December 1989. They soon came to the attention of independent labels across the country, including the Sydney-based Zero Hour Records (named after the Plimsouls' tune) operated by former Stems roadie George Matzkov.
In April 1990 the band took a break from playing live and quickly recorded six demos at Poons Head Studios in Perth. Zero Hour chose Lane's punk pop rocker "Be My Friend" and Smith's "She Don't Come Around" for the band's first single. At the time Matzkov thought there were better songs in the six tracks recorded, but felt those two captured the energy he was looking for from the band. The single, released in late 1990 was praised in pop zines such as Bucketfull of Brains ("'Be My Friend' is a non stop rocker in prime Hoodoo Gurus/Screaming Tribesman heyday fashion with hooks a plenty and loads of blazing guitars"). Steve Gardener of Noise for Heroes wrote ("Be My Friend is harder and nastier than any Stems song").
Outside Australia the record was promoted in Spain, Germany and France, where Matzkov had contacts in the power pop scenes. The band's connection to The Stems was also an attention-getter. Requests for tribute compilations followed and the band recorded "Zero Hour" for a Plimsouls tribute and "Back Of My Car" for an Alex Chilton tribute on Spanish label Munster Records.
In late 1990 and early 1991 the recorded tracks for an EP at Planet Studios. The Kids Ain't Hip was released in March 1991. A trip to the east coast and high radio rotation for the track "Show Me Your Love" confirmed the band's prospects. Upon their return to Perth the band embarked on an extensive gigging schedule. This included supporting eastern states bands such as Ratcat, Falling Joys and The Plunderers.
In the later half of 1991, friction in the band mounted and delays in recording the band's first album followed. Things came to a head in September 1991 during rehearsal when Smith, who had been busily working on a batch of new tunes, presented "Valentine" to the other band members. Lane said that he thought the Chevelles were strictly a vehicle for his music. Halley and Smith then dismissed Lane from the band. The Chevelles performed a final show with Lane on Christmas Eve 1991.
New guitarist Adrian Allen had been playing in Perth group The Diehards since May 1990. He had known Smith and Halley for some time, having lived in the same area and having gone to the same school. The Diehards had played support for the Chevelles, and Allen had filled in for Smith in the Chevelles while Smith holidayed in Europe in September 1991, and for Richard Lane on another occasion. A New Year's Eve concert at Wildwood Winery (with Boom Crash Opera, The Neptunes, The Kryptonics and The Dweebs) was the new line-up's first show.
The band had found new focus at a live level but their recording plans were in a mess. Almost a full album's worth of material had been recorded with Lane. They salvaged some of Smith's tracks from the sessions, including the next single "Girl For Me". (Lane released his tracks under the name of his new band, The Rosebuds, without crediting the Chevelles members for their performances.)
Meanwhile, the relationship between the Chevelles and Zero Hour had become strained. Royalties from the single and EP had not been seen by the band and the label had begun to do some things, such as licensing overseas releases and printing T-shirts, without the band's knowledge. Although the band owed Zero Hour five tracks, they decided to pursue a deal with another record deal.
The band's strong reputation saw them quickly negotiate a deal with Australian label Survival Records, whose acts included the Hitmen and The Screaming Tribesmen. Survival had stronghold connections in Europe, having an office in Brussels and distribution through Play It Again Sam. Survival compiled a ten-song retrospective CD of the band's Zero Hour material titled "The Kids Ain't Hip" for release exclusively through Survival in Europe. At the same time Zero Hour negotiated a similar release, called "In The Zero Hour", through Spanish label Munster Records.
In mid-1992 the band recorded and released a new single, "Girl For Me", with two B-sides: "Valentine" and Allen's first contribution, "On My Mind". For the remainder of 1992 the Chevelles performed regular gigs in Perth, supporting the likes of Falling Joys and The Clouds and overseas acts like The Smithereens. Later in 1992 the band released another single, "Murder on Her mind" (b/w "Can't Pretend").
Gigantic, the album that had planned for the end of 1991, was released in the summer of 1992-93. The album received solid reviews in magazines such as Australian Rolling Stone and street press throughout the country. Radio picked up on tracks like "Murder on her Mind" and "Memories", the latter being the third single lifted from the album late in 1993 and released with three bonus tracks, including a tougher version of the early hit "Show Me Your Love" and a cover version of the Backdoor Men's "Out Of My Mind".
The band followed up the release of Gigantic with three tours of the eastern states. The first incvolved supporting Matthew Sweet on his 'Altered Beast' tour. Then they supported Sweet on a national tour. Subsequently Guy Douglas was sacked due to a combination of musical and personal differences with other band members. Around this time the Bunbury band the Calhoons had been supporting the Chevelles. The Chevelles enlisted drummer Mario Calhoon to fill the vacancy. The band quickly played a couple of Perth and Bunbury shows with Mario then made another trip to the eastern states in mid-1993.
On their return to Perth the band recruited Martin Moon to play drums. Moon had played with Perth bands The Marigolds, The Neptunes and Dom Mariani's Orange. The new line-up made another rip to the eastern states in late 1993 and then travelled to Europe.
Survival Records booked the Chevelles to play around 40 shows over six weeks across December 1993 and January 1994. The tour covered Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland. The band played with fellow Survival acts The Screaming Tribesmen and Screamfeeder.
In Spain the band met promoters and labels eager to release their records organise more tours. Running Circle Records, whose manager Michael Statesmann had connections in Australia, organised six extra Spanish shows just before the band headed home in January, and placed the Chevelles on a large support bill for a Summer Festival in the island of Majorca in July 1994.
Between the European and the Mallorca Festival Martin Moon left the band due to personal reasons and was replaced by Julian Buckland. After the festival appearance Smith and Buckland stayed in Spain to play four promotional shows. When they arrived back in Australia work began on next album.
In the background friction was developing between the band and Survival. Recording sessions for the new album Rollerball Candy were under way but the label could not confirm a release date or promotion plans, was withholding the band's royalties for Gigantic, and had fragmented the band's interests throughout the world by sub-licensing Gigantic to a number of different labels and distributors, including Shock Records in Australia and Play It Again Sam in Europe. The band confronted Survival on these issues and a decision was made to dissolve their contract.
The band began negotiations with Running Circle for a distribution deal for Rollerball Candyin Spain and the rest of Europe. Plans for worldwide distribution were delayed while trying to sell the album in Australia and other territories.
Rollerball Candy was released by Running Circle in early 1995. The album was more varied than Gigantic, displaying a punk sound in "Delirium" and including a melodic ballad called "Fall". Its 15 tracks made it a long album for a pop group but in essence it was tailor-made for Spanish rock and roll fans.
Initial sales of the record in Spain and Portugal were encouraging. Response from Spanish press and radio was excellent. The record received strong reviews in established Spanish rock zines like Ruta 66, Beaten Generation and La Musica, in which the band were compared to DM3 and The Dubrovniks.
Sales and promotion of Rollerball Candy were slower in Australia. With no distribution deal the band relied on sales at shows and through a small number of Perth and eastern states record stores. It became apparent that fans in Sydney and Melbourne were unaware that a new album been released. At the same time Running Circle's European distribution campaign was floundering. There was no evidence that the disc had was being distributed or promoted outside of Spain.
Around this time Smith put together a band called Rollercoaster to play some songs he thought unsuitable for the Chevelles. Teaming up with Grant Ferstat (ex-Month of Sundays), Dave Shaw of The Stems and Boom Babies) and friend Craig Maclean, he recorded an 11-track rock album. At the time Smith thought it might be well received in the ever-hungry Spanish rock scene. The album eventually was released in mid-1999 on Spanish power pop label Snap Records.
In mid-1996 news was received from Spain that Running Circle was bankrupt. This annulled the Chevelles' contract with the label. Rollerball Candy had been released almost 18 months earlier and had not succeeded, through poor distribution and promotion. The band resolved to take the record back to the market. Smith contacted Paradoxx Music, a Brazilian dance music label that had distributed Gigantic from Survival and had sold several thousand copies of the record, and went to Brazil to negotiate a Rollerball Candy release. An agreement was formed but the deal fell apart when Paradoxx restructured and restaffed.
Notwithstanding Running Circle's demise the band continued to have a strong following in Spain. Smith and Allen played three acoustic shows in Madrid in January 1997.
Later that year, after six months of sporadic playing in Perth, and with continuing frustration with overseas record labels, the band sought a new deal in Australia. David Hughes-Owen, the manager of Perth power pop label Spinning Top, had known members of the band for several years. Smith had actually offered Rollerball Candy to Hughes-Owen for Australian release in January 1995, but at the time the label felt it didn't have the money or network to support the album. Spinning Top put together an Australian power pop compilation called Pop on Top for U.S. label Bomp! Records, using the Chevelles' "She's Not Around" as the lead track. The compilation was released in 1996 and was well received in the U.S., where Spinning Top discovered the Chevelles had a small but strong fanbase.
In 1997 the Chevelles and Spinning Top formed an agreement to see if the label could market Rollerball Candy. Spinning Top had a long association with U.S. label Not Lame, whose manager Bruce Brodeen was a fan of Australia pop and regularly stocked records from Australia in his mail order catalogue. Brodeen was a fan of the Chevelles and accepted Spinning Top's offer of an opportunity to release some Chevelles material. The band had obtained the rights to its back catalogue so Not Lame had the choice of all tracks recorded by the band back since 1992. Brodeen put together a 'Best Of'-style compilation titled "At Second Glance", concentrating on the band's melodic pop sound rather than its rock aspect.
At Second Glance:
At Second Glance was released in March 1998. The thirteen-track CD was released through a dual licensing contract on Not Lame in the USA and Spinning Top Records in Australia (and was the band's first bona fide release in Australia since Gigantic in 1993). Drummer Julian Buckland resigned at this point, which set back the album launch for several months. Dave Shaw eventually joined the band and the album was launched in July 1998.
The album received supportive reviews in the United States. Pop freelance writer Claudio Sossi wrote "The Chevelles excel at making incredibly catchy guitar-based pure pop songs without compromise". National distribution plus strong hometown reviews in Perth and radio airplay on Triple J, Triple R and community stations ensured the band had regained a profile in Australia. Not Lame was pleased with sales in the U.S., with most of the limited pressing of At Second Glance selling within two months. The album was given some airplay on college radio.
Spinning Top's European connections ensured the album reached small pockets of Europe. Further niche progress followed. French label Hellfire Club Records released a four-track vinyl EP called Mezmerised that used the tougher-edged tracks from Rollerball Candy. The band was included on two compilations: Beat Party CD on Japan's One and Two Records and Pop Under the Surface on Swedish label Yesterday Girl Records.
The band organised a tour of Spain in January 1999, adding French leg to support the Mezmerized EP. Most of the ten Spanish shows were sold out before the band arrived. The seven dates in France were also successful. The tour proved to the band that they were still had many fans in Europe, even though it was their first full-band tour since 1994.
The Chevelles recorded seven new tracks in May 1999 -- their first full studio session since Rollerball Candy some four years earlier. Three of the seven songs (including a version of Air Supply's "Lost in Love") were completed to demo level and then shopped by Spinning Top to various labels throughout Australia, Europe and the U.S. San Francisco label Zip Records started negotiations for a U.S. EP and album release and advanced funds for more recordings.
Sun Bleached, a five-track EP, was released on Zip in October 2000. Zip Records' strong promotional network pushed the EP to over 300 college radio stations. Spinning Top also negotiated a deal with Zip which saw the Chevelles and other Spinning Top bands be released under the Zip Records banner in Australia through MGM Distribution.
Offers for the band to tour continued to come in and in early 2001 the band embarked on a 12-date tour of Brazil with GANGgajang and Yothu Yindi. A 20-track best-of CD titled Delirium was released in Brazil to coincide with the tour. The highlight of the successful tour was playing to a crowd of over 20,000 on the beach in Rio de Janeiro.
In mid-2001 the Chevelles were recording another new album.
Word of the new Chevelles album quickly filtered back to Spain and literally overnight a deal was set up with Spanish label Bittersweet for the release of Sunseekers (a compilation of the Sunbleached EP and six new tracks, which re-appear on Girl God). Its release in late 2001 was followed by another tour of Spain in March 2002. The tour coincided with the UK release of the all-new album Girl God. Three UK dates were added to the Spanish tour and, at the request of a Brazilian radio station, two shows were booked in Brazil.
The band launched Girl God in Australia in May 2002. The song "Get It On" from Girl God is featured as a downloadable track in Rock Band 2.
Barbarella Girl God - Introducing the Chevelles:
In 2008 The Chevelles signed with Little Steven's Wicked Cool Records. This deal enabled the release of an anthology album titled Barbarella Girl God - Introducing the Chevelles, which featured four new songs recorded as part of the sessions for the up-coming album Accelerator. In 2008 the Chevelles signed with Little Steven's Wicked Cool Records. This deal enabled the release of an anthology album titled Barbarella Girl God - Introducing the Chevelles, which featured four new songs, and a new studio album called Accelerator. The album was recorded at Forensic Sound Studios and Lounge Studios in Perth, with Ian Tubbs on drums.
A new studio album called Accelerator was released in 2010. The album was recorded over two recording sessions, where drum tracks were laid down by Marz Calhoon Frisini at Forensic Sound Studios, and then with Paul Di Renzo at Lounge Studios, Perth. The rest of the recording was done in the Chevelles studio - ATOMiC Studios, with production and mixing performed at Northbridge Sound Studios by the now late John Vilani (RIP). The album was mastered at 301 Studios by Don Bartley.
2010 and 2011:
In 2010 the Chevelles undertook a World Tour commencing at the Big Day Out in Perth, and followed by a tour through the USA (including appearances at SXSW) and by performances in the UK, Spain and Brazil.
In 2011 the Chevelles undertook a 21st Anniversary Tour commencing at Southbound musical festival, and then proceeding to the U.S .(including appearances at SXSW).