Chevelle formed in 1995 in Grayslake, Illinois, when the brothers Pete Loeffler and Sam Loeffler started enjoying music. Pete started playing guitar and singing while Sam began playing drums in their parents' garage. Soon after they began playing instruments, the two brothers asked their friend Matt Scott to play bass. Pete and Sam's youngest brother was interested in the band when he learned how to play bass. The two brothers enjoyed Joe's sound more than Scott's, leading to Scott's departure and replacement by Joe. The name Chevelle came from the band members' passion for fast cars. It was also their father's favorite car, the Chevrolet Chevelle. The band started playing small outdoor concerts and clubs around Chicago, Illinois, with Joe being only 14 years old.
Chevelle recorded a demo known as The Blue album, and played small concerts for the next three years until they were signed on to Steve Taylor's Squint Entertainment. The band recorded for 17 days in Electrical Audio studios, and in 1999, Chevelle released its first full length album, Point #1 which was produced by Steve Albini. Two singles were released from Point #1 with accompanying music videos, "Point #1" and "Mia". The songs received GMA Dove Awards for "Hard Music Song" with "Mia" in 2000 and "Point #1" in 2001. The album received an award for "Hard Music Album" in 2000 by the Dove Awards. Point #1 was well received by The Phantom Tollbooth, a Christian music website, and HM Magazine, yet was criticized for its repetitive song structures by Jesus Freak Hideout, a Christian music website.
Chevelle toured with bands such as Sevendust, Machine Head, Filter, and Powerman 5000 for four years before Squint Entertainment shut down and the band were signed on to Epic Records in 2002. In 2002 Chevelle released its second studio album Wonder What's Next on Epic Records. The band released the single "The Red", which reached number three on the Mainstream rock charts, and the video was played in regular rotation on MTV. Wonder What's Next soon peaked at number 14 on the United States Billboard 200 album chart. Brian O'Neil of Allmusic stated the album "offers uniqueness not often heard in more commercial fare, no mean feat. Chevelle released two more singles from the album, "Closure", and "Send the Pain Below", the latter of which reached the number one position on both of the mainstream rock and modern rock charts. Wonder What's Next was certified platinum by the RIAA with excess sales of one million copies sold in the United States alone in 2003.
In 2003 Chevelle co-headlined Ozzfest, where the band recorded and later released its first live album, Live from the Road, and a live DVD, Live from the Norva. The band toured Europe with Audioslave in early 2003, and later in the year they played on the Music as a Weapon II tour with Disturbed. On the tour with Disturbed, Chevelle appeared on the tour compilation album, titled Music as a Weapon II, featuring the songs "The Red" and "Forfeit".
In late 2006, Pete discussed his brother's departure on MTV.com:
This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In) was recorded in early 2004, and was released in September 2004. The album debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200, and was certified gold by the RIAA six weeks later. Johnny Loftus of Allmusic described the songs on the album as "strong dynamically, but sound predetermined — they don't separate from the general loud rock malaise. The song "Vitamin R (Leading Us Along)" was released as the first single from the album and reached the number one position on the Mainstream Rock chart. Two other singles were released from the album, the titles of which are "The Clincher" peaking at number three on the Mainstream rock chart, and "Panic Prone" which peaked at number 26 on the same chart. Before the album's release, Chevelle received attention when "The Clincher" was featured in the game Madden NFL 2005.
The band supported This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In) with a headlining tour that included opening acts such as Taproot and 30 Seconds to Mars, and continued playing small tours in 2004 and 2005 with Geno Lenardo from the band Filter. In 2006 Chevelle supported Nickelback for an arena tour across the United States, with a new permanent bassist, the Loeffler brothers' brother in-law and long time friend, Dean Bernardini.
In 2006 Chevelle recorded its fourth studio album titled Vena Sera. The album was the first album Chevelle recorded with Bernardini. Vena Sera was released in April 2007, debuting at number 12 on the Billboard 200, and sold 62,000 copies during its first week of release. The title of the album translates to "vein liquid" in Latin, representing the blood Chevelle put into making the album, according to Pete.
Corey Apar of Allmusic States that "Vena Sera probably won't disappoint fans, and it didnt, if for the sole fact that it basically sounds just like Chevelle's other albums" and that it has a "relatively lighter underbelly than the rest [of Chevelle's albums], which is a nice change of pace. "Well Enough Alone", the first single from the album, was written about the departure of Joe Loeffler, and reached number four on the Mainstream rock charts. A video was made for the song, and due to winning a "battle of the bands" contest, received rotation on MTV2. Chevelle toured with Evanescence, Finger Eleven, and Strata during March and April 2007, followed by a headlining tour with the latter two bands in May and June. The second single from the album, "I Get It", was released on June 12, 2007, and a video for the song debuted on MTV on November 27, 2007. In July of the same year Chevelle toured Australia as a supporting act for the band The Butterfly Effect. On the tour in Australia Chevelle's band manager Rose died of cancer, much to the distress of the band.
On May 9, 2007, during a show in Fort Worth, Texas Chevelle's trailer containing all of the band's equipment was stolen from the hotel at which the members were staying. The band posted a notice saying, "Most items are labeled 'Chevelle' and if you notice anything suspicious on eBay or other online resellers selling 'authentic' Chevelle items... guitar, basses, drums amplifiers, risers, backdrops, tee shirts... please call the police..." A month later in an interview, Sam Loeffler stated, "Of the 14 guitars, we got two of 'em, and then we got some amplifiers back and our monitor system. So it's really, I mean it's cool because it's kind of like Christmas, only really weird. People have been calling us and saying, 'Hey, I bought this or that', and you know, we're just doing our best to buy it back from them. And certainly the issue is not a money issue, it's about having the pieces of gear that you did all your records with."
Chevelle has caused controversy among Christian groups, because at one point they were on a Christian rock label, and thus the band has mistakenly been labeled "Christian rock." Keith Miller of Evangelsociety.org has been critical of Chevelle due to the band touring on Ozzfest with bands such as Cradle of Filth, who he claims incorporate strong satanic and anti-Christian themes into their lyrics. Sam Loeffler said, "It’s something that’s probably going to follow us around forever and that’s fine. It’s pretty simple. We originally signed with a record company that was backed by Word (a Christian label housing John Tesh and Amy Grant), so the record [Point #1] was in Christian bookstores. It was really an accidental thing."
Chevelle have tried to distance themselves from a Christian identity, claiming that they are not a Christian band. Sam jokingly stated in an interview, "We're recovering Catholics." Sam also told the Chicago Tribune, "Our faith is still extremely important to us, but it's also very personal. None of us feels being a rock band on stage should be a pedestal for preaching."
Chevelle's primary musical influences as stated by the band members are Helmet, Tool, and The Cure. Chevelle has frequently been compared to Tool throughout its career, specifically when the band released its music video for "Mia" featuring a claymation doll throughout the video, much like the Tool music video for "Stinkfist". Pete Loeffler's singing voice has been highly compared to that of Tool's Maynard James Keenan, and the band's music has been compared to Tool's "dark" tone of music.
Despite comparisons to Tool, many critics such as Andree Farias and Andy Argyrakis of Christianity Today and Robert Rich of The Daily Texan have stated Chevelle as having a unique sound to their music. The Daily Texan described their music as “a kind of controlled chaos, a beautiful darkness, a gentle rampage of aural velocity”, and drew away from the band's comparisons to Tool by stating “Tool have always embraced their experimental side and released scathing social commentaries and criticisms, while Chevelle write radio-friendly tunes with subtly deep meanings, but with overtones easily grasped by any listener.” Andree Farias of Christianity Today has reviewed Chevelle's first three albums, praising them as “commanding vocals over jolting guitars and chest-thumping bass beats.” According to Christianity Today, although the band has caused controversy among Christian groups, Chevelle is one of the most successful bands of the modern hard rock and alternative metal genres, according to record sales and chart positions.