With their debut self-titled album under their belts, Halestorm is doing what they do best – hitting the road and playing live! The foursome who have received a lot of buzz for their female-fronted brand of rock and roll is no one trick pony. While lead singer and guitar player Lzzy Hale does sparkle with impressive vocals that are reminiscent of the days of old with obvious influences from the great rock bands of the seventies, the rest of the band around her are stand-out stars as well. Brother Arejay Hale on drums is a machine and quite possibly one of the most talented and fun to watch drummers out there today. Guitarist Joe Hottinger isn’t called “The Candyman” for nothing, the tricks and treats that he offers up through his instrument will leave anyone coming back for more and cool-handed bassist Josh Smith rounds out the talented quartet. Where they all truly shine the most though is on stage; live, and in your face – in the true spirit of rock and roll.
Describing the making of the album as “going to rock n’ roll college” the band really opened themselves up to the ideas of their producer Howard Benson and left everything they possibly had in the studio. The results? An album that rocks from start to finish with no apologies. Channeling their influences from the 70s and the 80s, this album is a modern day throwback to all of the great rock albums of our time while still maintaining a sound of their own.
With their first single “I Get Off” climbing the charts the band is currently out on a co-headlining tour with Burn Halo and The Veer Union. This tour affords them the opportunity to get down and dirty with the fans in smaller venues before they hop on to the Stimulate This Tour, one of the largest rock tours of the summer with Staind, Shinedown, and Chevelle.
On their recent tour stop in Northampton, MA I sat down with 3/4s of the band (Josh was absent) to talk shop…
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | June 2009
From the beginning the band sort of took the old school approach to things with touring your butts off, building up a fan base, solidifying your sound and now an album, do you think in the end that was a big benefit?
Joe: Totally. We’ve been around for ten years and before we signed we were booking about 250 shows a year, and it really helped us perfect our live show. Not to say it’s perfect but it helped us do what we do best and that is what we do best, come out and rock.
The whole DIY approach probably helped with the relationships between the band members as well?
Joe: We’re a family. Literally it is a family, Arejay is Lzzy’s brother, and if you get in a fight with your brother it’s not the end, it’s just a fight. You wake up the next day and everything’s peachy. We don’t even fight that much.
Lzzy: Yeah, something’s wrong with us, we don’t fight.
From your personal perspective what have been the advantages and or disadvantages of having a female fronted rock band?
Joe: From my perspective, which is probably a little different than Lzzy’s, but I’m sure it’s similar. Me personally I’m not a huge fan of most chick bands; I think someone once called it “tampon rock”, and I know Lzzy’s isn’t either. So the disadvantage is that people look at that way without even knowing you. But I think Lzzy uses that to her advantage, she actually wrote the song “What Were You Expecting” about that and just..
Lzzy: ..taking people by surprise.
Joe: Everyone thinks she’s either a roadie or a groupie.
Lzzy: I do get that a lot! Or..”who are you dating in the band?”
Joe: She’s cool about it, she just laughs it off and then they’re usually apologizing after the show. So that’s almost kind of an advantage though because we love the surprise element of it all, it helps the show.
Lzzy: That’s why we do the a cappella intro with me singing offstage with a hood on and no one can tell I’m a chick.
Joe: Right, we start the show off with Lzzy singing offstage, its one part fire siren and one part “what the fuck is going on?” It keeps people wondering.
I’ve heard you say many times how supportive Atlantic has been as a label which is usually not something you hear about a label, what is it about them that makes such a good fit for you?
Joe: The people.
Lzzy: They’re so passionate about what they do.
Joe: We were actually just there hanging out with them yesterday having beer and pizza at the office. It was so much fun. We had so many ideas but we didn’t want to do it like everyone else has done over the past five years and we didn’t even have to say anything, they had great ideas for it. We just wanted it to be slow and easy, it wasn’t about selling a ton of records the first week of the release. I feel like they understand what’s going on.
So they’re in touch with their bands, which isn’t always the case.
Joe: Yes, and we’re also in touch with them which a lot of bands do resist. My thinking is that they’ve done this before and we haven’t so let’s listen to what they have to say. It’s not like we never say no.
Lzzy: And when we do say no, they listen.
You did things a little differently by releasing a live EP before your debut album, what was the thought process behind that, was that how you wanted to introduce yourselves to the world before you headed into the studio?
Joe: Yes, it was an introduction and we were signed off of our live show really. We didn’t have demos floating around; it was more like come see us and you’ll get it. We didn’t have access to great recording equipment at the time so our A&R guy suggested a live EP. We called it “One and Done” because it was done in one night, we didn’t do any edits in the studio, all the faults are there and it really is what it is.
You mean it’s a live album that’s ACTUALLY live?
Joe: Yeah, which is rare! And it was kind of like, well it really could be One and Done, you never know in this business! We toured for that for a year and it was just a fun tour, there was no pressure.
Lzzy: Anything above suck was okay.
The album cover has some pretty intriguing artwork, who came up with the concept and what’s the story behind that?
Joe: We were brainstorming, we had a few ideas and we were talking with the art department bouncing some ideas back and forth and started talking about Steampunk and how we love that style and the whole vintage/futuristic idea. We’re building our band from the ground up and it’s kind of created a monster now, Halestorm is our Frankenstein. Now it’s in control of us, now Halestorm runs us. It’s all built in there, the whole idea.
Lzzy: It’s an eye catcher but it’s beautiful.
So did you have a normal photo shoot for that and then the artist worked from that?
Joe: We did a really cool photo shoot. We went to The Frying Pan which is a boat that sank off the coast of the Carolinas and they raised it up and now it’s floating in the Hudson in New York City. It’s all rusty and it was just the perfect setting. The illustration is based off of photos taken there and he created the world around it, because obviously, I still have arms.
You worked with Producer Howard Benson and I’ve talked to a lot of bands that have worked with him and have had great things to say, what did he bring to the process for you?
Lzzy: It was awesome.
Joe: She did the majority of the work with Howard. He’s got a factory over there. He really does, he’s always working with several bands. Howard Benson is just a piece of it all; he has a great team around him too. He tends to focus more on the vocals and then putting it all together. I worked his team and they were the coolest guys, I had so much fun. We went in there not knowing what would happen and it was just a great experience. We learned that it’s the band that makes the record. I’m sure he’s had to step in in the past with bands if they weren’t playing well but we did fine and it turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be.
Lzzy: One thing he said was that I thought was really profound was “Everything starts and ends with the band.” If the band doesn’t have a good attitude coming into the studio or if they don’t know what they’re doing then it won’t come out great.
The band gets a lot of comparisons to classic rock and the big rock sounds of the bands of the 70s and 80s. Are you okay with those comparisons?
Joe: Oh hell yeah. Lzzy is a huge fan of Dio and Cinderella and she’s a big time fan. That’s what she grew up on, her Dad Roger is a bass player from the seventies and was always playing Cream or Deep Purple so we were all raised on old rock and roll and it just seeps in a little.
Lzzy has said that for the recording of this album you guys “went to rock and roll college” what’s your interpretation of that?
Joe: We went out to LA and we were only supposed to be there a month. We finished our tour and headed out there to meet and write with some people. It turned into 19 months; we ended up writing with a ton of people which was awesome. We got to meet a lot of our heroes and make music with them. A lot of people really look down on co-writing but for us it was neat. We picked up a lot of stuff from working with them.
I think that all comes down to being confident in your own music right? To be open to something like that.
Joe: Yeah if you have issues with that then it’s probably not going to work.
Lzzy: We’re always open-minded when it comes to opportunities to make ourselves better.
I think that sometimes when a rock band is fronted by a woman the other band members tend to get overshadowed but throughout this album everyone in the band is really able to shine musically which obviously first and foremost is a testament to your talent but…do you ever struggle to find that balance?
Joe: Not really.
Lzzy: We feed off of each other.
Joe: That’s how we play and what we do.
(Enter Arejay! Arejay joins us on the bus for the remainder of the interview)
Joe: That’s how we arrange songs and play; everyone finds their own space, which is why we work well together.
Lzzy: We all respect each other and our roles in the band.
I’ve read several reviews of the band and the one constant throughout is the reviewer saying that the band is even better live than on CD which is probably the biggest compliment any band could get. Do you see it that way?
Joe: Yes, totally. We’d rather be better than our album live. The cool thing is doing it without any tracks in the background. A lot of bands cheat and you’ll hear an orchestra or a tambourine and all these other voices. Sure it sounds great but how can I even trust that you’re playing because you have all that extra. It’s about the energy and it doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s about putting on a good show.
Lzzy: Anyone can record a great record.
Joe: Yeah you don’t have to be talented these days to record an album; you just have to have a talented engineer.
The album has been out for about two months now…what’s been the most rewarding thing that’s happened to you as a band within that timef rame?
Joe: This tour so far.
Arejay: I think it’s gotta be just playing live and this tour in particular is a three way co-headlining tour and all four of us are riding our first single, climbing the charts so looking out off the stage to see that people are here for us and to see some new music is very rewarding.
Joe: Yeah it’s great to look out and see people wearing Halestorm shirts and singing every song. Normally we’re opening and everyone is there to see the band after us and we’re just an introduction but right now we’re one of the headliners so it’s very cool.
So as far as the co-headlining tour goes, are you just swapping spots?
Joe: Yes, we just rotate the time slots and we all play the same amount of time each night.
Describe each of your band members in 1 word.
Joe: These are fun.
Probably not so much for Lzzy since she has no voice!
Joe: It’s only four words Lzz! Maybe you can just give us four words and we can guess who each one belongs to whom.
Arejay: We’ll do charades.
Lzzy: Let’s see…
Arejay: Don’t say smelly..
Lzzy: Candyman, Monkey and David Lee Roth.
So I know that Arejay is David Lee Roth, who are Candyman and Monkey and why?
Joe: I’m the Candyman, sugar.
Arejay: He plays all the tasty little guitar treats and tricks. And then Josh is always climbing trees and any time we’re parked anywhere he’s climbing. We’ll all be wondering “Where’s Josh?” and we’ll look up or he’ll jump right down in front of us.
And what about one word for Lzzy?
Arejay: I’d have to say..
Lzzy: Don’t say smelly..
Arejay: Not smelly.
Joe: Smelly Diva. Oh wait, that’s two words.
Arejay: I’d have to say this…Rawwwwwr. That’s the way she sings, like a lion. Rawr!
Lzzy: That’s more of a sound.
Arejay: That’s actually how we describe our band when they ask us what we sound like…Rawwwwr.
I know that early on your parents were really involved with the band and managed you. I’m just wondering if they are still as involved?
Lzzy: All of our parents are involved.
Arejay: All four of our parents are incredibly supportive. Lzzy and My mom still tour manages us. It’s great because your family is there all the time, we come into this RV and it’s like going home. Josh’s Dad built all the bunks, Joe’s Dad hooked us up big-time with this RV. My Dad helped build all of our road cases and he also helps drive and tech when he’s not working.
Did you name it yet by the way?
Joe: Noo..still no name.
Halestorm – I Get Off
Watch Halestorm’s video for their first single “I Get Off”
Any pre-show rituals for the band?
Arejay: I rock a pocket of puke. (Name that movie!)
Joe: We have a secret handshake. (Handshake demonstrated) Then we do boring stuff like warm up and stretch. We use to sing a song..but not anymore….
Joe: “We’re all in this together” by Old Crow Medicine.
Lzzy: Sometimes we’re just looking for Arejay.
Arejay: Yeah usually it’s just me trying to find the stage; I’ll somehow get lost and have a Total Spinal Tap moment.
This tour is a pre-cursor to the Stimulate This tour this summer with Staind, Shinedown and Chevelle. Can you tell us a little bit about that tour? Is it more exciting for you to play the bigger stage like that or the headlining shows like this?
Lzzy: It’s a different animal.
Arejay: It’s a horse a piece. Either way is a blast, all we like to do as a band is to go out and play and have a good time. We’ll have a good time whether there’s three people there or three thousand people there. I definitely love doing these small club tours because these people are here to see us and there’s a great connection there and I love playing the big shows because let’s face it playing in front of ten thousand people is pretty damn exciting.
Was Rock on the Range the biggest show you’ve played so far?
Arejay: Rock on the Range was definitely one of them and then we played Rockfest in Kansas City in 2006 in front of like 30,000 people. That’s definitely like the biggest one day festival we’ve ever played.
Any nerves going out in front of that many people?
Joe: Nah, it’s more like an energy high. We have so much to put out there and we get it back tenfold, it’s a pretty cool drug.
Arejay: To hear that many people cheering, I can imagine what the Romans felt like in the Coliseum..when they were about to get killed by an animal.
Any parting words that I might have missed?
Thank you! Please come out and see us for the full experience and be sure to say hi!
Check out Halestorm this summer on the Stimulate This tour with Staind, Shinedown & Chevelle! Click on the banner below for tour dates and additional tour details.