Halestorm are a band you have to see live to truly understand what they are about. The Grammy award winning hard rockers have been through the whole sweaty, dingy club show rite of passage that nearly every band has to take before they can hit the big leagues and it shows in their performances. At the soul of the band, siblings Lzzy and Arejay Hale started the band when they were just kids and now with the release of their third studio album Into The Wild Life only a month away they’ve come a long way from the small town of Red Lion, Pennsylvania.
On the Leeds date of the UK tour as part of a pre-album cycle as you would, seening as though the new album doesn’t drop until April, I had the chance to interview drummer Arejay Hale about their recent tour with country singer Eric Church and the new album among other things. After discussing the multiple edible items that were on show in the Halestorm back lounge and talking about stealing wine with my photographer, I finally got to ask a few questions.
BM: So you and Lzzy started the band when you were 10 and 13. And your first show was a talent show. After that, did you feel you wanted to do this for the rest of your life?
Arejay: Yeah, once we kind of had the taste of playing on stage, even though we were playing in front of like rednecks and their kids. (laughs) And I mean that in the sweetest way possible! God bless em’ over there in central Pennsylvania. Once we kind of played on stage together, It was a cool stage. It was like an outdoor stage with lights and a drum riser and stuff. I set up my little rinky-dink kit up on the drum riser.
BM: Did you have your rotating drum set yet?
Arejay: No we didn’t have that yet, that came about a year later. That was just a silly gimmick that we were just trying to get in the local paper. But once we did our first little jam together, it was such a rush. I was like “Man I want to do this again” and then we just had tunnel vison you know. And we have very supportive parents too.
BM: Your Dad was in the band at the start right? So it’s a very family based thing?
Arejay: Yeah! He was out first bass player. My Dad and I jammed together when we were kids. We actually used to play in our church band back when we were good little church goers! Not anymore, we’ve turned to the darkside (laughs). But yeah we always jammed together.
BM: How much of an influence were your parents on you wanting to be a drummer and playing in this band?
Arejay: Oh fucking astronomical! If that’s the right word to use, I don’t know what that means.
BM: It sounds right. Throw it in there.
Arejay: Very very important. I always stress that if kids want to start a band they need parental support. It is so fucking important. If your kid wants to pick up a guitar or something but the parents are like “Well okay that’s cute but you have to go to college.” Not that I’m knocking that but I’m just saying, if you’re a kid and that’s what you really want to do and you look up to these rock star heroes and that’s what you want to do, if your parents support you the whole way then it’s so much easier to do it . Then you’re enabled form the very beginning, especially if you’re young.
But my dad was really into classic rock and he loves Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Just all the 70’s classic rock bands. Actually all the bands that came from the UK! The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. That sort of stuff. That’s what we were raised on. They would get us little videos, well at the time it was VHS which states how old I am, of the Hard Days Night by The Beatles. That was kind of the very beginning and I remember being in the car and I was going to the dentist or something and I heard Rock N’ Roll by Led Zeppelin on the radio. I heard the beginning drums and I was like woah! I was like 5 or something and I was like “Dad turn that up!” and we cranked it in the car and it was just speakers blasting. This is great parenting here, here you go kid, and lets deafen you right now. From then on I was hooked. That was one of the very first moments when I was like I want to play drums. Another cool thing is our parents took us to see a lot of live music. They loved to go see live shows. Two of their favourite bands were Van Halen and Cheap Trick and actually their wedding song was Panama by Van Halen. That kind of gives you a good clue to how my parents were. They were crazy rockers just like me. I was always kind of drawn to the drummer and later on I was influenced by front men like David Lee Roth and Freddie Mercury.
BM: See, I didn’t really have that, I had to figure out a lot of the genre of music on my own.
Arejay: Well it’s in the family, my Granddad played guitar. Here’s the funny thing pretty much every male Hale on my father’s side of the family were all musicians but they all somehow ended up in the military. So I’m the only one in my entire family that really stuck with it! (laughs) Join the circus you know. I still go mad respect for military people.
BM: You’ve just come off the back off a tour in the US with Eric Church, how was that like considering the difference in genre between the two of you?
Arejay: Honestly his fans were really fucking cool about it. Some of the shows we did with Dwight Yoakam as well. It was us, Dwight Yoakam and Eric Church. I don’t know if you guys know about Dwight but he’s a legend. He’s like really traditional country so I think a lot of his fans saw and were like “argh the fuck is this.” We probably sounded like Slayer to them. But Eric Church’s fans are a little bit of a younger audience and especially now with like Spotify and now that music is just out there, nobody really goes to a record store anymore which makes me sad because I still love going and getting records. But when you go to a record store you got the sections and if you’re into one thing you go to that thing. But now there’s music everywhere, you can access it right there on your phone. So when you think about it a positive did come out of it because I think a lot of people are not sticking to just one genre. It’s like movies. I love comedies, I love scary movies, I love drama and I think people, especially now more than ever they like Country, Hip-Hop, Pop and Rock and all kinds of different genres. So when we played in front of his audience they were really receptive and the cool thing about Eric Church is he’s kind of like one of those Modern Day country guys that for me is like a country rocker. So as a rock and roll fan I was able to get into it.
BM: So your new album Into The Wild Life is out in April and unfortunately got pushed back a week.
Arejay: Did that happen? I remembered hearing rumours and I was so pissed off. Just check our website halestormrocks.com don’t take our word for it kids! With me, once we’ve finished a record I want to put it out immediately and everyone’s always like “no no no pump them brakes kid.”
BM: and you recorded this album a little differently to the other two albums, what made you do it the way you did?
Arejay: We really stirred up the pot with this record because we went with a producer that really never did a hard rock record. This guy Jay Joyce who’s bread and butter is like country and like indie alternative. He did Cage The Elephant (Melophobia, 2013), he does Eric Church and really deep down inside he’s a hard rock fan. When he found out we wanted to go with him he was just like “finally we can make a rock record!” because that’s what he loves to do. It was really cool working with him because he has a really different method. So when we recorded it, it was in this big church in Nashville and we recorded everything live together, we all set up in the big room and just played live as a band so I think with this record it’s the closest thing we’ve come to capturing our live energy on record, which we’ve tried so many times. I think we got pretty close with Strange Case of…(2012) but this one I think captures a lot of that energy. I think it’s got some cool moments and it’s really different. In a world where the term ‘album’ is obsolete and it’s all about singles and downloads, we went against the grain and actually made a full album like start to finish. I tell everybody when you get it, listen to it front to back because it’s a complete thought and that’s the first time we have ever done a record like that. It’s so much fun to listen to it because there’s so many transitions, I do a drum solo in there, like a little short one (laughs). It’s just really fun, he (Jay Joyce) was really good at trying to meld the songs together and making it not just a collection of songs but trying to make the whole album flow. I always loved records like that and one of my favourite records is Tool’s Lateralus (2001). They put out an incredible concept record so this I think is kind of along the lines, not that I want to say it’s as good because that’s a great record. I’m not going to gloat about my record! But I love my record so fuck it.
BM: Why Into The Wild Life is there a concept behind that?
Arejay: The title represents with every record that we’ve done we have never wanted to settle or try to reproduce what we’ve done. We’ve always wanted to venture into something, an uncharted territory. Kind of swim with the sharks a little bit. Challenge ourselves. Push ourselves to do something really different. Obviously when you’re writing music and an idea gets you, you just sit down and go through the motions. But with this one we really wanted to experiment with different ways of writing and even writing our own parts. Like writing my drum parts, I was so glad I got to work with Jay Jocye because he’s not a drummer and for me I go into the studio cold and I focus on the song writing throughout the entire process and when it comes to writing the drum parts at the very end I’ll just sit down and I’ll just go into it. I like that because I think you get more spontaneity out of the kit and I’ve been playing forever so it’s really not that difficult to just sit down and feel the music and try to compliment it rhythmically. So I loved working with Jay because he really didn’t think like a drummer. I always stress this to so many other drummers, if you’re going to take up drums you should also learn to play guitar or piano. Like melodic instruments so you can think more like a musician. So working with Jay I wasn’t thinking like a drummer, I was thinking like a musician. What would complement the song? And a lot of it ended up being spaced out and very simplified. But then picking and choosing the right moments to really do something crazy. So yeah, it’s wild and it was really wild for us and we’re really out of our comfort zone so it’s kind of like us going into the wild life.
BM: Is the first single Apocalyptic giving an example of what the album as a whole is like?
Arejay: In my opinion, I think Apocalyptic is a little bit closer to where we left off on the last record. It seems like every time we put out a record it gets more and more diverse. The first record was very in the middle, then the next record was a little heavier and more intimate and this next record, it’s so extreme and so all over the place. I think it was smart going with Apocalyptic first because it kind of eases everybody into this new record and I think Amen takes a little step further and for the next one, who knows?
BM: You played a song from the upcoming album called Mayhem on the last UK tour, was it a case of throwing it out there and seeing how the audience reacts? And did it change at all after the tour?
Arejay: Mayhem to me was like Love Bites on the last record. When we wrote Loves Bites, that was us trying to push ourselves and think lets write the heaviest song we can right now. Literally the four of us were in my parent’s basement in Pennsylvania, which is where we practise all the time. We’re upstairs, it was 3 o’clock in the morning trying to figure it out. We’ve got this idea, we want to finish this song. We stepped away for a while, went into the kitchen and chugged four cups of coffee, one for each of us and we were just like “Here we go” listening to Lamb Of God trying to get pumped up and write this heavy stuff. Mayhem was like that on this record. Let’s write the heaviest thing we possibly can. Rip your fucking face off you know? And that tour was the first time we did it. We did change it a little bit after that tour. We just kind of had the idea and we just wanted to test it out live and see the reaction. It just sucks when you go in the studio with new songs you don’t know, each of us would have like 100 songs each, little ideas that we would bring to the table on our own and you don’t know if it’s any good or not until you play it live. I’ll give you an example, like on the first record we didn’t even think I Get Off was going to be a single. That was just a whatever song. Then we started playing it live and the reaction was so good, they started playing it on the radio ended up being our first single so with Mayhem we just wanted to try some stuff out before we decided what to put on the record so we tried it out and the reaction was great so fuck it this song needs to go on the record.
BM: Is there one song that really stood out to you when recording?
Arejay: That’s tough because they’re all so unique. As of right now were actually in the process of, I don’t know when we’re going to do it but we’ve been rehearsing another new song. It’s been a challenge, it’s pretty tricky but this song called I Am The Fire which is track two I think on the new record. We’ve been experimenting with it in sound check, and that song is really fun to play so as of right now that’s favourite. It changes weekly.
BM: What were you striving for when you were recording the album? After Strange Case Of… came out and after that Grammy win did you feel you had to up your game?
Arejay: The whole Grammy thing really didn’t affect us. It was awesome but it really didn’t change anything as far as we are as a band. It’s such a good fucking, awesome, amazing honour. It was incredible and in my personal opinion I don’t think we deserved it because we were up again legends and when we won it we were like “What? Really?” it’s so weird because we are just the new kids. I really thought when we got nominated that they just threw us in, like they needed a modern band. I thought it was going to go to Lamb Of God or Iron Maiden and instead we won the fucking thing and we walked up there and had no idea what we were doing and we had nothing prepared. I was going through my phone looking through my contacts thinking of people to thank. It was so fucking amazing and so fucking awesome and to be able say we won a Grammy is unbelievable. But honestly a Grammy doesn’t make or break a band. It’s just a cool thing, so I didn’t really change us. Really what we wanted to do was chase what got us excited and try some new stuff and have fun with it and personally what I wanted to do was capture that live energy. A lot of people come up to us after the show and say we love your record but you have so much more energy live. Being a live band is always what we’ve been. It’s our bread and butter. So getting to play and record the album live was kind of our challenge. What really helped was we played our touring gear in the studio and that helped me get in the live mind set. Even when we were recording, our producer Jay was like the only producer who came out to our real touring shows and in the studio you kind of stiffen up a little bit because you want to be accurate, and he was like “no man start throwing sticks, start messing around.” So basically we recorded like we play live.
BM: These are some of the biggest venues you’ve headlined in the UK on this tour, how does it feel to feel to keep coming back here and playing bigger and bigger venues?
Arejay: It’s just incredible.
BM: The last time you were here in Leeds you played the Cockpit which is like depending on the room you playing in, like 300/500 cap venue?
Arejay: Yeah! I remember that place. Is it still there?
BM: No, it shut down unfortunately.
Arejay: Ahh that’s so sad. That was so much fucking fun. It was the best! It was like playing in a brick oven but it was so fucking punk rock. It was like jam packed in there, total fire hazard. It’s so cool getting to see the progression, and the fact that we come all the way over here from the states and people still want us back. I never expected in a million years that when we started Halestorm that we’d ever get to headline anything. But we get to do headline shows over here in the UK and Europe and actually have people want to come out and see us. It’s so unbelievably cool to see how much people still love rock and roll over here. It really touches my heart and when we come all the way over here, all the way across the pond everybody makes us feel right at home. We have the best fucking unbelievable fans in the UK and last time we played in Nottingham and it was so loud I couldn’t even hear my drums. We come over here and it’s just a whole new breed of rock fan. Not that I’m knocking on our states fans because our fans in the states are great but over here it’s just different. There’s so much energy.
BM: After you’re done here in Europe you have a few weeks off and then your album drops, then you go on tour with The Pretty Reckless on the Carnival Of Madness. The last time you were there was with Evanescence, what is it about this festivals that made you want to do it again?
Arejay: First of all we’re really good buddies and started working with Monster Energy Drink a long time ago. We started to get to know the Monster guys and they’re some of the coolest dudes ever and they take such good care of us. Especially in a day and age where being in a rock band is tough. It’s not what it used to be. It’s pretty common knowledge nobody buys records anymore, it’s getting tougher to make a living doing this. But the guys in Monster they really help us out with our stage show, they hook us up with backdrops and stage props and of course they give us all the Monster we can drink. Hence why we’re such hyper kids! (laughs) And those guys party harder than any actual musician. Those guys are bigger rock stars than most the rock stars I’ve met. It’s fun for me because it’s fun trying to keep up with those guys. Also our manager, our whole management company and most the bands that are on that tour are bands we’ve known forever. I don’t know about this time but we got to tour with New Medicine and Chevelle. (last time) But the tour is fun because it’s just all of our buddies we’ve known forever. Doing that tour is like a big family reunion. It’s a fun one, it’s really cool, I love the theme and you know what else is cool, they make it fun. Have you ever played cornhole? Like the game where you throw the beanbag into the hole? In America we call it cornhole. Don’t ask me why! I’m not going to speak for the rest of us. They have this massive cornhole competition. So that’s fun, I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to playing with The Pretty Reckless too, I dig their new record and this new band called Starset.
BM: Yeah we saw Startset support In This Moment on Sunday!
Arejay: In This Moment are kickass. I’m good buddies with the drummer Tom. He’s such a fucking nice guy and like I watched him play every night and his feet are so fast! I’m not a double bass guy at all you know. I think he’s one of the greatest modern day and most underrated metal drummers of this era.
BM: I think he like comes a lot from Thrash.
Arejay: I’ve got mad respect for that drumming. I saw Dave Lombardo play with Slayer in Tokyo and I’ve always appreciated Slayer but never really listened to them, I’ll be honest I’m sorry. I knew their songs but like I never really devoured them. But when I saw them live it was just that level of aggression and energy and I was like yeah I get it. Now I know why they are Slayer.
Sorry I just went off on one. But yeah In This Moment and Starset, over here we’ve got Nothing More and Wilson for support.
BM: Thank you Arejay!
Arejay: Thank you guys very much for the support!
Halestorm’s new album Into The Wild Life is out April 13th in the UK, you can pre-order the new album here.
You can still catch Halestorm on their European Wild Life tour at the remaining dates:
10 London Camden Roundhouse
12 Southampton O2 Guildhall
13 Cardiff University Great Hall
14 Manchester O2 Apollo
Photos courtesy of Forte Photography UK