Interview: Halestorm

Photo by Jake Giles Netter

Photo by Jake Giles Netter

Between their 2013 "Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance" Grammy win and Lzzy Hale's stage presence, Halestorm is one of those rock bands you simply can't ignore.

Under The Rockies was given the opportunity to sit down with Halestorm drummer, Arejay Hale, and guitarist, Josh Smith, when they came through Calgary this past winter, opening for Three Days Grace. We talked extensively on touring, their most recent "I Am The Fire" music video and how you reallyyy pronounce "Calgary".

Halestorm's Into the Wild Life is out now via Atlantic Records.

You’re currently touring with Three Days Grace. Because Three Days Grace is a Canadian band, you get to hit more of Canada versus just the larger, key Canadian cities.
Josh: That’s huge for us and it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s funny, our merch guy was telling us he saw Airbourne passed through here, and he looked at their tour tee for Canada, and he was like, “It was two solid columns [of dates].” You think of Toronto and Vancouver but there are so many places to get to up here. I feel, even now, we’re hitting some new markets but there’s probably so many more we wanna come back and hit.
Arejay: Hopefully we can come back and headline.
Josh: We gotta get up to the Northwest Territories.

A lot of times a band will announce a tour saying it’s a Canadian tour, but it’ll be Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. And we’re the fourth biggest city, right?
They ever call you guys “Cal-gary”? Is that a derogatory term?

If you’re from here you call it “Calg-ree” but, if you’re outside of Calgary, you call it “Cal-gary.”
Yeah, in the south in the States, they’re like [southern accent]: “You’re goin’ up to Cal-gary?”

Yeah, you can tell who’s from here and who’s not. 
Yeah, if Blackstone Cherry ever plays here they’ll be like, “HELLO CAL-GARY!” Like yeah, we know where you’re from.

How do Canadian crowds react to Halestorm versus American crowds?
There’s a noticeable accent. The way you guys... Nah, I’m just kidding.
Arejay: I think, just like in the States, it depends on the territory. As far as positive response goes, it’s been similar. Last night we were in Edmonton and they were on fire, they were great. 
Josh: I think it’s been similar. Being in Canada or the US, we’re in North America and there’s a lot of similarities between both countries. Certainly a lot of differences too. The crowds are really great. One thing is for sure, Canadians love your rock. We appreciate that for sure. The support’s been amazing, there hasn’t been one show where we came offstage like “that was weird,” you know? Everyone’s been putting out a lot of energy. Lzzy asks every night, “how many people [is it your] first time having seen us?” and it’s usually two thirds of the crowd raise their hand, so the energy they’re putting out to a band they don’t necessarily know is pretty cool.
Arejay: I guess, compared to the States, some of the markets in Canada, a lot of the fans are starved for rock shows. Not too many roll through there, like Edmonton’s up north, off the beaten path, so they were just so stoked to be there.
Josh: So ready to rock.

We wouldn’t get as many shows as Toronto. I find there’s a lot of harder rock bands in Alberta.
It’s like the opposite in the States. In the States, rock bands are on the east coast and in the Midwest and we go out west and it’s more electronic and hip-hop. Up in Canada, it’s the opposite – the more west you go, the more rock.

For your “I Am The Fire” video, is there a deeper meaning behind playing in the desert with literal fire behind you? Or did you want a fairly simple video concept to even everything out as it’s such a powerful song.
That’s pretty much it.
Josh: That was exactly it. When we were talking about treatments for the video, we decided to make it a raw performance video with very interesting background, something provocative. The scenery was amazing. Any time between takes we were looking around or just staring up at the starry night in the middle of nowhere.
Arejay: We were already touring out there, out west, it just seemed like a perfect spot.
Josh: That’s totally the inspiration behind the video, to make it really eye-captivating. It’s neat memory to look back at.
Arejay: It fits the song too because it’s a high-energy live song. If we weren’t performing high energy live as a band, it wouldn’t have done the song justice.
Josh: We had to get pyro in there.
Arejay: Oh yeah, we had to get fire. That was fun, that was really cool.

Who thought of the treatment? Who was the director?
The director was DJay Brawner and he’s done a few of our videos now.
Arejay: He did “Apocalyptic” and “Amen”.
Josh: We really liked it his style and also his efficiency. He knows when he’s gotten the shot and is ready to move on and that’s huge because usually they’re 14 hour days. The guy knows what he wants and he knows how to get it. All of his shots, his colours are very crisp. 

Lzzy has collaborated with Lindsey Stirling and Eric Church are two artists you’ve collaborated with that aren’t necessarily in the “rock” genre. Have you done collaborations yourselves with other artists? Or is it something you’d want to do?
I got to play drums for Corey Taylor once for one of his solo shows in Las Vegas. Nothing on record. I did a few session drumming for Rob Decoup. He has this Bruce Springsteen sound and he’s pretty cool. He’s more on the independent circuit but he’s really good.
Josh: I’ve been asked to do stuff but then we’re on tour 10 months out of the year so things just never line up. We’re certainly open to it. It’s fun, just playing with other people is great, it’s good for the soul
Arejay: We tour 10 months out of the year so finding time to do anything outside of the band is pretty impossible at this point but maybe in the future if touring slows down a little bit. It’d be fun.

A big trend right now is the nostalgia tours, the five, 10 year album tours. Would Halestorm ever do that?
We did a couple shows like that. We did two in Europe and we did a couple on our last run which was an “Evening With” tour, there was no opener, just us, we did some acoustic songs in the beginning and then some of the shows we would play our entire Into The Wildlife record front to back. It was really fun. The new record we have is set up in that unique way where it flows as one musical piece. That was our challenge, to figure out if we could play it front to back as a full piece and we did.
Josh: Then we were like, “Hey, we should keep doing this”, and by the third or fourth time we played it straight through we were like, “Alright, fuck this”.
Arejay: Time to mix this up. We change our setlist all the time. We can’t play the same one every night, we would go crazy. If we played 100 shows a year it’d be no problem but we play like a lot.
Josh: It’s fun to change it up and see what things work on a certain night. Not every night is equal and some nights we might play a more chill set than others. 

After this Canadian run, you go to Japan and Australia and then in 2016, you’re doing a large Europe tour. Are the overseas tours an exciting time? 
It’s great. Mostly just because we’re still the same crazy kids from Pennsylvania that started a crazy rock band in their parents’ basement and now any time we go anywhere we’ve never been we have to stop and think “How did we get here? It’s crazy.” We still feel that way. We’ve never been to Australia. We just did South America, we did Rock in Rio.
Josh: The overseas stuff is always exciting. We’ve only been to Japan maybe twice now so that is a different world. You wake up and everything’s moving backwards but super efficient.
Arejay: That’s one of my favourite places to go.
Josh: Travelling and seeing the world was definitely something we always wanted to do. There’s always excitement but, at the same time, it’s so fun to get home after that and just be in the comfort…

Sleep in your own bed.
Yeah, that and… I don’t really listen to country music but I’ll find myself turning to the country channel or something when I come home just because it’s so American.
Arejay: Overseas is great and the rock crowds are kick-ass overseas. Europe and South America and I’m excited to see the Australian crowd.

Do you allot yourself time to explore while you’re there?
For sure. Usually we’re lucky if we get two days in one area but, especially Europe, if we’re touring we probably go over there maybe two, three times a year. London and Paris, you just check stuff off your list, “Last time I was here I went and saw this, this time we have to go here”.
Arejay: You start getting familiar with the area too. You’re so far away from home but you know where you are. It’s a mindtrip. 
Josh: All of us are ready to explore and try not to stay out too late the night before a day off in a cool town.
Arejay: We always have fun in Belgium. Great beers.

I know a lot of bands have cancelled their European tours out of fear or safety concerns. Was there ever any thought of that when you first learned of the Paris attacks? Or was there more of a “the show must go on” vibes?
If we were over there I’m sure we would make the most educated decision possible in that situation. I certainly don’t blame all those bands for hitting the brakes and turning around. I hope we’re never in that situation to have to make a decision to turn around. At that point, you have to use your best judgement.
Arejay: That really hit home for us. A rock show is a sanctuary, it’s such a positive thing. Why would someone want to do that? That hit home for us so I’m sure we’d probably have made the same tough decision.

Besides touring, what else does Halestorm have planned next? 
Josh: We have a bunch of stuff coming up. We’re talking about releasing some more music. I can’t let you in on it yet but it’s in the works. You’ll probably hear some new tunes from us and we’ll be releasing some material be it live shows or whatever, we got some really cool stuff planned. Count on that. After this tour, we so have to get back up here and do a headline run to get back through and play some clubs. Maybe we’ll take a break but I don’t think that’s going to happen until maybe 2017. Touring and music and good times ahead.