They were a part of our Heavy Metal Roadtrip. They’ve toured with bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Papa Roach, Shinedown, and even Heaven & Hell. They just wrapped up The Carnival of Madness tour with Evanescence and Chevelle, but before the madness came to an end, I was lucky enough to sit down with Arejay Hale and Josh Smith of Halestorm at the second to last stop here in New Jersey to discuss the tour, their music, and the band’s future. Following the interview, the boys and the band got some great news – their latest release – “The Strange Case of… Halestorm” had sold 100,000 copies – and they’re not slowing down from there. Check it out below the cut.
What’s it been like touring with Evanescence and Chevelle?
Josh: I can’t believe it’s over. It went by so fast.
Arejay: Usually with touring, it seems to drag on, but not this one. We’ve toured with New Medicine, Cavo and Chevelle before – they’re all like family, but never Evanescence, so that the big one for us. We’ve all gotten along great, they’re such cool people. Just today I got play drums with Evanescence for a song called “The Other Side” because their drummer wanted to hear the mix up front. So he comes up to me like “Hey Arejay, why don’t you learn this song and do it in Jersey,” so I was like, “Okay, sure!”. All those guys are great, all the bands are awesome.
What has been the most memorable part of the tour so far?
Arejay: Oh God! In Chicago, we just got dumped on with rain. It was a covered stage but the wind was blowing so fast it was just like typhooning and the rain was just coming down so fast at us. But, it was awesome because for me, I felt like I was in Braveheart – I was playing in the rain and the water was going all over. I was like “Argh! Is that all you’ve got?!” (laughs) We were soaked, our gear was soaked. We actually had to take our gear and put it in a “dehumidifying chamber”. After everything was toweled off, the moisture alone gave us like, eight gallons of water. Just playing in the rain was extra nuts for all of us. But every day has been a highlight, really.
The new album “Strange Case of…. Halestorm” came out in April. How do you think it compares to the self titled album?
Josh: I think it’s a pretty big leap of maturity for us, just knowing what we want.
Arejay: And not playing it so safe, I think. Like the first record, we played it really safe. We played by the rules, basically did everything “A, B, C” – drums, guitars, everything basic because we didn’t know what we wanted to do or what we were, if we were trying to aim toward a certain market, trying to get the songs on the radio and everything. Now we had some clot and three years of touring under our belts. Everyone would come up to us after the show and say to us, “I love your record, but you guys have so much more energy live. You sound so much better live than you do on the record”. That was one of the objectives on this record, bringing the energy into the recording. We tried, hopefully we succeeded.
What is your favorite song off the record? Favorite to play live?
Arejay: My favorite to play live is “I Miss The Misery”, just because when I recorded the drum track to that record, I was a little bit hung over because it was Lzzy’s birthday the night before and I was kind of going through a rough time, so that was pretty angry drum track and it kind of fit the theme of the song. I definitely wanted to bring that raw emotion at least into the drums. That song, when we play it live, I still get into that mindset.
Josh: That is a really fun song to play. We played a couple of headlining shows recently and we played a b-side, “Don’t Know How to Stop”, that was really fun. It’s fun because we still don’t really know it, so we’re going onstage and kind of just winging it, go off and do a long solo at the end and riff on it for a while. It’s just fun and out of our comfort zone and I enjoyed that. Looking back, it’s cool. It’s like, “We don’t know it yet, but we’re just gonna try it and hope you like it.” It’s usually a great cheer because you’re having fun. You gotta smile through it whether you mess up or not. But yeah, that’s a really fun song to play.
There’s a huge difference in some of the songs. There’s ballads like “Familiar Taste of Poison” and “Break In” and then there’s the songs you can really rock out to like “Love Bites (So Do I)” and “Mz. Hyde”, so which do you personally prefer?
Arejay: I love both (laughs). That was one of the biggest dilemmas with finalizing the record, with what songs we wanted to keep and which we wanted to chop off because we had this very, very defined duality to all the songs that we selected. The theme came together when the song “Mz. Hyde” came about. We were like, “Okay! We’ll just do it on purpose. Like a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ theme”, which spawned the title, “The Strange Case Of… Halestorm” after “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.
Josh: Yeah, when that came about, it was kind of like the “Aha!” moment.
Arejay: Aha! We did it on purpose!
Josh: They’re fun to play. I’ll tell you what, as far as ballads go, “Break In” is such a great song to hear and we have such a great surprise for fans on this tour. It’s a new approach for us.
Arejay: I think a lot of people know what it is at this point (laughs). It’s gone pretty viral. You knew right when they came together because you heard the loudest roar of a crowd. I looked out and it was like looking out into the sky on a starry night. Every single cell phone and camera was filming that.
Josh: It’s a really cool moment.
Arejay: And it’s really great press for us, too. That’s another thing I love about the Evanescence guys – they really wanna help us get our name out there, help pave the road for us.
Lzzy was just announced as Revolver’s “Hottest Chick in Hard Rock” (the issue will be on newsstands September 4th). In your opinion, why do you think it’s so hard to be a female-fronted band in hard rock?
Josh: I feel like you see more women popping up in hard rock, which is really cool to see. For a while it was just Amy Lee, she was like the queen. Then there’s Christina, Lacuna Coil —
Arejay: – Flyleaf and Skillet. I think it’s cool, I think it’s different, especially nowadays. I think it makes you stand out as a band. But I think the thing that separates Lzzy from all those other girls out there is the way that she sings. She doesn’t sound like anyone that I’ve heard out there.
Josh: But like all of those women, the reason they’re known, other than that they’re beautiful, is that they’re genuinely talented. I think guys can get away more so with being sloppy sounding, having an attitude and whatever. Like in rock history, it just seems like guys can get away with that. But they one thing [the girls] have in common is that they’re genuinely talented, great vocalists and they believe in what they’re singing. They’re not just standing up there, singing some words that someone else wrote for them.
Compliments to Lzzy, because when I listen to her, she’s a powerhouse vocalist, and it’s a total 180 when she sings the ballads. She’s incredible!
Arejay: Well thanks! I’m particularly really thankful that she has the talent to back it up. I think it’s easy for anybody to be a trendy, little pretty face out there, y’know? What I think gives her the staying power that most female pop singers don’t have is that she can actually back it up with her voice. It’s like a double threat.
Josh: I think it’s like what you just said with the ballads, she can bring it to a ten all the way down to a one, and it’ll still be seeping with emotion. That was a big showcase on this album, something that we didn’t have on the last album. She’ll tell you. She’d be in the vocal booth and she’d be on 12 just singing her ass off and it sounded great! But there’s a lot more dynamics on this album, whereas the last one was just more of a flatline.
“Here’s To Us” was featured on Glee earlier this year. Do you think that’s helped get your name out there more?
Arejay: Totally, yeah!
Josh: Any kind of press, especially that far-reaching.
Arejay: Millions and millions of people watching. They actually contacted us, and were like “Hey, we wanna use on of your songs on this TV show, ‘Glee’ – here’s our audience numbers,” and we were like “Hm… let me think about it. Okay!” I think that’s great that kids that don’t even listen to rock can find out about rock bands, find out who they are and listen to other stuff and start to like it. I think it’s great for rock to get that kind of exposure.
Walking into the venue today, I was told it was scary it is that it seems as if rock n’ roll is “dead” to the teenage demographic.
Arejay: I’d say yes and no. I do think it’s awesome, that there is an underground scene just from word of mouth. I love seeing bands like Slipknot and Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch – all these heavy bands that are killing it on the radio charts and playing arenas. It’s almost reassuring and gives me hope for rock music out there.
Josh: It’s never dead! It’s just more dormant than something else that’s popular at the time. I feel like in the last year or two, you’re beginning to see a more upswing in rock acts. I feel like it’s becoming a little more popular again.
Is there any brother/sister rivalry on the road between you and Lzzy?
Arejay: (laughs) Being on the road and being two feet from nine other people, sometimes she’ll get frustrated and take something out on me. But later we’ll talk about it and we’ll be like “What were we bickering about? This was stupid.” Me and her have been best friends ever since we started playing music together – that’s what made us so close, and it’s a lot of work doing this but it’s the best job in the world. We don’t want to do anything else and we have to constantly remind ourselves that we have the most kickass gig in the world. All of us are family, Joe and Josh, our crew, we’re all one big, messed up circus. It’s great.
It seems as if Halestorm is getting bigger and bigger by the minute. How do you guys stay level-headed with all the success?
Arejay: I’m actually pretty unaware of how big we’re getting.
Josh: It’s fun. But when somebody says that we’ve gotten big so fast, we don’t see it that way. We’ve been a band for 12 years, I’ve been in the band for 8 years. We started in a conversion van (Arejay laughs) for years, and then we got a shitty RV, and then we got another RV.
Arejay: Which became shitty after a while (laughs). But we’ve worked our asses off doing this!
Josh: Yeah, there was never a free ride. We worked tirelessly at it, and I think we all just look at it as momentum because we want it to continue and we want to make this a career.
Arejay: We talked about this with the New Medicine guys, too. They constantly remind us of the way we were on our first record cycle – living in a piece-of-crap, rundown RV, working your ass off, slinging your own merch, loading your own gear, setting up your own stuff. I think that’s what keeps you the most humble, when you get a little bit of success from years of busting your ass and just trying and working at it. You’re more thankful for it, I think.
On your new record, there’s a song called “Rock Show”, which talks about going to show and just wanting to be up there. Was it like that for you guys growing up?
Josh: I know [Arejay and Lzzy] had it. I know I had it too – going to a show or a concert and I’d just want to be there onstage, I wanted to play.
Arejay: We all looked up to performers, and it’s pretty surreal. That song was written for a particular fan, but it was dedicated to all the fans that would come up to us after a show. Like, all the little kids that would come up to me and say “Man, I want to play drums because of you!” or Lzzy, who’s holding such a great torch for females. I think there does need to be more girls out there that can show other girls that they can go out there and rock! It’s really surreal to hear that at the end of a show and remind us of when we would go to shows and bands would tell us the same thing. [That song] is definitely one of our favorites on the record.
If you could jam with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Arejay: Evanescence! Next question! I just did it today, I can die now! (laughs). I’d jam with Jeff Buckley, that’d be cool.
Josh: Yeah, Arejay and I would definitely jam with Jeff Buckley.
If you could make your own supergroup, who would be in it?
Arejay: If I were to make a supergroup, it would the ultimate chick group. I would do Lzzy Hale, Amy Lee both of them singing – Lzzy would play guitar and sing, Amy would sing, get Jen from Skillet playing drums, Emma from Sick Puppies playing bass and get the ultimate girl group going on. Maybe even get Orianthi on guitar – she’s a shredder – amazing guitar player! That would be the ultimate for me, I’d love to see that happen.
Josh: It would be a super bass group. It would be Flea, Paul McCartney, Sting, and I need a drummer.
Arejay: Pick me, pick me, pick me, pick me.
Josh: And Arejay playing drums.
Arejay: Yes! I’m in the band!
Josh: and James Brown singing!
Arejay: Yes! Alright, five bass players, a drummer and James Brown.
Last question: the new record is out, the tour has come to an end. What’s next for Halestorm?
Arejay: More and more touring. We’re doing our first headline tour in Europe, going to Russia and Japan.
Josh: Doing one full lap around the world. We’re flying east and we’re gonna keep playing until we’re back in our hemisphere – and still flying east. We’re headlining the UK and Europe, which will be cool. We’re going to come back and do another tour November and December, which is cool because we’ll be going out to the west coast. We’ll be doing a whole lap around the country and then more touring!