Halestorm: „We laugh a lot at ourselves”

It was a rainy and cold Monday afternoon and I was happy to be able to enter the warm backstage area to sit down with a laid back Lzzy Hale from Halestorm. The band stopped over in Düsseldorf on their current support tour with Alter Bridge before their next headliner tour in spring 2014.

How has your day been so far?
So far so good. It´s been a good day, I got sleep last night which is nice (laughs) . So exciting…We´ve begun preparing our next record, so I woke up with an idea and tried finishing it this morning, been sitting with the guitar all day.

So how many ideas have you been collecting already? I read on Twitter that there is a lot coming…
Ooh, too many! (laughs) There´s a lot… a lot that is still unfinished – like there´s a chorus here… Some things are totally done and some things are not, so it´s just a mess right now. We´re gonna take a little bit of time in the beginning of the next year (2014) to just get everything settled and try recording it and then start touring all over again. (laughs)

So how does it feel that the life cycle of an album gets shorter and shorter…
Oh yeah! Well, the life cycle of an album is shorter but the touring cycle is longer. That´s at least what we´ve experienced. Us being on tour is our bread and butter, that´s the only time we see any type of income at all, you know. It´s a way for us to reach out and everything but yeah… to record a record, you can´t take a whole lot of time off anymore. (laughs) I remember our first album took like 18 months, and that´s a long time. The second record was 6 months, maybe even only 4 actually… so now we´re gonna get like… 2 months. (laughs) You know how it´ll be with the next ones… So yeah, it keeps getting shorter and shorter, but I think we work well under pressure right now. Give us a little bit of time to get it done, give us a little bit of time and a deadline and we´re like “Oh shit we gotta get it done!”…

Has it always been like this?
I think so… Yeah. As long as we´re having fire under our asses we´re fine. (laughs)

Last minute working, I guess… First you spend lots of time procrastinating, then the time to panic comes and then you get to work…
Yes… this is how it goes. I remember doing that at school, too. Like “oh we´re having a test on Friday” so I wouldn´t do anything until like Thursday night. (laughs) Study study study! And then you get it done! I´d pass the test but wouldn´t remember anything of it anymore the next day… (laughs even more)

I read and hear that many young people see you as role model – how does that feel?
Oh yeah. Well, actually a little scary. I don´t know, it´s flattering but it´s also a little intimidating because I am (silence) – I am just as stupid as everyone else. And I make mistakes and I say certain things that I don´t mean, but then there are a lot of people that actually take everything I say seriously. So, you more or less have to watch out for that a little bit, But I don´t know. I always err on the side of being a little unapologetic because I feel like it is better to be just human and own it… even if I made this mistake or even if I´m not the best at this or that, at least I am being honest! You know, always err on the side of honesty. You know, if people wanna take that seriously they can – if they don´t want to, they don´t have to. It is up to them. (laughs) But it is very flattering, though. The cool thing that came out of that is, we have a lot of girls now coming to our shows, wanting to start bands and look at all those 5 year olds wanting guitars for Christmas and stuff like that – it is so amazing! So to me, that´s really cool to be just a part of this movement and to see that a lot more parents are more encouraging of their kids becoming musicians or just going for whatever they wanna do in life. It´s like nobody´s being as oppressive as it was when I was a kid, I remember a lot of my friends´ parents were like “No no no no”… I have amazing parents, very encouraging, but it was part of the reason why it took us a while to find other members for the band, because we´d have this guitar players coming and playing with us for a month and the parents were like “nope!” and pull them out. (laughs) So it´s really encouraging to see what this next generation is going to do, and being just a part of this inspiration or influence is very cool.

So what was the story behind Joe and Josh actually getting to play with Arejay and you?
In 2003 or something like that, we met Joe and Josh. I met Joe because I put an ad in the paper, looking for a guitar player and he showed up after my dad gave him the wrong directions… but he found his way anyways, which is: points for him! (grins) But basically it was almost immediate, because we had a couple of people in and out of the band, you know, a lot of hair people who wouldn´t stay or whatever, and a lot of old guys who thought for whatever reason it´d be fun to be in a band… my brother was like 15 at that time, so I was like “noooo, that´s not gonna work out”. But, the great thing about Joe is that immediately when we started playing together, it just clicked and he was not trying to solo through the whole thing like “look at me look at me look at me” – it was really the way that he wanted to share parts with me and my brother. That really worked out, it was almost instantaneous and I was like “hey this is the guy!”. It´s kinda like dating, you go for a bunch of don´t and you´re like “No” and then you go like “yes, this is the guy we want in our band” and he´s been with us for almost 11 years now. And then Josh came shortly after that, because we used to go out and see Josh play in one of his own bands. And we watched him play and wondered “how do we steal him?” so we kind of did steal him, because we told him “hey we don´t need a permanent bass player but a temporary one until we find somebody”. So he started playing gigs with us and 8 months later he is like wanting to be in the band, saying he´d have to call his best friend to tell him he´d love this band (Halestorm) and we were like “Yes!! We convinced him!” – so it´s been also 11 years with him now. So far so good. Again I think, when you know, you know and when you find it, you keep it together.

You mentioned playing gigs, and Arejay told me earlier on this year about touring South America and also having some off days there. So how was it?
It was wonderful. South America amazing, it was sort of a whirlwind because (someone of the guys makes hilarious noises in another room) – That´s probably one of my guys – (noises continue) making silly noises (grins) …because the schedule was crazy, we ended up getting to the gig and like, early in the morning taking a little nap, doing soundcheck, doing press and then doing the show. Then after the show having the meet and greet, getting back to the hotel and then having to meet in the lobby at like 1 or 2am, go to the airport, and then get on the airplane, get to the next gig at the next venue… it was like this for about five days in a row, we just had no sleep. We had three to four hours of sleep, it was nuts and then we had to do headline shows and two hour shows, it was crazy. But we were riding on the high of the people there, it was amazing. Some of the coolest crowds ever, especially Sao Paulo in Brazil, that was just amazing, I never knew that people could participate that much in one of our shows. At the show that we did, everybody made up signs for “Freak like me” and as soon as we started the song, everybody in the entire place just put it up and turned it around and it said “Oooh” for the “Oooh oooohoohhooo “-part in “I miss the misery”! And when we played “Here´s to Us”, they somehow were hiding balloons, I have no idea where they were hiding them, but they took them out of their bags and threw them up in the air… it was like it was a part of the show! One of the coolest experiences. (smiles)

Sounds like you´re gonna go back there…
Oh yes, we were planning to, probably next year at some point. We don´t have any dates settled yet, but we´ve been talking to everybody down there for our next visit… Maybe we´ll be playing festivals there too, like Rock in Rio… that would be nice…

Things like the signs in Sao Paulo don´t happen that often anymore, the audience often more taking care of their cameras and phones to get a good snapshot of the show… How does it feel for you, standing on stage and seeing this?
Oh yeah… every night is a DVD… it´s like every night we´re recording something. I don´t know. On one hand, it is not the way how it used to be, you know. You hear all these stories of back in the days, the only thing you ever saw of someone was their best show, because somebody was recording that best show. Or special event. But now, every night everyone records everything. So on one hand it´s a little annoying, because every mistake you ever made is out there now, on the other hand it´s kinda good. For us, our philosophy as a band has always been, we plug in, we play. There´s no tracks, there is no trickery. So it kinda proves that we are that type of band and that what you see is what you get, you know. So in that aspect that´s kind of just nice to have it out there, essentially that being our creed… In another positive sense, I´ll definitely troll Twitter and Facebook and like, take photos just for myself, because unless we have someone out there taking pictures, there is no way to document our tours or something like that. When we´re on stage we can´t do like “heeyyy, look at me” (imitates how it´d be like when being on stage, taking photos of herself) ! Even though I am sure my brother would if he could… (grins)

So does this actually make you feel the need to change the setlist more from concert to concert since everyone can check what you played the last time?
Sometimes, yes. It definitely encourages us from tour to tour to switch things up. Also, it kind of keeps me from getting too rehearsed in anything I say. I am not like, a good preacher, I don´t like doing that and I definitely like putting myself out there, connecting with the audience, but it makes it a bit more unique and fresh – I have to be a little on my toes because of it. So yeah, I think it has more positives than negatives for us, people recording us each and every night…

Talking about filming and recording, is there anything like a new DVD planned?
We´ve discussed…well we´ve been talking about this just a few nights ago! Most likely on the next tour we´ll end up doing some type of live CD/DVD or something like that. We like documenting, it´s a moment in time for us. We did that on the last album cycle, shortly before we started doing the next record, so it´s time to do that again! You might never play that set the same way again because of whatever new song, so it´s nice to just have that. Also, we got a lot of requests for it from our fan base…

Documenting – Rob Fenn had been taking photos on your last tour, what is actually happening with it? I heard there was supposed to be a photo book coming?
Yeah, I have no idea! He put together a book and everything, it kind of stalled and then… we just, literally, said the other day “whatever happened to that book?”. (laughs) So I don´t know, I don´t know what happened to it… It might resurface, it might not, maybe it was a big waste of time, who knows. Either way, he´s a fun guy to hang out with so it wasn´t a total waste of time! (laughs) But well, you never know – I can´t tell you, it´s somewhere in space, just floating around… (laughs) Yeah, a very good question, I´d like to ask that to myself: what happened to those pictures? Would be interesting to see it all, too.

You just published the second ReAniMate covers EP – why is it actually spelled the way it is spelled?
(laughs) Why it is spelled with the capital letters and everything? Well, I think for lack of better reason, it just looked cool… but since then, we´ve actually come up with a few acronyms for it, just little things and little reasons… my brother remembers them all, it was like 3 in the morning and we were coming up with all that stuff, I can´t remember what we were saying… but well, it´s just that we have the tendency to fuck with things! (laughs) You know, we´re very easily fascinated and we laugh a lot at ourselves and so I am sure – I think at the beginning, I can´t remember, but I think it was something that Joe and Josh had said after a couple of beers and we all thought it was funny so we ended up drawing it on a napkin and sending it in, saying “let´s do it this way” and then it happened. (laughs) Like, “why did they pay attention to us?”…

So this is how you´re deciding on titles…
Yes, this is how we decide (laughs) – it´s not really well thought out, it´s just “Hey that´s funny, let´s do that”… In a lot of ways it´s just a moment in time and following your gut and as I said, being a little unapologetic about it, being just like “ah fuck it, it´s fine”… let´s just do it, and then you wonder “why did we do that?” – “because we thought it was funny”… (laughs even more)

How do you usually decide on an approach for those covers, music and vocal wise?
It´s pretty much whatever I am into right at that time, but also we have some kind of a running list of like hundreds of songs that we just love and that we have covered for or we´ve always wanted to cover or I wanted to sing… and then we just try to narrow it down, that´s the hardest part, because we´ve asked our fans, we´ve asked our families, our friends, our label – people outside of us that might say “hey you could do this!” or “try this!”. But you start off with like 50 songs and then you gotta narrow it down to like 20 and then 10 and ultimately 6… because we never have a lot of time to do these kinds of things, it´s gotta be a small list and that´s the tough part. For the majority of it, you wanna have songs that you know you can do well, and then you also wanna have songs that challenge you a little bit and then you say “we´ve never done that disco song before, so let´s do that “Get Lucky” song”. (laughs) Or we´ve never done a Marilyn Manson song before, so let´s try that. I don´t know, it´s just fun, really.

Since we´re already talking about music and partially other bands – many bands work political topics into their songs. What´s your opinion on that?
Hm, I´m not big into politics, unless it´s my own personal politics. I don´t really get into that or religion, I do write songs like that if I have an opinion. But I feel like if you´re gonna be a political band, you really have to know what you´re talking about and a lot of times I am just, you know, I am not paying attention. There´s enough drama and enough stuff going on in my own life and I don´t need to wrap myself up with a lot of the politics. There´s such a relationship between politics and religion, to me I am more pro opinion, individual opinion, like if there is something you really believe in, you do that. You know what I mean, it doesn´t mean that you´re right or wrong, it just means that it´s what you´re passionate about. And so for me, that´s kind of what I go off of – as in, as far as lyrically and everything else. It´s like, if it´s something that I am into and I feel the need to say it, then I am gonna say it, no holds barred. But I am not going to try to talk about the politics of my country or other people´s problems, because they´re not my problems. That´s someone else´s problems and that´s somebody else´s passion, not mine. So why would I pretend to be interested or pretend to be smart (laughs) about whatever they´re talking about when I´m not. And I do know bands that have tried to do that, I know bands who did that just because it was trendy and they were very anti this and anti that. And then they give an interview and are asked some questions, because they´ve labeled themselves as a political band and they have no idea what they´re talking about, they´re just trying to be not looking stupid. I´m just gonna focus on what I think is right for myself – so yeah, I kinda stay away from a lot of that stuff. Anything that you hear in my songs or what I´m saying on social networks is more of an encouragement to be who you are and to go after what you wanna go after and to be angry about what you wanna be angry about and I am not gonna try to push anything down your throat that you don´t want to.

Social Media, blessing and a curse at the same time. Does it get stressful at times?
Yes, sometimes. It´s balanced. For me, I find myself taking a little break from it sometimes, having a few days where I´m just not gonna go on, because it is a little too much. It´s useful and it´s fun sometimes to just put things out there and it´s immediately all over the place but at the same time, with so much of a demand and so much going on it can really suck you in. It can fuck with your head a little bit. The scary thing that I see – and that´s the reason why I am so glad that there was no Facebook or Twitter when I was a kid, because I would´ve gotten into so much trouble… the scary thing is that people are a little too comfortable on it right now. There are people that would post their phone numbers and put everything up there, which I do admire if that´s what you wanna do, but it´s still scary, because it´s still the Wild West out there… Anyone can get the information they want to, so you kinda have to be smart, but I do enjoy it and I use it as a tool not just to put myself out there, but also to communicate with our fans and that´s always nice. I just have a better idea probably than most people I know about who follows us and what they need from us, too. Just because of that, so it´s nice.

Alright, since the time is up – Thanks a lot for taking the time to sit down with me!
Thank you very much!

Carina Ullmann - reports, reviews, photos - - - Favorite genres? - - - From classical music to metal - it all depends on the band and my mood ;) - - - Favorite bands? - - - would be a too long list to write them all down... - - - Other interests? - - - Photography, travelling, culture, reading, writing