By MIKE CHAIKEN
Halestorm is one of those bands that followed a time-honored tradition of American bands that have built their ever-expanding fan base one album at a time.
The band is going on 20 years and it already has received the golden ticket of a Grammy. But the group feels their latest album, “Vicious,” is the truest and best of Halestorm’s recorded output.
Halestorm is on the road with co-headliners In This Moment and openers New Years Day. They step up onto the Mohegan Sun Arena stage on Aug. 2.
Halestorm’s lead guitarist Joe Hottinger (who is joined in the band by Lzzy Hale on vocals and guitar, Josh Smith on bass, and Arejay Hale on drums) spoke via email about the band, the tour, and the new album.
Observer: You guys have been around for 20 years building your audience more and more on each album… why do you think it’s been good for the band to build its success over the long haul vs. overnight success?
Joe: We’ve been talking about this recently. We’re all so glad we never got involved in the pop music game. It seems to be a bit vapid. Here today, gone tomorrow. The beautiful thing about rock and roll fans is that we are fans for life. Music means so much to us and affects us so deeply that one great song or album keeps us interested in an artist for decades. So, I think if we keep creating music that means a lot to us, it will mean a lot to our fans, and they’ll hopefully keep coming back while we work to make new long term fans at the same time.
O: How has the band’s longevity helped build upon intangibles such as chemistry and comraderie within the band?
J: We’ve had so much history together. The four of us. Luckily, we all still love each other too. We all literally get to do what we love, with the people we love, and travel the world doing it. We’ve gotten good at keeping the music fresh every night through improved and different setlists. We’ve also gotten very good at having fun. We always say, it’s not where you are, its who you’re with.
O: The new album is coming out the end of July—just in time for the Connecticut gigs—what do you like about what you have achieved on your fourth album and how does it build upon Halestorm’s musical credentials thus far?
J: July 27th to be exact. We’re so excited about this record. It is absolutely and unapologetically the most Halestorm record we’ve ever made. It feels like a rebirth to me. We went into the process not really knowing if we could make the record we wanted. What we wanted was an album that challenged us as a band and our fans as listeners. With the help of our producer Nick Raskulinecz, I think we found ourselves again and came out on the otherwise bigger and better.
O: Did you have any game plan heading into the studio for the new album?
J: We went into work with Nick with 10 or 12 songs written. Which sounds nice, but it wasn’t. Our problem was that we didn’t like them. They were good songs. They would have worked on a record. It would have been just a fine Halestorm record. But it wasn’t challenging us. Nick agreed. So we threw them away and we were left not knowing if we could actually pull off what we were trying to do. That’s where Nick came in and became our fifth band member and coach. He set us up in a small room and said the famous first words “Who’s got a riff?”.
From there, we just started writing and finding ourselves again. We had the luxury of time on this record. We wrote, rewrote, recorded, and rerecorded some of these songs five to 10 times until we got it just right. So, like I said earlier, it took us a minute, but we eventually found ourselves again and came out with “Vicious,” which is, as of now, our best record to date.
O: When it comes to songwriting, you guys work as a collective. Why does that work best for Halestorm?
J: A bunch of the songs on this record were written in the room with the four of us. There were also some written just by Lzzy, or Lzzy and I, or us working with someone else. We don’t discriminate when it comes to songs. We want the best one on the record.”
O: Lzzy often gets the attention because she’s the singer and a woman… but what do you see as the strengths of Halestorm as a unit and what do each of you bring to the table creatively?
J: Lzzy does get the most attention, as she should. She’s a bona fide rock star. Halestorm is definitely a unit though. If any one of us were not part of the concoction it would turn out massively different. Nobody hits the drums like Arejay. He’s one of the great rock drummers of all time. He can literally play anything and everything and sometimes he does it all at once. It’s a trip. Josh is the true musician in the band. I feel bad that he is stuck playing with us. We all write and play by ear and feel, not to say he doesn’t, but he knows why certain things fit together and how to make certain things more interesting. He’s a killer piano player on top of being a bass shredder. I feel like we get to actually hear the unedited, real Josh on “Vicious.” It’s a treat. Listen to those bass lines.
O: Obviously, we’re talking because you’re heading out on the road. In This Moment is co-headlining with you guys and New Years Day is opening. What did you like about this package?
J: We love In This Moment. We’ve known them for years and we’ve been fans even longer. It’s really amazing to see this tour from the perspective of a rock n roll fan. Between Lzzy, Maria Brink from In This Moment, and Ash Costello from New Years Day, there are three amazingly powerful front women on stage. They prove that “female fronted rock band” isn’t a genre. These leading ladies are queens of their own slice of the rock/metal genre.
They’re all different and amazing. I think that they’re the face of the women in rock/metal movement that’s happening right now. If you go to any of the big rock festivals in America, there are more women on stage than ever before. These hard rock moments are not the traditionally testosterone fueled events that everyone thinks they are. We’re seeing more women buying tickets to these shows than men. The rock ladies are coming out more than ever. It’s fun to be a part of this movement that feels like its gaining real momentum.
O: For fans who have never caught you guys in a headlining slot, what can they expect from Halestorm when you step out onto stage at the Mohegan Sun?
J: If you’ve only ever heard Halestorm on record, then you’ll be in for a treat. Hearing Lzzy is one thing. Hearing and seeing her is a whole other thing. She has a charisma that draws in people from the back of the arena. It’s insane. She blows my mind every night on stage. It’s really something to see a living legend in their prime. Now is Lzzy’s prime. Now is Halestorm’s prime. We’re firing on all cylinders. It’s a good time to be alive and a fan of music. So come out and see if I’m blowing smoke. Even if you don’t like the sound or songs, you can’t deny the power of Lzzy Hale.”
Halestorm, In This Moment, and New Years Day perform at the Mohegan Sun Arena, on Thursday, Aug. 2 at 7 p.m. For more information, go to MoheganSun.com or www.halestormrocks.com