It’s been three years since the driving force of Pennsylvanian rock ‘n’ roll act, Halestorm, released original music, but fans of the quartet don’t have to wait much longer. What with the group gearing up to release ‘Vicious’, the follow up to the widely successful ‘Into The Wild Life’ LP on July 27th. I was lucky enough to jump on the phone to singer, guitarist and all around kick-ass person, frontwoman Lzzy Hale, to chat about the writing process of this new album, the band’s influences and her recent appearance at this year’s NXT WrestleMania event.
Halestorm’s fourth album ‘Vicious’ is out next week, the follow up to the successful ‘Into The Wild Life’, is there ever any pressure when you start writing new material after an album that’s been favorable with fans and critics or do you just go into the studio with a clear mind?
“There was a little bit of pressure in the beginning, but I’ll tell about how this record came to be. About six months before got into the studio, I started actively writing and collecting ideas for the new album and we ended up writing about 15 songs and to cut a long story short, we didn’t like any of them (laughs). We were going through everything and it just sounded like we were trying to make everyone happy and trying to please everybody but ourselves. All the ideas sounded like “I Get Off” version two and “I Miss The Misery” version two and things that knew could do but have done before. So it was a little disheartening in the beginning because I guess you have to be willing to work really hard just to throw everything away. It would’ve been fine to keep them, but it wasn’t inspiring to us it wasn’t something that made us excited.
So when we went into the studio with Nick Raskulinecz, we came in with practically nothing and I said to him “I’m a little lost, I don’t know where to go with this”. We’ve been so lucky to have this success and people still care about what we do but I just didn’t know where to go with this record. And you go down these rabbit holes in your head and think “do I even know how to write something exciting anymore?”. Then Nick turned to me and said, “We’re gonna put you in a room, you’re gonna plug in your amp, and just play and you’re just going to start from scratch“. So as we fleshed out these ideas we were recording everything, so all of the recordings are fresh and the emotions in these songs are very fresh because we’re just doing it as it’s happening, and I thought that was very unique. So it took doing this entire record to get through that pressure and find our mojo again.”
The first two singles off of Vicious – ‘Black Vultures’ and ‘Uncomfortable’ – both pack a punch but they have their differences. Did you release those two songs as singles to show the versatility and the range on the album?
“To add to what I was saying before about having that kind of freedom and chance whatever gets you excited, that’s all we were doing on those songs. For instance, Uncomfortable was one of the first ideas we got really excited about in the first week of us being in the studio and the song started out as an instrumental, so I ended up taking to tracks home with me to start writing some melody and lyrics. And I think with both that verse and chorus being kind of different to what we do, I think it was just me saying “You know what? I’ve never really used this gear before” and instead of choosing to write a huge anthemic chorus to the song Uncomfortable, I ended up turning it into a vocal riff, which I was something I do in our live show but never recorded it. And those damn rapid-fire verses, I tell you what, it took me about 12 times to get those demos right and once the guys liked it I realized I had to do it every day now!”
On the new album it sounds like you’ve taken a lot of influence from different styles of music, with the vocal phrasing in “Skulls” sounding very old school hip-hop, and “Do Not Disturb” giving off some serious Soundgarden vibes, have you found that doing the ReAnimated EP’s have helped you find new influences when writing originals?
“Oh absolutely. It’s begun to be this kind of subconscious tool, as in we don’t really decide to take influence from anybody anymore. We find that we wear our influences on our sleeves quite well., so we don’t need to necessarily help them along. To the point that some of these new songs, like what you were saying, and saying what you hear in some of these songs, every time I hear that, somebody else has a different opinion. I think it’s awesome because its all the stuff we listen to. So it’s no doubt that when you’re in the process of learning someone else’s song and trying to own it and make it your own for these cover EP’s, that you take a little of that song’s soul in a way and you learn something from actually having to perform and record this great song. So absolutely I feel like a lot of things we learned from those EP’s have seeped into ‘Vicious’.”
The music video or “official visualizer” as you called it, for Black Crows is fantastic; featuring a group of dancers doing an interpretive dance along to the song, something I haven’t seen done to a rock or metal song, what led to the decision behind that video?
“I think we just wanted to do something that was a little less typical for us, again I think we don’t want to be bored with what we put out. So that dance company actually came to us and wanted to be involved in some way, so we ended up getting together with the choreographer and they put it all together when we were playing some shows, so we knew what was going on but we couldn’t be there. And I think they’ve done a beautiful job. And what I love about the visual is that the first thing you usually think about Vultures is dead things and decay and we wanted to do something that wasn’t anything like that. So instead we’ve got these beautiful and strong girls who are in lingerie but also tennis shoes, so I thought that was a good way to knock your brain out a bit.”
Back In April, you joined Cane Hill in playing Ember Moon to the ring at NXT New Orleans, I was lucky enough to be there and it was a fantastic performance live and on TV, how was that experience and how did the opportunity come up?
“Triple H and NXT, they came to me and asked me if I could lend myself to the Cane Hill boys and play Ember Moon’s walk on music, so of course, I said tell me how high I need to jump. And just the week before I went to my first Smackdown show here in Nashville, so I’m pretty much a new fan now. I have so much respect for all the athletes and Halestorm have known Baron Corbin for 12 years, so we’ve had an interest and connection to it, but what an honour it was to play that night. And to hang out with Triple H, who is just an amazingly driven and sweet man, and to able to be apart of that has a tremendous honour. And Cane Hill are just so talented, they opened up their practice space to me the day before so we could go over everything. Overall, it was an incredible experience!”
Your vocal performances both live and in-studio are always so engaging for the listener, with the switch between your aggressive and harsh vocals and the cleaner, tamer vocals also seeming so effortless (like in Uncomfortable). How important is it to you to have a vocal style that is so distinctive yet different to everyone else around?
“I think it’s very important and something that I’ve spoken about a lot to young singers, that it’s better to find your own voice and dangerous, not just in a way that you sound like somebody else, but if you were imitating someone, you’re trying to deny yourself from opening up to everything you need to be. It’s always important to find your own voice. With me, I found my voice a couple of years into being in the band, I took some lessons from Steve Whitman from the band Kix when was 17/18 and he taught me everything he knows, and I still do all those exercises today, but he really helped me just find everything I can do and how to use them properly without hurting myself. It’s now become my first love and obsession, and I like showing diversity in our records and trying to find new gears in the old car.”
Well, Lzzy, thank you so much for your time, the new album is fantastic and I can’t wait to ear some of the songs live the next time Halestorm are in Australia.
“Thank you! I cannot wait to come back, every time we come over to Australia, it’s so worth it and I’m just looking forward to it. You won’t have to wait so long – we’re gonna make it happen!”
Halestorm’s new album ‘Vicious’ is out July 27th.