Interview: Halestorm

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Not many bands can release an EP that is strictly comprised of cover songs to a resoundingly positive response and garner serious airplay on hard rock stations. Halestorm, fortunately, beat the odds for the second time when it released ReAniMate 2.0: The Covers.

Halestorm takes on classic rock greats like AC/DC and Fleetwood Mac as well as some more recent artists on this six song record. The result of the band’s hard work? Six truly original tracks that would rival their originals. The cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” is so well done that it wouldn’t surprise me if many people prefer the Halestorm version over the original. The album showcases many different sides of the band as well as its talent. Lzzy Hale’s skills are glaringly apparent throughout the EP as demonstrated when she switches from an all-powerful hard rocking anthem like “Shoot to Thrill” to the emotional and groovy “Gold Dust Woman” with ease. The most astonishing thing about this album, however, is that it is not something that was contrived or overdone. Halestorm seems to have perfected the art of the cover song and will hopefully provide many more for our listening pleasure.

Halestorm will be taking over Terminal 5 in New York on Friday, November 29. Pop-Break was lucky enough to speak with bassist, Josh Smith prior to this NYC date about the covers, the band’s dynamic, and, of course, the band’s first Grammy.

Photo Credit: Chris Phelps & Alex R. Kirzhner
Photo Credit: Chris Phelps & Alex R. Kirzhner

Pop-Break: Let us start with the new album. This is your second cover album so tell us a little bit about it.

Josh Smith: It seems like it’s something that we’re going to make a habit of and it’s fun. We had discussed it after we had made the first one and lo and behold! It just makes a great segue between full length albums or whatever else we decide to release. It’s a lot of fun and it’s kind of like Rock 101 — go to school and learn some songs but [also] learn why these songs work and why they’re as popular as they are. And, we have a really fun time figuring them out and then trying to make them work with our own little twist on it. We’ve had a great time and it’s a relatively quick turnaround, you know we’re in the studio for a couple of days. This time I think it was maybe five or six days of studio work. Maybe a little longer than that, but it’s just a very quick and easy and fun thing to do.

PB: Awesome. Well what song was the hardest for you guys to cover between the two albums?

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JS: You know what? I think, originally between the two, I think the [Lady] Gaga song was like — What the hell are we going to do with that? We were definitely a little apprehensive about that but it actually came together quite easily. Same deal on this album with “Get Lucky.” We didn’t even really prep for that song, we had no idea. We’re like how are we going to do it? And we just sat in there and kind of came up with a solid riff and restructured the song a little bit to make it a rock song and that was super easy too. We knocked that thing out really really quick and that was a lot of fun.

I think the toughest was “Shoot to Thrill,” AC/DC because I think everyone’s approach, especially our approach is like, how hard can it be? It’s AC/DC. It’s three chords and like a straight ahead drum beat, how hard can it be? And if you approach that song with that mentality you will crash and burn and end up with a really really bad cover of the song so and that’s basically what we did! We went at it like that and we started playing it and it sounded awful! We’re like, dude, I’m embarrassed to say I’m a musician right now! So we went through it and really dug into why that song worked and there is this pocket that is like a super tight pocket but within that everyone is doing their own loose little thing, their own little personality shows and that’s how AC/DC works. You can’t describe it. They just have it, whatever it is but once we started honing in on that and figuring it out we could sort of slightly manipulate it and sort of change it to tweak it to make it our thing. But that song, that was like a lot of thought went into that and ultimately when we heard the final product, I think that was the first one I was like, this is going to be cool. It sounds awesome, I’m going to be really proud.

PB: Well obviously you have covered some really awesome classic rock bands. You guys kind of cover the spectrum. What song would you like to cover on the next one?

JS: You know it’s like you how like when it’s like getting close to Halloween time and you’re like what the hell am I going to be? What’s my costume going to be and then you can’t think of it and then like two days after, you’re like ‘Oh my God! That would’ve been an awesome Halloween costume.’ I feel like it’s like that after we release these albums. We have these great ideas for songs we should do the next time then you get closer and it’s like what the hell am I going to do this year? Well that was a huge digression. I think I don’t know. What songs would we like to do? It’s hard to say. I know we thought of a few already and said that’d be really cool. A buddy of mine had mentioned one of the new Jack White songs and was like you guys could kill that and that would be fun to do. Um. I don’t know!

PB: That’s alright.

JS: Call me in a year.

PB: Alright! Well obviously you guys have just been on a roll popping out hits left and right and it’s really cool to see you guys in the hard rock radio and then mainstream radio with “Here’s to Us.” Obviously it’s a little different than “Freak Like Me” and “Mz. Hyde.” Do you find that there are some fans at the shows that have no idea what to expect because they’ve only heard like “Here’s to Us?”

JS: I think we did have a lot of that. You should see the fans that only heard the clean version. I think they were surprised when Lzzy yells tell them “go fuck themselves.” It was really the first release off of this album. I think that song definitely opened us up to a new demographic and I think, in general, our shows are usually a pretty cool family vibe. The parents dig us and their kids are big fans too and I think that at our meet and greets we see a lot of that and that song certainly helped with it.

PB: How did you guys work on getting so many guest vocalists on that one version of “Here’s to Us?”

JS: We begged! No, it was a pretty funny idea I thought and the least we could do is ask around and if they say yes, there we go! And you know, needless to say, we did and everyone was totally into doing it so we were like — let’s do it! And it took like no time at all. We finished it and once we presented it to them, a week later we were getting all of their vocal takes in so it was funny to piece that altogether and it’s a pretty interesting group of people.

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PB: Well lets go to the big thing, you guys won your first Grammy this year. What was that like?

JS: Oh my gosh it was just amazing. The nomination was amazing enough and we were on stage when the nominees were announced and we were just in complete disbelief, like literally not believing that we were. We were like, somebody made a mistake here but lets celebrate! So it was amazing and it was just so cool and the fact that we got to go was just amazing and honestly we were kind of working up until the day of the Grammys so it didn’t really hit until, honestly, like until we were sitting through all the categories and everything. I think an hour or so before our category I was nervous. I haven’t been that nervous since I did like a piano recital in college or something. I was so freakin’ nervous and so when they announced us, it was like a total delayed reaction. All of us were like, oh it wasn’t us. We did that song! It was like a few seconds and we just looked at each other and totally just went crazy and the rest of it was like total blackout. I don’t know what we said on stage, I don’t know what happened. I came to and you know we were getting our pictures taken with a Grammy. Pretty cool.

PB: Okay, so on to a little bit more of a gossipy note, we obviously have the brother and sister connection in your band with Arejay and Lzzy. Now what type of siblings are they? Are they the type that like bicker or do they team up and like take everybody on?

JS: No! I think Lzzy definitely plays the big sister card a lot and they pull the sibling card all the time but we’ve all been together so long. I was the last to join the band and it’s been ten years so all of us are more or less siblings and kind of treat each other as such. We’ll bust each others balls all day and just totally mess with each other but we have such a great time and we’re only getting closer. It’s one thing I noticed on our last tour [in] Europe, we had so much fun together and we always do. When a tour is ending and maybe we’re tired from touring it’s never like we’re tired from each other and like it’s never we need a break from each other and I think it’s never been that. It’s always just been we’ve got to recharge the batteries and go home so we have such a great chemistry, the four of us and the two of them. They are brother and sister who just love each other and have created something together that they get to do so it’s a pretty awesome relationship.

PB: Sounds like a really great dynamic.

JS: It really is.

PB: So some crazy stuff happens at the end of a tour — what’s the craziest thing that has happened recently.

JS: Crazy thing that happened recently? Arejay and I have a new nickname for Barcelona. It’s called Barfalona.

PB: Do I want to know the story?

JS: Well, we went out and had a great time in Barcelona the night before our show and it probably kind of affected the show a little bit. I don’t think I played my best. You know every now and then you’ve got to let loose. So we had a good time and him and I crawled back to the bus around I don’t know what time it was. I have no idea; the sun was coming up though. And yeah so that was a good night.

PB: Just not a good next day?

JS: Yeah. I’ll spare you the details.

Courtesy Halestorm Facebook
Courtesy Halestorm Facebook

PB: So this is a two part question. What is the weirdest question you’ve been asked in an interview?

JS: Weirdest question? Why? Are you going to top it?

PB: Well part two is always the last band I asked’s weirdest question.

JS: Oh man. What is the weirdest question we’ve been asked! I don’t know. I’m thinking of more, honestly, like Arejay usually has the most ridiculous answers to questions ever and I’m thinking more along the lines of some of his responses but I can’t think of the weirdest question.

PB: Who knew that would stump you!

JS: Yeah.

PB: Okay, so the last band’s weirdest question, what color would you use to describe your most recent album?

JS: What color we’d use to describe our most recent album?

PB: Yeah.

JS: Lets see. Is static a color? Like black and white just (noise). That’s kind of what it is. It’s a very polar album I think.

PB: At least you had an answer because I’m pretty sure the last band said, I don’t know blue?

JS: Blue. That’s all? Just blue. Yeah.

PB: Alright, so one last thing, what can we expect from the tour that’s going down now?

JS: Man we’re so excited to do a headliner set. We’re coming to the end of this album cycle, The Strange Case Of… Halestorm is coming to a close so I think you’re going to hear a lot of that but we have this covers album out and we had a lot of fun doing it so I wouldn’t be surprised if you heard us playing a bunch of cover songs and you know it’s ultimately going to be an hour and a half to a two hour set and it’s going to be a lot of fun. You can always expect, as can we in the band, a surprise from our drummer Arejay. Like the kid is predictably unpredictable so plan on that.

PB: I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today!

JS: it was my pleasure Lisa and we’ll see you up in New York City!

Halestorm performs this Friday at Terminal 5 in New York City. Click here for tickets.

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