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Halestorm finds silver linings with 'Back From The Dead'

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Jimmy Fontaine
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Halestorm vocalist Lzzy Hale talks about how she and her bandmates are celebrating their new album and a return to touring.


Halestorm performs Saturday, May 14, at Wave on a bill that also features Mammoth WVM and Black Stone Cherry.

The tour, which launched earlier this week, is in support of the group’s latest LP, “Back From The Dead.”

Written during an extended period of time off the road, the record is both dark and celebratory. Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Lzzy Hale contemplates the unique relationship the band has with its fan base — via “Steeple” and “Raise Your Horns” — and celebrates the return not only of her band but music itself in the opening, titular track.

Clocking in at 37 minutes, “Back From The Dead” is a lean and ferocious affair. It sounds like something specifically designed for the live arena and is destined to further cement the quartet’s reputation as one of the best contemporary American hard rock acts.

Conventional wisdom says that album sales are sluggish because listeners have short attention spans and few people listen to full records anymore. “Back From The Dead,” with its breakneck sequencing and emotional intensity, demands that listeners follow its arc across a slender half-hour and change.

Hale’s brother, Arejay, sounds particularly powerful throughout, capturing a drum sound that is likely to set a new standard for recorded drums in the coming decade.

Produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Rush, Foo Fighters, Korn, Mastodon) and Scott Stevens (Shinedown), “Back From The Dead” was released May 6 and has thus far been met with almost universal acclaim.

Halestorm, rounded out by guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith, ends its current run of dates -- most with Stone Temple Pilots and Black Stone Cherry -- at the end of May. From there, the group will do an extended run in July with The Pretty Reckless and visit Europe this fall with Alter Bridge.

Interview Highlights

You have a new tour, a brand new album. It has to be exciting to get out and play new music. 

Absolutely. It feels like a couple of different lifetimes ago [since we were last doing this]. I think I can speak for everybody [in the band] and probably everybody in the world when I say that we’re not the same people that we were. But the silver lining of that is that we are completely living in the moment now. Not that we [as a band] ever didn’t. We’ve always been a very stop-and-smell-the-roses type band. We don’t take anything for granted but [now] there’s a heightened sense of you’re playing every show and you’re playing every note like it could be stolen from you again. That’s something that’s going to take a long time to shake off. But it’s exciting. It’s relieving, and I never thought I’d say this, but the tour has been a complete relief. Just to get on the bus and [say], “Alright, now we just do the rock show.”

Tell me about the lyrical content on this album because there are a couple of songs that are specifically about the band and the fan base and that communion, to use kind of a heavy word, that we feel when we go to a rock show. 

I think it's something that we all were missing. I know for me, personally, I don't think I realized how much I used all of these things. I use the rock show, I use that sense of community and, as you said, that communion or that fellowship, to combat a lot of darkness that can seep in. Whether you’re on stage or whether you’re in the audience at a show, if you are going through anything you can feel it physically and feel that cloud being lifted during that time. It’s something we try to recreate or, at least myself, lyrically on this album because I didn’t have that. It’s almost like you’re playing pretend; it’s like you’re imagining it, you’re building it up in your mind to fill that hole with something.

I just watched the new documentary about Sheryl Crow [“Sheryl”] and she mentions coming to a point in her career where she was caught up in the album/tour/album cycle and left without new experiences to write about. In some ways, I’d think that being off the road gave you that space to reflect and find inspiration. 

I couldn't help but more or less absorb what was going on in the world and what was happening personally with me. The only weapon in my arsenal to combat any of that was to sit down and write through it, whether it was something that I was dealing with in my own head or whether I was just feeling the weight of the world and feeling helpless as to what to do about it. Writing was the only outlet that I had.

This album became very personal for me, lyrically. But when I look at it in its entirety afterward, I realized -- because I was writing from that core place -- that it became more universal because I was not alone in those feelings. No matter what your walk of life, we were all feeling those feelings. The album isn’t COVID specific but it was a factor.

At the beginning of the pandemic, one of the things that I went through, and I talked to a lot of people who kind of went through this, was I started clearing my plate of things that were getting in the way. I was doing a lot of things, but I’m not sure I was really living. Did you go through that process? “This is out, it just doesn’t serve me. It’s not good.” 

I've been calling it the dawn of “No.” Again, silver linings: Because of everything we’ve lived through we’re on this hypothetical other side of right now. A lot of those things we thought mattered [we realized don’t matter that much]. We were talking about this last night because we had our first show last night. We were rushing during a song, there were a couple of notes that were missed because it’s new and exciting. Normally, we have these powwows after the show and say, “OK, we have to tighten that up.” We kind of glossed over it, but the bigger idea was, “Man, that was a lot of fun.” It was living in the moment and absorbing everything that’s going on. We’re just grateful to be there.

That’s not to say that the little details aren’t important but it’s more, “Here we go on the rollercoaster ride.” I think that we’re one of the last bands to do this, but we don’t use click tracks. We don’t use any [prerecorded] tracks, no trickery. I’m not miming. That’s what we’re talking about. That’s where life happens, in that moment where you put yourself out there and say, “Well, this could be a complete train wreck or we it could be this amazing moment that’ll never happen again.” We get to ride each other’s wave [and] communicate musically. I’m just really appreciative of that camaraderie that I have with the band.

I started going to shows in the in the ’80s. My first concert was Ozzy Osbourne with Metallica opening. 

Awesome show.

It really was. And it wasn’t perfect. Ozzy wasn’t always in tune but there was a realness to that. Then I saw the ’90s bring in this period of big production and everything aimed at perfection. It became clinical at times. But that Ozzy show and others from that era are such happy memories because they were so real. 

It was real. We had something happen a while back, and I think a fan posted it on YouTube. We have these different sections in our set where we do improv. We’re jamming. “OK, we don’t really know where we’re going to end up, so we have to listen to each other.” We did an 11-minute version of our song “I Miss The Misery.” We were closing the show and Joe looked at his watch and said, “Oh no, we have 15 minutes to fill.” Then he realized, at the very end, that his watch had stopped working. You can see on the video that we were all looking at each other like, “Oh no! We have 15 minutes to fill” and suddenly realize at the end very end that his watch had stopped. “We have to pump the brakes!” It ended up becoming this really crazy moment. The tempo changes. It’s wild. As an audience member, I can appreciate things like that and I think our fan base does, too. That’s what they’re coming to see, that kind of moment.

Tell me about working with [producer] Nick Raskulinecz. I have to ask because I’m such a Rush nerd.

He is, too!

[Laughs.] 

Nick is such an amazing energy. I love that he is not only a fan of rock music, but he is a fan of all the bands that he works with. I feel like it’s to the point that he probably won’t work with a band unless he can see himself front and center at one of their concerts. No matter who is doing their parts in the studio, he’ll be sitting two feet from them, cheering them on. It’s about getting performance over perfection.

And he has his own terminology for musical ideas. On one song we were getting to the first chorus, and he says, “We’re going to need a Skadoosh. A double Skadoosh.” That’s just ramping up the fretboard. [Hale mimics sliding up the guitar neck.] “When we get to the second chorus we’re going to need three of those! Don’t just come in on the chord, ramp up to it!” My brother will be recording drums and where most producers would be in the booth, Nick is in the room with a drum stick, air drumming with my little brother. He’d never let us settle for having an OK album.

Correction: A previous version of this post misidentified opening act Mammoth WVH as WVH Mammoth. We apologize for any inconvenience.