After a year and a half of sitting at home, rock band Halestorm is finally getting back out on the road. The band has separate tours planned, first with Mongolian folk rockers The Hu and Cory Marks on a handful of dates, and later dates set to go out with Evanescence. A new single, “Back From The Dead,” released on August 18th and it expresses the band’s return to live music, as well as just being an all-around great rock track.
Last week, just ahead of getting back on the road, co-founder and drummer Arejay Hale took a little bit of time out from his pre-tour schedule to share some thoughts.
Mike Sorensen: It's been a little while since you guys have been on the road. So I'm sure you're ready to get back out there, too.
Arejay Hale: Yeah, we've only done a handful of one-off shows, just to kind of get back in the rhythm of things. But this is the first kind of ‘official,’ actual bus run. So, yeah, we're happy to be on a bus. I'm not a big fan of flying on planes. I'd much rather just jump on a bus and go to sleep and then wake up at the next venue. It's much, much better.
MS: It's easier. More room for the big sticks, too.
AH: Exactly. Oh, no, the big sticks go everywhere. Luckily, all of our gear goes on a truck, and then that just drives to the venue while we fly. So we have all of our gear with us, luckily. Although I have, in the early days of Halestorm, I have checked my big sticks at the airport, especially when we first started flying internationally. That's not a lot of fun, because we would show up to the airport with each of the pieces of gear. Luckily, those days are over. It all gets shipped over. In the States, it's very convenient because everything just goes on the semi-truck and then it just shows up at the next gig.
MS: I can only imagine how stressful that would be, to trust that everything is getting where it needs to be instead of just knowing.
AH: I mean, we've all been there. Talk to any band that's been doing it long enough. You know, every band remembers the early days when they were having to check the gear at the airport. That's not a fun process at all.
MS: Well, with everything getting opened back up again, I know I read some other comments you'd made that you didn't really take any off time. You were doing writing and things like that. How would you say you used the quieter time over the last year or 18 months for?
AH: Oh, yeah, that's basically all we could do while we were stuck at home. We just had to figure out how to stay creative. And for me it was mostly just writing. I got really good at doing co-writing sessions over Zoom. I kind of wish we still lived in the days where we didn't know what Zoom was. But, you know, this is now the world that we live in. So, yeah, that's what I've been doing, trying to stay creative and to just stay productive and just keep on writing.
I was also hired to co-host a podcast for a little bit. And it's still going. We've been taking a break now that we're starting to do shows. We're also still writing and we're recording, everything's kind of all happening at once. It's just been a lot going on, so everything else has to kind of take a backseat to that. Which I’m fine with, honestly! We still have a record to finish, we're probably about a little over halfway done with it. We're just going to try to wrap that up. As soon as we get back from this run in September, we're going to try to get right into the studio and buckle down and just try to finish the record.
MS: Well, I know the new song that came out is amazing. It's a great piece. The lead-up to it did exactly what it was meant to do, it made everybody nervous with the images. The song sounds great.
AH: I saw a lot of comments on a lot of Facebook groups, on Instagram when we posted a picture of just a tombstone with the Halestorm logo, they were like “oh, no, is Halestorm breaking up?” Like, “no, no, no, no, no, it's fine! It's fine!” And when the song came about, everybody was like, this is pretty this is pretty representative of exactly what we all went through. You know, we all had to go away for a long time. Everybody was really depressed and bummed out that there were no more shows. And, you know, we weren't able to play live shows at all. But now it feels like, okay, we're back and we want to stay back. We want to keep this going. So I want to encourage everyone to be safe out there. You know, get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands, continue to social distance, because we want to keep on doing this for a living. We want to keep doing shows. It was oddly representative that the song was called “Back from the Dead.”
MS: Like you said, I want the shows to keep going. I know there's been a lot of ups and downs for a lot of different acts out there right now. So hopefully you guys get to keep going with getting back on the road after having the downtime. I know you mentioned you prefer the bus over flying. Has there been anything that you found that you wanted to to change or do differently when you get back on the road now?
AH: Well, obviously, we're taking our health and safety into great consideration, for fans, crew, personnel. You know, we're going to be requiring N95 masks. We've stocked up with N95s. We're all, band and crew, we’re going to get tested just to make sure that everyone’s good and everyone's safe. I know a lot of venues are requiring either vaccinations or negative tests for the audience coming in. So, you know, we're really taking a lot of precautions in order to do this, but we want to be able to do this, and we want to do it safely. I just want encourage everybody to, you know, do the right thing, do the socially responsible thing and get yourself vaccinated so we can so we can beat this thing and we can get back to normal life.
MS: Absolutely. I've had the pleasure of seeing and being able to photograph your shows several times, and I'm excited for it. From a photographer's point of view, I really appreciate that, when you guys are on stage, you have a lot of light on you, because that's not always the case for drummers. Was that something from the beginning that you guys had planned out or did it just happen organically, that you wanted to make sure everybody was part of the show?
AH: Our lighting guy, Craig, he's a wizard. He's really, really good. Everybody appreciates what all of us bring to the show, which I think is pretty nice. You know, I don't care. I'm just back there doing my thing. But in the beginning days of Halestorm, we didn't have a light show. We couldn't afford one. We couldn't afford any production or pyro or anything like that. So in the beginning days of the band, the four of us, it was up to us to bring the energy like we kind of said to ourselves “I guess we are the production,” you know? So we just kind of got in the habit of, when we hit the stage, we just want to bring it. We just want to bring all the energy that we can muster because it starts with us. Especially when you're a band that nobody knows in the very beginning days. Nobody knows any of your songs, nobody knows what you're about. So you've got to go out there and show them what you're about. So since the beginning days, we've always just really loved going out there and just putting on a lot of energy.
A lot of bands have their own different themes. There are bands that like to be very backlit, and like they have a very dark stage and look very mysterious. Or a band that likes to have like a video wall, but not put any light on the band and just kind of keep it mysterious and just stand there and play the parts and let their production be their creative canvas for their art, you know? But we're the kind of band that has always just loved going out and putting off a lot of energy and having that connection with the audience. Like, we want the audience to see us and we want to see them. So I guess it just kind of evolved into that. It's always just kind of been that way. We've always liked the lights, a very bright stage. And our lighting guy does, too. Craig is like “well, if I kept you guys in the dark, that would kind of take away half the show.” He likes the way that we perform on stage.
MS: Again, from my point of view, it's fantastic, and the fact that you also sit up high and you're not buried behind a mountain of kit. I mean, I love the sounds from the big kits, but from a photography point of view, finding the drummer and finding that shot is always a challenge. You guys don't give me that challenge. So I appreciate that.
AH: That's so cool! I've actually never heard that perspective from someone who is focused more on the visual than the sound. So that's really cool to hear that. Yeah, you're right. That wasn't really done on purpose. I kind of like all my drums really low and flat. I like to be kind of on top of them, because I want to put my body weight into all the hits. I want to be able to hit hard because that's when the drums sound the best, when you're smackin’ ‘em with all your might. And our sound guy loves it, he wants me to smack ‘em. So I like having my drums really flat and really low. It just kind of worked out to your favor then, as a photographer. You're right, you don't have so many drums in the way.
MS: Yeah. And as a fan, I appreciate it when you're out there just killing them, too, so it's all win.
AH: And also, as a band member, you're right, the drummer is kind of in the back. So the audience is a little bit further away from the me than they are my other band-mates. Not having so much stuff in the way, it's fun for me, because I can look at the crowd. The crowd is usually really fun to watch. I, like all of us, kind of get in a trance watching the crowd go crazy, when they're jumping or dancing or mosh-pitting or whatever they want to do, especially at a big festival. It feels like we’re watching the show, you know? The crowd is putting on a show for us. It's really fun.
MS: Well, that's a great perspective to hear. I always like to know that you're having fun and not just out doing the job.
AH: Yeah, yeah, no. The moment is starts to feel like a job, that's when we have to do something. We need to shake it up. We need to change the setlist, we need to add moments in the show where we get to just go off and jam and improvise. You're right, if we just put on the exact same show every single night, it would just be like a routine. It would start to feel like a job. We don't want it to feel like that. We want to keep it fresh and exciting for us, because that makes it exciting for the audience, you know? When they can see us kind of on our toes the whole time. Again, that's just kind of become part of our show, of our brand as a band, is that when we go up on stage, who knows what could happen? Sometimes we fall flat on our face, but we take that risk because we want to we want to keep it fresh and exciting and interesting for us. And that makes it exciting for them.
MS: Absolutely. And I look forward to seeing it hopefully many, many more times. And you guys picked a great opener with The Hu. I've not seen Cory Marks yet.
AH: Yeah. Yeah. So you have seen The Hu before?
MS: I have.
AH: I actually haven't seen them yet. I'm really excited to see them.
MS: Yeah, they’re are a lot of fun. I think they'll fit right in with you guys with just the perfect atmosphere.
AH: I've heard really great things about them, they're getting a lot of hype right now.
MS: Well, I again, I appreciate your time. I think you've answered everything I had today. Was there any message or anything you want to put out about the tour, the album, whatever you think fans and readers might want to hear?
AH: Oh, yeah. Well, first of all, I want to thank everybody for not forgetting about us, because we had to go away for a year and a half. Now that we're back out, we really want to stay out. So I just want to thank everybody for being so careful and being so safe over the pandemic, and being so patient with everything being shut down. And I just want encourage everybody to just do whatever they can to keep that going. You know, if that means getting vaccinated or wearing a mask when you have to. And washing your hands, doing the social distancing. We're not out of the battle yet, but we want to continue to do that. We need to beat this thing. We need to fully trample this pandemic. Everybody do whatever you can, you know, to keep this thing at bay so we can continue to do live shows. We want to keep on doing it, and we don't want to stop.
And we want everybody in the crowd to feel safe, like they’re amongst everyone who's taking the best precautions to make sure that nobody in the crowd gets sick, because nobody wants that. Nobody wants to experience COVID or any of that. I have a lot of friends that got it really, really bad. I just want everybody to be safe and take all the precautions so that, heaven forbid, you do catch it, at least it'll be mild, and you won't be as likely to infect other people.
MS: All right. Well, again, I appreciate your time today and stay safe out there on the road.
AH: Thanks, man! We definitely will, and you be safe, too. We'll see you at the show.
Upcoming shows for Halestorm in the area include Sept. 3 in Bonner Springs, Kan. and Sept. 4 in Camdenton, Mo. Later this year, they’ll join Evanescence on Dec. 5 at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis. For all the details on the show-dates and for information on the upcoming album, stay tuned to the band’s social media pages and halestormrocks.com.