Currently treating UK fans to a sold-out run of shows, Halestorm made their long-awaited return to UK shores has been met with open arms. Before they put on a great show in Glasgow, I sat down with bass man, Josh Smith, in the O2 Academy’s upstairs lounge to discuss a wealth of topics such as some background on their latest album, Vicious, thoughts on opening band, Rews, and how fatherhood puts a new perspective on touring the world.
It’s funny, we’ve been out for like, a week and a half, maybe, and it feels like a month. You know; travel. The first show was in Moscow, we arrived on a Thursday afternoon, played Friday then train up to St Petersburg, play Saturday. Fly to Helsinki; barely made the show on Sunday. Day off in Dublin, it’s just been non-stop so when we finally got to the UK, I don’t think anyone was awake before 3pm on our day off in Sheffield. We played there last night, I think we’re just starting to get into our rhythm; we’re moved into our bus. It’s been nuts, it feels longer than it has been and I think part of it is having my wife and kid at home and I don’t get to talk to them as much because of the time difference plus crazy travel. But now, the schedule is falling into place, we’re excited for tonight, too because you wanna make the show better every day. Last night, Lzzy [Hale, vocalist/guitarist] and I felt like it could have been better, Joe [Hottinger, guitarist] and Arejay [Hale, drummer] had a great show, they said. So, hopefully, tonight the four of us can get on the same page tonight.
And this is the band’s first UK tour in a few years, how does it feel to be back?
Great! It’s crazy, it’s been like two years or something which is nuts! We usually don’t take that long a break but also we’ve never spent that much time off the road working on the album so it feels really great to be back here. I just can’t believe how long it’s been and it won’t be that long again, that’s for sure!
Being the second night of the tour, what’s your thoughts so far on opening band, Rews?
They’re great, I saw them for the first time last night. They’re fantastic and sweet people and seeing two people up on stage is always cool, it’s like “Alright, what have you got?” They bring it.
Vicious has been out for a couple of months now, how have people taken to it?
Really well, I think, anyway. Everything from what I’ve read is… they feel like how we feel. This is the album we needed to make; it’s a rock album. I think we’ve said this with every album: “This is the best version of us yet”. Of course it is, I hope. This one really is the truest version of bottling what we do live and capturing it on a record. I think it’s translated well to the fans and people really seem to enjoy it.
The songs that were originally intended for the fourth album were scrapped. Can you tell us a bit about that? How far into the process were you when the decision was made?
Man, it’s hard to say; it wasn’t too far along. We had a lot of songs and lot of them we came back to. The reason we scrapped them was because we were trying to find our direction. We didn’t know everything we wanted but we knew what we didn’t want and the one thing we did know was it’s gotta rock. We’re doubling down on rock and roll as we’ve been saying a lot in interviews but that’s what we knew about it. So from there it was like “We’ve got these songs but they’re not exciting us”. We just maybe weren’t looking at it in the right way so our producer, Nick [Raskulinecz] was like “What are we gonna do?” and we were like “I dunno; we don’t know what the fuck to do”. So he said “How about y’all come down to the studio, plug in and play; the four of you in a room”. So that’s what we did, we just locked ourselves in a room all day, every day, for a really long time just playing; the four of us just getting these songs out.
That’s what we needed – that reset button of “This is the four of us – this is what we can do, let’s make some music” and “Uncomfortable” was in that first week’s batch of songs where we were finishing a song and a half a day from “Who’s got a riff? Who’s got a song?” sort of thing and build it out from there, record it and move on. We needed to boil everything down to the basics and start from the ground up. We weren’t in too far when we decided to hit the reset button but it was a much needed reset button, for sure.
You’ve also been playing some older material like “Innocence” and “Takes My Life”. How’s it felt to revisit that?
[laughs] It’s a trip! It’s cool to play them again. I think what’s most cool is to throw them in the set and they’ve stood the test of time. We play them, “Oh, cool, that still rocks!” and the people still love it. There’s people who wanna hear it; we play it because someone requested them. It feels really good to play, particularly with “Takes My Life” because the only recording that ever saw was our very first live recording [One and Done]. To listen back to that to re-learn the song is cringe-worthy. I’m just listening to it like “Oh, God. What are you doing?!” It’s cool to bring it out again, it still rocks, it’s still fun to play.
We’ve had the ReAniMate EPs between albums, can we expect a fourth one?
I’d count on it. We throw songs around like “Ooh, that’d be a good song to cover!” from time to time. It’d be silly to say “No, can’t expect it”. There aren’t any plans for it yet but it’s always been in the cards so I’d expect to see a fourth at some point.
There’s usually a diverse selection on them. How do you choose which bands and songs get picked?
Oh, man… that’s funny because talk about scrapping ideas… everyone is involved. It’s this absurd email thread with people at our label, our management, the four of us. Then my dad chimes in; everyone has an idea of what would be the best song to record. The list is hundreds of songs – it’s stupid and somehow we whittle it down to five, six songs which we record. This last time, it changed quite a bit, down to the wire, even. We had songs and we had a week or two scheduled to record it because we don’t spend a lot of time on it because we don’t want to spend a ton of money on it – it’s just a quick turnaround; let’s get it out there, it’s fun to do. We were supposed to record it between tours and it didn’t work out, we cancelled studio time and I think we did that twice, all the while changing songs. Finally, the third time we went in and recorded it and down to the wire, we were gonna do Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” and the day of we were like “Fuck this, let’s do ‘Ride the Lightning'” and put that in. This one, in particular, was a lengthy process of combing through songs and everything. Hopefully we can streamline it next time around.
You mentioned your wife and child earlier, how do you balance that with being out on the road?
It’s definitely a new perspective on my job and life and managing the two worlds. They’re these two very independent but very dependent worlds: I’m needed here and at home. Finding that balance has been tricky. I’ve found it at home but being over in Europe with the time change and travelling… I was just telling my friend, here in Glasgow, I feel like I’m just starting to get it but it’s been a lot of work. Great work; it’s the most fulfilling work ever being in this band and but also being a husband and father. My plate is full in a way I never expected it to be and it’s a lot of work but it’s awesome. I could sit on FaceTime all day and look at my son – he’s awesome!
In the last few years, there’s been a lot of great albums and new bands emerging, would you say rock’s having a bit of a resurgence?
I think so, it feels that way. I don’t know what it is, if the pendulum of popularity is swinging back our way and people want to hear chords strummed on a guitar again by a human or what. But it does feel like there’s this buzz going on for rock. Like you said, there’s been some really great rock albums coming out which is just refreshing. Even at festivals, rock may not have been the most popular genre over the last decade or whatever but you go to a festival and rock is alright. We’re in this adjustment phase and we’re not at the top of Billboard charts with all the Lil Wheezys and whatever names. But we’re still here; rock definitely has a pulse now and I think people are catching onto it again. It’s great, it’s exciting; it’s an exciting time, we need to see where it goes. I hope more people jump on the rock train; more bands, more fans and we keep it going.
Pics by Katie Frost Photography