"I listened to it, and I'm like, you were a metalhead, and you didn't even know it!"
When I met Lzzy and Arejay Hale backstage at the Forum in Melbourne, they couldn't be any more different to the people who were just doing their soundcheck metres away from me. For one, neither of them are anywhere near as loud as that soundcheck was. Lzzy's voice and guitar playing boomed, and Arejay sounded like a monster behind the drums. Sitting across from them in a dressing room, though, they're chill, big smiles on their faces, quieter, but no less enthusiastic than when they're performing on stage.
"I was always a kind of shy, kind of terrified kid. You wouldn't know it now! I learned a lot from this one [Arejay] because when we first started the band, I don't think I've ever seen you nervous in your life," Lzzy shares, looking directly at her younger brother when she addresses him. "It's a defence mechanism," Arejay quips before the two laugh.
Lzzy continues, "I drew a lot of strength from that, and even when we were going through the hard times trying to find members - we had half our band quit on us one time before we found [guitarist] Joe [Hottinger] and [bassist] Josh Smith - I remember turning to him with little prompts like, 'Dude, are we nuts for trying to do this?'"
"I was like, I don't know if we can do this, and he's like, 'Yeah, sis, of course, we're nuts, but what else are we going to do?' He's always been the voice of reason when I was freaking out about stuff, and he still is. He's my little brother."
Arejay adds, "The great thing about having family at the core is that it spreads like a disease to everybody," everybody laughs, "So you know, we've been with Joe and Josh for so long that they're practically our family. I feel like I've got three siblings at this point. And I think that starting with that mentality really helps glue everything together because everybody - it's even bled into our crew, our label management, everybody on the team - has a very family and team-like mentality."
Lzzy and Arejay have been writing and performing their own music together since 1997, when they were 13 and ten years old. Lzzy began with the piano at age five - Halestorm allow for a piano-led suite each night - before learning to play the guitar at 16. Arejay found his path on the drums. It's this rare sibling bond that the pair have always shared that's kept the band so strong.
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"We'll never have any drama. We'll disagree with each other every now and then, and we'll talk about it," Lzzy says. Arejay comments, "we don't have the energy to harbour resentment. We already have enough on our plates.
"I wonder if the difference [between the Hale and Gallagher siblings] is because they blew up at a time when you could afford to do one tour, make millions of dollars and take months off. Then you have more time to harbour hate - we don't have time to harbour any hate; we're on the road ten months of the year, so there's no time for that!"
Lzzy has a simple but firm hold on perspective: "It's just rock and roll, you know? Don't take it so seriously. We're here to have fun. That's why we never got a day job. We worked really hard to get here because we just want to do this every day." This hard work, sense of humour and survival instinct led to Halestorm's most recent and heaviest record, Back From The Dead.
Who said that everyone has to mellow as they get older? The American rock band's fifth album "navigates mental health, debauchery, survival, redemption, rediscovery, and maintaining faith in humanity," per a press release. Have Halestorm managed to maintain faith in humanity?
The two laugh before Lzzy responds, "We're still trying. I still think there is hope - I don't know about you, but I can't give up hope that people can be good and turn things around." She cites that the meanest people are likely the smallest group, but they're the loudest on the internet.
"Internet rage is also kind of equated to road rage," Arejay notes. "A lot of psychologists say when you're behind the safety of a screen, and behind a keyboard, it's different than when you're interacting with someone face to face. And luckily for us, for what we do, we see the best of people every day. You see everyone's best when we meet people. So you know, there is hope.
"Especially when we're on stage - that's something I love about the rock show; everyone is from different walks of life," Arejay continues, with his sister enthusiastically nodding along at this train of thought. Lzzy adds, "It's all ages, all races, all genders, and we're just there to have a good time and celebrate this thing that's the closest to magic in this world. And that's music.
"That's why I'm glad we're not in politics. We're not doctors and lawyers; we're just in entertainment and music; it's a good place to be. We spread joy." Indeed, they do - for 90 minutes, Halestorm fulfils a promise of making the audience in the packed-out Forum theatre feel like The Steeple - fans raise horns, sing along, headbang, and experience the closest thing to magic we can feel as music lovers.
In recent years, we've witnessed a resurgence in the embrace of pop-punk, emo and other guitar-based alternative music. It's something that Arejay and Lzzy have their own theories about.
"In my experience, I've done a lot of guest work for all sorts of genres. And it doesn't matter if you're into country, it doesn't matter if you're a pop star, even Demi Lovato is playing the guitar now - Demi actually has one of my guitars with her on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. It doesn't matter if you're a pop star, it doesn't matter if you're a rock star, everybody wants to sling on a guitar and rock," Lzzy states. It's hard to argue against that.
"We were not always at the cool kids' table. In the great words of Alice Cooper... we're in the sewer, and we're in the gutter, where we're supposed to be. But every now and then, we pop our head up, but we're like those kids in high school where people were like, Hey, you want to sneak a cigarette in the bathroom? Everybody wants to experience that kind of leather-clad, rebellious situation," she says before turning to Arejay, "But what's your theory?"
Arejay takes a moment to think before sharing, "When that scene was first starting, the kids who were into it are adults now. I know first-hand - my girlfriend is six years younger than me, so she grew up in the Warped Tour scene following Panic! At The Disco, From First To Last and all of these bands. I listened to it, and I'm like, 'you were a metalhead, and you didn't even know it!'
"So now that all of these kids are in their late twenties and early thirties, they're likely to always have a soft spot for it." The resurgence in these types of rock music points to a vintage cool.
Speaking of vintage cool, Lzzy Hale makes guitars cool as the first woman to be a Gibson brand ambassador - she plays the stunning Limited Edition Lzzy Hale Explorer guitar.
"It's crazy when you put it in that context. It's a beautiful thing. Not only am I able to custom make and receive these awesome instruments that are my dream instruments from when I was a kid from the company that I was holding out for, but it's also a dream come true for me," she says. However, there's something even more significant to be proud of when it comes to having her own Gibson (and Epiphone) guitar.
"It's really beautiful to see all of these young girls that can see themselves reflected in me, and it has inspired them to pick up [the guitar]. It's a weird thing as a girl, as I'm sure you relate to. It's a weird thing when you can see yourself in someone because I grew up on a lot of dude rock - I was listening to Dio and Van Halen, and Cinderella (Lzzy has collaborated with former Cinderella singer Tom Keifer, watch them perform their rendition of Nobody's Fool here) and Deep Purple and that kind of stuff. And then I heard [Heart singer] Anne Wilson's voice, and something clicked, and I'm like, 'Oh, girls can actually sing like that'. Well, I'm a girl. So there's no reason I can't do that."
She continues, "It's that weird slight adjustment of your mindset that makes all the difference and blows everything out of the water. So, to be in that position for these young women - and, by the way, in the last two years, I just got the stats for these Gibson guitars - the demographic for the people that bought guitars in the last two years, the people that bought the guitars the most were actually women. I'm like, fuck yeah, that's awesome. Things are changing. And I'm just glad to be a part of that."
A few hours after this chat, Lzzy, Arejay, Joe Hottinger and Josh Smith blow the roof off the Forum.
Arejay plays an impressive drum solo, demonstrating his skills and displaying how much fun he was having, playing with the crowd's reactions akin to Freddie Mercury. As the band returned to the stage, it was hard to miss the pride in Lzzy's voice as she announced, "give it up for my little brother Arejay." And before Lzzy takes on a solo version of Dear Daughter, she shouts out to all the women in the room, stating how proud she is to be a rock chick. Amen, Lzzy.
Back From The Dead (Deluxe Edition) is out now. Listen to it here.