Halestorm are in the midst of a European tour in support of their latest album, Vicious, which was released in July, and they’ll be returning to the States for the third leg of their North American tour with In This Moment and New Years Day in November.
In Part 1 of our interview with Lzzy Hale, the Halestorm frontwoman talked with Heavy Consequence about the rise of women in the hard rock scene, her feelings on the #MeToo and Times Up movements, and the current state of rock music.
Here, in Part 2, Hale dives deep into the songs on Vicious, as well as the obstacles the band encountered while recording the album. Halestorm scrapped an entire album’s worth of material, only to start over and record the songs that would eventually make up Vicious.
Read Lzzy Hale’s thoughts on the songs “Black Vultures”, “Uncomfortable”, “Killing Ourselves to Live”, “Vicious”, and “The Silence” — as well as the album as a whole — below:
On the leadoff track “Black Vultures”, which starts with an epic scream from Lzzy
That particular scream was kind of a whim, because the first version of that particular song, “Black Vultures”, didn’t have any of that in it. It just started off with the riff. And, I remember, I think it was Nick [Raskulinecz], our producer, he [said], “Hey can you just like do something vocally, in the beginning, so I did that as a couple of layers just on a whim in the studio, and then we ended up attaching it to the beginning. From there, I think it was the decision, like, “Oh, I think we should open the record with this.”
Nick definitely challenged me to be like, “You can get intense, right?” And I was like, “Sure, let’s do it.” So, that was a cool experience.
But that particular song … Nick was working on an Alice in Chains record on the West Coast, but he kept his studio open for us, so that we can we can keep writing and rehearsing. And one of our good from 10 Years, Brian Vodinh, ended up hanging out in Nashville one night, and he was like, “Hey, I want to come to the studio, and we ended up jamming on this idea, and it was, “Hey, let’s just write a song, we’re here.” And he’s a great songwriter. so on the way to the studio, I had written down “vultures,” because I thought it was a cool name. On the way to the studio, there were at least 20 vultures blocking the road, because there was something they were picking at, and I’m like, “Ooh, vultures!”
And so when we got to the studio and Brian showed up, I was like, “I have a title.” So, we did this instrumental jam, and then I took it home and I wrote to it, and ended up writing “Black Vultures”. I didn’t realize that the song was kind of about survival until after I finished it.
On the scorching first single, “Uncomfortable”, which reached No. 1 at rock radio
I had a conversation with a couple of my friends about this world we’re living in right now — everything’s online, everything’s out there. And I told them I got frustrated because at one point in time, I think I posted something like, “Just remember to be good humans to each other.” And I got so much hate over that. And it’s like, I think that should be just a fundamental truth. We’re kind of damned if we do or damned if we don’t, so we might as well just be happy. Just solely by being yourself, and making yourself satisfied and happy and doing what you want to do, just by doing that, there’s always going to be people who hate you for it, or it makes them extremely uncomfortable. And so for me, the word “uncomfortable” came up a lot, as in, maybe we should be proud and revel in the fact that just by being yourself you’re gonna make a lot of people uncomfortable. And that’s okay.
It’s amazing to hear the feedback on it, and that it ended up becoming this kind of form of empowerment, so I’m glad about that.
On the song “Killing Ourselves to Live”, which calls to mind ’80s rock anthems from acts like Heart and Dio
We ended up writing the chorus coming from this idea of the four of us and all of the up and downs and the hard work we put into this, and, you know, literally killing ourselves to live — to be able to do this every single day. We tried doing it as a piano ballad and that didn’t work, and so I ended up strapping on my inner Dio for that one.
There are all these bands that are absolutely an influence on what we do, but it’s funny how we don’t necessarily view that as a conscious decision. It’s almost like an afterthought. It’s like, “Oh yeah, I can hear that in there.” We wear our influences very much on our sleeve.
On the title track, which features the line “What doesn’t kill me makes me vicious”
That particular song came in at the 11th hour. I love the word “vicious.” I wrote it down in my notepad, and I get a little obsessed with an idea when I get excited about it, so I was up until 4 in the morning one night, and there’s the Nietzsche quote, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” and I’m like, “What doesn’t kill me makes me vicious.” And it felt kind of poignant for the record at that point. Whether it’s the state of the world or the day-to-day things we gotta go through, it’s so much more than just being strong and weathering the storm. You have to be fierce about it, you have to be aggressive and fight for yourself.
I literally texted all the guys at 4 in the morning, and was like, “Guys, we gotta call the album Vicious.” ‘Cause we were gonna call the album Vultures for a long time, because we like that song. But the more I thought of it, the more I thought there’s no way I can spin the word “vultures” in any type of positive situation. All I think about is birds or dead things. So, all the guys got back to and were like, “Yes, absolutely, that makes so much more sense.” And it ended up, inadvertently, becoming the mission statement for the record.
On the beautiful album-closing acoustic ballad “The Silence”
We almost didn’t put that song on the record. We were going to end the album with “Vicious”. This is the reason an 11-song record became a 12-song record. So, the music in that song was written by my guitar player, and for the longest time I was trying to write something to it, and one night, it just kind of clicked, and I ended up writing this love song over it. And those vocals that you hear are actually the demo that I ended up doing at home. When we tried to recreate it in the studio, Nick was like, “I just feel something from this take, so we’re gonna leave it the way it is.”
But I think it’s Halestorm’s first love song, because it’s truly my view, and honestly my own personal story in falling in love with somebody that you still care about. When you’ve found somebody who is actually the love of your life, and you discover that, no matter what changes around you — the world can end for all I care — but everything that we are will still remain. For me, it was a weird way to kind of come out and say that. All of those verses are true. They’re situations that happened in my life.
On her feelings of self-doubt and the obstacles the band faced while making the Vicious album
I realized a couple years ago that my passion has also become my affliction, in that I can’t really turn it off. So I’m writing just for the sake of writing, always. But, six months before we were planning on getting into the studio, myself and my bandmates, were kind of consciously writing for the next record. And we wrote a bunch of songs and, to make a long story short, we just didn’t like any of them. We wrote a little over 15 songs, demoed them up, and we all sat together, and were like maybe this is the record, but it just wasn’t exciting. It almost felt like were just trying to hard to please everybody. You can almost hear a little bit of desperation in it, where it’s like, okay, that chorus was definitely written because of radio, and here’s “I Miss the Misery” times two, because that was successful, but it wasn’t exciting for us.
And so we decided to throw all of those songs away and kind of start from scratch in the studio. We went to the studio with almost nothing, and I told Nick, hey man I’m a little lost. Because you go down these rabbit holes in your head we’re you say, “Okay, am I even excited about this anymore. Can I even write something that has that fire that got me into it in the beginning?” And then you go down another wormhole, where you’re like, “Do I even deserve to be here?” We’ve had so much success, and there are so many people that are paying attention to what we do. Can I do something that’s inspiring? So, yeah, I was a little disheartened because this band is just so much more than a career choice to me. It’s an extension of my personally. I am my best self because of this journey and this band. So when those things happen, I think I take it a little too much to heart.
There’s this misconception that you have some success as a band, you know, we toured the world, we won a Grammy, we’re on our fourth record on a major label, we still like each other as a band, but there’s this misconception that it gets easier. It truly doesn’t. It just gets more complicated once you start adding in all the different aspects of the politics of the business.
So, Nick basically said look, “You have to chase whatever gets you excited.” So I want you to come into the studio, all four of you, we’re gonna close off the world.” His studio at the time was this little log cabin in the woods, right outside of Nashville. There’s nothing for like any direction. So, Nick kinda made himself the fifth member of band, as in like, he wasn’t further than a few feet from us, the entire time. So we ended up recording these songs as we were writing them.
But I look back it, and I think I really needed to write this record, because there are those things I’m trying to work through, as in ownership of everything that you are regardless of people’s opinions of you. And then the survival aspect of, “Look I’m still here, I’m still swinging.” And honestly, the strength to reach outside of yourself and really overcome those dark places that everyone has inside of them. To me, I almost needed this as a form of therapy for myself.