Taking it easy is a phrase that is not found in HELLYEAH’s vocabulary. The band has been touring constantly in support of their latest album Blood for Blood, a feisty, full throttle record that not only goes into uncharted territory musically for the group but continually earns them legions of new fans, while still keeping the old satisfied. How many bands can claim that? Aside from doing well, it has catapulted HELLYEAH to headlining status and kept them trekking the globe for almost a year; and they have no intentions of slowing down in 2015.
Bassist Kyle Sanders checked in from the road with Examiner to talk about touring the world, interacting with fans and taking time to give back to others.
E: You’re currently out on the road with Devour the Day and Like a Storm on the Blood for Blood Tour 2015. How has it been so far?
KS: Good. It’s freezing though, we’re in Lincoln, Nebraska and it’s like -1 degrees out.
E: There’s a few dates already sold out including tonight’s show and The Machine Shop in Flint Michigan, which is great so congratulations.
KS: “Yeah, thanks. That’s always a good stop in Flint. It should be coming up soon.”
E: “HELLYEAH is known for putting on a killer show; what goes through your head before you go on stage and what is the energy like backstage while you’re getting ready to go on?”
KS: “It’s not insane or anything. Pretty much about an hour before is when we usually get into the dressing room and usually we’re just rocking out to some music. Everyone is kind of doing they’re own thing, getting their head in the game. Once we get out then we explode for an hour and twenty minutes or something. It’s actually, for me anyway, the calm before the storm. Once it’s on it just doesn’t stop until the end of the set, which is pretty lengthy and energetic.”
E: “Yes, it is very energetic.”
KS: “Especially now that we’re playing headlining shows and playing a full set.”
E: “Are there any rituals that you all do as a band?”
KS: “The only really mutual ritual for everyone is doing shots together. Everyone is doing their stretched and warming up. Then we all convene and do a shot.”
E: Even though you’re headlining now, there are always people in the audience who maybe aren’t super big fans of HELLYEAH or haven’t even heard you at all yet. There seemed to be a lot of new fans when you were on the Five Finger Death Punch Tour last fall.
KS: “That tour was huge. We had new fans every single night. The good thing about the Blood for Blood Tour right now is that a lot of the newer fans from that tour are coming out to follow up and see us again. We’re hitting a lot of the same cities, too. We’re still getting new fans every night, too, just constantly growing and growing.”
E: “Looking out into the crowds, from what you can see, is it easy to pick out those newer fans versus fans that have been with you longer?”
KS: “Yes, and we can more tell on these shows now because we’re playing smaller venues like clubs and theaters compared to the arenas we’ve been in. You’re really a lot closer to people and you can really witness what’s going on more so than in the arenas. You can definitely tell who the new fans are from the ones that are singing every song from every record.”
E: “It’s got to cool to watch it all though.”
KS: “It definitely is.”
E: “One of the great things about HELLYEAH is how in touch you are as a band with the fans and how much interaction you actually have.”
KS: “Absolutely, and we realize a lot of other bands don’t do that. We get that feedback from fans saying ‘no one comes out and does this’ and they are very appreciative and so are we.”
E: “What does that face to face interaction and feedback mean to you all?”
KS: “It means a lot because they are the reason why we’re out here; and we’re the reason why they’re out here, so it’s a totally mutual thing. One of us wouldn’t be here without the other. That’s why we take an hour out of every day and meet fans. We do meet and greets every show, whether it’s an arena show or a dive bar show. Sometimes it’s harder to arrange but we get out there every show, even at festivals. The fans are appreciative and happy for us being there, and we take a few minutes with each person to have a little conversation.
E: “After this tour you’ll be headed out with Godsmack?”
KS: “Yes and we just got those dates pretty recently, that’s going to be in May.”
E: “Then you’ll be headed off to the UK summer festival circuit, like Download, Grasspop and Rock in Vienna. Any plans for an actual UK tour after that?”
KS: “I haven’t heard anything yet but I really hope so. We just did a great run of the UK and it would be great to do another full run but I haven’t seen any headline dates there yet. Hopefully we can get through there again.”
E: “We just want you all to ourselves over here in the US; just kidding UK! Hopefully we’ll see some US festivals with HELLYEAH after those.”
KS: “We definitely could be.”
E: Switching gears a little, let’s talk about the amazing campaign HELLYEAH has going. It’s called the Blood for Blood Sleeves up Campaign, which you set up with the Red Cross. It started in January for Blood Donation Month and it seems like it’s been very successful and still going strong.”
KS: “It is really awesome, and does seem like it took off too. I was under the impression that it was only for January, but people are still coming up and getting involved in it. I mean it’s a great cause anyway but it was just awesome how quickly it spread and how people are still into it and it’s still going.”
E: “How did it all come about and get set up?”
KS: I’m not 100% sure if they contacted us about it, since it came along through management. They asked us if we were interested and really who could be against it? It’s just the perfect campaign for both organizations to work together and help each other out. Not sure who initiated it but once we found out that they were interested in doing something with us we jumped on it.
E: “Red Cross couldn’t have picked a more fitting album cycle to contact you on.”
KS: “I know! Maybe they saw our album cover and said ‘oh we’ve got to do something with these guys.”
E: “They totally could have. Now the Blood for Blood record itself is a really great album. Musically it sounds like a big departure from anything you’ve done before and a different direction for the band in general.”
KS: “It’s a lot more of the emotion involved. This is definitely our most focused record in the band’s history and you can definitely tell the difference. Everyone basically just knew what they wanted, where some of the other records were more experimental. We did some songs on the previous records that no one could have done in their former bands; it was kind of fun getting to do whatever we wanted. After Band of Brothers and the band members changing and all of the heavy stuff around that you can just tell this is a more focused record and I think it is definitely the best record the band has put out up to this point. Hopefully we just keep going that, way because that’s how it’s supposed to be. We did change it up a little bit but it’s the right direction to go and the fans are happy with it. Old fans love it so it’s definitely good.
E: “If you’re out there touring this record and you’re converting people into fans during the show then you’ve got to be doing something right! Was going in this direction a conscious decision, like ‘let’s do something different’ or did it just turn out that way as you were working on it?”
KS: “I think there was definitely a vision of what it was meant to be and how it was going to end. I think that’s why it was that much more focused because everyone was going in their heads. Tom Maxwell wrote a majority of the riffs and he was just spewing them out. Chad [Gray] took this record extremely seriously, you know, with losing his long-time band mate when Greg [Tribbett] left the band. Everyone was just in a different place and I think it came out exactly [on point] and there are no regrets on anybody’s part on this one.
E: “One of the thigns that is so great about it and that people seem to really love is the contrast. You’ve got your fast, hard hitting songs of course but then there are songs that are heavy in a different way in terms of subject matter, like Moth and Hush. Those are a little slower but heavy as hell.”
KS: “They are extremely heavy, just not in terms of metal but they are really deep.
E: “Yes, especially Hush, it sounds like there are so much emotions and personal things there.”
KS: “I totally agree. There totally is, and it’s all Chad Gray. The emotion and the lyrics all came from him. We’re actually hoping to release that as the next single and do a video for that, you know, keep things rolling.
E: “That was going to be the next question actually, what would be the next single.”
KS: “That’s absolutely what it would be and fingers crossed it’s going to happen in the near future. Maybe summertime, I’m not sure of the timeline on that but that’s what we’re really shooting for right now.”
E: “What tracks from Blood for Blood do you enjoy playing live?”
KS: “Songs like Soulkiller and DMF which we’ve never played a lot before but now are playing almost every night; those are super fun. Also Say When which is so insane. People don’t know what’s going on sometimes because it’s so unexpected.
E: “When you’re out on the road, do you write a lot of new material?”
KS: “That’s usually the plan. It’s been a crazy tour cycle so far so unfortunately we haven’t much. We do come up with some new ideas during sound checks but we’re just kind of writing on our own right now. The few off days we have we pretty much just decompress because we don’t have a lot of energy or time to do anything else. Hopefully as the cycle goes on especially if we keep touring for the rest of the year we’ll keep having ideas and accumulating songs. By the time we’re done with this cycle, we won’t take much time off and we’ll have the majority of the material written. That’s the plan. It’s a long time coming though.”
E: “Probably a little soon to be thinking much about it.”
KS: “That is what’s in everyone’s head though and everyone knows we have to do another record some time. You’re always thinking about that, so when you come up with an idea you write it down or record it real quick so you know later and catalog all those ideas.
E: “When you do get one of those days off and it’s possible to do something, what do you like to do?”
KS: “This tour has been pretty decent, but some off days you have 15 hour drives and off days go turn into off nights and that’s it. It also depends on the weather and where we are. If we’re in the middle of a city then it’s great to go walk around. I like it when I find something a little more to nature, like a body of water that you can go sit by, or a park. It’s kind of at the mercy of where you are, whether the city or in the middle of nowhere. You just have to find your own little space to get your peace of mind before you go jump back into it.”
E: “Hopefully you haven’t gotten caught in any of the snow storms that have been occurring over the past few weeks.”
KS: “No we surprisingly have not. It’s been just a little bit, like starting to snow when we’re leaving and you can see it on the ground. We’ve been through Boise, Denver, Salt Lake City and places like that so it could have gone either way. We’ve gotten pretty lucky otherwise.
E: “Hopefully it will be nice when you come up to New England because it looks like the Arctic Circle right now.”
KS: “Yeah I’ve heard and hopefully there will be no snow when we get there in a few weeks.”
E: “Do you have a favorite city or part of the country you like to hit on tour?”
KS: “I like going to the Northwest, mainly because we don’t get up there that often. It’s the first time we’ve gotten up there on this whole cycle. I like Northern California, too. I live in Atlanta so I love playing in my hometown. I like going to the Northeast as long as there’s no blizzard going on.”
E: “Any places that you’ve never played that you’d like to?”
KS: “South America. Somehow it’s avoided me my entire career so it’s kind of a goal to get down there. It would be great and I’m really hoping we can make that happen.”
Catch HELLYEAH out on the road near you in 2015. Click here for tour dates.
Pick up the latest album Blood for Blood wherever music is sold.