Every night is a Friday night for HELLYEAH and their fans. No matter what the situation, HELLYEAH's mission is singular: to provide fans with good time, spirit-lifting hard rock. When you are at a HELLYEAH show or listening to their music, everything else takes a backseat to feeling good and focusing on living in the 'here and now.' Because that’s what real life is all about.
Frontman Chad Gray adds, "The band is called HELLYEAH, come on! It's like 'Hell yeah, let’s do it!'" The singer further admitted that he envisions the band as a salve that hard-hit American rock fans turn to in these rough economic times. While life may suck for the red-blooded, middle class American right now, art shouldn't be a luxury they can't afford and HELLYEAH's goal is to bring their music to the people, like a port in the storm, the lifeline to save them from drowning in the harsh realities of life. And really, isn't that why people turn to music in their bleakest hours, for something to connect with?”
Despite not-so-humble beginnings as an enjoyable side project for members of Pantera, Mudvayne and Nothingface, one thing is certain about HELLYEAH in 2010: this is a real band that speaks to real people with their new album, STAMPEDE. While the members may have built their individual reputations in mega-successful, household name metal and rock bands throughout the years, when you strip them down to their base parts, the members of HELLYEAH aren’t much different than normal, average Americans who love their music. And that's just the way the band likes it.
“First and foremost, we said if we were going to do this, it’d be about having a good time, with kick ass music and drinks, not a big corporate fuckin’ supergroup bullshit deal,” legendary drummer Vinnie Paul said, without mincing a single syllable. “Before a year together on the road and finding ourselves completely with the first record, we were all new to each other. We just did what came off the top of our heads. Now, we have great chemistry and for this second record, we knew that we found ourselves as a live band. We wanted to translate what came off the stage into the studio, with that same power and energy. But it’s even more diverse and deeper. Obviously, our roots are metal, but we have ties with Southern rock, like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Marshall Tucker Band, and we're bringing that out more.”
HELLYEAH toured for only nine months behind their 2007-released, self-titled debut, and they managed to sell nearly 400,000 records in the process. They performed at Family Values with Korn and at the lone Ozzfest date in Dallas, Texas in 2008 before the members took time off to attend to other commitments. However, in that short time span, HELLYEAH formed an unbreakable bond with each other and their fans, one that will be further cemented through their second album. "It's HELLYEAH, VERSION. 2.0: more beer, more weed, more rock, more riffs," Paul said.
Guitarist Tom Maxwell believes that through their first album's activities, HELLYEAH is now even stronger as a unit, and that bleeds into the music on STAMPEDE, saying "It’s a true brotherhood. It's middle finger in the air, wave the flag and mow everyone over with who we are and what we are. Like Vinnie says, 'Let the stampede begin.'" Maxwell adds, "Our first album was in the moment, with pure fire, piss and vinegar, but STAMPEDE is more song-oriented, with a lot of personality, and a lot of personal stuff, too."
The power of the band's music aside, HELLYEAH are also noteworthy because they're the project that brought Vinnie Paul back to playing, after losing his brother and metal icon Dimebag Darrell to a tragic onstage shooting in 2004. “It was a humongous step in my life, for the longest period, I didn’t know if I wanted to do it again,” Paul said. “My brother meant the world to me and we did everything together. We were inseparable and it took me a year before I decided to do this. One thing that struck a chord was when Dave Grohl sent me an email, saying, ‘Bro, I went through something similar with Kurt Cobain. I never thought I’d play music again, but music will heal you eventually.’ That meant a lot to me and that allowed me to open my heart and realize it was worth taking a shot.” The drummer wasn’t well-acquainted with Gray or guitarist Greg Tribbett (also of Mudvayne) when the seeds of HELLYEAH were being sown, but they all hit it off and destiny took over.
For STAMPEDE, the members converged on Paul's Texas abode, for a recording process draped in a relaxed, pressure-free atmosphere, surrounded by the obligatory cocktails, good eats and familial brotherhood. “We were doing it at my house solely. We ate, drank and BBQed together, which made the brotherhood that happened, come through in the music," Paul said. The band members lived in bungalows on the grounds and turned Paul's house into a studio. Drums were recorded downstairs and guitars were recorded upstairs, with video screens in each room so the members could see one another while tracking. The methods may have been unorthodox, but the result was nothing short of magical. "It’s a broad, diverse album that covers rock, heavy metal and Southern rock ground. That is the main thing that I like about it: it’s not so focused on one thing," Paul said. The high ceilings at the Paul home allowed for the creation of a big, booming sound. They also were able to work at their own natural pace. "We slept there, so if one of us just came up with an idea, we could jump on it," Maxwell said.
Gray revealed that HELLYEAH helped him to step outside of his comfort zone, normally a dark place, that he resides within in his other band. "This band has gone beyond, and has country songs and Southern rock songs, and songs about girls. I never thought about writing that shit before, and I was out of my element, but I'm making it work. In that sense, it is exciting and has allowed me to grow as a songwriter, having no boundaries." Maxwell was also able to step up his game within the parameters of HELLYEAH, saying, "I was about to do things I have never done on another record, creating different layers using an EBO, which is a battery-powered magnet that resonates so it sounds like a cello or violin!"
STAMPEDE boasts an eclectic set of tunes, with the title track coming on like a battering ram that takes out anything in its way while the thunderous, anthemic "Cowboy Way" will get the blood coursing through your veins even if you've never roamed a range. It's a powder keg waiting to go off, one that could ignite an arena as quickly as a parking lot. It’s a song destined to be a fan favorite! Tribbett and Maxwell's relentless tandem of riffery could take out a village, while Gray flips the bird to all convention, belting out the heaviest chorus above and below the Mason-Dixon. The uber-infectious “Hell of a Time” speaks to the people, with Gray’s “Everyman” lyrical proclamations about “making it to Friday night” and about how the girl, family, friends and music are all you need in this life. The band shifts gears for the contemplative ballad “Better Man,” while “The Debt That All Men Pay” and the choppy homage to strippers, “Pole Rider,” jointly administer an industrial-sized can of whoop-ass. Of course, the entire album is anchored by Paul's percussive presence, which is as formidable and ferocious it's ever been, as Gray’s liquor-lubed vocals clamp down with razor-sharp teeth. The chemistry is tighter than a stripper's g-string and the music will stun all your senses.
That’s "covers all ground" style and "writing without boundaries" technique is precisely why hard rock and metal fans react to and connect with HELLYEAH so fervently. Sure, they came to the HELLYEAH party based on curiosity and due to their fandom of the principals' other bands, but the music HELLYEAH made and their genuine connection to the audience and their realities is what hooked them and kept them coming to the shows and buying the records. "We’re red state rock, man," Gray admits with pride. "Greg and I are from Peoria, the heart of the Midwest, and from our earliest days of touring, we always had a kinship with Texas and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I went down here with Vinnie and met his his friends and that was the thing I did not know I had. My connection is the people: the people are generally good people, down to earth and that is my roots. They believe in family and friends and will kill to protect that and I love that."
American rock and metal fans are sure to connect to the people in this band and get caught under this STAMPEDE. Get on board and get run over with HELLYEAH.