Over the past five years, Lzzy Hale and Taylor Momsen have become two of hard rock’s most recognizable and dynamic female voices, each breaking down barriers in the male-dominated genre with their respective bands, Halestorm and the Pretty Reckless. So they must utterly despise each other, right? A West Virginia radio DJ thought so earlier this year and asked Hale about it, making the perennially upbeat singer laugh.
“Honestly, Taylor and I don’t know each other well enough for us to hate each other yet,” Hale tells Rolling Stone. “So we’ll work on that for you.” Momsen laughs.
Beginning today, Halestorm and the Pretty Reckless are embarking on a month-long tour together, so Rolling Stone secured time for the women, who’ve only ever met once briefly at an awards show, to share their first-ever full-fledged conversation. Hale is at home in “sunny Nashville,” where her band recorded its recently released third LP, Into the Wild Life – a mix of fist-banging anthems like lead single “Apocalyptic” and power ballads. Meanwhile, former Gossip Girl actress Momsen is in New England taking a break from rehearsing with her group, which put out its grungy second LP, Going to Hell, last year, and is well known for controversial stage antics like bringing female fans onstage to undress.
“You’ve got us now,” Hale says, “and now you’re stuck with us, so…”
“Careful what you wish for,” Momsen rejoins.
It’s good timing for the bands, since both are celebrating some rare air. In the past year, the two bands have each earned the top spot on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs chart (for “Apocalyptic” and current Number One, the Pretty Reckless’ “Follow Me Down”), making them the first female-fronted acts to do so since 1990, when Alanna Myles’ “Black Velvet” was a hit.
“I’ve been wanting to do a tour with the Pretty Reckless for a long time,” Hale says. “I’m just super stoked to get to know you, Taylor, and, I’m gonna be, like, the fan girl on the side of the stage, rocking out to your set.”
“I’m super psyched for the tour,” Momsen says. “I can’t wait to see your show every night.”
By all accounts, everything is beginning amicably enough.
What do you make of the “rivalry” between you two?
Lzzy Hale: Everyone always assumes that because we’re two chicks that we somehow must be catty and hate each other, and it’s never the case. Maybe everyone is just really horny and wants to see two chicks fight. In all honesty – and Taylor would probably agree, since you’re usually the only girl on the bill – we’ve seen more guy bitch fights [laughs].
Taylor Momsen: That’s definitely true. The women tend to be a little more relaxed.
Please describe a “guy bitch fight.”
Hale: I remember one tour with two male-fronted bands, and they had a fight over who could use the bathroom first. Then they just ended up having a beef with each other for the entire rest of the tour. I’m like, “Dude, that’s something that a chick would do – not even just a chick, but like a prissy bitch – and I’m supposed to be the girl on tour.” I ended up being more of a dude and wearing less makeup and bitching about looks than what these two are doing right now.
Momsen: When you’re touring, you’re working from the moment you wake up to the moment you got to bed. Sometimes you make up fun drama, because it can get a little boring, but that’s all light-hearted fun so that’s different.
Hale: That’s when we’re seeking out trouble [laughs]. Just because, “Tuesday night, let’s do something awesome” [laughs].
“What goes on the road stays on the road. And, you know, it’s a little illegal.” – Taylor Momsen
Lzzy, when do you go seeking out trouble?
Hale: If my bass player is putting some James Brown on the stereo, which we all know is baby-making music, there might be some chicks on the bus and sometimes they might get, uh, a little undressed and then we wake up the next morning and there’s Bloody Mary mix still in my shoes, and we don’t know why. Things like that have started to happen, which I don’t know whether I want to say I’m a little terrified or I’m completely expecting it, but I guess for today, I usually tend to kind of bring it on [laughs].
Momsen: I live very strictly by the mentality that what goes on the road, stays on the road [laughs]. I keep it contained.
Hale: Smart [laughs].
Taylor, you’ve said you have a “no physical pranks” rule on the road. What prompted that?
Momsen: It started after one of our band members freaked out and left a tour [laughs]. Even though we won’t do physical pranks now, emotional, verbal pummeling is totally acceptable. That can get really crude and really brutal, but it’s super funny and we all know it’s meant as a joke. But there’s no one jerking off in peoples’ drinks or anything like that [laughs].
Hale: Well, that’s good to know [laughs].
Momsen: The no physical pranks rule doesn’t apply to other bands, though [laughs].
Wait, you’ll prank other bands?
Momsen: We’ll do physical pranks to other bands, just no physical pranks on us [laughs].
Please describe a physical prank you pulled on another band.
Momsen: Uh, no, man. What goes on the road, stays on the road. And, you know, it’s a little illegal. You don’t want that shit in the press.
Hale: That’s awesome.
Halestorm were recently on tour with Eric Church. Lzzy, was it hard to connect with country fans?
Hale: Ninety-five percent of the audience had no idea who we are. You could see the confusion in their faces, like, “What the hell is this?” It was awesome. We didn’t try to cater to them either [laughs]. We’re like, “Well, they asked for us, so let’s come out swinging.” I’d start the show a cappella, and then we’d kick into something like “Love Bites” and freak everybody out. It was great, because by the end of the set, everyone loved it. But you’re just trying to wear them down the whole set. That whole community is just amazing. I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter who you are – whether you’re country, whether you’re rap, whether you’re pop – everybody wants to rock [laughs].
How did you get on that tour anyway?
Hale: His bandmates are fans of ours. So they suggested to Eric that he call us up and get us on the tour. So of course, we’re like, “Sure. I don’t know why you want us, but sure.” Anyway, if you go to an Eric Church show, the band is always sneaking in these rock riffs, like “Raining Blood” by Slayer and some AC/DC. But a lot of these country fans had no idea what it was. But we were like, “Are they playing Slayer right now?” So we had a blast. But I will tell you, those country boys, they can drink. They made me feel like an old lady. Like, wow. It was like, “Man, I can’t hang.” We had far too much fun and far too much whiskey.
“I hold the record for signing the most boobs in my band.” – Lzzy Hale
Speaking of fun, Halestorm’s new album is titled Into the Wild Life. So I was wondering, how wild is life on the road? Taylor, are you still welcoming fans onstage?
Momsen: I had to stop that because it got a little dangerous. I’m all for “out of control,” but it was too out of control and just started to get a little violent [laughs]. So we curbed that. Who knows if we’ll bring it back in the future, once there’s more security, but for right now, that’s a no.
What do you mean by “it got a little violent”?
Momsen: I had my hair ripped out [laughs] and, literally, I was sexually assaulted in an uncool way. A little groping aside, I can prod that off myself, but it got a little too aggressive for my liking. One of the girls literally [came at me] and she had really good aim – let me put it that way – she had really good aim with her hand. It got a little too intense for my liking, and I like my hair. I don’t really want it pulled out of my scalp. And leaving stage with a bloody scalp, it’s rock & roll, I guess, but I want some hair at the end of the tour.
Momsen: It was fun in the beginning and then it got too intense.
Hale: We did warn you in the beginning: You’re stuck with us [laughs].
Momsen: You’re surrounded.
Hale: You know, it’s funny to hear that stuff happen to Taylor. Everybody has a line. It doesn’t matter how you’re dressed onstage or what you say in your songs, that doesn’t give anybody the right to invade your personal space. You are vulnerable up there. If you bring people in, that’s part of the excitement and that’s rock & roll; you’re connecting and you bring your fans in. My fans are a little sneakier, I guess.
How are your fans sneakier, Lzzy?
Hale: A lot of girls come to our shows and a lot of them are freaking adorable and want to learn how to play guitar. Some of them that we meet outside of the buses hand us letters, so one time there’s this cute, little 17-year-old girl, and she hands me this envelope with a letter inside, and there’s something else in it. She’s like, “Open this on the bus.” It was this adorable little girl. So later, on the bus, I open up the envelope and there’s a tampon inside – it wasn’t used, it was a new tampon – and the letter stated, “I love you, and I want to be so much closer than just the front row. So would you do me a favor and the next time that that ‘time of the month’ comes, would you use this and then tweet me and tell me that you did so that I know I somehow was inside of you?” That’s actually pretty tame, but the fact that it was coming from this unexpected adorable little 17-year-old, I thought I’d be getting a letter about her first rock show, but it’s nothing like that – she gives me a tampon. It’s a true testament to how the majority of our fan base – and I say this in the most respectful and best way I can – they’re little freaks, man [laughs].
Are female fans more forward than male fans?
Hale: I hold the record for signing the most boobs in my band if that’s any indication.
Momsen: Me too!
Hale: See? Yeah, high five [laughs]!
Momsen: Actually that might not be true. Our guitar player might beat me.
Lzzy, Halestorm just released Into the Wild Life. How did you guys challenge yourselves making the record?
Hale: For lack of an intelligent answer, we kind of said fuck it and threw away everything that made us comfortable in the studio: new producer, new system, new mindset, new town. One of the goals for this record was to seriously bridge the gap between what people have seen live and what people have heard on our records, without doing a live record. We recorded all the basic tracks live, just the four of us standing in a circle in in the congregation area of this beautiful reformed church, that our producer, Jay Joyce, made into a studio. It’s scary to trust yourself and say, “OK, if this record ends up sucking, it’s because we actually suck and if it’s great, it’s because we did a great job.” But it was so incredibly freeing.
Taylor, Going to Hell came out about a year ago. Have you begun working on new music?
Momsen: I’m always writing. It’s kind of a curse: You never stop. But I need isolation to write. So the real meat of the material comes when I’m off the road. You really don’t have any alone time on tour, and you live on a bus with people. So we’re really excited to finish out this record cycle. We’ve been touring for about two years now and we’re really excited to dive into the new record.
“I’m not gonna sit here and say that I’m sane.” – Momsen
You’ve been to hell and back?
Momsen: I don’t know if we’re back yet [laughs].
What’s the best way to stay sane on the road?
Momsen: I don’t know. I don’t have that answer yet. I’m not gonna sit here and say that I’m sane. The only thing is just to stay focused on the show, because that’s what you’re there for. That’s “sane.”
Hale: I have to agree with Taylor. If you are on the road as much as she and I are, the stage is where everything makes sense. You learn to thrive in the chaos and sleep in a bunk. I just got an apartment here in Nashville, and I invested in a Queen-sized bed because I’m like, “I haven’t had a big bed since I was a kid.” I woke up this morning on one side, like, in “coffin position.” You’re so used to being on the road and having a schedule that the insanity seeps in when you’re sitting at home and there’s nothing going on that day. I remember the first time we got off one of our first big tours, I told my guys, “Go home to your girlfriends.” The next day, all my guys texted me like, “Do you wanna, like, do something? Let’s all go bowling. I can’t hang with people that live normal lives.” [Laughs] So even on days off, we still hang out with each other and our crew, because we kind of got used to that. So tour is easy; it’s real life that’s fucking insane.
So now that you’ve finally spoken, are you two ready to tour together?
Hale: Just from this conversation – getting to know you a little better, Taylor – it makes me even more excited.
Momsen: It’s gonna be great.