Don't tell Donald Trump, but there's a bunch of guys from New Zealand that made it over the border. That seemingly impenetrable border between their country and the Billboard charts, that is.
The hard rock band Like A Storm has become unlikely regulars on the Billboard Active Rock chart, and on Dec. 7, "Become The Enemy," the latest single from the trio's "Awaken The Fire" album, rocketed to No. 15 - the highest charting song by a New Zealand rock band in American history.
The group, which has toured as a support act for some of hard rock's more popular acts including Shinedown, Slash, Korn, Black Veil Brides, Alter Bridge and Three Days Grace, is about to wrap up its first proper headlining U.S. tour, appropriately named Didgeridoo Destruction.
Like A Storm features the Auckland-based brothers Chris Brooks (lead vocals, guitar, didgeridoo, keys/programming), Matt Brooks (vocals, lead guitar, keys/programming) and Kent Brooks (bass, vocals, keys/programming), as well as Los Angeles drummer Zach Wood. As the band was finishing pre-tour rehearsals in Chicago, Chris Brooks called Headlines & Global News to chat about Like A Storm's success story, why "freak" and "freedom" are essentially the same thing and how working an indigenous instrument into their metallic music has helped put the band on the map.
Can you describe the process of making the latest album "Awaken The Fire"?
It was a crazy process, man. The record was made in two parts, really. We were on tour at the time, maybe out on the Creed tour, and we put aside this time to make this record then we got offered a tour we couldn't turn down, so then we were like, OK, we're going to have to do both of them. So every night we played on stage, and then we'd go back to the hotel and load in two carts full of gear, and we'd record until 7 in the morning and then sleep until about 10 a.m., then head off to the next show. It was pretty intense. It was a great way of getting the live energy into the music. It was crazy because we never thought it would get played on the radio, so we just assumed it was something just for our fans. When it got played on the radio, we were like, maybe that is an acceptable way to make an album, I don't know. We don't have to go to a super-expensive studio.
For the second half, we wanted to do it at a lake house, somewhere on the water where we could really just have a great time while we were making it and really immerse ourselves in the music and get away from everyone and everything. So that was really, really fun. It was such a fun way to spend two weeks, and we got an album out of it.
Tell me about the inspiration behind the song "Love The Way You Hate Me."
The initial inspiration behind that song is when we were touring and we stopped in some tiny little town to get gas. So we're in some truck stop which was like a diner, and we walk in there, and soon as we do it was that typical deal where the music stops and everybody turns around and looks at us. It was safe to say we weren't from around there. Someone might have said something under their breath. Having stopped somewhere where everyone felt the need to be exactly the same as each other and nobody could do anything different, it was an incredible feeling to know that basically we didn't care and could do whatever we want. That was kind of where the lyric "You say I'm a freak/ I say I'm free" comes from. It's about being yourself, really, and who cares if you're different or who cares if someone calls you a freak? Ultimately, that's an incredible thing because you don't want to be like everyone else.
How have fans responded to that song and its message?
It was overwhelming. We couldn't believe it. We wrote that song really for ourselves. We were inspired about that moment, and Kent came up with the initial idea after that experience. And then when we had the EP and fans could hear it, so many of them would tell us how much they identified with that, and that was interesting, because I guess for us we obviously look so different, but I guess it's kind of one of those universal things, a ton of our fans and a ton of people in the world really feeling like they don't necessarily fit and they don't want to fit in. So that was cool. When we did the video for it, we had a bunch of fans come down and be zombies in the video, so they were such a huge part of that.
A very different song than that one is "Gangsta's Paradise." Why did you decide to cover the classic Coolio hit?
That song was also written about a Texas truck stop when we went there, except it was in the ghetto of Texas. No, that song, we just heard it one night, and we were writing songs that would become "Awaken The Fire," and Matt and I were like, that intro of that song is just so cool. When that string line comes in and the bass comes in, we were like, a band could do such a great hard rock/metal version of that song. And we were like, we do have a rock band. Let's see what we can do. We never thought it would get heard by anyone. We did it just almost like a guilty pleasure or a way to unwind every night after working on songs rather than watch TV or anything like that. We'd pull up that song and muck around with it for fun.
We went to New Zealand for a vacation at one point, and our friends wanted to hear some of our music we had been working on, and about the sixth song we showed them was "Gangsta's Paradise," and they were like, play that one again. And we must've played it about 20 or 30 times in a row, and they were like, man, you guys have to put this on the record. So we did, for all our badass gangstas back in New Zealand.
What type of impact has touring with bands like Creed, Shinedown, Korn and Black Veil Brides on Like A Storm's popularity?
It had a huge impact on our popularity. I guess firstly, obviously getting in front of such massive crowds. When you're doing some of the shows there are thousands and thousands of people, and when we first started out, we'd play shows to 10 people when we first came up to Canada and nobody knew who we were. Obviously the amount of fans you can make when you play to thousands and thousands, like 15,000 people as opposed to 10 people, it's certainly a much shorter road to getting people to hear about you. But also just playing with that level of band is so inspiring, getting to watch them every night and getting to see how passionate about their music that they are and how much they put into it. Ultimately that made us such a better band, so that's really how it helps in two ways.
Was there anyone from any of those headlining bands that took you under their wing so to speak and gave you some advice?
You know, Mark Tremonti has always been absolutely incredible to us. He took us out on our very first tour with Creed, and he would always hang out with us and he was really interested and was doing what he could to spread our name. And we toured with Alter Bridge numerous times and with [the band] Tremonti, too. He's definitely at the top of the list. He's really driven musically and really inspired, so it's great to see someone at that level of success that's still inspired. [Alter Bridge and Slash singer] Myles Kennedy, too, has been absolutely amazing. Basically everyone we've toured with has been really, really cool to us.
If fans buy a VIP package they can meet Like A Storm on your tour bus. If you could do that as a fan with any artist, who would it be?
Jimi Hendrix, I would love so much just to see what went on backstage. Firstly, it would be a hell of a good time, spending an evening on Jimi Hendrix's tour bus would be a pretty psychedelic journey. But also it seems like he always had a guitar in his hand so it would be incredible to listen to him play and see what he's inspired by. Metallica would be amazing, Motley Crue would be incredible, they're on their last tour and that would be awesome to see behind the scenes. Any number of bands, man.
Tell me about the didgeridoo and how you've been able to incorporate it into your music. I don't think I've heard any other hard rock bands do that.
No, we've never heard one either, which is crazy, because it sounds so awesome. We're not taking any credit for that, it's the instrument that's amazing, and it sounds so heavy, so tribal and hypnotic. Metal music and hard rock music is primal too. There's groove and aggression and that kind of thing. Basically I loved the sound of the didgeridoo, and I got one and taught myself how to play it, and then we would use it in the intro of the set, just to guarantee that everyone would stop talking and become transfixed on the stage. With "Love The Way You Hate Me," we just got to a point in the song where we didn't know what to do next, and we were like, you know what, let's just see how it sounds like if we put a didge with rock music, and we heard that, we were like, this is incredible, we can't believe that we've never heard this before. We might be the only people in the world that think it sounds great, but we think it sounds amazing. I'm glad that other people responded to it and relieved on one hand that they are captivated by it as much as we are, but it took us all by surprise.
You've had a lot of U.S. chart success. Why do you think you've been able to break though onto those charts while so many other bands haven't been able to?
I don't know, man. I wish I did because it would be easy to do again, but I have no idea. The crazy thing is, I think for us, this was our second record, so we were signed before and we had a label telling us how difficult it was to get on radio, and we had people telling us that you should try to sound like these bands that are on the radio, and you should try and write songs that you think will get played on radio. And for us that was just the least inspiring thing we'd ever heard. Having this chance to follow your dream and play music for a living is absolutely incredible, so why the hell would you waste it playing music that you don't believe in?
At that point, we kind of went, you know what, I'd love to get played on the radio, but I'd much rather play music that I like than play music that I hate that other people think is going to be successful. It's interesting that at that point, ironically, when we put a didgeridoo solo in "Love The Way You Hate Me" to ruin any sort of chance of getting played on the radio, it was the best moment since we started by getting played on the radio. It just blew us away. It's been incredible. This is our third single in a row that was Top 25, and I think it's our second one that made it to 17, and it's cool because we produced the album ourselves, just the three of us. We didn't have co-writers, we didn't do it in an expensive studio or anything like that. We just made music that we really liked and we made music that got us excited. It's been cool that a lot of these stations have picked it up and played it.
What's next for Like A Storm?
We're always working on new music. Next year we'll probably go back to New Zealand and get together and start working on stuff collectively, so that's exciting. We want to do an acoustic EP, like a version of the record but acoustic songs. We do a lot of acoustic stuff when we go into a radio station and that kind of thing, so that's a really cool way to reinterpret these songs and kind of get in touch with just the essence of the song or do it in a totally different way, but it's fun to do that and it keeps us inspired.