Arejay Hale didn't have a speech ready when he was sitting in his seat at LA's Staples Center back in February.
The drummer had no inclination that his band, Halestorm, would go home with the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Grammy, an award never given to a female-fronted band.
"We had no clue. You can probably see it in our faces when we get up to the podium. We're like, what the [expletive] are we doing here?" he says, cracking up. "We were so prepared to lose. They threw us a bone, so to speak, cause we're the new kids. I had my money on either Lamb of God or Anthrax or Iron Maiden or Megadeth, any one of them besides us. We as a band are nowhere near as metal as Lamb of God or Anthrax or ..."
Halestorm, which plays Stage AE Friday, won for "Love Bites ... (So Do I)," a song from the band's second album, "The Strange Case of ... ." It's a thrashy hard rocker sung by Arejay's big sister Lzzy, who has Pat Benatar range and Hole/L7 aggression.
The siblings grew up in Red Lion, York County, with their parents turning them on to classic rock like The Who and Led Zeppelin, whose drummers he tried to emulate. They started playing together as small kids -- Arejay on drums, Lzzy on a small keyboard, prior to her guitar lessons -- and it got more serious in their tweens, beginning with a big jam at the Schuylkill County Fair.
"We were pretty young, and it was a talent show for kids on this little stage next to a barn, with like hay bailing and pig grabbing and a key lime pie contest," he says, with a laugh. "We lived in a very backwoods area of Pennsylvania, pretty much a perfect blend of redneck and Amish. It was very weird, very cool though, we loved it. So we play in this one talent show and there was a bunch of little kids. There was one kid who was singing 'I've Got No Strings' from 'Pinocchio' and one kid singing like 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow,' and we get up there and play our psychedelic rock from [our] parents' generation that we were raised on, and I think we scared the other parents half to death.
"But we still won third place, we lost to this tap-dancing cowgirl, and we still have the trophy, we have it on the mantel right next to our Grammy. That's the only other time we actually won an award for our music. We just loved playing on stage and we caught the addiction early."
The original version of the band, formed in 1998, had their dad on bass. The current lineup with guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith took shape in 2004, just a year before the band was signed to Atlantic, where it debuted with a self-titled album in 2009.
Since signing, Halestorm has been a constant road warrior, with tours including Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival, Carnival of Madness and Taste of Chaos. Touring for three years after the first album had an impact on the follow-up, which features two songs about fans, "Rock Show" and "Freak Like Me."
" 'Freak Like Me' was inspired by all the fans we met at all the major festivals all over the world. After experiencing that and seeing all these fans, living in tents, I don't even know if they're eating food, like they're just drinking beer and rocking out and moshing in knee deep mud -- rain or shine, they're there to rock it out and give it 100 percent. We feel like we're crazy to be doing this for a living, but those people are even more crazy to be out there in the pit. We have so much respect for those people."
On the more personal side is "I Miss the Misery," written in part about their parents' divorce.
"[It's] a dear one in my heart," he says. "We were writing the song and throwing ideas out and I was going through a bad breakup at the time and my parents were divorcing -- which was fine, I'm actually happy for them, they're both separate, they're both happy. But while I was going through this bad breakup with this girl I was really, really into, I found myself on Facebook kind of trolling the Internet and looking up my ex and seeing like, 'What is she up to? What?! Water-skiing?! She never waterskied with me!' That kind of stuff, and it kind of made me realize that I was addicted to feeling terrible."
Mr. Hale -- who was also blown away to have won the Revolver Golden Gods Best Drummer Award over a nominee list that included Rush's Neil Peart -- says he recorded it in one take, hitting the drums as hard as he could, unconcerned about fills or keeping proper time.
"Every time we play that song I get to get that frustration out, it's kind of a big release for me. And I encourage people who come up to me [with personal issues] to channel their frustration into something creative like writing music or sports or writing, acting, movie-making, whatever you want to do. As long as you channel your frustration into something creative, it's so much more liberating and beneficial. It makes you feel so much better."
Scott Mervis: email@example.com; 412-263-2576. Twitter: scottmervis_pg.