Hellyeah’s Vinnie Paul and Chad Gray Talk ‘Band of Brothers,’ Touring + More
On July 17, Hellyeah released their third studio album, ‘Band of Brothers.’ In its first week of release, the album landed at No. 19 on the Billboard 200 album chart. To help them celebrate the release of their heaviest record to date — and because we’ll make any excuse to chat with them — we recently caught up with vocalist Chad Gray and drummer Vinnie Paul to talk all things ‘Band of Brothers.’ We covered a lot of other ground, too, including what the guys can’t live without when they’re on the road.
Congratulations on the release of ‘Band of Brothers.’ How does it feel to have it in the hands of the masses?
Chad Gray (vocalist): Amazing.
Vinnie Paul (drummer): It’s great, man. It was finished basically since January. We’ve been around the world already once, we’ve been to Australia, Japan, the United States and now we’re going back through it all again.
The album is definitely your hardest stuff to date, I know I’m not the first person to tell you that. Why did you decide to take ‘Band of Brothers’ to such a heavy level?
CG: We just needed to get back to what we do, you know what I mean? We’ve just been toying around with new sounds, not only stylistically but literally the sounds. We were going the opposite way of everything we’ve done in the past. Songs like ‘Alcohaulin’ Ass,’ ‘Pole Rider’ and ‘Hell of a Time,’ they don’t really fit in with Mudvayne, Damageplan, Nothingface or Pantera. We wanted to explore that side of ourselves. Greg [Tribbett, guitarist] and I were doing Mudvayne simultaneously. We were doing Mudvayne, Hellyeah, Mudvayne, Hellyeah. Mudvayne’s on hiatus now. We just needed it. We all needed to balance our lives a bit, get back to what we do best, which is write metal records. It was an easier record for us to write. Stepping outside of the box is harder than doing what comes natural to you. We’re really, really happy with it. We just wanted to be ourselves and bring everything we’ve done individually to the Hellyeah table finally. In a sense, it’s kind of our first record.
When you listen to the record, you definitely hear bits and pieces from each of your past influences.
CG: That’s who we are. It’s not like we’re trying to steal something from those bands or anything. It’s completely honest. It’s overly honest. If I hear a melody or lyrics come into my head, I don’t say, “Oh no, that sounds too much like Mudvayne,” which is actually what I was doing on the first two records. [Vinnie’s] drum sound now is more focused. It’s got that punchy, kick-drum sound.
VP: It’s the Vinnie Paul sound. The first two records I really tried to stray away from that, to create a different entity. It felt really good this time around for us to bring everything we’ve done in the past into the mix. That’s how you get ‘Band of Brothers.’
On the title track of the album, you sing about having each others backs. What was the inspiration for that tune?
CG: We’ve always felt like the underdogs. Being in Hellyeah, you hear all the mutterings of, “When is Mudvayne going to do this?” or “When is Pantera going to do a reunion?” As Hellyeah, we all felt like underdogs. If you go into battle as underdogs, there are five dudes against however many. And you know, you’re going to look out for one another. Bringing our styles and influences back kind of silences that s— and allows Hellyeah to be its own thing.
You can say people mutter about the band, but the term supergroup is still thrown around about you and the band. Three records into it, what does that mean to you to have people consider you a supergroup?
VP: I think we just hit our stride. Three albums and we’ve know each other for six years now. We’ve done a ton of touring. We’re building a legacy for Hellyeah right now. We’re moving forward.
CG: When you bring up the term supergroup right now, I feel about the same way as when I first heard it. It doesn’t matter. Let’s just get in a room and see if we can write music together. A lot of the supergroups can’t get out of their own way and get a song written, let alone anything that has any magic to it. You’ve got to be vulnerable with the people you play with, you know? Here’s my heart, do you want to embrace it? I think that’s how we were when we got in a room. We just wanted to see if we had any musical chemistry together, and within 20 days we had a record.
When you first got into that room together, did you have any idea that Hellyeah would be as big as it is now?
VP: For me, it was my only focus. I was happy to be in a band again and to have these guys playing music. I had been through a horrific, tragic thing that I didn’t think I would ever recover from. The music was really important, man. They really helped me be able to live again.
When Loudwire premiered ‘Drink Drank Drunk,’ it exploded with our fans. It sounds like an anthem for Hellyeah. Where does the song come from?
CG: It started with the riff from ‘War in Me’ and that just carried into the record. I didn’t want to stifle that, you know, we don’t really think about what we do. Our reputation precedes us as being a bit of a party band and I felt like this song was a good way to keep that party vibe but with a heavier track. It was a song that was more fitting musically for the record. The lyrics came to me. You’ve got ‘Drink Drank Drunk.’
VP: It’s the heaviest party song ever. Hellagroove, great riffs, everything about it is just us, 100%.
What’s one thing you guys can’t live without on tour?
CG: [Laughs] Alcohol.
VP: Alcohol and ass! Alcohol definitely. We need our gear, too. [Laughs] That might help us play a show. And you know, you need more gambling, more booze and more p—y!
What do you miss most when you’re out on the road?
VP: To me, nothing. I love being out on the road. The road to me is home.
CG: I love to be on the road, too. But I tell you what, 11 dudes on a tour bus, sometimes it’s nice to get into a hotel room. I really appreciate that. I’m a big recluse. If I get a room, I won’t leave. I’ll order room service, I’ll just stay in my room. I appreciate my alone time and my down time. I just sit in my room and chill. I have time to catch up on TV shows, you know? That’s what I like about going home.
I feel like I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask Chad what the future of Mudvayne looks like.
CG: I don’t know. That’s not my focus now. I’ve got a new record with Hellyeah. That’s the last f—ing thing on my mind right now. Writing the record, being on the road, going forward I know it’s going to be at least a year or 18 months of touring with this band. We want to be a worldwide presence. If we’re releasing a record somewhere, we’re going to go there and support it. We need to do whatever we have to do to get around the f—ing world. It’s an important part of the energy. For us to show up and play the music is very, very important to people. That’s how great things happen. You’ve got to service the people who take care of you.
Congratulations again on ‘Band of Brothers.’ What’s next for Hellyeah?
CG: Touring, touring, touring, touring. Well, with a few little breaks here and there. I have to stay caught up on my TV shows.