While Iowa's chilly wintery weather may be a foreign concept to those from Southern California, two Los Angeles-based groups consider traveling to Sioux City to share music well worth bearing the cold. Singer-songwriter Hana Pestle and metal band Burn Halo will both perform Friday night, Pestle at Morningside College and Burn Halo at the Chesterfield, respectively. For both groups this will be their first performance in Sioux City.
She's got the drive to succeed
Hana Pestle isn't afraid to drive alone. In fact, for many of her college concert tour dates, she vrooms from state to state very much by herself.
"I travel around in a big van -- sometimes for two months," Pestle explained in a phone interview. "But sometimes I'll have my best friend or boyfriend with me too. While it is grueling, it's all so worth it and I love it; I've always loved road trips."
Citing the fact she gets to make so many friends at each concert date for being the reason it's so worth it, Pestle is grateful for the opportunity to perform. Stopping at Morningside College Friday, one of the first stops on the second leg of her tour, she'll play solo -- no backup band or anything, just the way she prefers it.
Pestle was just 16 when her vocal talents and guitar pedigree were discovered by producers Ben Moody (co-founder of Evanescence) and Michael "Fish" Herring. Playing to crowds around her home state of Montana for three years prior to being asked by the pair to come to Los Angeles in 2005, Pestle was awestruck and honored to be considered for a record deal.
"It was a dream come true that they wanted me to come out to L.A.," Pestle confessed. "I thought ‘Is this real life?' Ben and Michael were really sweet -- they wanted to develop my sound. They spent a year writing and talking about the sound and what I liked best."
Describing the experience as feeling right at home, Pestle said she was never made to feel intimidated. Because Moody and Herring took so long to help cultivate her (her first full-length album, "This Way" came out in 2009), Pestle, now 22, feels she has grown into a true singer-songwriter.
"I have a hand in all of my songs," Pestle said of her writing process. "Most of my songs I bring to the table and [Moody and Herring] kind of help me edit it and some are just me."
Pestle is the first to admit her songs, many seemingly coming from a place of heartbreak, are based in real-life.
"With my first album I had just gotten over my first really big relationship," Pestle explained. "While I was writing it we broke up. A lot of the relationship stuff I talk about is from personal experience, but a lot of my songs are fictionalized versions of what happened - taking from literature and movies to have a jumping off point."
Her recently released EP "For the Sky" shows a much lyrically happier Pestle, which probably has to do with the fact she is now dating Moody.
"We are incredibly happy," Pestle admitted. "We're best friends and we help each other get through it."
Officially living in L.A. for a few years now, ("That's where I have an actual closet,") Pestle said she's never had a problem staying out of the party scene there.
"I haven't taken a drop of alcohol or smoked anything in my life," Pestle said. "I go out to parties all the time but both of my parents have been sober 23 years and there's depression in my family. I feel like I don't need to open that box."
And why would she when she's trying to focus on her career? Already she's sung backup vocals to Celine Dion and has toured with Blues Traveler, Collective Soul, Joshua Radin, Sister Hazel, Graham Colton and Jon McLaughlin.
Next up, Pestle wants to release another EP.
"I like the idea of releasing fewer songs more often," she said. "Who knows? I may change my mind. Once this tour is done I will regroup and decide if I was to do a CD and EP; I'm just sick of waiting. I waited for so long for my first album to be released."
In the meantime, performing at colleges across the country has caught up with her. She's currently taking online courses from Berklee School of Music and furthering her musical appreciation.
"Finally, it feels like my brain is growing instead of shrinking," she said. "Last year I took some summer courses at UCLA and that was so much fun. After being out of school for a few years it felt like my brain was shrinking. I think throughout my life I'm just going to keep learning. That's the goal anyway. "
Angels of metal fly to Chesterfield
December was a hard month for the Los Angeles-based metal group Burn Halo, which led to the cancellation of its Chesterfield gig that month. Thankfully, the show was quickly re-slated for this Friday.
So why the delay?
"We had a change in lineup that came from out of nowhere -- our drummer quit," explained lead singer James Hart in a phone interview last week. "And with him went the bass player and rhythm guitarist."
Luckily for Hart, he wasn't in a world of hurt after three of the five members of his group quit. There was someone waiting in the wings. Drummer Sonny Tremblay had approached Hart a few years ago about the possibility of being in the band, but at the time there was already a drummer.
"When the other guys left ... Sonny was the first person we called," Hart remembered.
From there Hart and band guitarist Joey Roxx called friends in the L.A. area, and within a few week's time the guys had a brand new band put together. Now, the group is ready for its first tour ever, which began earlier this month.
"For sure we're excited to play Sioux City," Hart said. "I think we've done Sioux Falls -- we've done a lot of work in other parts of Iowa, but never Sioux City."
Hart alone has traveled around the world; first with his band - metal group Eighteen Visions - and then as a solo artist. But soon, Hart realized it was a lot easier to market a full band than just himself and Burn Halo was born. Hart strived to make the sound of the new group different than straight heavy metal.
"When I was Eighteen Visions - we were a screaming metal band before anything," Hart explained. "I grew up a fan of ‘90s rock and I always liked the delivery of a lot of singers and I wanted to try those things out too."
With this in mind, Hart described Burn Halo's sound as being metal with a heavy rock influence - not just screaming. And truly, one can understand every word Hart enunciates on his songs.
In the band's 2011 release "Up From the Ashes," much of the music was a group effort.
"It was a group effort -- we all brought things to the table," Hart said. "I would write and arrange lyrics and melody. I'm the guy who tells everyone how the song should fit - the editor of sorts."
From an early age Hart said he felt a connection to the likes of metal juggernauts like Pantera and Metallica.
"I think I was an angry kid," Hart said. "Most of the kids I hung out with were and we connected to a lot of the early metal music - the stuff with a positive message but sounded aggressive and was full of angst."
While he admitted he's not very talented at the guitar, singing always came naturally to Hart. Along with singing vocals came and ability to write them.
Hart admitted all of the lyrics he writes resonate with things that really did happen - perhaps just not to him. Take the catchy song "Dirty Little Girl" with lyrics that bitingly say "Dirty little girl don't care about her reputation/ She goes hard, moves fast and she's never gonna turn around/ She's a party on her own and you never need an invitation/ So come on in cause she's never gonna turn you down," -- according to Hart there is really a dirty little girl.
"She dated a good friend of mine and I don't know how the term ‘dirty little girl' got thrown around but I just went to town once we came up with it," Hart said.
While the song seems to be all about the party life, Hart said he's more laid back.
"We travel by van/trailer while out on tour and we try to keep things in good spirits," Hart said. "I'm pretty laid back and before the other guys left there was a lot of partying which I wasn't accustomed too."
So what can be expected of the new lineup's show?
"I think we bring a lot of energy to whatever stage we're on," Hart expressed. "We connect on a personal level and we bring intensity -- people connect to that raw energy we possess."