Sunday, April 08, 2007


This is an excerpt from an interview I conducted for Dudes Magazine, issue #9.

If you’re still unfamiliar with this hard-drinkin’, Springsteen/Thin Lizzy-lovin barroom battalion, what the fuck are you waiting for? After churning out what was considered one of the best albums of 2006, the Hold Steady hit the road to bring the kids what they’ve been waiting for: a PARTY. I was able to catch up with Craig Finn [vocals/guitar] and Tad Kubler [lead guitar] and chat about their latest release, baseball, and—of course—partying.

Getting on to the new album, Boys and Girls in America. Would you agree that this probably your most ambitious album, musically?
CRAIG: Yeah, I think its—musical is exactly what it is. One of the things I tend to concentrate on (in the past) was my vocals. And one of the things I hadn’t focused on as much in the past was what the music was doing. And so what we really tried to do was focus on the music. And this one is more of just five guys listening to each other and playing the music together. And that’s obviously an important part of music.
TAD: Oh yeah, definitely. I think that was pretty intentional. I think that we wanted to try to do something we hadn’t done before and try to grow a little bit as a band. Also, Franz and Bobby both came in to Separation Sunday kinda right before we went into the studio. So, with all the touring we did up until this album, those two obviously brought a bunch to it. And on top of that, Franz is such a great musician. He and I sat down and did a lot of the arrangements together and he’s a really big part of the writing process.

Was there anything in particular you guys did this time around, in terms of your approach to this record?
TAD: One thing that I tried to do was practice these exercises that would improve areas of my playing that I thought I could improve. And I kinda came up with a lot parts for songs in doing that, which I knew in the back of my mind would probably help me do that, but we’ll just say it was serendipitous. And then me bringing pieces in to Franz and then us sitting down and working out arrangements really worked for us. Where as with Separation Sunday it was more just Craig and I bringing in parts and going from there. Basically, we wrote this one a lot more as a band. Also, I think we had a really good idea, from the beginning, of what Craig wanted to kind of be the narrative theme for the record. Its not a linear story like the last one was, but all the songs do touch on the particular them of boys and girls in America.
CRAIG: Well, I think one of the big things was—we’ve used producers before, but this time we were more interested in finding an “outside” producer. Someone that wasn’t necessarily a peer of ours. The relationship was purely based on Him, and the records he produced.

This is John Agnello, correct?
CRAIG: Exactly. He was super enthusiastic about it. We talked to a lot of different producers and his name continued to come up. In seeing our band live you realize how much we communicate to each other, on stage while we’re playing. He saw that connection we have live and one thing he wanted to do was make an effort to create that kind of space in the studio where its not only physically comfortable, but mentally as well. We tracked a lot of this together, whereas with Separation Study we did a lot more of the tracks individually.

Your lyrics tend to illustrate incidents from your past. Are most of these ideas recollections from your past, or are a lot of them drawn from everyday occurrences.
CRAIG: I think the more you drift a certain distance away from being 17 or 19, the more you understand being 17 or 19 than you did when being that age. And so a lot of its influenced by that and being able to wrap your head around that time. A lot of these incidents are necessarily things that happen to me, one-on-one with other people. But they are the types of things that would happen when I was growing up. It has certainly influenced my real life, its not just in the recordings.

What kind of stuff inspires you on a day-to-day basis in writing?
CRAIG: I think the stuff I tend to write more about is stuff that just comes up in conversation that I find funny. You know, a lot of the things I write down are mostly funny, to me anyways. I like to draw influences from just signs on the street or bits of conversation that I pick up and find humorous. Stuff like that.

Tell me this, if The Hold Steady were the Minnesota Twins, who would be each player.
CRAIG: That’s a tough one! I’d say Bobby would be Nick Punto—our drummer, because he kinda small. Galen would probably be…maybe Joe Nathan cos he’s kinda rock solid. And a, Franz would Joe Mauer because he has the most facial hair. Tad would be Morneau because he—I don’t know, just because he’s the loudest and probably the most powerful.

Couldn’t he be Kuble just for name similarity’s sake? [Tad’s last name is Kubler]
Oh yeah, I forgot about that. But he doesn’t play that much, so I won’t do that to Tad. And for me, I think I’d be Santana just because I wanna be Johan Santana.

You guys were just featured in recent Rolling Stone where they eluded to a story about when you were still playing with your previous band, Lifter Puller, and you had an opportunity to kick it with Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. Can you tell us a little more about that?
CRAIG: Well Joe Strummer came to a show at the 400 Bar, in Minneapolis. He came with Billie Joe Armstrong, who we knew because he married this girl from the Twin Cities. And he walked in and I thought he was just going to stay for a song or two. Well he ends up staying for the whole set and he really enjoyed it. And eventually he ended up getting his band of the bus because he wanted to show them what a rock’n’roll band looked like. And so all these sleepy Brits come strolling into the club. And then he hung out with us for about an hour or an hour and a half after the show. It was maybe the best night of my life. He kissed me on the lips and we made him speak Spanish a bunch.

You guys have the reputation of being a hard partying bar band. I’ve read, and heard, a lot of other artists talk about how they don’t drink or get high before their shows. What makes them such pussies and you guys badasses?

TAD: Well, you gotta dance with who brought ya. And that’s just kinda how we roll. It’s not something we put too much thought into. Its just kinda like, this is how we have a good time. And I don’t want to put a huge emphasis on the fact that we like to get fucked up. I have a two-year-old daughter and I like to think that run a band that’s been fairly successful. There are a lot of responsibilities that go along with this. But you know what, when its happy hour, its happy hour. And that’s that!


1 comment:

Eric said...

Great interview.