By Chris Hammond
Formed back in 2004, Brooklyn band ‘The Hold Steady’ have quickly cemented their position as the street wise voice of articulate America. Lead singer Craig Finn’s wry, perceptive lyrics and wily sense of humour almost instantly marked the group out as being something a little different, the fact they could rock as well as Springsteen was just another bonus for music fans looking for the complete package.
Last year’s ‘Heaven is Whenever’ (their fifth studio album) was the group’s biggest US chart success to date. Dealing once more with everyday triumphs and failures, it seemed to strike a chord with a public experiencing the exact same things in their day-today life. Reflecting the consequences of the recession though doesn’t seem to have been the intention of lead singer Craig Finn, as he explains; “I wouldn’t say it’s affecting my music, but I think there’s a combination of becoming older and wiser. You know I’m 39 years old now, and you just get more in touch with these kinds of things. But also, we’ve travelled so much over the past few years you kind of learn more about your place in the world. You know how people see you as an American and whatnot. I think that affects us also.”
With a hefty tour of Britain and Australia only a matter of weeks away Craig and his bandmates are resting up in their respective flats. Something needed but not always entirely healthy.“Well the political climate is pretty crazy with this shooting in Arizona. It’s an interesting time. Coupled with that we’ve had a lot of snow, so basically I’ve been in my apartment obsessing over the television for the past few days. In a way I’m kind of needing to go on tour to help me get some perspective.”
Relative latecomers to musical success, ‘The Hold Steady’ have shown that there is hope for those disheartened by the highly disposable nature of modern music. That’s not to say the group are dismissive of those who find success early in their career, they just seem to appreciate that with experience comes added bonuses. “I definitely feel there’s a perspective there. Even if you’re writing a song about someone being 18 you at least kind of know what’s funny about being 18 and what’s not. You’ve obviously got some distance on it but you can see. I also think that just to be in a band and being a little bit older makes us that little bit more grateful for all the good things that have happened. I have a lot of gratitude for having the ability to play music and being able to travel. I think I’ve got a much better perspective on the whole thing compared with how I’d be if I was 22.”
Perspective and gratefulness are two subjects that crop up in conversation with Craig quite a bit. Since their debut ‘Almost Killed Me’ was released to rave reviews, the band’s ascent has been both impressive but, in terms of talent, deserved. However, knowing how unforgiving the industry is, Craig knows they need to make hay whilst the sun shines and at the moment that involves bringing their music to as wide a group of listeners as possible. Whilst it took them a couple of years before they were given an opportunity to tour the UK, the country is now a firm favourite. Glasgow in particular is somewhere they’re looking forward to revisiting. “When we first came over the audience’s size and enthusiasm quickly caught up with what we were used to in the US.
So it’s something we always look forward to and we always have good times there. We’ve been in Glasgow a couple of times but we’ve not been there in a few years. As well as playing there we’ve had time off in Glasgow too so we’ve spent a couple of days in the city. There were some great nights hanging out and we’re friendly with Frightened Rabbit so that’s pretty cool. I’m looking forward to getting back even though I think we’re probably just there for the night.”
Whilst ‘The Hold Steady’ might have a lot to celebrate, they’re also not for taking things easy. 2011 looks to be a big year for them, though fans looking for a follow up to ‘Heaven is Whenever’ might need to wait a little longer than usual explains Craig; “We’re pretty much right at the point where we’re ready to work on new materiel. It’d be great if we had a few new songs ready for when we go on tour. We’re going to be getting together for rehearsals before we go on tour this month so we’re kind of looking to wrap up the touring and get going with some new material. We’ve worked at a really quick pace for the last five years so I think we’ll need to ease into this next album a little bit. We’ve put out five albums in seven years, working really hard to do that, so maybe we’ll take a bit more time with our next one.”
Visit www.theholdsteady.net for their latest songs and news.