Critical Writings

Interviews: MUSIC

The Hold Steady

When The Hold Steady make it back here for a promised but as yet unconfirmed date in early December, it’ll be their fourth visit to these shores this year, after a hot house set in the old Temple Bar Music Centre in February, a raved-about appearance at Oxegen, and a support slot to The Stones at Slane. Makers of one of the key albums of the year, Boys and Girls in America (reviewed in the March issue), their first two albums Almost Killed Me and Separation Sunday have just been made available for the first time on this side of the Atlantic. When I spoke to Craig Finn the day after Slane, the band’s singer and lyricist was just back from a jog around Limerick, where they were playing that night.

“It’s been quite a year for you, Craig. Are you enjoying yourself?”

“We’re enjoying everything. We always have such a good time on stage. And being asked to support The Stones is such an honour.”

“The characters who populate your songs, Charlemagne, Gideon and Holly, were they people you knew, or are they based on people you knew, or are they convenient composites?”




“They’re composites of people I knew. People do dumb things during those late teenage years, and often they have more social mobility at that age. Writing about them is partly nostalgia, but it’s also a way of getting perspective on those experiences. But the new songs aren’t heavily reliant on those characters.”

I’m disappointed that, although lead single ‘Stuck Between Stations’ references John Berryman, Finn admits he has never actually read the great poet, and doesn’t have a favourite Dreamsong: ‘He’s more a cultural icon for Minneapolis and the Mississippi River.”

“Why do you repeat phrases from one song to another?”

“It’s kind of a way to create your own lexicon, even if it’s a bit stupid. It’s a way of reiterating things, like rappers.’

“You’re frequently compared with Springsteen’s E Street Band, and associated with a blue collar aesthetic…”

“Well, I wasn’t raised in a blue collar family. But we are a hard working band…”

“Finally, why is tasteless Budweiser your on-stage beer drink of choice?”

“Because I can keep count. I know when I’ve had four and when I’ve had six. Sometimes I want to drink 14, and that’s okay, since it’s mostly just water. When we’re not touring I drink stronger beers.”

Look out for The Hold Steady, when they return “after Thanksgiving.”

First published in Magill, October 2007














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