The Hold Steady
|Origin||Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.|
|Genres||Alternative rock, indie rock, heartland rock, post-punk revival|
|Labels||Frenchkiss, Vagrant, Full Time Hobby, Washington Square/Razor & Tie|
|Past members||Judd Counsell|
The Hold Steady is an American rock band originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, now based in Brooklyn, New York, formed in 2003. The band consists of Craig Finn (vocals, guitar), Tad Kubler (guitar), Galen Polivka (bass), Bobby Drake (drums), Franz Nicolay (keyboards) and Steve Selvidge (guitar). Noted for their "lyrically dense storytelling," and classic rock influences, the band's narrative-based songs frequently address themes such as drug addiction, religion and redemption, and often feature recurring characters based within the city of Minneapolis.
Formed four years following the break-up of Finn and Kubler's former band, Lifter Puller, The Hold Steady released the debut album Almost Killed Me in 2004. They came to prominence with the release of their third studio album, Boys and Girls in America, in 2006. In 2010, keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Franz Nicolay left the band prior to the recording of their fifth studio album, Heaven Is Whenever (2010). During the band's subsequent tour, the band became a five piece, once more, with the addition of guitarist Steve Selvidge. The band released their sixth LP, Teeth Dreams, on March 25, 2014.
Nicolay re-joined the band on May 4, 2016, and the band has since embarked on several concert residencies in the US and the UK. To coincide with each event, The Hold Steady released stand-alone singles, marking the first recorded material of the six-piece line-up. Working with producer Josh Kaufman, the band released their seventh album, Thrashing Thru the Passion, in 2019, followed by Open Door Policy in 2021.
Early career, Almost Killed Me and Separation Sunday (2003–2005)
In 2003, Minnesota-raised singer, writer, and guitarist Craig Finn and New York City bartender and bassist Galen Polivka began talking about starting a band. Finn and lead guitarist Tad Kubler (both formerly of Lifter Puller) developed the idea of The Hold Steady when, while watching The Band concert film The Last Waltz, Finn asked Kubler, "Dude, why aren't there any bands like this anymore?" The Hold Steady's 2004 debut album Almost Killed Me, released on Frenchkiss Records, was a sleeper hit among music critics, reaching No. 31 in the Pazz & Jop critics poll that year, an achievement which Finn described as "like being nominated for an Oscar or something." In May 2005, they were the first rock band to grace the front page of The Village Voice in 15 years. They were Blender's 2006 "Band of the Year".
The band released its second album, Separation Sunday, on May 3, 2005. The album was a loose concept album following the exploits of a character named "Holly" (short for "Hallelujah") and her quest to find a balance between Catholicism and rock and roll through drugs and a metaphorical resurrection. The album was critically lauded, and its religious overtones were picked up by many critics, such as Joe Gross of the Village Voice, who dubbed it "the most egregiously American Catholic album since X's Under the Big Black Sun, Springsteen's Tunnel of Love, or that Jewish new waver Billy Joel's The Stranger."
Boys and Girls in America (2006–2007)
After Separation Sunday, the band moved from the Frenchkiss Records imprint to Vagrant Records. Released October 3, 2006, Boys and Girls in America was ranked No. 8 on the Rolling Stone Best Albums of 2006 list, and first by The A.V. Club. Pitchfork Media's Scott Plagenhoff wrote of the album, "[Craig Finn] not only has a commanding, rousing voice but he also says something worth hearing, displaying gifts for both scope and depth that are all too rare in contemporary rock — indie or mainstream." In 2006, they released a music video for "Chips Ahoy", directed by Moh Azima and starring Avital Ash. In 2007, the band recorded a modified version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" to be played during the seventh-inning stretch at Minnesota Twins home games. They also contributed a cover of the Bob Dylan and The Hawks/The Band song Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? to the motion picture I'm Not There.
Stay Positive (2008–2009)
The band's fourth album, Stay Positive, was released in the UK on July 14, 2008, and in the U.S. on July 15. The album was recorded in Hoboken, New Jersey and Wild Arctic studio in Queens, New York with producer John Agnello during January and February that year. Guests on the sessions included Ben Nichols from Lucero, J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., Emilyn Brodsky, and Doug Gillard, who played guitar in Guided By Voices. Finn has said that he believes the album "captures a band hitting their creative peak, as well as enjoying each other's creativity and company." The album is more expansive than previous releases, including talk-box solos, harpsichord, and tuneful vocals (the notoriously gruff-voiced Finn started taking voice lessons). "There are some bands that do five records that all sound similar," says guitarist Tad Kubler. "We've tried to avoid that." Many familiar elements – sing-along choruses, extended piano and guitar solos and lyrics that deal with faith, crime, rumor, loss and love – remain.
Nicolay's departure, Heaven Is Whenever and the addition of Selvidge (2010–2011)
On January 20, 2010, Franz Nicolay confirmed on his official website that he had left the band. Regarding his departure, vocalist and guitarist Craig Finn stated: "Franz is a real ambitious guy, and I think he wanted to do a lot of different things, and we want to really follow this one Hold Steady thing to its logical end. And it takes up a lot of time. It was an amicable departure, and I think we all wish him the best. He’ll do a lot of interesting, cool things."
Nicolay had said that he considered his work with the Hold Steady to be completed, saying "I’m proud of the work we did together. In the end, I felt I completed the work I needed to do with them. I’d prefer to think of it as a closed book."
The band's subsequent tour featured additional musicians Steve Selvidge, formerly of Big Ass Truck and Lucero, on guitar and Dan Neustadt, of In Cadeo and The World/Inferno Friendship Society. Neustadt had previously played keyboards on Heaven is Whenever, but eventually left the touring band by 2011.
In 2011, Selvidge was added to the band's official line-up, with Craig Finn stating, "We added [Steve Selvidge], we are a five piece. We are rolling without keys right now. We did some shows without keys and we really liked it. It sort of opened things up for us. We have two pretty amazing guitar players in our band, and it's really fun to have that space and spread out. They can sort of work against each other/with each other. Steve's been a great addition to the band. We came across Steve many years ago and we always kind of said, 'Man, if things open up and we can get him in the band, we want him.' [...] Steve, lives in Memphis. So wherever we record this time, someone's not going to be at home."
In July 2011, during a five-month break from the band, Craig Finn recorded a solo album, entitled Clear Heart Full Eyes, which was subsequently released in January 2012.
The band recorded a track for the Game of Thrones episode "Walk of Punishment", entitled "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", and released it, alongside a new track, "Criminal Fingers", for Record Store Day 2013. Regarding the release, guitarist Tad Kubler stated, "Steve [Selvidge] – our guitar player wasn’t in the band when we did the last record so we haven’t formally released anything that he’s played on – other than an iTunes session or something like that. Having been away for a few years, we thought this would be a great opportunity to reintroduce the newest version of the band."
Teeth Dreams (2014–2015)
On January 8, 2014, The Hold Steady announced the release of their sixth LP entitled Teeth Dreams. The album was released on March 25 via Washington Square, a new imprint of record label Razor & Tie. In addition, the band announced the release of a covers EP entitled RAGS, whose proceeds go towards the K + L Guardian Foundation to benefit the children of deceased super fan Mike "Jersey Mike" Van Jura.
Nicolay's return, concert residencies, and Thrashing Thru the Passion (2016–2019)
In 2016, Nicolay rejoined the band, expanding its lineup to a six-piece. The band soon began performing three-night residencies in specific cities, as opposed to embarking on full tours. In 2016, they performed residencies in Chicago and Brooklyn, and returned to both the following year for the named events, Chicago Seemed Wired Last Night and Massive Nights, before performing over three nights in London for Boys & Girls in London in 2018.
In late 2017, to coincide with the band's 2017 Massive Nights residency, the band released two new songs, "Entitlement Crew" and "Snake in the Shower", with two further tracks, "Eureka" and "Esther", from the same recording sessions accompanying Boys & Girls in London. The recordings were the first to feature the full six-person Hold Steady line-up and were produced by Josh Kaufman, who had worked with Craig Finn on his solo material. The band continued to record and release Kaufman-produced singles with throughout 2018 and 2019, with each release coinciding with a concert residency.
On June 18, 2019, the band announced their seventh album, Thrashing Thru the Passion, which would collect several of the previously released singles alongside new Kaufman-produced recordings. The album was released on August 16, 2019, via Frenchkiss Records.
Open Door Policy (2020–present)
On December 21, 2020, the band announced their eighth studio album, Open Door Policy, which was released on February 19, 2021. Released to critical acclaim, it was their first Billboard top-ten record, receiving end-of-year accolades from AllMusic, Uncut, Double J and God is in the TV by appearing on their top albums of 2021 lists.
In an interview with Pitchfork Media, Craig Finn outlined the band's influences:
Growing up in Minneapolis, Hüsker Dü was a huge band. I always thought Grant Hart was the better songwriter, and his lyrics were very specific. Bob Mould kind of favored vague lyrics. But as far as detail-oriented songwriters, more contemporary... certainly Bruce Springsteen, Jim Carroll, John Darnielle from The Mountain Goats. A lot of hip-hop really inspires me. My absolute favorite stuff is Brother Ali from Rhymesayers. Atmosphere, obviously. Things like Aesop Rock, Sage Francis, Murs, all those guys. Even Jay-Z. Hip-hop is so much about lyrics, and as a lyricist it's hard not to be inspired by it.
The Hold Steady have received almost universal praise by the press for their performances and early records. Their more recent releases have seen a slight decline in their reception. The Hold Steady appeared in the Season 3 finale episode of Showtime's Billions series as themselves performing at a party for Axe Capital.
The Hold Steady has been honored with a star on the outside mural of the Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue, recognizing performers that have played sold-out shows or have otherwise demonstrated a major contribution to the culture at the iconic venue. Receiving a star "might be the most prestigious public honor an artist can receive in Minneapolis," according to journalist Steve Marsh. Kubler and Finn's previous group Lifter Puller also has a star.
- Craig Finn – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (2003–present)
- Tad Kubler – lead guitar, backing vocals (2003–present), keyboards, piano (2010–2016)
- Galen Polivka – bass guitar (2003–present)
- Bobby Drake – drums, percussion (2005–present)
- Franz Nicolay – piano, keyboards, accordion, harmonica, backing vocals (2005–2010; 2016–present)
- Steve Selvidge – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2010–present)
- Judd Counsell – drums (2003–2005)
Former touring members
- Dan Neustadt – keyboards (2010)
- Almost Killed Me (2004)
- Separation Sunday (2005)
- Boys and Girls in America (2006) (US No. 124, UK No. 84)
- Stay Positive (2008) (US No. 30, UK No. 15)
- Heaven Is Whenever (2010) (US No. 26, UK No. 45)
- Teeth Dreams (2014) (US No. 28, UK No. 50)
- Thrashing Thru the Passion (2019)
- Open Door Policy (2021)
- The Price of Progress (2023)
- A Positive Rage (2009)
- The Virgin Digital Sessions (2005)
- Live at Lollapalooza 2006: The Hold Steady (2006)
- Stuck Between Stations — EP (2007)
- Live at Fingerprints (2007)
- iTunes Live from Soho (2011)
- RAGS (2014)
- Four on Ten (2019)
- "Milkcrate Mosh b/w Hey Hey What Can I Do" (2004)
- "Chips Ahoy!" (2006)
- "Stuck Between Stations" (2006)
- "Massive Nights" (2007)
- "Sequestered in Memphis" (2008)
- "Stay Positive" (2009)
- "Hurricane J" (2010)
- "Criminal Fingers b/w The Bear & The Maiden Fair" (2013)
- "Spinners" (2014)
- "I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You" (2014)
- "Entitlement Crew b/w A Snake In The Shower" (2017)
- "Eureka b/w Esther" (2018)
- "The Stove & The Toaster b/w Star 18" (2018)
- "Confusion In The Marketplace b/w T-shirt Tux" (2018)
- "The Last Time That She Talked to Me" (2019)
- "Family Farm" (2020)
- "Heavy Covenant" (2021)
- "Sideways Skull" (2023)
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters Colon the Soundtrack (2007) - "Girls Like Status"
- KGSR Broadcasts Volume 16 (2008) – "Sequestered in Memphis"
- War Child Presents Heroes (2009) – "Atlantic City" (Bruce Springsteen cover)
- I'm Not There (soundtrack) (2007) – "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?" (Bob Dylan cover)
- Live at KEXP Volume 5 (2009) – "Both Crosses"
- The Dilemma Soundtrack (2011) – "Just Saying"
- Soundtrack of season 3 (2013) of the TV series Game of Thrones – "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" (lyrics by George R. R. Martin)
- Dauphin, Michael (August 23, 2011). "LouFest Interviews: Craig Finn of the Hold Steady". Blogs.riverfronttimes.com. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
- Dye, David. "The Hold Steady: America's Bar Band". NPR Music.
- Master, Dave. "Hold Steady returns hope to rock'n'roll : Daily Collegian exclusive interview with Craig Finn". The Daily Collegian. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
- Gross, Joe. "The Gospel According to the Hold Steady". Village Voice.
- Plagenhoef, Scott. "The Hold Steady: Boys and Girls in America review". Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on October 31, 2006.
- "The Hold Steady - "Chips Ahoy!" [Official Video]". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
- Montgomery, James. "Hold Steady Pinch-Hitting For Minnesota Twins". MTV News.
- "The Hold Steady Prepare to Stay Positive". Uncut Magazine.
- "Spring '08; LPs From Madonna, Coldplay, The Roots, Mudcrutch, Elvis Costello, Usher, Death Cab For Cutie, My Morning Jacket, Weezer and Dozens More". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 9, 2008.
-  Archived February 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived January 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- "Franz Nicolay Leaves the Hold Steady | News". Pitchfork. January 21, 2010. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
- Warner, Denise (March 19, 2010). "Craig Finn of the Hold Steady talks new album, 'Heaven is Whenever,' at SXSW | The Music Mix | EW.com". Music-mix.ew.com. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
-  Archived July 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived March 8, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived May 15, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- "The Hold Steady 'Figuring Out' New Album, Unveiling New Lineup on Record Store Day Single". Billboard. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- "Razor & Tie Launches New Imprint Washington Square, Hold Steady Is First Signing (Exclusive)". Billboard. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
- Monroe, Jazz; Strauss, Matthew (June 19, 2019). "The Hold Steady Announce First Album in 5 Years, Share New Song: Listen". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
- "The Hold Steady Announce New Album, Share New Song: Listen". Pitchfork. Retrieved December 25, 2020.
- "BTS' 'Be' Returns to No. 1 on Billboard's Top Album Sales Chart, The Hold Steady & Mogwai Earn First Top 10s". Billboard. March 1, 2021.
- Howe, Brian. "Interview: The Hold Steady". Pitchfork Media.
- "Stay Positive Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
- "Boys And Girls In America Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
- "Separation Sunday Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
- "Heaven is Whenever Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
- "Teeth Dreams Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
- "The Stars". First Avenue & 7th Street Entry. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
- Bream, Jon (May 3, 2019). "10 things you'll learn about First Avenue in new Minnesota History Center show". Star Tribune. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
- Marsh, Steve (May 13, 2019). "First Avenue's Star Wall". Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
- "Premiere: Hold Steady: "Hurricane J" | News". Pitchfork. March 22, 2010. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
-  Archived August 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- Hibberd, James (March 5, 2013). "'Game of Thrones' and the Hold Steady team for season 3 song". EW.com. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
- Matt Schild (February 16, 2003). Steady As She Goes. Aversion
- Joe Gross (May 2, 2005). The Gospel according to the Hold Steady. The Village Voice.
- Brian Howe (May 16, 2005). Interview: The Hold Steady. Pitchfork Media.
- (May 18, 2005). The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday. Billboard.