The Hold Steady
About The Hold Steady
The Hold Steady didn't sound like any other band who emerged from Brooklyn in the 2000s, or practically anywhere else in the indie rock community for that matter. A band who upheld the values and integrity of indie and punk rock, the Hold Steady were not afraid to also embrace rock classicism, fusing the bar band vigor of the Replacements with the epic scale musical backdrops of Bruce Springsteen while vocalist Craig Finn spilled out stories that were as impassioned as they were unpretentiously literate. Though they never had a massive hit, they maintained a fervently dedicated following who stuck with the group through lineup changes and hiatuses. The group's beery, anthemic style appeared fully formed on their debut album, 2004's Almost Killed Me, they refined their music and their lyrical stance to a new level on 2006's Boys and Girls in America, they increased their guitar firepower while taking on a more ambitious approach on 2014's Teeth Dreams, and they explored an alienated culture with near-operatic sweep on 2021's Open Door Policy.
Vocalist/guitarist Craig Finn (ex-Lifter Puller) formed the Hold Steady after moving to New York from Minneapolis in 2000. Wanting to capture the sound of bands such as the Replacements and the Grifters, he recruited guitarist Tad Kubler (also ex-Lifter Puller), drummer Judd Counsell, and bassist Galen Polivka. Recording mostly live, the band released its debut, Almost Killed Me, on Frenchkiss Records in March 2004. Dave Gardener (Rocket from the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu) and Dean Botulonis signed on to produce Separation Sunday, which arrived in 2005. The World/Inferno Friendship Society's Franz Nicolay (keyboards) and Bobby Drake (drums), formerly of End Transmission and Arm, were also added to the Hold Steady lineup. The band's third effort, 2006's Boys and Girls in America, marked its first release for Vagrant. After writing the majority of their fourth record on the road, the Hold Steady returned to John Agnello's Water Music studio to record Stay Positive, their most heavily produced effort. In July of 2008, the album was released by both Vagrant and Rough Trade.
In 2010, the band announced the departure of Franz Nicolay. Later that same year, they released their fifth album, Heaven Is Whenever. In 2012, the band went on a brief hiatus, with frontman Craig Finn releasing his debut solo album, Clear Heart Full Eyes. Regrouping with new guitarist Steve Selvidge in 2013, the revitalized five-piece reentered the studio to record a track for the Game of Thrones soundtrack that was also released as a limited-edition single on Record Store Day 2013. Near the beginning of 2014, they issued their sixth album, Teeth Dreams, as well as the covers EP RAGS -- all proceeds from the EP went to help the children of longtime Hold Steady fan Mike "Jersey Mike" Van Jura, who sadly passed away in 2012. After the band finished touring for Teeth Dreams, Finn began work on a solo album. The more intimate and personal Faith in the Future was produced by Josh Kaufman and released by Partisan Records in late 2015. He played solo shows throughout the first half of the year, then turned his attention back to Hold Steady business, namely deluxe reissues of Almost Killed Me and Separation Sunday. They arrived at the end of 2016 and to celebrate, the band (which welcomed back Franz Nicolay) played festivals and a series of sold-out shows in Brooklyn.
The Hold Steady returned in August 2019 with thealbum Thrashing Thru the Passion, which contained some tracks previously released on a series of EPs that appeared between 2017 and 2019. That same year, the band returned to the studio with producer Josh Kaufman and engineer D. James Goodwin to start recording their eighth album. Laid down in two separate sessions, the group embarked on a series of celebratory weekend shows that saw them play several end-of-the-week residencies in major cities, including a three night stand in London in March 2020, while debuting some of the new material. After wrapping up their London shows, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the band to return to New York and cancel the remaining weekend shows on their schedule, and the album's release was put on hold. At the end of 2020 the Hold Steady issued the single "Family Farm," quickly followed in early 2021 by "Heavy Covenant" and "Spices." The tracks were previews of Open Door Policy, issued by the band's Positive Jams label in February 2021. ~ Kenyon Hopkin & Rich Wilson