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The Hold Steady

The Hold SteadyBrooklyn-via-Minneapolis rock band The Hold Steady don’t shy away from the seedier side of life with tunes about redemption, religion and addiction. CHRIS HAVERCROFT speaks to guitarist, Tad Kubler, about anxiety, teeth dreams and their latest album.

The latest offering by The Hold Steady has been four years in the waiting.

Previously, the band had kept up a rapid work rate with constant touring and five albums of ragged melody in seven years. Kubler acknowledges that the band couldn’t continue to go on at that pace and common sense indicated it was time for a break. The Hold Steady had built up considerable momentum but felt they were constantly trying to catch up instead of making more deliberate decisions.

“It was good to take a step back and take a little break for a while to reflect and get a different perspective and figure out what it was that we wanted to do next,” says Kubler of the time between albums. “In the meantime, we went off and did some different things, musically. I did some film and TV stuff and Craig (Finn, vocals) went off and did a solo record, Bobby (Drake, drums) opened a bar and it was nice to just miss the band for a little bit. It was helpful when we came back to The Hold Steady as everyone was excited and invigorated to be back and I hope you can hear it on the new record.”

There have been some changes for the band in their recent history. Enigmatic keyboard player, Franz Nicolay, took his ivories and sizeable moustache and went home, while former Lucero guitarist, Steve Selvidge, has joined the ranks. Kubler is thrilled that the time off from the band has led to a growth, creatively.

“I don’t want to diminish Franz’s role in the band at all because it was great playing music with him, but for the most part a lot of the songs started with me. If anything, Steve being involved in this record – because he is such a phenomenal guitar player – it allowed me to focus more on the songwriting and think about things in a different way than I would have previously. Steve’s guitar playing really freed me up to think about things like melody and arrangements and those types of things.”

The album is called Teeth Dreams, a title that references the dream where your teeth fall out and is meant to symbolise anxiety, but Kubler insists that Finn hasn’t had a particularly anxious time of late. It is more likely that as Finn chooses a goalpost or central idea lyrically for each record that Teeth Dreams refers to the anxiety that many may feel these days in having to perpetuate an image of themselves on Instagram and Facebook that is incongruent with who they really are.

“What we try to do is create characters that have lives that are real. Saying that, on this record Craig was very deliberate about not using so many specific details in terms of characters. He wanted people to be able to put themselves into the lyrics and the songs and in order to do that he needed to make things maybe a little more general or just not use such specific details as we have in the past.”

“We have a very unique songwriting relationship where I come in with the music and he writes the words. The one difference with this record was that usually I’d bring in a part to work on and he would go to his notebook for computer or whatever he was keeping lyrics on, but this album he didn’t bring anything in like that. He really wanted the music to dictate the lyrics on this album, so that was different and maybe that is why the music and the lyrics feel more connected on this record. Other records have felt maybe more like a soundtrack that sits behind the narrative.”

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