The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady, 2014
Background information
Origin Brooklyn, New York, United States
Genres Alternative rock, indie rock, heartland rock
Years active 2004–present
Labels Vagrant Records, Full Time Hobby, Washington Square/Razor & Tie
Associated acts Lifter Puller, The World/Inferno Friendship Society, Lucero, Against Me!
Members Bobby Drake
Craig Finn
Tad Kubler
Galen Polivka
Steve Selvidge
Franz Nicolay
Past members Judd Counsell

The Hold Steady is an American rock band from Brooklyn, New York, formed in 2004. The band consists of Craig Finn (vocals, guitar), Tad Kubler (guitar), Galen Polivka (bass), Bobby Drake (drums), Franz Nicolay (keyboards) and Steve Selvidge (guitar).[1] Noted for their "lyrically dense storytelling,"[2] and classic rock / bar music 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 their debut album, Almost Killed Me in 2004, and 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 former Lucero guitarist Steve Selvidge.[1] The band released their sixth LP, Teeth Dreams, on March 25, 2014. Franz Nicolay re-joined the band on May 4, 2016.


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?"[3] 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."[4] 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 in 2005.

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."[4]

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."[5] In 2006, they released a music video for "Chips Ahoy", directed by Moh Azima and starring Avital Ash.[6] 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.[7] 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."[8] 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."[9] Many familiar elements – sing-along choruses, extended piano and guitar solos and lyrics that deal with faith, crime, rumor, loss and love – remain.

In April 2009, the band released a two-disc documentary and live album set entitled A Positive Rage.[10]

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.[11][12] 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."[13]

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."[14]

The Hold Steady announced the release of Heaven Is Whenever on Feb. 23, 2010. The album was released May 4 on Vagrant Records in the U.S. and May 3 on Rough Trade in Europe.[15]

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,[16] 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."[1]

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.

Hiatus (2012–2013)

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."[17]

Teeth Dreams and RAGS (2014)

On January 8, 2014, The Hold Steady announced the release of their sixth LP entitled Teeth Dreams. The album will be 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. [18]

The Hold Steady has toured and played with a variety of other artists, amongst them Les Savy Fav, The Constantines, P.O.S, Swearing at Motorists, the Rolling Stones (as mentioned in the Stay Positive bonus track "Ask Her For Adderall"), Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows, The Thermals, Art Brut, Kings of Leon, The Loved Ones, the Oranges Band, and Drive-By Truckers.

In 2016, Nicolay rejoined the band, expanding its lineup to a six-piece.


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.[19]


The Hold Steady have received almost universal praise by the press for their performances and early records.[20][21][22] Their more recent releases have seen a slight decline in their reception.[23][24]



Franz Nicolay, keyboardist


Touring members


Studio albums

Live albums



Other recordings


  1. 1 2 3 Dauphin, Michael (2011-08-23). "LouFest Interviews: Craig Finn of the Hold Steady". Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  2. Dye, David. "The Hold Steady: America's Bar Band". NPR Music.
  3. Master, Dave. "Hold Steady returns hope to rock'n'roll : Daily Collegian exclusive interview with Craig Finn". The Daily Collegian.
  4. 1 2 Gross, Joe. "The Gospel According to the Hold Steady". Village Voice.
  5. Plagenhoef, Scott. "The Hold Steady: Boys and Girls in America review". Pitchfork Media.
  6. "The Hold Steady - "Chips Ahoy!" [Official Video". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  7. Montgomery, James. "Hold Steady Pinch-Hitting For Minnesota Twins". MTV News.
  8. "The Hold Steady Prepare to Stay Positive". Uncut Magazine.
  9. "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 Magazine.
  10. Archived February 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. Archived January 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. "Franz Nicolay Leaves the Hold Steady | News". Pitchfork. 2010-01-21. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  13. Warner, Denise (2010-03-19). "Craig Finn of the Hold Steady talks new album, 'Heaven is Whenever,' at SXSW | The Music Mix |". Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  14. Archived July 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. Archived March 8, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. Archived May 15, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. "The Hold Steady 'Figuring Out' New Album, Unveiling New Lineup on Record Store Day Single". Billboard. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  18. "Razor & Tie Launches New Imprint Washington Square, Hold Steady Is First Signing (Exclusive)". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  19. Howe, Brian. "Interview: The Hold Steady". Pitchfork Media.
  20. "Stay Positive Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  21. "Boys And Girls In America Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  22. "Separation Sunday Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  23. "Heaven is Whenever Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2015-02-22.
  24. "Teeth Dreams Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2015-02-22.
  25. "Premiere: Hold Steady: "Hurricane J" | News". Pitchfork. 2010-03-22. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  26. Archived August 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. Hibberd, James (5 March 2013). "'Game of Thrones' and the Hold Steady team for season 3 song". Retrieved March 5, 2013.


  1. Matt Schild (February 16, 2003). Steady As She Goes. Aversion
  2. Joe Gross (May 2, 2005). The Gospel according to the Hold Steady. The Village Voice.
  3. Brian Howe (May 16, 2005). Interview: The Hold Steady. Pitchfork Media.
  4. (May 18, 2005). The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday. Billboard.

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