Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady
Brooklyn rock and rollers The Hold Steady are getting ready to release their forthcoming sixth record Teeth Dreams (available March 25th via Washington Square Music). With the album produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, Rush) at Rock Falcon Studios in Tennessee, this is the first time the band have recorded outside of New York. Teeth Dreams is available for pre-order here, and the band will also be in Toronto on April 9th at The Phoenix as part of their North American tour. Ahead of the album’s release, A Music Blog, Yea? spoke with The Hold Steady’s guitarist Tad Kubler to discuss touring, a crazy concert line-up, the inspiration of anxiety, and the new album.

AMBY: Hey Tad, thanks for speaking with me today It’s very nice to meet you.

The Hold Steady: Nice to meet you. How’s it going?

AMBY: Very well, thanks for asking. How about yourself?

The Hold Steady: I’m alright. I’m actually looking forward to getting the fuck out of New York. You know things have gotten terrible when you’re looking forward to going to England for the weather. It’s bad. I’m sure it’s colder up there though, right?

AMBY: [laughs] I was just about to say that you should be in Toronto! It felt like minus thirty the other day and was awful.

The Hold Steady: Aw, yea. New York never used to be that bad; we’d get a little snow and it got cold here and there, but it never got really bad and punishing. The last winter has been horrendous. I lived in LA for a year in 2000.

AMBY: Oh no, now you must be craving to go back.

The Hold Steady: Yea! And I’m not down on LA; it’s not one of those places I thought I’d ever want to live, but now I’m thinking maybe that’s not so bad [laughs]. I’m over the cold.

AMBY: I’m with you on that one. Well, I guess we should get to the questions! To start things off, the album – you release your sixth record Teeth Dreams on March 25th. Tell me a little bit about it, what’s the significance behind the album’s title?

The Hold Steady: All of the records lyrically usually have some kind of theme to them; they aren’t concept records and we’re always very careful about talking about stuff like that. But, at some point when we’re working on the music, Craig will kind of get this goal post in the distance and it’s always what he’s trying to get at or what he’s going to sing about on the record. Then there’s usually some kind of burst of inspiration that comes from something; Boys and Girls it was being on the road, for Stay Positive it was getting older, Separation Sunday was the whole Catholic thing.  On this one, it was that he read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. In the book, there’s a couple of times where he talks about — You know, have you ever had dreams where your teeth fall out?

AMBY: I have.

The Hold Steady: Okay, so that’s a pretty common dream and it has to do with anxiety and the anxiety about anything from finances to personal appearance. I don’t know if this actually came out of the book, but one thing we spoke about was how in this day and age, with Facebook and um…

AMBY: The Twitter? [laughs]

The Hold Steady: Yea, Twitter and Instagram and all of the social media! There’s a lot of ways to perpetuate this image of yourself that may not really be very accurate or very truthful. I really believe that can cause a lot of anxiety with people because they’re sort of putting out this image of themselves into the world and they either have to try to live up to it or keep that lie going. I think that causes a lot of issues. Anyways! The long answer to your question is that Teeth Dreams is about the relationship between truth and anxiety and having dreams about your teeth falling out.

AMBY: I know the first song released from the record is I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You. What’s the story behind the track?

The Hold Steady: Lyrically, I think it’s about some dude who goes home and hooks up with some guys that he used to hang out with that maybe he remembers as nice dudes, who aren’t nice dudes anymore.

AMBY: Okay, nice little run-down there. That was quick [laughs]. You also will embark on a North American Tour in support of the album. What are you most looking forward to regarding that? Aside from getting away from New York!

The Hold Steady: I mean, I think we’re all just excited to be out playing music. We worked at a pretty exhausting pace for the first seven or eight years of the band, and it was nice to take a break and spend time doing other things. Everybody feels really good about the record and I think we’re really excited to start playing shows.

AMBY: We look forward to having you in Toronto, as well.

The Hold Steady: Absolutely!

AMBY: Now, having played quite a few gigs over the past decade, what’s one of the more memorable concert moments you’ve had?

The Hold Steady: The first time we played Glastonbury was a big one just because that’s such a huge event. I didn’t really fully understand what kind of impact it would have but it was really a pretty big deal. God, it’s hard to say. There was a great show in Philly where we actually had to stop playing because of the rain. The wind picked up and the storm rolled in right as Lord, I’m Discouraged reached its apex; you know, when the guitars get really loud. That whole thing just felt really intense. It sucked because we had to stop playing, but it was one of those moments I’ll never forget because it was… I don’t know, biblical or something like that. Just nuts. I love being over in the UK and Europe. I like touring America, but not having grown up in England or Europe, I like being over there because it’s fun.

AMBY: It’s different than where you’re used to which makes sense. Since on the topic of concerts: If you could conjure up your own personal line-up, who would be included in it?

The Hold Steady: If I was going to put on my own show?

AMBY: Yes.

The Hold Steady: That’s a really tough question! Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, The Smiths, The Afghan Whigs, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, The Who ( the original line-up). Hmmm… Led Zeppelin would probably do a set, no, I’d have two stages and then some smaller ones. I’d have bands like The Donkeys, Constantines, Japandroids. I was just talking about this, but Canada has a ton of fucking amazing bands!

AMBY: There’s been an amazing wave of bands, and some really awesome Canadian duos, coming to our attention lately.

The Hold Steady: Right? I heard Constantines are actually getting back together.

AMBY: They are.

The Hold Steady: That’s awesome. Will used to be a really good friend of mine, and we don’t talk as much, and that just reminds me that I need to call him…

AMBY: [laughs]

The Hold Steady: Broken Social Scene is another band I really have a fondness for. That’s about it. I was going to say someone else, actually. There would be The Who, Led Zeppelin, and someone else.

AMBY: Who you be interested in being in the line-up?

The Hold Steady: Fuck no!

AMBY: [laughs] Just sit back, relax, watch from one of two stages, and enjoy.

The Hold Steady: Yea, I’d just want to watch. Know what? If I was at the point where I’m throwing a festival like this, I would probably be that asshole who would grab a guitar and jam with people. I would probably have The Beatles headlining.

AMBY: I like that! I’d attend.

The Hold Steady: Cool.

AMBY: Well, now we’re at the last question. What’s something about The Hold Steady that most people don’t know yet?

The Hold Steady: I mean, there’s all kinds of things but there’s a reason they don’t know them. I want to say something clever and funny, but I can’t think of anything. I’m just not very clever this afternoon! I feel like a lot of people think that we party and do a lot of drugs, and I think there was certainly a time and a place for that. We’re still interested in being a band and playing music together, so I would say the interest and focus has shifted to playing music.

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Thank you The Hold Steady, for giving us your answers!

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Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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