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.
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.”
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.