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The Hold Steady: From Bars to Ballrooms

The Hold Steady are a rock and roll quintet based out of Brooklyn, New York.

Since the release of their first album in 2004, the band has been coined by many major press outlets as “America’s best bar band”, due to their dynamic performances and constant touring.

“I definitely think when our circus rolls into town it’s an excuse for people to kind of go out for an evening and kind of forget about everything else,” said guitarist Tad Kubler.

The Hold Steady performs at Jake’s Nightclub in Bloomington, Indiana on April 4th.

The band has outgrown the small and smoky venues they once played, but their upcoming DVD, Positive Rage, showcases the band right as their breakout album, 2006’s Boys and Girls in America, was released.

At the time, the band were still driving their own tour van and sleeping at friend’s houses while on the road.

“It was an interesting time in the band, I guess,” said Kubler. “Things have changed a lot in the two and a half to three years since we did that.”

Nowadays, the Hold Steady has a tour bus, and a team of engineers to set up their equipment.

But life on the road has its challenges, including finding time to write music.

“Around the time Boys and Girls in America came out … we realized that we were going to have to spend a lot more time on the road, and that if we wanted to continue at the pace that we were at, that we would have to start coming up with ideas on the road,” said Kubler.

“We used to fill up all the down time on tour, and the waiting around, with drinking and partying and stuff like that, and I think we’ve realized as stuff has slowed down a little, we’ve tried to be more productive and use that time a little better.”

This time spent on writing may have been what lead to the more sophisticated sound of the band’s latest album, Stay Positive.

The album features the stand-out song One for the Cutters. Kubler says singer and guitarist Craig Finn took a little inspiration from the film Breaking Away when writing the song about a co-ed’s entanglement with a dangerous local.

“I think Craig based it loosely around the movie that takes place in Bloomington,” said Kubler. “But when I listen to the lyrics to that, you can apply that to a lot of towns, especially around the United States.”

Kubler can relate to the small-town dynamic.

He grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin, while the rest of the band were raised around Minneapolis.

Kubler and Finn were bandmates in the indie rock band Lifter Puller in the 1990s, and drew their inspiration for the Hold Steady from rock and roll bands like the Band and Bruce Springsteen.

“We wanted it to be a traditional rock band, that’s definitely what all of us grew up on, and really have it be a celebration of the better parts of rock and roll,” said Kubler.

Josephine McRobbie

Born and raised in southeast Australia, Josephine moved to Bloomington in 1996. She graduated from Indiana University in 2007 with a B.A. in Journalism and Sociology. She is currently WFIU's broadcast assistant and arts reporter.

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