Features Interviews The Hold Steady

Interviews: The Hold Steady

Scene Point Blank: Have you noticed younger fans in your audience as a result the band growing or the new album being released on Vagrant. In my head I'm thinking twelve to seventeen year olds?

Tad Kubler: I've noticed at our in-stores, younger parents will their kids eleven and twelve year olds to have an experience they can share together. Since we've been associated with Vagrant, we definitely have been turning on a younger audience to the band whereas I think if we were on a different label that doesn't have the same appeal to a teenage audience, they would have dismissed us but I think [younger listeners] took a second listen because of our association with the label. At least I think so; and I think they're coming around. It's awesome because at this point, our fan base is so broad; its like forty seven year olds with kids who are starting college to fourteen years olds who never heard Thin Lizzy before and are going back and discovering that because they have taken a liking to The Hold Steady.

Scene Point Blank: Do you think it works in the opposite way as well? From personal experience I got the new album, and I played it for my dad and he was like, "this sounds like Springsteen. This is pretty good; better than that other shit you listen to."

Tad Kubler: You think kids will rebel against us because their parents like us?

Scene Point Blank: No, no; I meant that do you think a younger audience, like my age, can turn their parents on to the band?

Tad Kubler: I've heard cases of that too. In fact my family doctor is a prime example of that. He's got an eighteen year old who is in to us. So I told the doctor what I do and he went home and asked his son if he had heard of us and his son was like, "Dude I love those guys." So his son played the records for him and next time I saw him he was like, "You guys are pretty good."

Scene Point Blank: Craig has described you as a "smart rock band"; how would you qualify that?

Tad Kubler: I think we are smart in the sense that we've taken the swagger and sexiness of rock music and kind of combined it lyrics that are more thought provoking, possibly, and I'd like to think of them as a little more intellectual than a lot of the other bands playing hard rock now.

Scene Point Blank: I think there is a number of Midwestern indie labels who play quieter music and it gets passed off as "smarter", which is kind of clichéd as well; do you think The Hold Steady is breaking a mold in some way? Perhaps saying that it's possible to be literary but to say "I like to drink and party too?"

Tad Kubler: It goes back almost to the Beat Generation, who were into experimenting with drugs and partying and pushing the boundaries that way, yet still having this intellectual aspect to it. Wanting it to be a little less guttural I think. I would never presume to say that our band could affect the musical climate that much, although it would be nice. I know what you're getting at; we are a little different the generation that I referenced but I just think that you can throw you're fists in the air and have a good time and I don't think that means you're a dumb jock.

Scene Point Blank: Exactly, even when punk started it was this kind of snotty sound, where a lot of the people playing it were just pissed off and angry for whatever reason. Over the years it's developed into a really intelligent genre of music.

Tad Kubler: Right. I'm making assumptions here but when you say indie rock, I immediately think of Moby; dudes in glasses. I mean that's not always the case. You don't have to be sad to write good music. It can be something kind of carnal yet smart.

Scene Point Blank: Again this is another Craig related question, which I'm sorry for, but you referenced Jade Tree before; are you familiar with Jawbreaker or Jets to Brazil?

Tad Kubler: Absolutely, I know that Craig is an enormous fan of Blake's [Schwarzenbach, of Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil]. I've heard Craig say that Blake was one of the only musicians he's ever clammed up around, where he wasn't exactly sure what to say.

Scene Point Blank: From what I understand of Blake's history, he quit Jawbreaker to get into prose writing and as a result, formed Jets to Brazil. Do you ever think Craig might lend his lyrical style, which is very narrative, to writing prose or fiction?

Tad Kubler: I'm going to relay this story, but keep in mind this is here say and we had it over many drinks so I am not remembering it exactly how Craig said it, but he had a really good point. He's been asked that before and I'd really like to see him write a novel but as far as poetry and prose goes, its very similar to song writing and lyric writing. Now if you want to perform, and I think that Craig is a natural born performer - people will hear him on the record and then see him live and they almost can't believe it. But you can write poetry or prose and do a reading on a Friday or Saturday night in New York City to maybe fifty people. If you're lucky maybe one hundred fifty. Take that, add music, especially rock music, and you're going to play to eleven hundred. So if you've got something you think is extremely important, or that you want to tell people, or get an idea across; you have to put music to it; that's when people are really going to start paying attention.

Scene Point Blank: Right now I work at a publishing company, a small independent press and we were talking about that the other day. Books sales will never compete with record sales.

Tad Kubler: Are you familiar with the writer Chuck Klosterman?

Scene Point Blank: Hell yeah! He is one of my favorites. I just finished Chuck Klosterman IV, about a month ago.

Tad Kubler: He and I were having beers the other night and, I don't think he gave me any numbers, but he's had three successful books and is an outstandingly talented writer. I asked him, "What does a good book sell?" Working at a publishing house, you might have a better idea; what does a national bestseller actually sell?

Scene Point Blank: [totally off guard at having to answer this question] Well something like The Da Vinci Code will far outsells something like a Chuck Klosterman Book.

Tad Kubler: That's a great comparison to something like the Beyonce record to something like a Jets to Brazil record. So I think that through music you have a potential to reach so many more people. Bob Dylan might have epitomized that. He had and still has something to say and he can connect to people. There is no greater unifier than people that feel strongly about music.

Scene Point Blank: Since file sharing and digital downloading has become popular it seems that music is being produced a lot quicker, but also consumed a lot quicker. Do you think music has become more of an "in" thing where people are paying closer attention to what they're listening to? Perhaps it's just hip, and people are paying attention but they are not passionate about it.

Tad Kubler: That's a good question, a good way of wording it. I've done a lot of questions about technology. As far as the industry goes, they will always be behind the curve when it comes keeping up with technology; it's just not possible. In terms of how music is consumed and how music is produced, I think that it's very easy to get a song online. It's easy to get a CD manufactured; to get artwork done and to get it out there, either by selling it yourself or getting it in mom and pop shops. With the advent of technology there is no way to really regulate quality, in terms of content and fidelity, sonically. I think its great that people share ideas and that network to get it out there, but it also floods the market. The thing that really separates the good from the bad is being on tour.

Scene Point Blank: Everything I've read about music seems to suggest the same things, at least in rock music.

Tad Kubler: Being able to go on tour; actually get a tour booked and then get out there and execute it and get people to come see you, to then want to come back and see you only to tell five more people about it; that's still the tried and true way to do it. I don't give a shit about reviews or internet or blogs, but when I have a good friend that comes up to me and says, "Dude I saw these guys the last time they were in town. Do not miss them when they are here again." That's what sells me.

Scene Point Blank: Are you getting a lot of that with this album?

Tad Kubler: I think so yeah. Our live show, that's what we do; that's where we are the most comfortable. That's what is going to benefit this band in the long run; it's the fact that we can get out on tour and kick ass every night whether we are playing to three hundred people in Detroit or three thousand people in San Diego or thirty in Lawrence, Kansas. If you keep doing that, people are going to keep coming out. I will say one thing about our live show is its fun for us because we have so much respect for each other as people and as players. When we step on stage together, you can tell that there is no place that the five of us would rather be at that moment. And that becomes contagious.

Words: Scottie

Graphics: Matt

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Words by Scottie on Oct. 16, 2010, 11:05 a.m.

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Posted by Scottie on Oct. 16, 2010, 11:05 a.m.

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