Why The Hold Steady Don't Have Songs About Immigrants or Anthony Lane

The Hold Steady are one of the best rock bands of the past decade–yes, we'll fight you on that–and they'll be playing at the relatively itsy-bitsy Detroit Bar tomorrow night. In this week's print edition of the Weekly, we wrote about what the Minneapolis-via-Brookyln quartet has been up to lately. After four albums full of sing-spoke songs about kids partying in the Twin Cities, the band in May released Heaven is Whenever, a slightly more subdued song set about kids partying in the Twin Cities.
A portion of our interview with singer Craig Finn–a portion that didn't make the article–is below. 

OC Weekly (Spencer Kornhaber): Your characters do seem like they're growing up a bit, but you're still writing about drunk Minnesotans. Would you ever go to a different demographic, investment bankers or immigrants or something bizarre?

Craig Finn: Well immigrants would be more interesting than investment bankers, certainly. It's weird, I've lived in New York for more than ten years come September and I still am not comfortable writing about New York, just because it seems so poser-ish. I mean, Lou Reed does that really well but he's from New York. I still feel Minnesotan. I can't shake it. If I started writing about being down with Anthony Lane it would come off insincere to me.

But some people make that mistake, don't they?

Some people are really comfortable with that, especially in a place like New York. Some people move there and a couple months later it's their whole identity. But I don't find that really that attractive.

Yeah, you lived in Minnesota so long and came to New York relatively late. 

I grew up there, and also the dumb stuff I did was all in Minneapolis. You know, just the really dumb parties, or maybe that party you shouldn't have been at where you saw some big, violent act or something. All that kind of stuff that you do when you're 19 and pretty stupid. 
I just saw you featured in that CNN piece about “late bloomers,” how 30-somethings can become rock stars. How do you feel about that?

I think it's cool. When I turned 30, I was working in an office in New York and I was pretty bored, I was pretty unfulfilled, and I was like, 'I want to be in a band.' Ad we did it. I think there's a lot of people in our audience that see themselves in me, or in us.

What's the Hold Steady's take on California?
I love, love coming to California. In some ways, it's the most American place. When you deal with Americana, California is just the ultimate, just the signs and all the driving and cars.

A lot of the songs on the new album, like “Soft in the Center,” impart life advice. Do you expect your listeners to take that advice? 

 No! No. It's a fundamental part about being a kid. People can say, don't do this, but you've got to touch the hot stove one time or get your tongue stuck to the flagpole in the winter, even though you know it's going to happen.
I find those advice songs kind of funny, so in some ways it's to entertain myself. I'll put it this way. If you had a kid, you'd say, don't touch the hot stove. He'd still probably do it. But you'd feel better about yourself for telling him not to.

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