Q&A: The Hold Steady's Craig Finn

On Catholicism, barfing, and a broken Kindle.

In a couple of weeks, Craig Finn, frontman of the boisterous Brooklyn ensemble The Hold Steady, will turn 39.

"I really was worried about 30 when I was 29," he says. "But the 30s turned out so good that I'm optimistic about the 40s. I'm pretty psyched about what I do for a living and what my general life entails. Maybe once I turn 39 I'll start freaking out about it."

As Finn approaches 40, the band has settled neatly into their place as industry veterans, known as much for Finn's religiously exploratory lyrics as for brash, guitar-heavy choruses. Touring behind their new album, Heaven Is Whenever, Finn says the band's learned the hard way what it takes to stay healthy on the road to longevity.

"We're on our fifth record now," Finn says. "We feel like it won't get taken away from us. It's a marathon; it's not a sprint. Although we've been told that a lot, I think we actually believe it now."

Here, Finn offers advice on how to stay healthy, sober, and cool in Brooklyn and on the road. For more of our conversation visit Reverb, our music blog at SeattleWeekly.com/Reverb.

SW: How are things going today?

Pretty good. It's really hot in Brooklyn, but it's nice to be home for a little bit.

Do you have AC in your apartment?

No. I don't really like AC. It's really bad on your voice. Maybe not if you have the central air, but window units, I don't know. I have a lot of fans. It's not that bad when I'm inside. With the amount of touring we do, I need all the help I can get.

What else? Do you stay away from microwaves?

No, no. The best thing that I've found is not drinking before you play the show. Just because if you get a little buzz going—really the big thing is not getting too excited and start yelling—you get a little buzz going and things get away from you, and all of a sudden you're not singing for the rest of the week.

It's interesting to hear you say you don't want to yell, because your delivery isn't singing in the traditional sense.

Yeah, it's kinda funny because it's really just my amplified talking voice, so it can get to yelling really quick. So I think I have to watch it. But actually, now that you mention it, the absolutely worst thing for your voice is throwing up.

Really?

I think any singer would probably tell you [that] if you drink so much that you throw up, it's going to be a bad few weeks for your voice.

When was the last time that happened to you before a show?

Two years ago. I don't drink during Lent, just 'cause it gives me six weeks off. It was Easter, so I came back after six weeks off, and we happened to have a day off in Vegas. And the rest is history. I threw up and I couldn't sing for a few days. It was actually kind of terrible, 'cause then you feel like you let the whole band down, you know?

Have you toned it down since then?

Not on Easter.

ckornelis@seattleweekly.com

 
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