The Hold Steady's Craig Finn On the Kindle, the A.C., and the 10 Commandments

Craig Finn, second from left, performs with the Hold Steady at Showbox at the Market on Wednesday August 18. Jaill opens the show.
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 parochial lyrics as for brash, guitar-heavy choruses. Touring behind their fifth 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 passes along advice on how to stay healthy, sober, and cool in Brooklyn and on the road.

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 A.C. in your apartment?

No. I don't really like A.C. 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 the help I can get.

What else? 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 --- 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.


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 kinda terrible, 'cause then you feel like you let the whole band down, you know?

Did you have to cancel some shows?

No, not at all. I mean, you get through the shows, but your voice is just kinda shot. And there's a lot of anxiety around it, you know?

Have you toned it down since then?

Not on Easter.

Are you reading anything good lately?

I'm reading Infinite Jest right now and I have been for a few months. And I'm about 650 pages in and I love it. I'm really excited about it. But, you know, it's tough. I'm looking forward to getting that done and digesting that and then moving on to the other books.

Do you read it on an eReader?

I got a Kindle, but then I dropped it down and it broke.

It didn't capture you so that you ran out and bought another one?

I understand the Kindle's good for people who travel a lot. But, also, banding around a bookstore is a good thing for people who travel a lot, too.

Did you have a bible on your Kindle?

I didn't, no.

Why is it important to you that religion and Catholicism get so much airtime on your records?

There's this constant thing of redemption and forgiveness, and the parts of Catholicism that I keep coming back to in my songs and in my life. And not turning your back on someone and never having someone being too far gone. And that's sort of the part of it that interests me the most.

Sometimes it's hard to tell if you're a believer or a naysayer.

I have my own moments of back and forth. There are parts when you feel like, "How can this relate to my own modern life in 2010?" And then there are other times when you're like, "This absolutely relates." I think that's part of a modern experience. Even my parents say they take some of it and they leave some of it alone. They don't believe it all. That's a hard thing; because when you go to church it's not really presented that way.

Where does Catholicism need to go?

Well, tolerance. We have to figure out how to include more people and that more people feel comfortable both in the pews but in the pulpit.

I think that there are some basic things, not just with Catholicism but with Christianity such as the 10 Commandments, that I find it really hard for a logical person to argue with.

There's a bunch of things that happen in the Catholic Church -- be it an inquisition or a sexual abuse scandal -- that are the unfortunate things that are abused for power, human error, that are done in the name of the Catholic Church. But I don't know that it has to be involved with my own relationship with Catholicism or Christianity.

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