(lead guitar), Galen Polivka (bass) and Bobby Drake (drums). The band's style has been described as a "riff-heavy mixture of
In 2003, Minnesota-raised vocalist, lyricist, and guitarist Craig Finn and New York City bartender and bassist Galen Polivka began talking about starting a band. Finn and lead guitarist Tad Kubler (both formerly of Lifter Puller) developed the idea of The Hold Steady when, while watching The Band concert film The Last Waltz, Finn asked Kubler, "Dude, why aren't there any bands like this anymore?" The Hold Steady's 2004 debut album Almost Killed Me, released on Frenchkiss Records, was a sleeper hit among music critics, reaching #31 in the Pazz & Jop critics poll that year, an achievement which Finn described as "like being nominated for an Oscar or something." In May 2005, they were the first rock band to grace the front page of The Village Voice in 15 years. They were Blender's 2006 "Band of the Year".
The band released its second album, Separation Sunday, on May 3, 2005. The album was a loose concept album following the exploits of a character named "Holly" (short for "Hallelujah") and her quest to find a balance between Catholicism and rock and roll through drugs and a metaphorical resurrection. The album was critically lauded, and its religious overtones were picked up by many critics, such as Joe Gross of the Village Voice, who dubbed it "the most egregiously American Catholic album since X's Under the Big Black Sun, Springsteen's Tunnel of Love, or that Jewish new waver Billy Joel's The Stranger."
Boys and Girls in America (2006-2007)
After Separation Sunday, the band moved from the Frenchkiss Records imprint to Vagrant Records. Released October 3, 2006, Boys and Girls in America was ranked #8 on the Rolling Stone Best Albums of 2006 list, and first by The A.V. Club. Pitchfork Media's Scott Plagenhoff wrote of the album, "[Craig Finn] not only has a commanding, rousing voice but he also says something worth hearing, displaying gifts for both scope and depth that are all too rare in contemporary rock — indie or mainstream." In 2006, they released a music video for "Chips Ahoy", directed by Moh Azima and starring Avital Ash.  In 2007, the band recorded a modified version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" to be played during the seventh-inning stretch at Minnesota Twins home games. They also contributed a cover of the Bob Dylan and The Hawks/The Band song Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? to the motion picture I'm Not There.
Stay Positive (2008-2009)
The band's fourth album, Stay Positive, was released in the UK on July 14, 2008 and in the U.S. on July 15. The album was recorded in Hoboken, New Jersey and Wild Arctic studio in Queens, New York with producer John Agnello during January and February that year. Guests on the sessions included Ben Nichols from Lucero, J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., Emilyn Brodsky, and Doug Gillard, who played guitar in Guided By Voices. Finn has said that he believes the album "captures a band hitting their creative peak, as well as enjoying each other's creativity and company." The album is more expansive than previous releases, including talk-box solos, harpsichord, and tuneful vocals (the notoriously gruff-voiced Finn started taking voice lessons). "There are some bands that do five records that all sound similar," says guitarist Tad Kubler. "We've tried to avoid that." Many familiar elements – sing-along choruses, extended piano and guitar solos and lyrics that deal with faith, crime, rumor, loss and love – remain.
The Hold Steady has toured and played with a variety of other artists, amongst them Les Savy Fav, The Constantines, P.O.S., Swearing at Motorists, the Rolling Stones (as mentioned in the Stay Positive bonus track "Ask Her For Adderall"), Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows, The Thermals, Art Brut, Kings of Leon, The Loved Ones, and Drive-By Truckers.