ARTIST: The Hold Steady
TITLE: Stay Positive
BITRATE: 226kbps avg
PLAYTIME: 0h 55m total
RELEASE DATE: 2008-07-15
RIP DATE: 2008-06-30
1. Constructive Summer 2:55
2. Sequestered in Memphis 3:32
3. One for the Cutters 4:41
4. Navy Sheets 3:22
5. Lord, I'm Discouraged 5:07
6. Yeah Sapphire 3:36
7. Both Crosses 4:35
8. Stay Positive 2:58
9. Magazines 3:08
10. Joke About Jamaica 4:35
11. Slapped Actress 5:17
12. Bonus Track 11:29
The Hold Steady was born out of some loose talk in my Boreum Hill apartment in
2002. I had moved to Brooklyn about two years earlier. I was thirty-one years
old, and the other dudes were about my same age. Our concept was to start a
straight rock band, with low aspirations. Just local shows, no touring, and most
likely, no real records. We practiced for a while and then played our first show
in January 2003 at North Six, in Williamsburg. I was surprised at how many
people showed up.
The show went well. It reminded us, all veterans of hard luck bands, that music
can be fun. We played our second show in Baltimore, and it sort of becomes a
blur after that. We quickly broke our rules about no touring and records, and
released three records in three years. We lost one member and added two others.
The most recent record, 2006’s Boys & Girls in America, was successful enough to
get us in a bunch of magazines and take us pretty much around the world. It was,
to be honest, pretty ironic – the band that set out to do nothing became a
critics favorite and a touring machine. The Hold Steady had become our lives.
Thus, when we began talking about a new record, it became obvious that in order
to keep up our schedule of releases, we would have to start writing on the road.
We hadn’t done a lot of this previously. Ideas started taking shape in hotel
rooms while we played European festivals in Summer 2007. Laptop demos were
recorded and shared. I remember Tad coming up with the title track, “Stay
Positive”, backstage at Manchester Academy. The music from “Lord, I’m
Discouraged” had its genesis partly in Milan and partly in Hamburg. We couldn’t
slow down, but we could get ready.
When the touring wrapped up, we went straight into rehearsals and fleshed out
the ideas that were banging around. As with each record, there was a desire to
make it more musical than the last one. In this case, more musical meant an
attempt at more dynamics, different instrumentation, more complex arrangements,
and not always hiding behind raw volume. The songs came together quickly, but
were painstakingly rehearsed and reviewed, with many minor changes made along
Finally, in early January 2008, we showed up at Water Music in Hoboken NJ to
record our fourth record. We worked with John Agnello again, as we had developed
a great sense of trust with him during the Boys & Girls sessions. When John says
something sucks, it probably sucks.
We recorded basics for nineteen songs. Everyone was very excited with the
progress. Everyone played to their utmost potential. Lyrically, I had an idea of
what I was trying to say much earlier in the process than on our previous
records. Spirits were high.
We moved on to Wild Arctic Studios in Queens for vocals and overdubs and then to
the Magic Shop in Soho for mixing We got some of our most favorite rock
musicians to sing and play on it. We had some minor struggles, and a bunch of
really good times. Finally, in mid-February, it was done.
It’s always interesting how a record reveals itself to you. You can go in with
the best-laid plans, but there is always a fair amount of uncertainty. Late
night brainstorms become defining moments. Accidents become choruses. You might
write the record, but it ends up teaching you something about yourself.
We kick off this record with “Constructive Summer”, a driving song about trying
harder. “Navy Sheets” features a guest harmony vocal by Patterson Hood from the
Drive-By Truckers, who have been a modern day inspiration to us. “Both Crosses”
was a live in the studio experiment that ended up working. The record ends with
“Slapped Actress”, which combines a mammoth Tad Kubler riff with a lyric
inspired by the John Cassavetes movie Opening Night.
I think this record, musically and lyrically, is about the attempt to age
gracefully. This is no easy feat, especially in rock and roll. I am now 36, and
will be 37 shortly after this record is released. At the age