Interview: Craig Finn of The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady are out with Thrashing Thru The Passion. Credit: D James Goodwin

The Hold Steady are out with Thrashing Thru The Passion which features the single “Denver Haircut.” We caught up with Craig Finn to discuss the song, and other items of interest, including the best Hold Steady walk-up song to get the Rockies back on track.

The Colorado Sound: On the first track on the new album, the narrator gets spurned by a woman, but is feeling redeemed by his new “Denver Haircut”. Pretty sure she stole his wallet though, so, did he cut his own hair?

Craig Finn: Yeah, he cut his own hair. It’s sort of one of those start over haircuts, a clean slate.

There are definitely Denver beards, and there are Colorado girls. So is a “Denver Haircut” a real thing, or a metaphor for something else in the existential world of The Hold Steady?

I was playing with the idea of a “haircut” maybe meaning a hairstyle, or maybe “haircut” meaning having to take less for something in a financial sense. I like to keep some mystery alive.

There are some key clues that the song that could be set in Denver: A Residence Inn, an airport with a horse, and a dead-on description of Colfax, where all kinds of action goes down. It could also be any city you’ve ever toured. How much of this song takes place in the Mile High City?

In my mind a lot of it takes place in Denver. But you are right, some of this stuff is in every American city. For instance, I lived on Colfax Avenue in Minneapolis for a few years. Again, I sort of love playing with those mysteries and perceptions.

“Denver Haircut” namechecks Colorado. So, honestly, what do you think John Denver would think of it?

Hmmm. I’m not sure what John Denver was into but I hope he’d like it. I like a lot of his songs. I hope he’d be open-minded about it.

In one of the great images in the song, you wake to an alarm clock in a hotel room that plays Agnostic Front and Metallica. Do you have a fondness for metal we never knew about?

I don’t love metal, but I do love hardcore. So I’m more into Agnostic Front than Metallica. That said, I saw Metallica on the “Justice For All” tour and it was amazing. But mostly metal is too precise for me. I like hardcore most when it’s a little bit sloppy.

Cover art for The Hold Steady’s first album in five years

Thrashing Thru The Passion is your seventh record. Fans go to your music for the lessons you’ve lived, so what would the old Hold Steady tell today’s Hold Steady about thrashing through the passion?

I think the old The Hold Steady would be pretty proud that we’re still making music and I think they’d be pleased with the new album. I honestly think part of making this new one was recapturing the sense of fun that maybe doesn’t show as much in the two preceding albums.

Last time you were in Denver, you hit up the Summit Music Hall, near Coors Field where the Rockies play. We love The Rockies, but they need some help this year. What would be a good Hold Steady walk-up song for more homers out of the bat of third basemen Noland Arenado?

I’ve thought a lot about this over the years. I think “The Swish” would be amazing walk-up music. That guitar riff would get me pumped to swing for the fences. When we play it live, it always makes me pretty excited.