"I remember John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats once told me, 'You'll be really excited to see your name in The Billboard 200,'" Hold Steady vocalist/guitarist Craig Finn tells Billboard.com. "I coul

"I remember John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats once told me, 'You'll be really excited to see your name in The Billboard 200,'" Hold Steady vocalist/guitarist Craig Finn tells Billboard.com. "I could scarcely believe him. I thought that maybe, at most, we'd come in the 180s, 190s."

In fact, the Brooklyn-based five-piece bowed at No. 124 on the chart with its third album, "Boys and Girls in America." The Vagrant set also managed a No. 9 and No. 2 showing on the Tastemakers and Heatseekers charts, respectively.

With zero airplay and no TV exposure, the Hold Steady attributes much of its success to its "ravenous" fanbase. "I don't know if there's a way of calculating this, but I think that [with] a good ratio of our fans -- we're their favorite band," Finn says. "They're more ravenous. They'll travel with us. It's always, 'When's your next album coming out?'"

"I just think we're five guys having a good time together, doing what we do," says guitarist Tad Kubler. "I think there's something genuine about just looking like you're having fun -- it's a forgotten commodity. And we certainly do [have fun]. It's not about nail polish and eyeliner and everyone wearing the same clothes."

"Boys and Girls" marks the band's debut for Vagrant, having previously been signed to French Kiss. The new label was "able to deliver the record to places where people could find [it]," according to Finn.

More importantly, Vagrant largely kept new material away from MP3 blogs and file-sharing sites thanks to copy-protected advance CDs. The handful of files that did make the rounds "were barely worth listening to," says Finn.

"I knew people who had TV On The Radio ['Return to Cookie Mountain'] six months out," he says. "This way, we weren't worried at all about people's actions."

"Boys and Girls" comes only one year after the band's sophomore set, "Separation Sunday," was released and two after its debut, "Almost Killed Me." The group enlisted producer John Agnello for the effort, the first time they've handed over the engineering reins -- a happy "sixth set of ears" for the classic rock-tinged project.

"Recording can be tedious because we play live a lot and actually recording requires a lot of rehearsals," Kubler says. "[Agnello] saw us play live a few times and figured out just how much we communicate while we're playing. It was great because he said 'I want you in the studio, performing your instruments the way you perform live.'"

The current incarnation of the group also comprises bassist Galen Polivka, drummer Bobby Drake and keyboardist Franz Nicolay, but the original lineup took shape when Minneapolis natives Finn and Kubler re-connected in New York around 2002. They eventually gained Polivka, bonding over favorites like the Replacements ("That was my background," Finn says. "Those kind of shows, with bands like Husker Du, early on when it was only 250 people in a room and that's it."). By adding in friends and friends of friends, the group has been able to stay on the road ever since.

The Hold Steady will be on tour through the December holidays and will continue on to Europe and Australia at the beginning of 2007. Another North American tour will follow directly after.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print