The Hold Steady: Indie Jones

Originally published in Guitar World, October 2009

The Hold Steady's Tad Kubler sits down and talks to Guitar World about his influences and writing a new record.

Tad Kubler of the Hold Steady loves his job, and unlike some of his peers he’s not afraid to admit it. “It seems like there’s a lot of downplaying that you’re into playing guitar in indie rock,” says the Wisconsin-bred Kubler, who now calls Brooklyn, New York, his home. No such reticence is evident in Kubler. He grinds out the triumphant, power chord–driven riffs that propel the Hold Steady’s vivid tales of drugs, dissipation and desperation, and does so with an almost childlike enthusiasm. “For me this band is very much getting back to the stuff that was my roots and my initial exposure to music,” he explains. “AC/DC, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Cheap Trick and big guitar sounds.”

As the Hold Steady’s popularity has grown—both the band’s 2006 Boys and Girls in America and its 2008 successor, Stay Positive, have sold nearly 100,000 copies in the U.S.—Kubler has taken great pleasure in expanding the rig with which he delivers his own big sounds. “I love buying gear,” says the guitarist, who regularly deploys a half-dozen axes and up to five amplifiers for one of the Hold Steady’s celebratory live gigs. “The guys in the band are always like, ‘Do you really need all this stuff?’ And I’m like, ‘Do I need it? What’s need?’ But it certainly affects how you play to have all this cool shit behind you.”

Of late, the Hold Steady have been touring sporadically in support of their recent A Positive Rage DVD, but the bulk of their time is spent prepping tunes for Stay Positive’s follow-up. “We’re a pretty prolific band and we’ve done four albums in the last five years,” says Kubler. “I feel like, if we’re not on tour, then shit, let’s get back into the studio. You always fantasize about getting to that point in your life where all you have to do is play music. We’ve finally reached that level and we’re trying to take advantage of it!”

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