THE HOLD STEADY with the CONSTANTINES at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Wednesday (November 2). $17.50. 416-870-8000.
Lately, The Hold Steady have been discovering some unusual venues. After a successful year that saw their acclaimed Separation Sunday album (released in May) garner tons of great press, the Brooklyn band recently played an invite-only show in a high school gymnasium in Littleton, Colorado. They were asked to participate in the school's Mental Health Mondays for at-risk youth when a teacher in the program heard singer Craig Finn talking about their latest album on NPR.
Though concept albums are usually a risky endeavour, Separation Sunday offers the thoughtful tale of a young woman torn between the pull of her sex-drugs-and-rock-'n'-roll lifestyle and her Catholic upbringing. It's set, like many of the Hold Steady's narratives, in teenage suburban Minneapolis, where Finn and guitarist Tad Kubler spent their formative years.
"I think rock 'n' roll is a music that is very close to the American teenage experience. I was a teenager in Minneapolis and keep going back to that city for influence and inspiration."
The album thrives on the lyrical storytelling of Finn, a capital-W writer who's begun work on a novel. "I have an outline that keeps expanding, but I really need to buckle down and write the first few chapters and get some feedback. I try to write every day in composition books, and then pull lyrics from there when we write songs."
Some ideas will be shaped into songs, and others will be directed elsewhere.
"It really has to do with meter and rhyme and rhythm," Finn explains. "Some things make good lyrics, some don't."
As for more odd venues, the Hold Steady also just acted in a short film destined for American retail giant Target's website, and are even mentioned in an October episode of addictive TV phenomenon Lost. Any other offbeat adventures unfolding for the band? Prom gigs or university lectures, perhaps?
"We are filming a ton of this stuff for a DVD or something in future. We're also going to tour Australia in February," says Finn. "But things come up quickly. There might be something crazy next week for all I know."