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Craig Finn

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Biography

CRAIG FINN – WE ALL WANT THE SAME THINGS

We All Want The Same Things, Craig Finn’s new solo record out March 24th on Partisan Records, explores themes of love and partnership in the modern world. Expressed via Finn’s signature character studies, black humor, and smartly arranged rock ‘n’ roll, the album is arguably his most musical to date.  Largely recorded in Rhinebeck, NY with frequent collaborator Josh Kaufman producing and Dan Goodwin engineering and mixing, the record also features contributions from drummer Joe Russo, keyboardist Sam Kassirer, Rainer Maria vocalist Caithlin De Marrais, singer/songwriter Annie Nero, horn master Stuart Bogie, Jon Shaw, Jordan McLean, Matt Barrick and Finn’s longtime partner in The Hold Steady, guitarist Tad Kubler.

“Love seems like the biggest mystery in our modern days- no amount of science or advances in technology can help us fully understand the notion of love and the role it plays in our lives” Finn says, “But I also thought about the search for love as an antidote for loneliness, and how so often modern partnership can be an alignment of self-interests. We make teams with each other to combat the world around us. There is a beauty in that for sure, but it also can fray around the edges. We lean against each other to keep ourselves upright, make uneasy truces, and push forward into uneasy times. The songs I had dwelled on this.”

The name of the album comes from a line in the song “God in Chicago,” which Finn explains “although it seems like a bit of dark humor in these turbulent political times, it also rings true: no matter our differences we all have some very basic wants and needs that line up with each other.”

Finn is best known as the frontman of acclaimed rock outfit The Hold Steady, with whom he has released six studio albums. Prior to The Hold Steady, Finn was the also the frontman of beloved Minneapolis post-punk band Lifter Puller. We All Want The Same Things is Finn’s third solo album, following Clear Heart Full Eyes (2012) and Faith In the Future (2015). WAWTST takes the listener even deeper into Finn’s complex, nuanced world of characters, explaining “these songs are about normal people trying to help themselves, trying to move forward, and in some cases trying just to survive. All the while they are negotiating what space the others in their lives can occupy.”

I truly believe that on some level, WE ALL WANT THE SAME THINGS. I hope you enjoy the record.

Craig Finn

Brooklyn NY

December 2016

  1. Jester & June: This couple has tries to return the site of their past glories and finds that there’s nothing left for them there anymore. They have each other but also a desperation to capture something left behind. This one features some of my favorite guitar moments from Josh Kaufman, who plays as well as he produces and brought a ton to all of these songs.
  2. Preludes: This was what I remember 1994 being like, coming back to the Twin Cities after being away for college. It’s a time in my life that I felt most adrift, but there was a also a feeling of wonder in being out of step and alone. This is the song that is closest to being autobiographical, but I think it fits with these other character studies in I was trying to figure out my place in a world that didn’t seem to have a lot of room for me.
  3. Ninety Bucks: This is one of a few songs on the record about a relationship based on convenience. The question is whether Nathan really is her only friend. This has an especially nice keyboard solo from Sam Kassirer that sounds quite a bit like a guitar. This also is one of a few songs that features some guitar by my Hold Steady bandmate Tad Kubler.
  4. Birds Trapped In The Airport: Producer Josh Kaufman had the fantastic idea to bring in Caithlin DeMarrais to sing on this. This song is about a near death experience, which in often causes people to try to attack life with less inhibition, make the most of things,  live in the moment, etc. In this case though, the protagonist can’t quite get out of his own way.
  5. God in Chicago: I’ve done a lot of songs that have been called “talky” but this is the furthest I’ve gone towards spoken word. It’s a story about a guy and a girl pushed together to try to fix a problem. In doing so, they push into unchartered territory for both of them. Going to a bigger city without supervision for the first time is a huge moment, no matter how you get there. I was trying to capture that.  Also, I wanted to show how easily it is sometimes to take a break, if briefly, from our regular lives. Annie Nero has a lot of vocals I love on this record but this one might be my favorite.
  6. Rescue Blues: This is another of the co-dependency jams on the record. In this case, a man has attached himself to a woman to find security and shelter. In that, he feels some version of love has been achieved. Perhaps she does too. “I guess we all get by in different ways” might indeed be a thesis statement for the record. This also features some great horn playing from Stuart Bogie, who made huge contributions to this record.
  7. Tangletown: The structure on this one is somewhat symmetrical. I wanted to illustrate how these characters wants and needs are complimentary on some level, but unsatisfying in other more major ways. Both parties are looking for something and not quite connecting. The term “finer things” means different things to different people.
  8. It Hits When It Hits: This is kind of a PTSD “love” story. The guy singing is amplifying a casual romantic encounter into something bigger and much more meaningful. She’s not so sure. He’s desperate to find someone, he’s lonely, and he believes that this is the one- fate has finally brought love to his doorstep. This might be the saddest song on the record.
  9. Tracking Shots: While on tour with Titus Andronicus in March 2016 I was struck by how much time we all spend in parking lots. This was the genesis for this song. I was thinking about parking lots as a place in an increasingly transient world where we take important phone calls, make big decisions, move our lives forward. The people in this song are trying to keep their heads above water, and adjusting their “dreams” to reflect this reality.
  10. Be Honest: So many of these songs are fiction in that they deal with characters that are not me, but it’s also my struggle to keep them honest.  I try to keep them honest in the way they deal with each other and push through their lives. This one speaks to progress, change, technology, etc. and how these things allow us to potentially move further from telling each other the truth. The song, and the album, ends on on the line “Maybe it’s just best if we both take care of ourselves”. In the end, ourselves are the only ones we can control.

Jester & June

Well, the bartender’s friend sold us something

I think was probably coriander.

4th quarter. Hail Mary. Wide receiver.

Hail Caesar.

The guy we’ve been waiting for.

Came up from the catacombs.

Walked into the bathroom.

Put it under the trashcan.

And I went in after.

Do you even remember?

They used to call us Junebug & Jester.

They used to call us Jester & June.

We used to have our own tune.

We used to sing it in church.

Then it got worse.

We put too much faith

Gave too much cash

To that one creepy kid at the carwash.

He said he could make a few calls.

But I don’t think that he made any calls.

Well, we probably should have tried the guy with the Dracula cape.

‘Cause other than the cape he was cool.

He had that wild kind of sadness.

Like he knew something important.

I wonder if he even remembers

They used call us Junebug and Jester.

They used to call us Jester and June.
We were laughing making jokes

Laughing making jokes

Smiling in the smoke.

They used to call us Junebug & Jester.

We would drink and fall in love

Drink and fall in love.

Fall around the clubs.

They used to call us Jester and June.

We used to know all the tunes.

We used to have our own church.

But then it got worse.

Now honestly, officer

That’s a really good question.

I’m just kind of distracted

By those jangling handcuffs

And the flashlights in our eyes.

Too much faith in desperate guys.

Too much fun in eight straight summers.

Do you remember Junebug and Jester?

Now we’re called Justin and Jane.

We tried to push through the pain.

We tried to work through the hurt.

We tried to build our own church.

Now the cops got our names as Justin and Jane.

The only people waiting at the carwash in the rain.

The clubs have all changed.

The buildings fell away.

We were hoping that this corner might remember

Junebug and Jester.

Preludes

Well, the gangsters drove Preludes and sold this one weed called White Tiger.

Wirth Park had a body. The Holiday guy couldn’t make change.

The parking lot scene still existed but not without problems.

I came back to St. Paul and things had progressed and got strange.

I got stuck in a snowbank. I was too drunk to drive to Edina.

Right there is proof of my faith that God watches us.

And the North Stars went south and my friends all went out to Seattle.

I stuck around town. Hit the bars then wait for the bus.

And the guys in Northeast ride bicycles up to the market.

Fish take to water but licenses they get revoked.

And the writing on walls in the stalls in the bathroom says “Cindy’s so easy”

But I’ve never met Cindy besides it might be a joke.

Fish take to water but licenses they get revoked

I got stuck in a snowbank. I was too drunk to drive to Edina.

Right there is proof of my faith that God watches us.

And the North Stars went south and my friends all went out to Seattle.

I stuck around town. Hit the bars then wait for the bus.

I was down on the trails by the river when this guy jumped out. He was waving a pistol.

I considered my options. Decided to do what he said.

He went through my jacket and found all my packets and matches.

He lit up a cig and put the Kryptonite over my head.

I was knocked out down in the mud too heavy to float off to Memphis.

The crust from the camps they poked me awake with a stick.

Made coffee over a campfire. I described my attacker.

They patched up my wounds and showed me a place to get sick.

They patched up my wounds and showed me a place to get sick.

I got stuck in a snowbank.

God watches us.

We got into the Preludes.

God watches us.

Ninety Bucks

She said Nathan I need ninety bucks.

Puts Popov in a paper cup.

It’s like she’s trying to burn her insides clean.

She shimmers like some gasoline

All smoke and shaky hands.

Shuts the shades and hits me with her plan.

Go back and get certified.

X-ray tech and MRIs

Stick with it and finally see it through.

I’m sick of all this wilderness.

The businessmen on business trips.

The distance goes beyond the rate and time.

But school don’t start ’til early Fall.

I went ahead and made a call.

Sometimes I can push ahead.

Some nights the wheels just spin.

Nathan, you’re my only friend.

Well, Caesar’s in a car right now.

He says isn’t far right now.

If I’m short when he shows up he’ll be so pissed.

‘Cause credit is something he don’t do.

Cash is king and three for two.

I’ve seen him use his hands to make a fist.

I know that I’ve been in and out.

Connections they get frayed and fraught.

Clouded with a million little lies.

The medication sometimes works.

The drinking probably doesn’t help.

The shepherd should still love the lambs he’s lost.

‘Cause the flock can wander from his eyes.

The hills are huge the valley is wide.

The traffic on the 405. The way those wheels just spin.

Nathan, you’re my only friend.

So thank you for the ninety bucks.

Get your coat. Give me a hug.

Now its probably time for you to leave.

Go back to your little house.

Your driveway and your pull-out couch.

And come back at the same time in a week.

The lamb can wander from the flock.

In shopping malls and parking lots.

Sometimes the shepherd brings him back.

Some nights the wheels just spin.

Nathan, you’re my only friend.

Birds Trapped In The Airport

Right now I feel a bit weightless.

A little shaky and scared.

A found a thread in the closet.

I followed it into darkness.

James, I’m glad that you’re here.

Tonight I’d like you to dance with me.

James, I’m glad that you’re here.

I’ve been estranged from my family.

I fell asleep by the pool.

Cigarettes with inches of ashes.

Premonitions of crashes.

We jettisoned all the fuel.

I’ve been screwing computers.

James, I’m glad you didn’t die.

It’s been loveless and lonely.

It’s been faceless and easy.

It’s been weird. It’s been wild.

Tonight I’d like you to dance with me.

James, I’m glad that you’re here.

Tonight I’d like you to dance with me.

We’ll be skeletons and ghosts next year.

When I went to the doctor.

I didn’t feel like talking.

I just stood by the window.

Acted like I was crying.

I just figured that maybe

He might let me skate by.

Right now I feel weightless.

James, I’m glad you didn’t die.

The birds trapped in the airport

And the boats in the bath.

All the guns in the movies.

The premonitions of crashes.

And the crosses and crystal

And the pills in her purse

Right now I feel a bit weightless

Last night I felt worse.

Tonight ‘d like you to dance with me.

James, I’m glad that you’re here.

Tonight I’d like you to dance with me.

We’ll be skeletons and ghosts next year.

God in Chicago

Her mom found her brother. Then she found the container wrapped up in a newspaper. Stuffed in a duffel bag with hockey pads and seven grand in rubber bands. We didn’t speak at the service but then later a message from a number that wasn’t familiar said hey it’s Charlie’s sister. Would you do me a favor? There’s unfinished business. It’s roughly the size of a baseball. I said I wasn’t totally sure, but yeah I could probably call someone. I knew this kid from my dorm when I went to school in Wisconsin. My two semesters were a total disaster and he was part of the problem. Hadn’t talked in forever. But Wayne from Winnetka picked up on the first ring. I explained the situation.  He said he’d be interested but we’d have to come to him. We said lunchtime on Wednesday. A Mexican restaurant a mile north of Midway. He worked for his father’s shipping company out west of the city. Right now I’m not working. She said we could split it. Just glad to be finished and not even tempted. But it’s so goddamn sad in her house right now. He’s still here in everything. She just needs a break from it. Said she wants to come with. We left really early.

Went from St. Paul to Cicero in my Chevrolet that didn’t have any radio. Had a boombox in the backseat that was running out of batteries. Played 1999 into Led  Zeppelin 3. When the tape deck got all wobbly she still sang the harmonies. The transaction was easy. My buddy looked similar just a little bit heavier. Counting all the money in front of him seemed silly. This isn’t the movies. It was over so quickly. Wayne got in his car, drove into the sunset, turned left onto Cermak. She turned to me and said:

I’ve never been to Chicago.

I got nothing going on tomorrow.

Maybe we could stay here tonight.

Lose ourselves in the glass and light.

We got a room at the Hyatt. Michigan Avenue I can still picture you. We each got a toothbrush at Walgreens. We drank in the taverns. We ate somewhere Italian. Then she’s on the sidewalk trying to ask for a cigarette from oncoming traffic. I felt God in the buildings. The light from the skyscrapers showing up in the river. Four years didn’t seem like much anymore. We both want the same things. We kissed on the corner. We kissed in the corridors. We fumbled with clothing. We all want the same things. And then it was morning.

We drove back all hungover. All the way to Eau Claire she played with her hair. Came up on St. Paul and she was sobbing.

Rescue Blues

She’s got that shortness of breath again.

Worst case scenarios.

What if the good guy finally dies?

I sit next to her. Hold her hand and reassure.

Remind her it’s a TV show.

The heroes somehow always end up fine.

I know Jamie from the grocery store

Up on Garden Boulevard.

She started out as a cashier.

Now she’s in the back.

She does scheduling and book keeping.

She finishes her shift. Gets the bus and meets me back here.

Jamie when we’re sailing off.

High above the parking lots.

Looking off the balcony.

Well that seems pretty pure to me.

I guess we all get by

Get by in different ways.
Right now I mostly stay

Up here at Jamie’s place.

I overestimate. I make mistakes sometimes.

Owe some money to some other guys.

It’s safest if I stay inside.

Jamie’s place is clean. Her TV is six feet wide.

Two hundred fifty channels.

Coming crisp and clear through satellite.

Jamie’s husband died in 1999.

There was an accident.

The claim it paid eventually.

She brings me cigarettes.

Six packs, chips and sandwiches.

Newspapers and tattoo magazines.

Jamie when we’re sailing off.

High above the parking lots.

Looking off the balcony

Well, that seems pretty pure to me.

I guess we all get by

Get by in different ways.
Right now I mostly stay

It’s safe up here at Jamie’s place.

I haven’t mentioned it to

all my stupid tavern friends.

I’d never hear the end of it.

They wouldn’t leave me alone again.

They’d only think I’m doing this

To have somewhere to hang my head.

I admit that that played it into it.

But now there’s so much more to this.

Cause Jamie when we’re sailing off.

High above the parking lots.

Looking off the balcony

That seems pretty pure to me.

That seems pretty pure to me.

We all get by in different ways.

Right now I mostly stay

It’s safe up here at Jamie’s place.

It’s safe up here at Jamie’s place.

Tangletown 

Happy Hour in those high heel boots.

Splitting checks for some massive groups.

Red teeth and the buyback blues.

The sketchy truth about the vineyard youth.

Can’t slow down but her car is in the shop.

She can’t pay up but she still wants to rock.

She can’t listen to the people talk.

Just stares beyond their shoulders

And waits until their mouths stop moving.

She knows this guy who likes to fool around.

He’s got a big house up in Tangletown.

He claims he used to have a family.

He falls asleep way too easily.

She walks around once he passes out.

Calls a car and collects what’s hers.

Takes a bottle when she’s walking out.

She’s working at the cork when she gets back into her building.

Sit and drink until the sun comes up.

Sleep it off and then it starts again.

Go to work and when she’s getting off.

Tries to hang around some finer things.

Tries to hang around some finer things.

He keeps his eyes on the sales reports.

Keeps in shape with the racquet sports.

Tennis shorts on the tennis courts.

He lost his shirt in a bad divorce.

The lawyers came and they scraped him away.

He kept the house but he still lost his way.

He goes to work but they take half his pay.

Leased a car that makes it look ok.

The broker said that he should sell the wine.

They got this guy that can arrange a buy.

But there’s a girl that sometimes comes to him.

She seems to really like the finer things.

Once a week or so he takes her out.

She picks the place it’s always new and loud.

He can barely even hear her talk.

Just stares beyond her shoulder

And waits until her mouth stops moving.

Sit and drink until they fall asleep.

He wakes up and he’s alone again.

Goes to work and then when he gets off.

Tries to hang around some finer things.

Tries to hang around some finer things.

Sit and drink until they fall asleep.

He wakes up and he’s alone again.

Goes to work and then when he gets off.

Tries to hang around some finer things.

Sit and drink until the sun comes up.

Sleep it off and then it starts again.

Go to work and when she’s getting off.

Tries to hang around some finer things.

Tries to hang around some finer things.

Tries to hang around some finer things.

It Hits When It Hits

Last night was something I didn’t see coming.

Never made connection like we did in the kitchen.

Now you’re in your uniform looking tired and hostile.

Two little white ones and a Bud Clamato.

Its kind of spicy. There’s mellow music.

I can tell that today is going to be a celebration.

Me and my bicycle with dozens of roses.

Your manager is pissed. Reminds you you’re closing.

I can see you’re suspicious. You say you barely know me.

Things were messed up. Now everything is perfect.

It seems a bit quick but I’ve been praying for this.

The one thing that I’ve heard about love is it hits when it hits.

Two little white ones and a Bud Clamato.

Its kind of spicy. There’s mellow music.

I can tell that today is going to be a celebration.

Things were messed up. Now everything’s perfect.

If it seems a bit quick. Well, I’ve been praying for this.

The one thing that I’ve heard about love is it hits when it hits.

I changed quite a bit when I was off in the army.

I finally learned how to handle my parties.

Last night I found you my light and my love.

Two little white ones. A Bud Clamato.

Its kind of spicy. There’s mellow music.

I can tell that today is going to be a celebration.

I can tell that today is going to be a celebration.

Tracking Shots

Widen out the angle for the tracking shot.

While we fake our way through predictable plots.

Watch our lives play out in these parking lots.

With dead end cards and debit jobs.

We built it up and then it fell apart.

With sharpened sticks and body parts.

The freeways and the frontage roads.

The silver cans and burning coals.

You always hope. You never know.

Cells and skulls and teeth and hair.

Faith and science. Praise and prayer.

Louis Pasteur with the rosary.

Some things you can’t explain to me.

When I fell through your window well I felt pretty good.

I was thinking it was something we both understood.

I was thinking we could rise above.

Something like love or close enough.

A way to live. A train to make.

The whistle blows. The metal scrapes.

The lighters and the burners

The kettle and the steam.

Haunted houses. Bumper cars.

Weekends at the water parks.

Shut your eyes and shudder at the laughter and the screams.

Still getting used to the new dream.

You hope like hell but you never know.

Bullet points and bullet holes.

The digi scales and the dollar signs.

The chemicals tell lazy lies.

She kissed him hard and they laughed a bit.

She said baby don’t get hurt for this.

It’s not worth it now and it probably never was.

The righteous path is hard to walk.

These skeletons make sexy talk.

The nights are dark. The money is green.

The bills still smell like gasoline.

So park it up and hit the locks.

Our lives play out in parking lots.

The prayers against the chemistry

On the fringes of the scene.

Still getting used to the new dream.

Still getting used to the new dream.

Burn it up and boil it off.

The righteous path is hard to walk.

He can’t take another incident.

He’s got a girl and she’s been good to him.

Hit the lights and shield your eyes.

Cross yourself when someone dies.

Shut your eyes and shudder at the laughter and the screams.

Still getting used to the new dream.

Still getting used to the new dream.

Be Honest 

Her body was an outpost for ideas that didn’t work.

A nation failed and broken. Invaded and then burned.

And the crumbles and the ashes that settled in her purse.

Were the ruins of an empire and the people we once were.

We were limping up towards Lake Street and she motioned towards the church.

Said the hardest question thing they ask me is “Amanda does it hurt?”

‘Cause it’s not pain its more like pressure and on the edges of my eyes.

I see  scales and bloody feathers when I look into the lights.

And my password is “be honest”.

And my network is evolved.

And I can’t guarantee I’ll pick up every time that you call.

Ain’t it spooky when they all go away?

Ain’t it strange when they just disappear?

It really sucks getting sick on the bus.

It even worse when the teenagers cheer.

Ain’t it funny how we all get by?

But not the way that makes us laugh.

The lust burns off into handshakes and hugs.

In the end it comes down to the cash.

I was calling from the carpark when they kicked in the door.

They pulled the pistols from the holsters. Put the people on the floor.

Its not the fear. Its the frustration. Getting sick of being scared.

They pulled your princess to her feet. Made a handle from her hair.

I was thinking about the progress. How a change is going to come.

I was hearing the announcements. I was running from the guns.

Desperation fueled the dancers. There’s a sadness in the sex.

They lingered over dinners and then ran out on the check.

And our safeword is still “stop it”.

And our style is self involved.

And I can’t guarantee I’ll pick up every time that you call.

Ain’t it something how the people switch partners?

Yeah, you just got to wait your turn.

It’s really hard getting kicked in the heart.

It’s even worse watching big buildings burn.

Ain’t it strange how it all fades to black.

Just when it starts to feel really nice?

I was banging round your party

Trying to locate all the love and the light.

And the speed it crested early and then it ran its course.

I showered and got ready and started on my chores.

It was rushing through my blood. It was coming from my pores.

And my heart was charging forward and I threw up off the porch.

We were limping up on Lake Street and she motioned towards the church.

She said the hardest question ever is “Amanda does it hurt?”

It’s not pain its just a pressure but it some ways thats much worse.

The ruins of an empire and the people we once were.

If revolution is really coming then we all need to be well.

So maybe it’s just best if we both take care of ourselves.

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