I’ve always had a hard time thinking about Heaven is Whenever, as it wasn’t a ton of fun to make. But 10 years later, going over these songs for this reissue, I’ve taken on a great new appreciation for this collection. With some distance, I see that we were trying to get somewhere else, and that this was a necessary transition record. The songs are weary, but with a dark humor. Upon review I think this might be the funniest Hold Steady LP, although it’s sometimes hard to tell because it doesn’t convey the same ecstatic joy as some of the earlier records.
The band had just lost Franz and we’d come off several years of non-stop touring. We were tired, and perhaps feeling a pressure that was mainly internal. We’d become a bit more self aware than in our early days. I, for one, was stuck on the idea of a 5th album- many of my favorite bands didn’t make it to their 5th LP, and it’s hard to keep a band evolving for that long. Rock problems, right?
The process of making it was a challenge. It was recorded in fits and starts. At one point we even left Dreamland Studios early due to a medical issue. The label folks flew in and visited to see what the hell was going on. Meanwhile, we were chasing something that was mostly undefined, and we kept recording more and more music.
One huge bright spot about this period is that Steve Selvidge came in for the touring on this album cycle. He became and remains a huge part of the heart and soul of THS. In fact, my biggest regret about Heaven now is that we didn’t record this album with Franz and Steve. But I do look forward to revisiting some these songs live with both of them (and the rest of us) as soon as we are able to get back.
So here in 2020, I have become very proud of Heaven is Whenever. It’s the sound of a band pushing through difficult times by making music about that very struggle. It acknowledges suffering as part of human life. And with all the extra songs that we recorded beyond the album tracks, it’s a testament to the band’s willingness to show up and try to work through uncertainty. This shouldn’t hurt, but you might feel a slight discomfort.
I’ll leave it at that, as our amazing friend Patterson Hood has a lot more to say about this record in the LP liner notes. Happy 10 years to Heaven is Whenever.
Thanks for listening.
Thanks for understanding.
The Hold Steady
(written by CF 10.13.20)