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Keeping Apart Keeps Posies Core Together – 2003

 

By John Niva, Anchorage Daily News, 2003

A rendezvous just a phone call away. Meet for weekend flings and European jaunts. Enjoy every second of it. Maybe reminisce a little. When it’s over, you go your way, I go mine, and I’ll see you when I see you.

The Posies have it like that for a reason. Founding members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have already done high-maintenance in their musical relationship. It’s the reason the pair of singer-songwriter-guitarists broke up the band in 1998 after more than 10 years of playing together. The bond for the now-30-somethings dates back to their teen years in Bellingham, Wash., and that union brought them back together in 2000, only with new relationship rules:

• Space is good.

• Low-maintenance is good.

• New musical relationships are good.

“The Posies is a band when we want it to be a band,” Auer said during a phone interview from Seattle last week. “It’s no longer the driving force in our lives. In some ways, and maybe this is romanticizing this a bit, maybe we’re better friends now than we ever have been. It’s nice to have this thing, this kind of relationship.”

These breakthroughs help them breathe and grow and keep healed wounds closed. It also brings them together for limited, handpicked dates every year, allowing them to enjoy the best of what they’ve done as The Posies: harmonize and strum their feel-good alternative-pop music to their ever-loyal fans.

“When it happens and it’s good, it’s great,” Auer said of the infrequent reunions. “It’s been great, and we wouldn’t keep doing it if it wasn’t. To have that many people still curious to see what we’re going to do next is great.”

Auer guesses the pair played just “five or 10” shows last year. They played more in 2001 because they wanted to and they couldn’t turn down offers in Spain, where they’re huge and the pay is good. They say their day-to-day focus is on solo ventures and work with other bands, not on The Posies.

Auer said Anchorage was tabbed for a rare show for two reasons: one, they have strong Alaska ties and have played here before; two, the lure and lore of Chilkoot Charlie’s.

“It’s strange how these offers come out of the woodwork — it’s just insane,” Auer said. “I know what (Chilkoot Charlie’s) is and where it is. You want to talk about an experience you can tell your grandchildren about? That’s one of them.”

Auer and Stringfellow will have quite the catalog to pass on to their heirs, as well. They recorded five studio albums before splitting. Despite being “broke up” for much of 1999 and 2000, they managed to release four albums: live collection “Alive Before the Iceberg,” acoustic album “In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Plugging In,” greatest-hits compilation “The Best of the Posies: Dream All Day,” and all-encompassing, four-disc box set “… At Least, At Last.” Upon their return, they huddled up to compose 2001’s five-song EP, “Nice Cheekbones and a Ph.D,” and have tentatively planned a recording session for later this year — other projects permitting.

Auer likened the experience of preparing the box set and its extensive liner notes with Stringfellow to going through high school yearbooks with an old pal.

“We spent many hours, it was pretty extreme, and went through tons and tons of stuff,” Auer said. “But it’s one of my favorite things in our entire catalog.”

The box set includes “I May Hate You Sometimes (But I’ll Always Love You)” and “Hate Song,” two tunes documenting the relationship’s rough edges. Today, they sing those songs lovingly. Besides, if they ever feel the need to get angry at one another, they can always direct their aggression at their rhythm section — the band is on its third bassist and drummer — or escape to their solo ventures to save the relationship.

“It’s just like being with somebody you need to not be around anymore — maybe that’s the only way you gain perspective,” Auer said. “And it’s OK to get back together with somebody if that’s OK with you.”