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Posies Interview – 1996

 

By Adam (AJ) Metz, 9 June 1996

AJ: How come the album wasn’t released until April? The website said that it would be out in the late fall or winter of 95.

Jon: Well, record companies have minds of their own and they don’t synchronize with the bands that are on them.

AJ: Did DGC deliberately push the Posies back?

J: Well, yeah. You know Beck? Of course, you know Beck.

AJ: Never heard of him.

J: Let’s just say that Beck is responsible for the delay of our record.

AJ: Because…

J: Because his record kept attempting to come out and it wasn’t ready and it kept getting pushed back.

[We walk up to the second story of a Palo Alto parking garage, a scenic interview spot. Jon comes up, open Heiniken in tow.]

AJ: This is one of the few towns where they don’t have an open container law. Anyway, what’s the deal with Big Star and the Posies right now? What’s Alex [Chilton] doing?

J: Alex does whatever he wants to. Alex has a mind of his own, but he’s fun to hang out with. We were just in Memphis, and we did a new Big Star track.

AJ: Are you serious?! A brand new song? [There hasn’t been a new Big Star song since 1974 or 1978, if you count Chris Bell’s “You & Your Sister”.

J: Well, you know like Matthew Sweet, the Gin Blossoms, and Teenage Fanclub – all those bands and more are contributing to a tribute record, and one of the tracks is the new Big Star song.

AJ: You have a name for it yet?

J: It’s called “Hot Thing.”

AJ: Is it like [Chilton’s] “Tee-na-nee-na-noo”?

J: It’s weird. It encapsulates everything Big Star ever did, from goofy stuff to beautiful pop.

AJ: Like “Morpha Too” to “Ballad of El Goodo”?

J: No, it’s not like “Ballad of El Goodo”. If you took “Don’t Lie To Me” and “Thirteen” and combined them or something. It’s really interesting

AJ: It’s acoustic and electric?

J: Well, yeah, it’s got horns on it, and it’s real weird.

AJ: As far as the Posies stuff goes, how many months a year are you on tour?

J: We’ll be on the road until January, and that includes going to Japan and Australia in a couple weeks.

AJ: Are you bigger in Japan and Europe than here?

J: It’s weird. We’ve [with the new album, “Amazing Disgrace”] almost outsold our last record [“Frosting On The Beater”] already, but we haven’t even come close to selling as much in the states. We’re not really up on the charts and we’re not on the radio, but we still tour and we still play.

AJ: What label were the first two LPs on, “Dear 23” and “Failure”?

J: “Dear 23” was on DGC, and “Failure” is on a label called Popllama. They put out the Presidents [of the U.S.A.] record originally, and they’ve got a bunch of other bands.

AJ: From what I hear, you’re Chelsea Clinton’s favorite band.

J: Sure, whatever you say.

AJ: That’s what I read in the Metro. Did she have you guys play there [at the White House]?

J: Oh yeah. It was all right.

AJ: What was it like?

J: She just told us that she thought we were the greatest band ever, and her dad likes us too, but he thought we had too many long guitar solos…No, I’m totally bullshitting you. It’s not true, but I thought it sounded good. We didn’t play the White House, but we did play in Seattle opening for Clinton in a Democratic rally. We got our picture taken with him. It was pretty fun.

AJ: Did you get to meet her?

J: We didn’t, but we gave her a CD. We gave Bill some CDs to pass on to her. She probably sold them to go buy some other records like Stone Temple Pilots. “I just love Eddie Vedder”, she says.

AJ: After this tour is done, what are you doing as far as promotion for the album? Any in-stores?

J: We do in-stores in selective locations, and we might make a video. “Ontario” is gonna be the next single, which is probably a good choice. It’s hard to get on the radio right now. There’s so many bands. There’s all these bands that come along and have one hit and do really well, like Seven Mary Three. They sell a million records off of one song. With the Rentals you have two songs.

AJ: Do you even like that stuff? When you first started playing, did you think of yourselves as alternative?

J: It’s all changed. Alternative is big business, and it’s top 40. It’s all about money. There’s a lot of good music – I like Pavement, Sebadoh, Stereolab. I love Liz Phair. I like the Folk Implosion song on the “Kids” soundtrack, “Natural One”. That’s one of the best songs to come out in a long time – great dance groove. Michael Bolton’s really good. Just kidding. Lou [Barlow from Sebadoh] was at a couple of our shows because our tour manager tour managed Sebadoh for a while. We had Lou Barlow and Wynonna Rider at one show.

AJ: Put Lou and Alex Chilton together.

J: What a concept. It would be too sad for words.

AJ: In the early 90s, Seattle radio stations seemed so ahead of what was going on nationally. Is that still the case? Does that help the Posies.

J: In Seattle, we do great, but it’s our hometown. We have a lot of fans there. The week our record came out, we outsold Soundgarden in Seattle. We do really well there, but it doesn’t mean a lot across the rest of the country. It’s weird. Last tour, we sold out more shows, and this tour we have a really good bill with Fuzzy and Velocity Girl but there aren’t as many people showing up. I think it’s because there’s more bands now.

AJ: There’s a lot of festivals and other big shows going on this weekend.

J: [To four of my friends] How many people in bands do you guys know? Everybody wants to be in a band now.

AJ: Pretty much all of my close friends.

J: It’s really cool, but there’s just so many bands. Think about in ten years.

AJ: Everybody will be their own band. At this point, with all these new bands coming out, where do you think pop is going?

J: It think it recycles itself; it goes in cycles like anything else. The pendulum swings back and forth from one thing to another.

AJ: From baroque to heavy?

J: I think it’s like light to dark. It’s always night to day, light to dark.

AJ: So, are the Posies in a blue period right now?

J: Not a blue period, we just do what we do, and it’s been kinda out of step with what’s been going on.

AJ: Were you pissed that DGC kinda tried to hype you as a grunge band with “Frosting On The Beater”?

J: No, I don’t think they did at all, but they just didn’t know what to do with us. Our record was severely underpromoted, and with this record, it’s amazing. I meet people I know in the music business who didn’t know that our record’s out. It’s been out for a month.

AJ: It’s on the instant bestseller list at Tower, Borders, and a few other stores. [The title goes on sale upon release.] It’s on sale everywhere, but it’s low-priced – typically $12.99 list. That’s cool, because everything is like $15.99 now.

J: It only costs a dollar to make a CD. There’s a band on DGC called Sammy and their record is being sold for $6.99. That’s just proof that you could sell records a lot cheaper. But, you know, they can’t give that record away.

AJ: You know why? It’s the worst Pavement rip-off I’ve ever heard, with the exception of that song “Possibly Peking.” Jesse [from Sammy] works for DGC.

J: Yeah, I know he works for A&R in New York, and it’s a sad fact that they’re working that record more than they’re working our record, because those guys work there.

AJ: It’s office politics. Are the Posies gonna stick with it? What’s your contract?

J: Our contract is for seven records, but I started when I was seventeen, I’m 26, and I’ll be 27 in September. That’s ten years, man. I’m a veteran at 27. It’s a bit much to be doing this. I’ll do it as long as it’s fun, basically.

AJ: Has Alex talked to you about this? This is exactly what happened to him.

J: It is. It’s weird. We could be just a cult band, and always be a cult band. If that’s the way it is, I don’t mind being respected by the people who actually like it. I see a lot of bands become popular really fast and people go to shows and they hear one song they like. People who come to our shows generally know a lot of the material. They’ll shout out a bunch of stuff. Like Oasis – Oasis is really big over here, but “Wonderwall” is the song that broke them and when they play a concert, everybody waits for “Wonderwall”. Or when they see Everclear, they wait for “Santa Monica”.

AJ: It seems like, with your scene, most Posies fans know all the other bands who influenced you, like Badfinger, Big Star, the Beatles, and the Beach Boys. Did the Posies ever play with Game Theory?

J: No, but you saw Scott Miller [Game Theory leader, and now Loud Family leader] there tonight.

AJ: Wait, that was him?!

J: I dedicated the Big Star song to him. [A wonderful version of “What’s Going Ahn”] Scott is somebody who’s too smart and too good for most people to comprehend.

AJ: Enigma Records didn’t push him.

J: Enigma wasn’t that great of a label. It’s all about timing, man. Even Nirvana – I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” coming here on the radio, and it still sounds great, but their moment was perfect.

AJ: …the right place at the right time. Why didn’t that happen to Pavement? Why is Folk Implosion bigger than Sebadoh.

J: You can’t predict it, you can’t manipulate it. Rarely, you can.

AJ: Is being a victim of time the big thing for you guys?

J: I don’t know. It remains to be seen. I mean, I’ve had a good time. How old are you guys? [To my friends]

AJ: I’ll be 19 this month

Friends: 17, 14, 17.

J: I’m like five years your senior, and it’s amazing what a difference that makes. I’m not old yet in my mind, but it’s a different thing than when I was nineteen. I was a little more naive and into it, maybe, but I’ve kinda come back. I’m having fun again, you know.

AJ: You’re not thinking of doing the four solo albums, a la Kiss, are you?

J: Well, our bass player’s got another contract with another label for a solo record that he did.

AJ: What band did he used to be in?

J: Sky Cries Mary, which ironically Ken and I started. That was back in 89, the year the Posies made their first record. It’s weird. It’s a very incestous scene up in Seattle.

AJ: So there’s the Posies, Sky Cries Mary, Big Star…

J: Even a Beatle covered one of our songs.

AJ: That’s right. Ringo Starr did “Golden Blunders.”

J: I met his daughter the other night, and she was kinda pissed that we didn’t play “Golden Blunders”. It’s just weird hearing stories from her about Keith Moon teaching her brother to play drums.

AJ: What was meeting him like?

J: Cool. It’s weird when you meet him, because you realize he’s just a regular guy, and it’s also weird because the Beatles are getting on 30 years old now.

Upon meeting Jon Auer, I realized that he too, was a regular guy with some of the same everyday hopes and fears, who is incredibly gifted at putting his questions and doubts to music. Until the record industry realizes good music can be backed by promotional bucks, the Posies will continue to languish in obscurity – cult status is a nice way to say it. It must be hard to be the gifted child in a classroom full of idiots.