September 16th, 2005, by Rachel Hurley, Scenestars
Not many bands have been as prolific after their breakup as The Posies. Since officially splitting in 1998, guitarists/ vocalists/songwriters Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer have released a greatest hits collection (2000’s Dream All Day), a rarities box set (2000’s At Least, At Last) and a live acoustic EP (2001’s “In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Plugging In”). Later that same year they even released some new acoustic songs (the “Nice Cheekbones and a Ph.D.” EP).
Now, seven years after their swan song (1998’s Success), The Posies have a new album, a new touring band and a new appreciation of an old friendship.
The Posies — (from left) Darius Minwalla, Jon Auer, Matt Harris and Ken Stringfellow — broke up in 1998. Now they have a new album, a new touring band and a new appreciation of an old friendship.
Stringfellow and Auer met in high school and formed The Posies in Bellingham, Wash., in 1988. Their collaboration made them one of the most popular power pop bands of the mid-’90s, but after five albums and an ever-changing rhythm section, Stringfellow and Auer called it quits in 1998. After not speaking for almost two years, the duo slowly began to work on their relationship.
“We worked on ourselves on our break and gained some insight and maturity that allowed us to come back to the situation and take responsibility for our own happiness and unhappiness,” Stringfellow says. “In our case it was really just a result of being in our 20s. Getting a little bit older helped more than anything else.”
It was after Stringfellow’s self-imposed hiatus from drinking and other indulgences during the summer of 2002 that the two cemented the idea of reuniting and making new music.
“We had a long talk and I got to ask Jon all of the questions I wanted and he asked me everything he wanted, and it really repaired our relationship,” Stringfellow says. “For us, we really have to have the friendship or otherwise the music doesn’t have a point. What else are we doing it for? The money? Some lofty artistic reason?”
Their latest release, 2005’s Every Kind of Light, includes the work of new additions bassist Matt Harris (of the band Oranger) and drummer Darius Minwalla. All four band members are credited as songwriters: Instead of Stringfellow and Auer coming into the studio with preconceived songs, the entire album was written and recorded in the studio.
“We’re starting from scratch here really. We have a body of work but we’re starting as a new band in many ways,” says Stringfellow. “We really wouldn’t be here without them. … We’re kind of in it together.”
Another first for the band is the decision to stray into a new direction in song themes. The record is full of political undertones, from their distrust of President Bush to their problems with media coverge.
“These songs were written tremendously quickly, and something that happens … is that you become less self-conscious about what you’re saying,” Stringfellow says. “We didn’t want to undo things that seemed very natural. Those are my real feelings and those are Jon’s real feelings and it’s very honest.”
Influenced by bands like XTC, Elvis Costello and Big Star, Stringfellow and Auer were part of a reunion show with Big Star in 1993, and went on to play with Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens several times over the years under the Big Star moniker. The culmination of that collaboration will be heard when Big Star releases its first studio album since 1978’s cult classic Third/Sister Lovers next month.
After almost 20 years of playing together, it’s never really crossed anyone’s mind that it’s a feat to make music together for such a long span of time.
It definitely wasn’t something that they had planned.
“I probably didn’t have very much perspective on it when we started, we just had a lot of enthusiasm, in a sense it hasn’t changed much since then” says Stringfellow. “I pretty much only think about today. It all stems from that.”