Stringfellow Says R.E.M. Back To Being A Proper Band – 1999

by Music 365, 25 June 1999

R.E.M. touring member Ken Stringfellow has told Music365 that the band decided to go on tour this year because they “finally felt like a band again” for the first time after the departure of drummer Bill Berry.

Stringfellow, the ex-Posies member who is playing keyboards and guitars for the band on their current tour of Europe and US, spoke to Music365 after Built To Spill’s gig at the London Camden Dingwalls last night. He said the band had decided to tour again because they felt they had finally become a ‘proper band’ again.

“I have a feeling that the biggest reason is that it didn’t feel cheesy or fake to do it,” he said. Last year, when Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills did press for their latest album, ‘Up’, they hinted that they play a few dates, though they said it was unlikely they would embark on a major jaunt. The last time they had done so, 1995’s tour for the ‘Monster’ album, Bill Berry suffered a serious aneurysm, Mike Mills had to undergo stomach surgery and Michael Stipe was hospitalized with a hernia.

But the promotional concerts they played last year – which included a BBC Radio1 session and a Later… With Jools Holland TV special – prompted them to reconsider. They played promo concerts with Stringfellow, Minus 5 ‘s multi-instrumentalist Scott McCaughey and Beck drummer Joey Waronker.

The promo tour was the first time the band had played outside of the US since the departure of Berry in late 1996. Their only post-Berry American gigs had been as part of last year’s Tibetan Freedom Concert in Washington D.C and Neil Young’s Bridge School benefit.

“We played a lot of little concerts and it ended up working out really well,” Stringfellow said. “I think the guys [Stipe, Buck and Mills] felt they were in a band again to some degree.”

The tour, which started in Lisbon, Portugal, on June 17, followed rehearsals of over “50 songs. We’ve learnt stuff going right the way back to Chronic Town [R.E.M.’s first album in 1982]. We’ll be able to do shows with material from every album.” As for the Glastonbury set, Stringfellow said: “I think Peter and Michael are having dinner tonight [Thursday] and are going to talk about it.”

Meanwhile, Stringfellow confirmed that the Posies, the power pop band who briefly found alternative rock fame with 1993’s ‘Frosting On The Beater’ album, have definitely called it a day. their last album, last year’s ‘Success’, failed to get a UK release, and was released in the States on the minor label Popllama.

“The Posies are defunct… it probably isn’t going to get a release in the UK because most of the hardcore fans will have bought it on import. We’ve definitely called it quits. To be honest, it had been on the cards for a while. We had been planning on releasing a last album and then that’s it.”

Stringfellow may be involved in the recording of the next R.E.M. album, will also be releasing an album with his new band, Saltine, later on in the year. Saltine includes former Posies drummer and current Fountains Of Wayne sticksman Brian Young.