Pause and Play, 9 April 2000
For a group that supposedly disbanded two years ago, The Posies – namely Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer – are sure omnipresent these days.
Geffen/UME released the 19-track “The Best of The Posies: Dream All Day” on March 21; “Alive Before the Iceberg,” recorded live in Barcelona and issued last year in Europe, is due stateside April 18 on Badman Recordings; Stringfellow and Auer taped an acoustic Posies show last month and likely will release it after an acoustic tour of the United States this summer, and the erstwhile members are putting the finishing touches on “At Least, At Last,” a four-disc box set of demos, unreleased tracks and live cuts on Not Lame Records, out May 30.
That’s just half of it for Stringfellow. When the singer-guitarist isn’t fronting his own band, Saltine, he’s a pseudo member of R.E.M., touring with the group and playing on its “Man On the Moon” film soundtrack material, and has joined Auer, Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens for Big Star shows off and on for the past seven years.
Good thing Stringfellow is organized.
“Everything’s one day at a time,” he said recently from his Seattle home, “and I make sure I write everything down in my day planner, and it’s all in pencil because it’s always changing. There are times when I think I should put some breaks in there for myself, but I also have a pretty resilient nature. I can work for a long time, and I love to work.”
The Posies were one of the premier power-pop groups of the 1990s, cracking Billboard’s modern rock tracks chart with “Golden Blunders” and “Dream All Day” at the height of grunge. They didn’t sell many albums, but they had a fervent following and critics praised them to no end.
By 1998, after 11 years together, they were anxious to do something new.
“I don’t foresee Jon and I having any interest in like having a four-piece band get back together, make a record and tour,” Stringfellow said. “That doesn’t seem very much fun. But going out on an acoustic tour, it’s so easy for Jon and I to just grab a couple of guitars; we know lots of songs and it’d be fun to do. That’s something we’re willing to do.
“As we do these things together, like the box set and the live stuff, I keep thinking maybe the two of us could make a record, but that’s a little more farfetched. I’m pretty into developing my own thing as well.”
But, oddly enough, it always comes back around to The Posies. With the best-of, the box set and live albums, there’s more Posies material available this year than ever before.
“The box set, for instance, is not stuff from the (previous) albums,” Stringfellow said. “It’s entirely comprised of demos, unreleased songs and live tracks. It’s pretty fierce, too. There’s some crazy, crazy stuff on there. There’s like 20 unreleased songs; some of them are just four-track things, but they’re very cool. There’s some interesting cover tunes and definitely some very, very strange live performances.
“We decided to fill in the gaps of everything that didn’t get represented by our albums, rather than repackage our available output. Here’s the other side of us if you’re a fan of The Posies, like there’s a live track from our very first show in 1987, doing a song off our first record before it was made. You can tell how green we were, how nervous we were.”
The still-untitled box set is The Posies, warts and all.
“The hardest thing when you’re making a record is and have a band,” Stringfellow said, “is to get the broad spectrum of your abilities represented. You need to find a common place working with a group of musicians in a band and some of the fringes of what one’s capable of doing gets left out. Here’s all the fringes.”
Trying to pin down Stringfellow on The Posies’ legacy is a bit more problematic.
“I can’t think about The Posies’ music in any other terms than my own life and my involvement in it,” he said. “To me, the band has no other historical significance because it was my band. A question that’s always been on my mind, a strangely unanswerable thought, is: Would I like The Posies if I wasn’t in them? I don’t know; I have objectivity at all. But I think we were pretty cool.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: ” ‘Discovery’ by the Electric Light Orchestra. It had ‘Shine a Little Love’ and ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ on it. I really got into those guys at the time. I haven’t really retained fan-dom over the years, but I was definitely into them when it came out.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “My dad took me to see Don McLean and Juice Newton in 1979, which was a slightly underwhelming experience. The first one that was my choice was The Who and The Clash in ’82. It was in the Kingdome and it was this huge rock show. I was so incredibly into Pete Townshend; it was a huge watershed for me to go to that show. It didn’t sound very good, because the Kingdome was a terrible venue. But it was a great experience, and everywhere it smelled like pot and there were weird punk people there too. I was from a smaller town; I lived like an hour and a half north of Seattle, so it was kind of my first coming-into-the-big-city experience.”
THE LAST CD I BOUGHT: “I ordered some stuff off CDNow. I got divorced about four years ago and when my wife and I split up, we split up our CD collection, so recently I’ve been going, ‘Oh, yeah, I used to have that record. I should go get that.’ I went out and got a couple Elvis Costello records – ‘My Aim Is True’ and ‘This Year’s Model,’ which are both masterpieces. I’m also into a huge Neil Young thing now, so I got ‘Comes a Time,’ a really great record. My ex-wife and I didn’t speak for a couple of years, but now we’re friends again. As soon as we became friends again, I was like, ‘Okay, look, I know this is kind of ridiculous, but I have to get the Gary & the Hornets single. You don’t listen to it, you gotta give it to me.’ And she gave it to me.”