The melodious, Seattle rock-n-rollers known as The Posies are back with their seventh album Blood/Candy, and with it a tour of Europe and the US.
Here, I speak with band founders Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer about their new album, what fans can expect from their upcoming tour, what it takes to keep a band together and what’s in the future for The Posies.
How did The Posies form? How did you come up with the band name?
Ken Stringfellow: When I was 14, Jon joined a band I had with school friends. We had heard about a ‘new kid in town’ with prodigious abilities, and we found him one day, playing blazing guitar solos in a music store in the center of the small town we came from; Bellingham, WA. We asked him to join us and he did. We didn’t do much with this band, but we evolved through various musical projects together. We discovered that we shared a commitment and seriousness that other teenage musicians didn’t share- and that laid the foundation for the working partnership that this band is built around today. We did music together in Jon’s home studio, which eventually led to the recording of our first album there, (1988’s Failure.) But there are tons of experiments and goofing around in the vaults that predate The Posies… The band name; don’t remember, but I wish we’d spent more time on that one!
Jon Auer: I think having the small but powerful recording studio my father built in the family rec-room was arguably the reason The Posies came to fruition. At first we weren’t even a band, really – we were a recording partnership, a concept, a couple of very dedicated, sincere kids making a blueprint that eventually became the foundation of The Posies.
By the way- I really, really, REALLY wish we’d spent more time on the band name, but now, of course, it’s too late. I hate to admit it, but even Seven Mary Three has a better band name than we do. The same, unfortunately, can be said of Puddle of Mudd.
Well, I think those band-name origins are pretty blunt… Yours at least is open to interpretation. How does Blood/Candy differ from other albums?
KS: It’s the one that’s been made without any emotional turbulence (i.e., unlike our middle four albums,) with maturity (so scratch the first album,) and with the confidence that we are fully committed to the band and project (we were a little unsure as to where things were going on the last album.)
JA: I think it’s easily our most eclectic record. None of our other releases come close to the diversity of styles and/or sonic detailing. It’s probably the best “headphones” record we’ve ever made – perfect for the iPod age.
I have to say, this album has me gliding and humming… and I assure you that’s a good thing! What would you both describe as your primary musical influences? Specifically, what bands/musicians made you want to become musicians yourself?
KS: I get inspiration just looking out the window. And listening/observing the people I know. I guess the first band I really bonded with, when I was very young, was The Who. I loved the alternation of hyper-sensitive gentleness with balls-out aggression. I still use that formula.
JA: If you’re paying attention, everything in life has the potential for inspiration, really. Early in my songwriting career I mined experiences of growing up in broken homes around divorce quite a bit… the emotional politics of inter-family relationships. You can always turn pain into art, transform it into something beautiful and therefore positive. When I was six, my father gave me his copies of ’67-’70 by the Beatles, Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix and A Quick One by The Who, and I was blown away, hooked big time, played them nonstop. Later in life I wanted to be Neil Young. Sometimes I still do.
I love that Who description (KS,) and Neil Young is a god in my book (JA.) What are your thoughts on your upcoming tour? Any covers or acoustic songs in store?
JA: One thing I can say – We have been playing Big Stars’ “September Gurls” with Brendan Benson at the end of the set. That’s how we met – when Brendan joined us in Memphis for the final Big Star tribute show, back in May of this year. In fact, you could say we bonded over it. Seemed fitting to include it on this tour.
Interesting! Hopefully I can catch that live… Did you guys expect to be playing music together to this day? What has kept the chemistry going, and what advice, if any, would you give to bands in regards to overcoming differences and maintaining a good working relationship?
KS: I sure didn’t. Things were pretty bleak when the band stopped functioning in 1998. I know we blamed each other for problems that were largely our own doing. Ultimately, we figured out the partnership gave a lot to our lives, and didn’t really take anything away… we needed perspective to see that. So, I don’t know what to say to other bands. I think though, that being an adult, a true adult, is the only remedy.
JA: In 1998 I was completely convinced we’d put the nail in the Posies coffin. It’s hard to relate how utterly un-enjoyable being in this band was at one point in time – near the end it was brutal. I’m not trying to be melodramatic either… We really needed the band to end to be able to see it for what it was and to see each other for who we were as individuals and how we related as partners. Ultimately the break up was one of the best things that ever happened to us. It just took a couple of years to figure that out.
Do either of you plan on pursuing new solo endeavors or projects in the future?
KS: I have an album ready for release next year with my band THE DiSCiPLiNES; I’m recording an album in January with Dutch producer JB Meijers, drummer Trevor Morais, and legendary lyricist Van Dyke Parks (in Trinidad, no less); later in the year I’ll be working on a new solo record. We hope to put out another Posies record within a couple of years too…
JA: It’s been a few years since my last solo record, Songs From The Year of Our Demise. It got a lot of great reviews, and I toured the world on it – Japan , Australia/New Zealand, Europe – a recent trip to Singapore, etc. I’m definitely due for another. There’s a record to finish producing with a cool band from Minneapolis called The Melismatics and also some work with the French band Cheap Star (who also recruited Fountains of Wayne/ex-Posies drummer Brian Young to “pound the skins” as they say in the vernacular). There’s loose talk of some studio work with Brendan Benson as well… nothing solid yet.
Hopefully you’ll continue to make music, and I’ll be sure to check out your other projects.
For more info on The Posies, click here.