Ken Stringfellow: The Posies+Neuman+Solo

Ken Stringfellow (Photo by Eva Vermandel)

By Claudia Price


When I think of The Posies first thing that comes to mind are two superb singer/ songwriters. Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer have been the only consistency of the band since 1986. Over the past 23 years the band recorded a total of 13 albums (including live records) with the last one “Blood/ Candy” coming out in 2010.
 
But why would you only talk about The Posies if you´re talking to Ken Stringfellow? The man himself has a lot going on. At the moment he is touring in Spain as a solo artist and as a part of his other project Neuman and of course with The Posies. So basically you get a  3 hour Stringfellow concert.  Yep, that´s right. 
 
He is also working on a new EP with the previously mentioned Neuman.
 
What brought me back to thinking about The Posies is my recent discovery of Ken’s fourth solo album, the delightfully far-out, Danzig In The Moonlight (‘12). Lo-fi textures at their very best. I am extremely fond of tracks like “History Buffs”, “Pray” and the brilliant “Shittalkers!”.
 
But what really makes this album worth the purchase are tracks like, the whispery jewel, “Jesus Was An Only Child” and “Superwise”. Please take a listen to the near perfection in lyrics writing and see what I mean. (added bonus: “Superwise” has robots in the video) WARNING: Only buy this release if you’re into being extremely pleased. 
 
I am very happy to tell you that Ken Stringfellow took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to answer to my kind nosiness.
 
You guys just started touring in Spain. How is it going so far?
We really hit the ground running–at the last minute we got an offer to do an important TV show in Madrid, so the day we should have rehearsed, we dove in and played songs we hadn’t played together in 20 years, with no rehearsal, not even a full run thru. Brilliant! Plus we added a Lou Reed cover, when I sat down at the piano for the first take, I’d never played the song in my life. No errors! This is good brain workout. Tonite is the first actual concert…but it’s a few hours away. At the moment I’m prepping for an earlier concert, with Spanish musician Julian Maseo.
 
Are you introducing new Posies material?
We are definitely re-introducing old material! We play two of our vintage albums with two different rhythm sections–the guys who played on “Frosting on the Beater” from 1993 play that album; the guys who played on “Amazing Disgrace” in 1996 play on that album. Plus a handful of songs from our later albums. But as we will be doing both albums in one night in many cases..that’s a long show!
 
With everybody living in different places all over the world and being part of other projects how easy/ difficult is it to write and record together?
Well, we don’t do much together, to be told. We make an album every few years. But the last album, “Blood/Candy” which came out in 2010, we did in that traveling way– we got together in Seattle and rehearsed, flew to Spain and tracked the album (we were in the same studio today, great place). Then I worked on the material wherever I was — in Seattle, at home in Paris, even in Ecuador when I was working on a record there. Jon did the same, working on stuff in Seattle, and the guest musicians sent in their stuff from their studios. This is how you do it these days.
 
Through all the years of the existence of The Posies band members changed. Does this influence anything that has to do with your music?
Oh, definitely. The thing is, it took a long time I think, to find our own center, as people. A lot of things happened in the early days that were circumstantial–we even had to find our first drummer and bass player last minute–our record, recorded as a duo, was a sudden and smash hit and shows were booked…we kind hit the ground running. So, a lot things weren’t foreseen or worked out, you know, a band is a long relationship, you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting into, and we had conflicts, to be sure. And these conflicts always undermined our growth, I think. I’m much to blame, we all were. We were very young, and not very mature.
 
If it was possible for you to erase one year out of your career and do it all over again which year would it be and why?
Oh, no regrets here. I just would have taken Spanish in high school.
 
The last solo album you’ve released was “Danzig In The Moonlight”. Do you have time to work on your solo career too at the moment?
Absolutely, actually, I work on that more, the Posies really has become more like a side project. I’m still touring for my last album, and in Spain of course I also make an EP with the band Neuman. In fact, I will, with Neuman, open for the Posies…so like, with the two albums it’s like I make three shows a night!
 
Which songs would be on the ultimate cover song EP for you?
In fact I did a covers EP (click, HERE)
I think my Judee Sill cover is one my best recordings, it’s really sublime.
 
So, it’s “Crayon Angels” by Judee Sill (BEFORE Fleet Foxes covered it); “Girls It Ain’t Easy” by the Honey Cone; “It’ll Be A Breeze” by the Long Winters; “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” by Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty; and “Til the Christ Comes Back” by Bill Fay.
 
What’s the record of the year for you?
Haha, it’s probably something I’m still working on…I’m up to my eyeballs in mixing these days.
 
Name 3 things on your bucket list.
I definitely want to taste a 2000 Chateau Petrus before I die. I’d like to learn better Spanish. I think I only have two things on the list…I mean, my life has been pretty good about providing me with amazing experiences!
 
Name 3 songs that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
I don’t know about this one, I’m pretty unsentimental.
 
Worst venue you’ve ever played in.
There are certain aspects…the men’s room at Gabe’s Oasis in Iowa City is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen…plus you load in and out via a fire escape. Totally unsafe, not to mention unpleasant.
 
In one of our earlier tours, we used to be booked into these venues that were just totally wrong. Sinbad’s in Cheektowaga NY (outside of Buffalo) comes to mind. I think it’s long gone, but it was just such a…sad place trying to look happy. It had a beach volleyball court in the back patio, people were actually more interested in that than our show…
 
Name 1 nasty habit you can’t live without.
I love food you can eat with your fingers.
 
All American Rejects or Green Day?
I don’t know anything about All American Rejects. I’ve seen Green Day many times, playing once to 40 people in Olympia Washington. Even tho I think now their shows can be too silly for my taste, I have seen them in a variety of circumstances and they have been consummate entertainers.
 
Ken, thank you very much again for talking to us again. We wish you and the rest of The Posies all the best for the future.
 
For The Posies: Website/Facebook
For Ken Stringfellow / Neuman: Website/Facebook
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