The Posies at 30: A Chat with Ken Stringfellow

The unlikely success story of The Posies is one of those rock and roll legends that bundles talent, luck, and timing into a rabid fanbase powerful enough to take a sunny power pop duo from the Pacific Northwest and lift them beyond the grunge. And nobody is more aware of just how unlikely it all was than co-founder Ken Stringfellow

“Naivety is an incredible motivator,” he tells TVD. “I’m so un-nostalgic, that going back and having a sense of accomplishment is rare for me.”

Thirty years in a successful band is a huge accomplishment by any measure. The Posies are celebrating the three decades from their rough-hewn inception by hitting the road—first as a two-man “acoustic” show (just Ken and co-founder Jon Auer), then gradually adding more band members as the worldwide tour progresses. 

They’re also celebrating by re-issuing their brilliant albums from their classic big-label era on vinyl via Omnivore Recordings: Dear 23, Frosting on the Beater, and Amazing Disgrace, which will be released as audiophile LPs and double CDs laden with unheard bonus tracks throughout the spring and summer. (You can pre-order them and check out loads of other memorabilia and more at their PledgeMusic Campaign page.) 

We’ve chatted with Ken before, and he’s a true-blue TVD pal, but this tour… this is something special. And it’s definitely not nostalgic. 

It’s rare that I get longer than 20 minutes to talk with anybody, so if something changes and you need to go, just know that my expectations are for a 20 minute conversation.

Okay, great, well we’ll take it as it comes. It’s funny because January generally is usually pretty quiet. It’s often when I’m working on new music because my studio is totally dead. In fact… the one paying customer I had this month canceled on me today. But, it’s cool. Yeah, January is just kind of expected to be quiet and so I have time to do stuff like this. This year it’s all about making sure this upcoming tour goes well. And the pledge campaign goes well. I’m at your service.

So, you’re starting your tour at the end of the month.

Mm-hmm.

Obviously this tour is huge for you—it’s your 30th anniversary tour for The Posies.

Mm-hmm.

Because you guys are such a great power-pop band…. Why an acoustic tour?

Well, this is how we began. Actually, what’s interesting, it kind of just worked out this way by chance. But this year’s activities really mirror, in many ways, the activities of 1988—the year that we’re celebrating the anniversary of.

We started that year as a duo. To back track all the way to 1988 and 1987, Jon [Auer] and I had been in bands together in high school. The I went up to go to the University of Washington in Seattle, which is an hour and a half away from Bellingham, the town we come from.

We had some songs written—some of the songs that would appear on Failure—and we were just trying to form a band and couldn’t find anybody who was actually interested in… they couldn’t quite get the concept. It wasn’t so clear as like, “Okay, we’re going to do this goth band.” If we said that, everybody would be in. Or if we said, “Hey, we’re a punk band,” or metal… Those are concepts that people can get.

But the concept that we were trying to present, which was really… I don’t know. We wanted to put the songwriting first and foremost—the craft [of songwriting]. It was a little hard to explain unless you heard the songs.

To that end, we recorded what was essentially a very long demo tape that turned out pretty good. And we thought, “Well, we should just release this anyway.” Just the two of us played on the album. There’s drums and bass on the record, but we played all the instruments. That’s what became our first album, Failure. We released that in March of 1988, or April, something like that. “Released” means that we just made some copies and we brought it to a local record store and put it on consignment as a cassette. Things kind of went from there.

But up to that point, we had no bass and drums because nobody wanted to… we just couldn’t convince anybody to be in a band with us. At that time, we did play a couple of shows in Seattle and in Bellingham as a duo. And, curiously enough, here in January, 30 years later… here we are playing as a duo.

Acoustic is kind of a misnomer, I have to say. We have electric guitars on stage, Jon plays his pedals. It’s not really like James Taylor when we play or anything like that.

Oh, okay.

We have lived through the era of indie rock and beyond. So it’s not like Simon and Garfunkel; it’s something else, shall we say. There is some purity in what we do, in that we strip it down to simplicity, but sonically… we’re not living in Greenwich Village in 1961; we’re guys who have been in rock bands. So, we play electric guitars and it’s not all pure and folky, but it is just what we can do as two musicians and two singers. But, there’s a lot that we can do as two musicians and two singers.

That’s a lengthy explanation, but that’s how it goes. Continuing the parallel of 1988 and 2018, we have these reissues of albums coming out in the spring, much like our first album came out in the Spring of ’88. And then we will be adding Mike Musburger, drummer extraordinaire, who started playing with us in our first very shows in 1988. And Dave Fox, who came along a little bit later. I will be doing some touring later in the year as essentially the Frosting on the Beater lineup of the band, a la 1993 and 1994.

Very cool. 

Mm-hmm! This little tour we’re doing, end of January beginning of February, is like the appetizer course, shall we say. But, it’s a very, very rich appetizer—it’s foie gras for sure.

I love that description. It’s funny that you talk about the parallels between then and now, because one of the things I wanted to ask you is around The Posies’ genesis and how you got started, this idea of scarcity. It seemed to give music an element of specialness that it feels like is pretty much gone. Do you feel the same way?

Yeah, sure. As much as everybody, every label, every band was trying to fight against the laws of physics, in that these physical objects had to be in front of the buyer at the time the buyer was interested if you wanted to hear the music… is a curious concept—which is no longer really true.

Right.

I think that it’s just the climate of those times. You really felt a sense of accomplishment when you grabbed something. It’s there, I got it, I got the only copy! Not I got it and you can’t have it, though. I didn’t have those kind of feelings.

But living in Bellingham, Washington in the 1980s, trust me, I could read record reviews all day in magazines and there was slim-to-no chance that those records would actually appear in my local record store. When a record that I had been reading about and going, “I know this is something I’m going to like,” showed up… it was a major event, for sure.

When our band released this cassette, we had this very fluky success where we had made, maybe… I think we made 50? 100? I don’t even know. They were really demo tapes in a way, but there were 12 songs, so it was full-length. It had been done in this studio that Jon and his dad had put together in their house, so we had a pretty cool opportunity there.

But, yeah, we also dropped some at a couple of radio stations and they started playing it in heavy rotation. So, suddenly we couldn’t make the things fast enough. This just reminds me of some Industrial Age success story: We invented a doohickey and we couldn’t make them fast enough. [Laughs] We had several double cassette decks daisy-chained, dubbing cassettes in our house. We would bring them down to the record stores and consignment and they would be gone the next day. It was pretty insane.

Perhaps that was down to the specialness of the product. It’s a cassette. It’s a plastic thing, but they were basically homemade. The recording was done at home and the cassettes were dubbed. We dubbed them—we didn’t send them away to some company somewhere to have them dubbed. And they didn’t go through a label for distribution. So, it had all this homespun element to it that, actually, people had a hard time believing.

We were quite a bit younger than the bands you were about to hear about in 1988, bands like Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone. Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone formed out of Green River and Mother Love Bone formed Pearl Jam, etc.

Right.

Nirvana wasn’t even, in 1988, wasn’t really… Nobody had really seen them, yet, until the end of the year, at least. Blah, blah, blah, all these bands that were about to be the biggest bands in the world were actually a few years older [than us]. At least, they were old enough to go to bars and we weren’t, so they all knew each other. Many of them had gone to the same school.

We just kind of came out of nowhere. We were some dudes who just moved from Bellingham and suddenly we’re all over the radio. It smelled like a conspiracy, like there was some kind of big money behind it and it was really just… What do they call it? Reverse marketing? This is really like a major label product and it was just masquerading as this indie project.

But it really was as simple as it was presented. We had no promotion money, no nothing. It was just somebody at the radio station who took a chance on a homemade cassette and it went gangbusters.

I can see where people would think that it was just undercover marketing.

Yeah, then they had these music awards. They decided to do music awards in Seattle, or for the Pacific Northwest. Back in those days, we had a free music monthly paper that was just music. It was called The Rocket, and everybody read it. You might be aware of The Stranger, which is an all-encompassing weekly free newspaper that has music in it, that’s kind of the go-to, now, for music news. That didn’t exist at this time; there was the Seattle Weekly, which was really… the audience was more people older than us at that time.

Anyway, The Rocket was where you went for your music info in the 1980s and ’90s. They made a music awards thing in Seattle and we won everything, basically. That also looked like… There was a letters column in some fanzine that went on for months— you can see this in the liner notes in the Failure reissue—that people were sure this was a conspiracy. That there was this Svengali behind all this. [Laughs] To be honest, we just had a lot of really young, motivated fans who became really attached to us. Thousands. And it just kind of went like that.

But people were so skeptical. Of course, then we did get signed, like a year later. Seattle fell into place as being the place to be, completely by luck. I wasn’t born in the Northwest; I ended up there because my uncle ended up there, and my parents got divorced, and my mom moved out to be near some family. Blah, blah, blah, just like total chance, total fluke. And Seattle just happened to become the place to be and it all went from there.

It took a while, I think maybe ‘til now, for people to realize that we’re actually just… that we did everything on our own and it might not have been musically in sync with what the other bands, who were playing together and organizing themselves into a music scene, were doing. But it came from a good place, if somewhat naïve.

How do you imagine the band’s genesis, if it were to happen in 2018 as opposed to 1988?

Please tell me that we’re going to have a lengthy discussion about the band Genesis.

Alas, that might be too off topic! We only have one hour, and that’s the length of time that it takes to listen to that Genesis album. [Laughs]

If our band… if two 19 year olds—18 or 19, whatever—from Bellingham, Washington did this now? Yeah, good luck. Even if we had done it then, it still shouldn’t have worked. But, the radio thing was really a lucky, lucky break.

God, yeah… I can’t really imagine because everything now is so… You could do a grassroots thing like everybody kind of does now: “Check out my video! Check out my song!” You put yourself online and you beg people to care.

The whole infrastructure of everything [is different]. Radio, which was dependent upon labels for income in a certain way… it was a symbiotic relationship, and that whole relationship has broken down. Even the concept of radio as a thing that comes out of an antenna and transmits across the sky is completely deconstructed. I mean, there are plenty of radio stations that don’t transmit at all through the air. There’s internet radio, blah, blah, blah, all of this you know.

[The Posies] are an interesting case study of how information is organized in an incomplete fashion for maximum effect, both in the way that John and I grew up, and that we were constantly subjected to incomplete information. We didn’t have any internet way to instantly verify any fact or… again, you can have discussions like, “Are you actually verifying facts on the internet or is the internet full of lies, blah, blah, blah.”

True.

But, skip that whole thing for now. At least you can have the illusion of having lots of information at any time—and music, and everything. Obviously, we’re 30 years later, so our influences would be also 30 years more informed. But I think the potential [is there], if they’re interested. Obviously the average 18-year-old has much more music at their fingertips. But, then again, this might be a demotivating factor because you’ve so much… I know if I had heard all the good shit that was out there in 1988, I might not have bothered to make a record. It’d be like, “Huh, why bother?”

I felt like there was a niche for what we were doing, and there was because clearly people were interested in it once it came out. But it was hard to tell that in advance, and if I had discovered other things that satisfied—that had that same “vitamin” in it—I might have been less motivated to throw myself into the fray. Naivety is really an incredible motivator. Yes, it makes people go up, over the trench wall and get mowed down in heaps or whatever. It’s not always a good thing, to be motivated and naïve, but when you don’t know the rules, it’s quite convenient to carry on as if they don’t exist.

Information, now, is better organized and this, in theory, should make the whole world more efficient. But, efficiency implies that there’s going to be less mutation. And I’m not sure that that is actually healthy in the end.

Yeah.

Pretty soon, when everything is known… well, this is like entropy, in a sense, although it’s going backwards. It’s going from a disorganized state to an organized state. Information seems to follow a reverse entropy in that it organizes itself and stops being quite so fragmented. It stops being fragmented and therefore you have… I don’t know, you just have less need to impose an organizing force on it, I guess.

Let’s just say that these are philosophical ideas of what it would be like, but I can’t imagine that I would… I think I would be a lot more satisfied [were The Posies to form today] because I would have a lot more things available to me in my small town of Bellingham, and a lot less motivated.

I assume you probably read Bob Lefsetz’ newsletters. His premise is basically that only idiots would get into music now because there’s so much noise. Even though you have an opportunity to make an impact—and there’s more chance of somebody halfway across the world hearing what you do—there’s also, like you were saying, thousands of other things out there and all this information that’s at your fingertips competing for attention. 

Yes, there’s a friend of mine who’s a very important promotion person in the music biz, still. I was working with an artist and I introduced my friend to this other artist, because today I can’t really give this person any more advice.

Anyway, we’re all friends. They met and they hit it off. But my established music biz promotion friend said to this new artist, “Basically, if you weren’t born in the time when all of this insane music promotion was going down and there was money going into that, you just don’t stand a chance.”

Now, do I believe that? I’m not sure. I still have enough naïveté to not let the Bob Lefsetzes of the world be correct in my mind. Now, I’m about the age where I should be turning into Don Quixote, so it’s probably normal. But they still get kids who are 13. I’m watching my daughter—she’s 13—and they’re still getting caught up in [music]. She’s not a music hipster and completely cynical yet, so she gets really excited about one thing at a time, basically.

Last year’s band of the moment was Twenty One Pilots—they’re huge! They play in arenas, they’re very, very well-known, they’re all over the radio, blah, blah, blah. It’s kind of normal, but I know that there’s going to be more hip things coming her way that she will turn me onto. I’m 100% convinced of that.

I don’t know… I go back and forth on this issue, obviously, and there’s really nothing I can do about it. The good news is that I’m completely strapped in and helpless to just ride it out at this point. I think that we are obliged, in this day and age, to manage the audience that we have. For example, with our band, I think we’re adding a few listeners coming up from below, I mean age-wise, here and there. You get their parents, sure, but generally we’re managing a population of people that we’ve bonded with when they were really bonding with music. When they were teenagers and in their early 20s, and they’ve grown up with us, and we’re managing that relationship.

I will say, for The Posies’ part and my part—especially because it was kind of my job—we have been nurturing that relationship long before there was an internet. That we did this via a massive amount of correspondence, written correspondence, to our P.O. box and back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth, from the beginning.

I think that means something, too. And we continued to do so, even when we were on a major label, we continued to print that post office box in Seattle on our releases, and maintain that correspondence for years until it finally made sense to shut it down.

You talked about the state of music promotion now where, according to your friend, if you weren’t born by a certain time, you kind of missed the boat a little bit. Music was an identity and the driver of the culture, whereas now I would argue that probably tech is more the driver of the culture. I was just curious if you felt like music still had a chance to matter in the same way?

Yeah, well, it has a chance, sure. Once again, we might start moving into another philosophical area where technology is the gatekeeper for our cultural sensibilities. If most people are listening to music on Spotify, then you’re stuck with Spotify’s philosophy as to what and how you hear it. And that may or may not be a good thing. You can be DIY as you want, but if you are putting your music up on an existing platform… end of story. And you’re stuck with their good graces in terms of how much they will let you be heard.

I hadn’t thought of it quite like that.

Yes, you could create a website and put your music on a website, and through live shows get people to go there and bypass the normal tech platforms, social media, etc. It’s possible. But, yeah, I don’t know. It would be interesting to know, of course, what has cultural currency right now, what impresses my daughter.

And let me point out that where we live is a town really not unlike Bellingham, except that it happens to be in France. Similar size, it’s not the center of things, and in an hour we can be in Paris. But, when you’re a 13-year-old and you don’t have the freedom to just leave the house whenever you want, Paris might as well be 100 miles away. I mean, 1,000 miles away.

She’s kind of stuck with how she can expand beyond the finite confines culturally, mentally, intellectually, and geographically of this little city in France. What impresses her right now is more like big stuff. She’s dreaming big at the moment, and the things that she watches are things with bajillions of views on YouTube. I mentioned Twenty One Pilots and she’s into this… more than kind of into… she’s into this duo right now called Bars and Melody, who won Britain’s Got Talent. It’s a singer and a rapper and their buddies.

Anyway, it’s big stuff. That’s what has currency for her, I think, because she’s looking for the biggest possible way to capture enough escape velocity to get out of this small town, which basically it starts to sound like Footloose. [Laughs] It’s pretty much the dream that transcends time; it’s why all those kids from Ohio moved to the Sunset Strip and joined Warrant and whatnot.

Maybe it’s just… if you take the window dressing off, you can see some underlying themes. There are still small towns and people still want to leave them. We still have longing for, maybe, for a better world, although I don’t think at 13 you’re necessarily quite that altruistic.

Yeah, probably not.

It will come. The foundation is that you know something is not right and you want to get to a better place, and then you realize, “Oh, actually, I can make things a better place.” But the first thing is, “I want to get out of here.” This is what I imagine.

You brought up a really interesting point about Spotify defining the experience that people have with music—that you have to hope that the experience it provides for your music is what you or your fans are looking for. Is that the reasoning behind re-releasing your three big major label albums on LPs, to sort of sequester that experience for the fans?

Well, actually, it’s really more that—that’s about all that Universal would allow us to do. I would be happy to have these albums available in every possible way, because they really haven’t been heard as widely as most things. I would like them to just be normal because I would love to normalize the experience of being a fan of ours, whereas basically the experience of being a fan of ours up ‘til now has been albums intermittently available on physical formats, intermittently available on streaming formats, or downloadable on iTunes. It’s available in this country, but not that country, and blah, blah, blah.

It would be nice to just normalize the experience, and I think that doing this with Omnivore… if anyone’s going to curate the listening of these albums at this point, it’s gonna be them. Universal… I don’t want to put them down, but their minds are not on this kind of thing.

Right.

Omnivore’s mind is on this kind of thing. They are curating, like any good label, a music experience. They do a lot of reissues and they do them very well. They do some new releases as well, so that’s wonderful. In a perfect world, they would get to do everything because in a perfect world you get a download of all the bonus tracks with the LP. We can’t do that because Universal won’t let us do it. They didn’t want any digital release coming out of this. They just said, “You can do some physical stuff in the US or in North America.”

Is it just because it’s a low priority or… why wouldn’t they want to do a digital release?

I think that they want to keep that for themselves, and I think that now that this has happened with these LPs, they have cozy relationships entities like Spotify. And I figured they can get… let’s see. Right now, Frosting on the Beater is on Spotify in Europe and Dear 23 and Amazing Disgrace are not.

It appears that Spotify in the US has Failure, Dear 23, Frosting on the Beater, Amazing Disgrace, Success, Every Kind of Life

Oh, okay, here’s a question: Could that be reflecting what’s in your iTunes, because sometimes that will appear on your Spotify. Did you have those albums in your music library already?

I did not.

Okay, good, so they’re available in North America.

You’re doing the LPs as 45s, which I’ve seen so many bands doing obviously for greater sound quality…

Yes.

Were you were part of the remastering process?

Well, yeah, we’ve been assembling the track list. That all came from us. Basically scouring through our storage spaces and looking at DAT tapes and old cassettes, and finding all these things that hadn’t even been in our box set. None of us had access… my DAT player is in storage and I would be a little bit worried about putting a 20-year-old DAT tape in a 20-year-old machine. If it wasn’t aligned properly it could fuck it up.

But Brian Kehew… a lot of people know his work. Some of them know him as part of The Moog Cookbook. He’s also the guy who co-wrote the Recording the Beatles book.

He’s been on tour with The Who as their keyboard tech and keyboard player. He’s the guy to go to for transferring a lot of this stuff. He transferred our old DAT tapes and everything like that.

Anyway, we selected the tracks and there you go. Basically, from that point… it’s interesting. First, the mixes of these albums—wherever they were made. Dear 23 was mixed in LA with John Leckie. Frosting on the Beater was mixed in LA at different times by John Hanlon for part of it and David Bianco for part of it. So on and so forth.

Wherever these mixes happened, you mix from your 24- or 48-track master tapes down to a stereo half-inch tape. And those stereo half-inch tapes all end up in a vault somewhere. I’ve heard different reports of where that was, but they were findable, amazingly enough. Of all the things, Universal was able to locate those half-inch tapes and make digital transfers and provide that to Omnivore. They actually did the mastering, basically. It’s kind of weird. They’ve been, we can say, minimal in what they’ve granted, but they’ve also been helpful at the same time.

They make money from this, too, so everybody is in it together in the end. Yeah, we’ve been listening along and helping them write liner notes and all this kind of stuff. As far as the decision to do something like the 45’s, that’s just how Omnivore does it these days. That’s what they believe in, that’s what they think sounds the best, and who am I to argue? I think that their track record speaks for itself.

Do you consider yourself a vinyl collector or purist in any way?

Not at all. I’ve never been a purist in any sense, really. I have vinyl, I have CDs, I have whatever works. I listen to music on Spotify. I, myself, am a bit of an omnivore, shall we say.

I’d love to ask you a little bit about your film, KEN – The Movie. You’re playing yourself, but not yourself, on tour throughout the US. I understand you were approached by your friend, the filmmaker, and not the other way around, is that right? It was her idea?

Yeah, so, basically Claudia [Rorarius], the director, she was living with her boyfriend at the time, who was a kind of known musician. And he knew a lot of things about music, not that Claudia doesn’t, but he introduced her to my music. Let’s just make it simple. They’re from Berlin, and he said, “Hey, you’re going to be in Cologne next week, this guy Ken Stringfellow, is playing a gig. I think you’ll really like it. Go check it out.” And Claudia came to the gig. This was 14 years ago.

She came to the gig and we talked a little bit. And we stayed in touch, she told me about her work, etc. If I was in Berlin, I would pop by or she’d come to the gig, have a coffee with them or whatever. Over the years, we talked about working on a project together of some kind. What could that be? I make music, she makes films, surely I can compose something for her, blah, blah, blah.

We actually came up with trying something much more daring. And she got so into it that, of course, I started to get scared because now it’s going to be me on the line. She’d made a film, a very nice film, called Chi L’Ha Visto, which had some similar themes and some similar techniques. In explaining that film, I kind of can give you a little bit of an insight to what our film is like.

In that film, there’s an actor, playing essentially himself and this actor in the story is part of this… there’s a whole generational thing in Germany where a lot of Italians went to work in Germany and then they left. And they left behind children, very often. That’s this guy’s, this character’s, life… and that’s the actor’s real life. He has an Italian dad that he’s never met and a German mom that he grew up with.

Both in life and on film, he embarks upon a search and goes to Italy and try to find out some info about this father he’s never met, and they follow him on his journey. Everything that they film is improvisational acting, but it’s so close to the reality that it also might not be! The line between being fiction and documentary is very, very, very slim. But, it’s not a documentary. There are no facts presented.

In my film, it’s very similar. I recently met my birth parents which, when we started conceiving the film, I hadn’t found them yet. But, over the course of the time we were developing the film, I actually did get in touch with them. And in the film, basically I meet them. But, in reality, I had met them already. It’s very close, we’re talking a difference of a few months. In the film they appear as actors playing themselves. And I appear as an actor playing someone a lot like myself. There are differences.

It’s a really interesting concept in that what you end up with is a fictional film, because I’m just a guy named Ken who happens to be a musician. And, of course, I’m the perfect guy to play that guy because my name is Ken and I’m a musician. I don’t have to change that much. I’m not playing the Elephant Man or Frodo or whatever. I’m playing someone who I know very well, but we’re allowed to do things differently. And we’re allowed to do things more extremely. And we’re allowed, if we wanted to do something and just completely invent it, we’re allowed to do that, too.

You end up with a film that’s really believable, as if you’re really following this person around, but it doesn’t have that shaky camera, bad lighting, documentary feel. It’s a beautifully filmed fictional film because we had time to set up the shots and frame them like a movie. Then, we go into that frame and act based upon these ideas that are kind of taken from our real life.

You have Being John Malkovich, which is a completely surreal, fantastical take on the “real life”—which has nothing really to do with anything—of John Malkovich’s mind and celebrity. That’s one direction. This is more like a serious version of that.

It’s not surreal; it’s very realistic, but it’s not real. That’s what a good movie, I think, has the potential to do. Yes, you can make 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it’s completely fantastical and not based on anything you could actually see in your life. Or you can make, I don’t know… you can put this more like Manhattan or something like Annie Hall, where you’re looking into a world that you can imagine is just around the corner, if you live in New York. It’s not over dramatized life; it’s just life, framed. But it’s a fictional film.

I put so much explanation into it, but when you watch the film I hope that it doesn’t need any explanation. You’re just in a story and hopefully the story is really touching.

The way you describe it, it sounds like it’s especially emotionally and creatively cathartic for you.

Yeah, the whole experience of the last year… this captured me. Definitely after many, many years of searching around and meeting my birth parents, and having it be a really good experience, has resolved a lot of things. I mean… it ticked a few boxes that were left as mysteries.

[The film] has allowed me to be a little more grounded. The film kind of captures a moment where that all was still pretty fresh and now I’ve pretty much incorporated it. I’m in touch with my birth parents every weekend, blah, blah, blah, that kind of thing.

But at the same time, acting in general is a whole area of connection with the self and a kind of release of inferior things. A kind of freedom from all the repressed stuff that we carry around because we’re afraid to cry in public, for example.

I can only imagine.

There’s this great freedom in acting that you can do anything and be anything at any moment. You just make these choices and it’s really magical. It’s something that music didn’t quite offer me, interestingly enough. I think I’m doing it right, music, but music is one set of tools for one kind of release. And acting is another. It’s like the difference between cooking and dancing. They’re both very satisfying, and liberating, and sensual. But, they just don’t cross over really.

It is a story about you losing your voice, which I think is an interesting thing, too.

Yeah, that’s a little less important in the end. That was kind of in the original treatment. That became, as we acted it out, a little bit less important.

How come?

Maybe more like … Well, just because we found other things. That was the interesting thing, we had all these concepts that we would throw in the mix. And then the fact of the matter is, is the film is improvised, so we re-improvised.

Gotcha.

Either me, by myself, or me making a phone call, or me with an actor, or me with a non-actor who happens to be an actor for this film—like my biological father and my biological mother. It became more about hitting a wall, I suppose. There’s this idea that whatever I had been doing wasn’t effective anymore. Originally, it was like, “Okay, you’re going to lose your voice. You’re on tour and you can’t sing anymore.”

That seems a little bit… It’s a great idea, but in reality, it became more subtle in that it’s just… you’ve been doing the same things, they’re not working, you need to reconnect to yourself and to understand that you have a place in the world, and that you’re lovable. This is kind of more what came up.

Basically, I think the character that I play, the sort-of-me that I portray, has taken a lot less risks and had a lot less lucky breaks. If you took all of the magical elements out of my life, you would end up with the character in the film.

So this is like your Jefferson Bible?

Jefferson Bible? Oh boy.

Thomas Jefferson took all of the supernatural stuff out of the New Testament and what was left were the core teachings of Jesus.

I see—the morality. I see. Yes, okay. I get it. I wasn’t aware of the Jefferson Bible. That’s so funny. That’s an interesting road to go down.

Yeah, something like that, but there wasn’t a moral center to replace it with. The character has been touring, but he drives a crappy beat-up car, he doesn’t… I lived a fucking awesome life, I’ve got multiple homes in France, and I’ve got a great family. I’ve done these amazing things. I’ve headlined Glastonbury.

However you want to slice it, I have been blessed beyond my wildest imagination. The character… not so much. He’s just kind of kicked around like many an indie musician. The diminishing returns are getting harder and harder to see. That’s really more what it’s like, I suppose.

And then, where to go from there? It’s kind of like, nothing is working, relationships fail, everything sucks… is there anything good that’s going to happen to this guy? Then he realizes that he had the keys all along, really, in a sense. Like the Wizard of Oz.

So you’re at this point in your career where you’re able to always be creating and always moving forward. But then you also have an opportunity now to reflect on what you’ve accomplished.

It’s very funny, I was just having the same thought because I find anything nostalgia, or “those days were better” type of thinking totally cringe-worthy. I hope I didn’t come off as, you know, “The pre-internet days were better, blah, blah, blah.” It’s just, whatever, we live in the now and things are interesting. And they were interesting then, and they’re challenging, and they were challenging then. I’m so un-nostalgic, that going back and having a sense of accomplishment is rare for me.

I can go, “Oh, you know what? We made some records. They’re nice. People like them. Here they are.” I’m totally cool with that. I don’t feel it’s a nostalgic move. I don’t want to go back to 1993. God no, please. So I’m not nostalgic, but I’m proud of what we accomplished and I think it was done in a very personable way, even being on a major label. I’m very happy as a 49-year-old in 2018, and I think there’s still lots of work to be done in the world today.

For complete information on The Posies’ classic 1990s album reissues, head to their PledgeMusic Campaign.

The Posies’ 30th Anniversary Duo Shows
January 25 – New York City at City Winery
January 26 – Boston at City Winery
January 27 – Memphis at Ardent Studios
January 28 – Nashville at City Winery
January 29 – Atlanta at City Winery
January 30 – Richmond, VA at Chilton House—SOLD OUT!
January 31 – Chicago at City Winery
February 1 – Minneapolis at University Baptist Church
February 2 – Kirkland, WA at Kirkland Performance Center—SOLD OUT!
February 3 – Washington, DC at The Hamilton
February 4 – Austin at Cactus Cafe

The Posies Official | Facebook | Twitter

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