Ken Stringfellow’s scene is “Exit stage left”, an interesting reference to an inconspicuous exit from a scene on stage. However, though this accomplished musician may want to depart quietly and not make a scene, his achievements ring out loud, ensuring he stays on stage or there’s a hell of a racket when he leaves.
Currently, Stringfellow is making noise around the USA, doing “pop up secret shows around the country” to promote The Posies’ latest release, Solid States. “The tour,” he states, “is quite cool. We’re doing all secret, pop up shows in non-club environments. Secret in that the location is only revealed on the day of the show and only to people who bought tickets. The shows are generally small; the biggest we’re doing is 200 people… so almost all of them sold out in a day or so. Some markets are stubbornly not sold out, but we expect by show day even those places will sell out. These include places we’ve never been like Indianapolis and Charleston West Virginia.
The Pop Up nature is what I described, the shows are in “Unlikely Places” ~the name of our single, and thus, the de facto name of the tour since it’s so apropos~ private homes, industrial spaces, recording studios… anywhere but a club.
The wait for fans was a long five years but as Stringfellow explains “It’s really death by a thousand projects… after the last album came out, as is typical we spent a year touring for it. Then I spent some time on other projects, like the Disciplines 2nd album “Virgins of Menace” or the country album “The Record” I did with Holly.
”I have to give a shout out to an album I’ve recently produced, for the artist known as Holly (real name Holly Muñoz). We recorded it in the LAB, the studio of the Posies’ drummer, Frankie, who engineered. Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello, Elliott Smith, etc) plays drums. It’s just one of those records that sounds classic from the get go. Someone should put it out, as far as I know she’s still shopping it. It reminds me at times of the Lemonheads, Lucinda Williams, and… the La’s, if they were fronted by …. I dunno, Chrissie Hynde or something.”
Both fans and critics agree that Solid States is definitely well worth the wait. Stringfellow states: “Of course I love the new album, I think it’s a challenging, polarizing work that shows way more engagement and willingness to challenge our audience and ourselves then the work of many of our contemporaries. [With Solid States,] we wanted to break the four piece band paradigm, thoroughly. We wanted to create music made of fantastical, inorganic digital soundscapes. We wanted to build these sonic beds and add real drums after the fact. We wanted lots of electronic percussion and other noises… things we utilize in our every day recording lives as producers of many albums.”
Stringfellow continues: “We should be gaining new fans. But the good news is, people love the album from our hardcore fan base. I have not seen one negative comment about the album from fans. Reviewers, who may also be fans but have a privileged position, have been hard on us here and there. I mean, 3.5 stars hard, but still.”
Inspiration for music seems to come easily to Stringfellow who is laughingly states he is inspired by “tacos”, and then responds that he is inspired by “everything”. He continues, “It’s about being alive with your eyes open, and simply, describing what you see. People live in their misconceptions, fantasies, and assumptions. What looks like radical ‘art’, which is in the word ‘departure’, is really just the truth, presented in all its platonic eternal form glory.”
At the moment Stringfellow is “enjoying the new Radiohead” and has “pulled up, via Spotify, everything from SBTRKT to Men at Work.” If he had to put together a festival of bands together, old or new, he states: “I know exactly who I’d want to see that I’ve never seen. Komeda, the braniac Swedish band, I never saw live. And the Flatmates -they just played in London. I love their album. They rarely play.” Inspiration doesn’t mean it was an easy road to Solid States. Some of the lyrics are “personal”. He explains: “There’s a sub theme that arose from the death of our drummer for the last 15 years, Darius Minwalla, which happened right in the middle of making this album. There’s also a sub theme about personal power, and if the possibility to resist oppression exists or is just an illusion… Losing our friend and drummer was just an existential mindfuck of massive proportions. A head and heart trauma. Why? We don’t know what happened, really. He didn’t OD or commit suicide. Just one day, he was living, breathing, wonderful Darius and one day… he was a memory, never to return. Several songs on the album: “Radiance”, “Rollercoaster Zen”, etc… deal with this.”
Where there are challenges, there are also rewards, and Stringfellow states that the songs “all took work and they all were realized just as we wished them to be.” He continues, “I can say that “Radiance” I think represents one of the most radical departures… if you want to hear how we’ve grown and changed… since our early days… start with this song.”
Reminiscing about change, when asked about his impressions of Australia, Stringfellow exclaimed: “I don’t do impressions but I can do an Aussie accent in a pinch. I said above I’m not nostalgic but that first Posies tour with the Hoodoo Gurus was an amazing intro to the country.
I remember playing the Enmore, rocking it hard, I’d cut my hand open on my guitar and was drawing upside down crosses in blood on the foreheads of people in the audience. Mark Evans was in the audience and said of that particular performance: ‘now that’s a rock show!’
Solid States is out now. More details: www.lojinx.com/theposies