Flavor of the Month
A Q&A with the Posies' Ken Stringfellow
By Jim Caligiuri,
1:01PM, Wed. Nov. 24, 2010
Guitar-pop fanatics get a glimpse of heaven on Friday night when the Posies and Brendan Benson pull into La Zona Rosa. Benson, whose star has risen considerably due to his involvement with Jack White’s Raconteurs, opens the show with a band that includes Posies Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer.
Then the Pacific Northwest faves highlight songs from their recent opus Blood/Candy (Rykodisc). Stringfellow and I discussed his reaction to Alex Chilton’s death during South by Southwest (he and Auer were in town to honor and play with Big Star), recording Blood/Candy in a messy Shangri-la in Spain, and some of the band’s unexpected fans.
Geezerville: How did this tour come about?
Ken Stringfellow: We thought we needed to put ourselves in front of some new people for this tour. Maybe draw some people who were sympathetic to the cause and Brendan’s name was on the short list. Especially after having played together at this post-Alex Big Star show that happened in May in Memphis. We had played together once before, but this time we got to hang out a little and we hit it off. So we decided this tour would be a good idea and took the risk. You never know what it’s going to be like sharing a tour bus and basically living together 24/7. But it’s been great. Matt Harris, our bass player, has deep Texas roots. He was born in Texas and his dad lives in Austin. In fact, we’ll be spending Thanksgiving with Matt’s family and they’ve got a turducken.
G: South by Southwest was the last time you were in Austin. That must have been surreal. I can’t imagine what you guys went through.
KS: It was total shock. It was the coldest, windiest, wettest South by Southwest ever. I found out about Alex’s death on Thursday morning when I was in Paris. My phone just blew up and I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t had time to even think about it. The show was an amazing moment. The timing was incredible when you think about it. Normally all of Alex’s fan base wouldn’t assemble at one spot 48 hours after he died. But being at South by Southwest it was just weird. It helped in way. It was nice to have everybody together and we could all go through it together. But our friend had just died. I had been playing with Alex for 17 years. It was really intense and the show was really hard. I felt really bad. I know it was beautiful moment and a unique one, but it wasn’t something I could really enjoy.
G: You recorded most of the new album in Spain. Did things change after the initial sessions?
KS: We tracked everything in Spain, but we knew that the songs were a little more complicated than we were expecting. So the studio time we booked in Spain wasn’t enough. We worked in our home studios afterward. The album's feel was dictated by what happened in Spain, for sure. The vibe of that place is very homey. It’s the opposite of antiseptic. It was going into my granddad’s basement workshop. He was always making things and there was shit everywhere. It was a real creative environment. You could tell just by looking. Some studios you go into and they’re made to impress their voiceover clients. I don’t like working in those kinds of place.
G: How did you find it? Studio Paco Loco in El Puerto de Santa Maria seems a little out of the way.
KS: I think all roads lead to this place. It’s just a magnet for musicians. It’s not like the village is anything special, but somehow, for some spooky reason, musicians love to go there. There are a lot of big Spanish musicians that live there. Gary Louris of the Jayhawks lives there. I did some solo shows there at the studio, we had a garden party and toured the place afterward. That was in 2008. Then I played with Jon nearby about a year later and took him there and when he saw it. He said, "Yeah, this is the place.”
G: I find it interesting and amusing that you and Jon have played with both Neil Young and William Shatner, two opposite ends of the spectrum.
KS: Of course I’m going to mention Neil Young on my resume. Are you joking? Yeah, my interaction with him was brief, but we’ve done a lot of interesting things and have a lot of weird and wonderful collaborations. The Shatner thing, after Big Star, is probably the most recognizable thing on Jon’s resume. I’d love to see the two of them on stage together. One of the interesting things about our band is being musically diverse and sort of hard to pin down. We’re not the indie-est of indie bands. We’re not mainstream. If you dig through our catalog, you can find everything and it’s given us the most interesting list of notable fans. There’s some obvious regional ones like Death Cab for Cutie. But Queen Latifah is a huge fan of the Posies song “Coming Right Along.” She’d prepare for serious acting scenes by playing that song in her dressing room. We were just in Nashville and we didn’t see him this time, but we were approached at one time by Marty Stuart, who was raving about us. Mick Jones of Foreigner once leapt out of an audience in Paris and we didn’t know who he was, but he was screaming for a guitar so he could play “Flavor of the Month.”