Arts and Entertainment

Pick a pack of singing Posies

Left to right, Darius Minwalla, Jon Auer, Ken Stringfellow, Matt Harris - Photo by David Belisle
Left to right, Darius Minwalla, Jon Auer, Ken Stringfellow, Matt Harris
— image credit: Photo by David Belisle

Imagine the number of songs that The Posies duo Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have played together. It is immense.

Thinking back over two decades, it all began in 1987 in Bellingham as two friends playing songs in the basement just for the love of it. Perfectly timed, perfectly orchestrated musical big break and all these years later, what has consistently sustained the band through the stress, difficulties and a “farewell tour,” are those two friends and their songs.

At the end of the 90s, they were a beacon of the quintessential Northwest rock band. Major labels came calling sending the band into a mad spin of worldwide touring, national exposure, interviews on MTV, songs on the radio and CDs in record stores. But with the release of their fifth and seemingly final album at the time,ironically titled “Success,” The Posies put together a few U.S. shows with a sold-out romp of Europe and called it the “farewell tour.”

But somehow, they had to have known that wouldn’t be the end.

‘Success’

The Posies have sold platinum albums, toured the world, collaborated with Burt Bacharach. Basically a musician’s dream. One of The Posies songs was even covered by The Beatles’ Ringo Starr.

But what makes it even more of a success is that the genesis of it all was two kids making a demo tape in a home studio,at a time when two kids making a demo in a home studio wasn’t quite so common.

Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, co-founders of the Posies, met in a music shop when they were in high school in 1980s Bellingham.

Auer’s dad had built a recording studio in the basement of their house, an analogue set up with a mutli-track recorder, and it was in that studio where “The Posies” recorded what would become their debut indie-label album “Failure.”

Back then, The Posies were more of a concept than a band, Auer recalled.

But he and Stringfellow still made an album, “well, we thought of it as an album, but really it was more of a cassette tape,” Auer said.

They took the demo tapes out to record shops, distributing 20 at a time out of their backpacks on commission, and ended up selling hundreds through word of mouth and DIY ethic.

That caught some attention in the local music world, and through one of the band’s connections, led to a release with the local label PopLama Records. That’s when the Posies became a band proper, employing a full lineup for live shows and eventually West Coast tours, while their songs were played on the radio and reviews started popping up in national publications like Cashbox and Billboard magazines.

“That led to the next step, which was the major label feeding frenzy in the Northwest,” Auer said.

The band signed with Geffen in 1989 and took flight.

20 years later

“What kind of intrigues me is the ‘20th Anniversary’ part of the equation,” Auer said. “I’m 38, still relatively young, and to have so much history with this band is something I am still processing.”

He and Stringfellow weren’t even old enough to legally drink a beer when The Posies exploded, playing sold-out shows in bars and clubs across the country. That whirlwind carried through steadily over the better part of a decade, until in 1998 the band reached a tipping point of sorts. Personal differences and the stress of non-stop touring led to The Posies “farewell tour.”

Two years later, a label proposed to release a career-spanning compilation of the Posies previously unreleased recordings. That CD “At Least At Last” inspired Auer and Stringfellow to reach resolve and tour the world as an acoustic duo.

That in turn led to reunion and another full-length album,”Every Kind of Light,” in 2004.

Concert-goers can expect songs from all six Posies albums when they come to Bremerton May 15 for one of four full band shows in the Northwest celebrating the Posies’ 20th anniversary. They’ll also be jamming May 14 at Hell’s Kitchen, May 16 at Dante’s in Portland and May 17 at Neumos in Seattle.

“We will do what we do best, and probably better than we did it before!” Stringfellow noted.

Even though it’s five months into the 21st year of the Posies, Auer and Stringfellow said this 20th anniversary tour seems right now somewhat like any other tour.

“It’s more a case of just doing what I do, living life and suddenly the time has gone by,” Auer said.

“It feels like just a number, in a way,” Stringfellow added. “To me, this band started yesterday, in my head. Those two decades have zipped by. I feel like I’m just getting started.”

The Posies will be playing one of four full-band Northwest shows to celebrate their 20th anniversary with local bands The Isms and Alligators at 9 p.m. May 15 at Winterland, 1220 Sylvan Way in Bremerton. Tickets are $12. Info: www.myspace.com/winterlandrocks or call the bar at (360) 479-5686. For more on the Posies, go to www.theposies.net.

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