Ken Stringfellow Compares the Budgets for the Posies First and Second Albums and Reveals Why He Changes His Guitar Strings Monthly

July 26, 2016

Tell us about your tour vehicle.

For this tour, Jon’s wife bought a Hyundai Satellite. I think it has like 150,000km. Touch wood, it’s worked really well so far and has needed no repairs. It did give us a little fright when for some reason, after we stopped for fuel in Sweden, it refused to start. We push started it and when we got to Stockholm we took it to a garage and it started no problem. Over the years, in tours past, we’ve had serious accidents, break ins, etc… so… I’m cool with the current paradigm, even if it doesn’t make for very good stories.

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

The food we’ve been provided by the venues has been really good. In Europe, the dinner is an expected perk. We ask in our rider to limit gluten, dairy & potatoes etc not because we have allergies but because we are always looking for the leanest food possible. The venue in Stockholm last night nailed it. Beautiful food. Generally we are on the move too much to have a very meaningful lunch. We don’t do fast food. It’s kind of like… sandwich while the van is getting fueled up. I’ll tell you tho… the shows are so intense, that I’ve lost tons of weight on this tour, and I was slim to start out with. In the US, I’ve noticed a major difference in food quality… even when I try to eat healthy, I put on weight there. I think the basis of processed/GMO/etc food really has an impact, and Europe has been spared this to some degree.

How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

I rarely break strings. I change them every 4 Posies shows… for solo shows, a set of strings might last a whole tour. I change them on my solo tours once a month just to be … professional. We get a deal on strings so, it’s pretty cheap.

Where do you rehearse?

We found a studio in Tours, France, where I live, to rehearse. It’s a rehearsal studio, recording studio, and they do lessons there. Not one crazy thing happened in rehearsal. Except we found out we sounded good. We hadn’t played any of these songs nor had we played with Frankie, our drummer, ever… and in a day it sounded really good. Frankie and I had just flown in from the states so the first day was kinda weird. This place is in a kind of industrial zone and there’s a bus company who parks its buses behind this building, so the restaurant in the building is for bus drivers. In other words… *very* hearty food. They served up a chicken burger that I swear weighed eight pounds. It was like… two chickens.

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

The first song I wrote was part of a rock opera about humans developing psychic abilities and using it to defeat a kind of Orwellian politik. I don’t remember what the songs were called, and sadly I lost the cassette I recorded them all on. I was 13.

Describe your first gig.

My first gig was with the band “Shout” and we did some Beatles covers for the 7th grade talent show in Bellingham WA, at Fairhaven Middle School. My friend Chip Westerfield and I had this band. We did eventually write (but not record) some original songs. A couple years later, we recruited a hot new guitarist for our band — Jon Auer. I don’t remember much about the talent show but I was wearing my Nike windbreaker. Like dude. Take off your windbreaker.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

I worked in 1988-9 at a futon warehouse in Seattle. In the interim between quitting my studies at the University of Washington to pursue the Posies, and when the band got so busy that I didn’t really have time to work a day job, despite not having any income to speak of. I lived on food bank handouts after that. At the futon warehouse, customers came to pick up their orders after choosing their products at the showroom; I helped them get loaded up and on their way. I also unloaded the trucks of futon frames, whole semis on my own. I also supervised a crew of quite mischievous Cambodians who were to make futons. It was always about getting them to do the minimum so they could get back to playing cards as soon as possible. As long as the work was basically done, I gave them a break. As appreciation they brought me wonderful Cambodian food for lunch.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

We had a record deal pretty early and thus we had big advances from the label, publishing etc. We had a $250,000 budget for our second album. But our first album cost…nothing. We owned the studio and recorded on used tape (listen for the folk singer bleeding thru on bar 6 of “Believe in Something Other” on Failure). Our current album resembles the first one greatly, we used our own studios and thus it cost practically nothing to record much of the album. The technology is cheaper and more widespread–everyone has a home a studio now. I’m not much of prognosticator. I hope by 5 years from now my acting career will be well established.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

Be confident. Don’t self deprecate. Don’t be afraid of success.

Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have been making music together, off and on, since their early sessions in Auer’s Bellingham, Washington home studio, which became the self-released Failure. In the years that followed, the pair, along with an assortment of bassists and drummers, built a potent and enduring body of work that encompasses such celebrated major-label releases as Dear 23 (which introduced the hit “Golden Blunders”), Frosting on the Beater (which included their breakthrough smash “Dream All Day”) and Amazing Disgrace, along with such notable indie-label releases as Success, the live discs Alive Before the Iceberg and In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Plugging In, the EP Nice Cheekbones and A Ph.D and the four-CD rarities box At Least, At Last. The band emerged from an extended hiatus for 2005’s Every Kind of Light and 2010’s Blood/Candy.

Auer and Stringfellow also found time join Big Star founders Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens for a rapturously-received revival of that seminal outfit, beginning with the historic 1993 concert that produced the album Columbia: Live at Missouri University 4/25/93, and continuing until Chilton’s passing in 2010. The reconstituted Big Star also recorded the studio album In Space in 2005. In the years since Chilton’s death, Auer, Stringfellow and Stephens have continued to honor Big Star’s legacy by participating in a series of all-star “Big Star’s Third” concerts around the world.

Auer and Stringfellow continue to balance their work together with a variety of other musical projects. According to Stringfellow, who like Auer now resides with his family in Europe, “I think the long, comet-like cycle the Posies are on is good for making sure that the ideas have totally been refreshed and that we’ll bring fresh ideas and the benefits from our ‘studies abroad,’ as it were.”

Solid States, The band’s latest album, was released on 20 May 2016.  Stringfellow is also planning to make his acting debut in the forthcoming film Ken – the Movie.  Connect with the band online and on the road.