When we spoke to Ken Stringfellow last year, he was not in the head space to devote all of his creative energy to playing with his main band, The Posies, and doing the group's best-known material.
“I don’t want to give people the same thing again, exactly the same way,” he told the Dallas Observer in September. “I think that’s cheating, personally. Even though some people might be happy with it, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. I think it’s right to work up a new thing.”
Yet this summer and fall, Stringfellow will play a full U.S. tour and a European tour with The Posies, commemorating 30 years together. They hit Dallas on Thursday at Club Dada. This time out, co-frontman Jon Auer, bassist Dave Fox and drummer Mike Musburger will join Stringfellow. This lineup was on the band’s critical and commercial breakthrough, Frosting on the Beater, and is back on tour for the first time since the mid-’90s.
To coincide with this year's CD and vinyl reissues of the albums Dear 23, Frosting on the Beater and Amazing Disgrace, Auer and Stringfellow are happy to get the old lineup together, and they look forward to working on new material with drummer and producer, Frankie Siragusa.
“I have no bad feelings about my bandmates,” Stringfellow says from his home in France. “Dave and Mike are great people, and they’re great musicians. It’s going to be awesome to play with them, but I think it’s good that we have limits and we resume our forward progress.”
While it’s easier for the band to go a DIY route with tours and albums, working with its old label Geffen Records again was a lot harder. Getting the rights to do the reissues was tough because the people who worked with the band in the 1990s are long gone from Geffen.
“In our best interests, it’s [important] to have this music available in any way, shape or form,” Stringfellow says.
Geffen is now part of the Universal umbrella, and the band was never a gold- or platinum-selling group, so it was a low priority for the business model. The Posies’ titles were long out of print on CD and were slow in reaching streaming services throughout the world. Trying to offer a digital download with the vinyl reissue could not happen because of digital rights issues. So the band had to compromise with the big conglomerate beast, and hope fans will understand.
Working with the excellent Omnivore Recordings, the band is trying to make longtime fans happy. The reissued CDs have a bevy of bonus material, some of which has never been released before.
“It’s quite a narrow thing that we can do, but it’s definitely better than nothing,” Stringfellow says.
The band’s core has always been Stringfellow and Auer, with various rhythm sections. The four albums they released in the 1990s featured three bassists and two drummers. Seeing and working with Fox and Musburger again has been a good thing.
“Mike and I had a huge falling out, which led to him leaving the band in 1994,” Stringfellow says. “He also was the drummer in my ex-wife’s band. My split with my ex-wife was peaceable enough, but still it was bad framing for my character in his eyes, I’m sure. But we’ve all looked at those times as full of errors of ignorance. We’ve had enough chances to run into each other and spend time together to understand those people who we were in 1993 are long gone.”
It’s hard to keep a band’s lineup the same for many years, as Stringfellow understands.
“I’m in awe of bands that manage to stay together for more than a couple of years,” he says with a laugh.
Drugs, alcohol and enablers led the band members down paths that they no longer follow.
“Image-wise, we never had a John, Paul, George and Ringo to present,” he adds.
The band toured all over the world and played Dallas many times in the ’90s, including shows at the Video Bar and Trees. It even went to George Gimarc's house, but Gimarc says he doesn't remember this.
Stringfellow sees a big difference in terms of where he and his bandmates were in their lives at the time.
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“In the early days of our band, with personality issues and things like that, it wasn’t quite as fun,” he says. “There was always a problem or drama or something. The shows were good, but there never was a smooth-sailing portion.”
Doing an anniversary tour is a good thing for the group, even when Stringfellow has a lot of projects on deck as a songwriter or producer.
“I think it’s great to come back and do this all in a place where that’s gotten out of the way and just enjoy the ride,” he says. “We appreciate it. I’m grateful I get to tour this much. I’m so happy for these opportunities. It’s clear that it still feels like an adventure."
The Posies and Terra Lightfoot play Thursday at Club Dada.