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- Genre: Pop, Rock, Alternative, Alternative Pop, Alternative Rock, Indie, Indie Pop, Indie Rock, Jangle Pop, Power Pop, Underground Power Pop
The Posies are a power pop group. The band was formed in 1987 in Bellingham, Washington by primary songwriters Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow. They are best known for their radio hits "Golden Blunders" (from Dear 23), as well as "Dream All Day", "Solar Sister" and "Flavor of the Month" (from Frosting on the Beater). The band is currently signed to Rykodisc, and has been through a number of bassists and drummers over the years.
Early years (1986–1988)
Core members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow began writing songs together in late 1986 while Ken was in school at the University of Washington. Auer later recalled in an interview that "we first met at a Dan Reed Network show; we were united in feeling we could do that stuff much better ourselves, the two of us". Their first public performance came as an acoustic duo that next summer while Ken was home in Bellingham. During the last part of 1987 and the first two months of 1988, Ken drove home on weekends to join Jon as they recorded twelve songs in Jon's family's home studio. Though intended as demos to attract other members and form a full band, the recordings turned out so well that they became the Posies' first self-released album, Failure. Interest in the Posies rose out of the numerous home-copied cassettes that began to spread around Seattle and Bellingham.
Mike Musberger and Rick Roberts joined soon after, allowing the band to play its first live shows in Seattle and Bellingham. The four members moved into a house in the University District of Seattle, where they developed many of the songs that would appear on later albums. Failure was released on vinyl near the end of 1988 on local indie label PopLlama with one song dropped.
Major label years (1989–1997)
Several major labels noticed the band early on and in late 1989 they signed to new Geffen Records imprint DGC Records. They chose John Leckie to produce their first album for the label and Dear 23 was released in August 1990. "Golden Blunders" reached No. 17 on the US Modern Rock charts. Ringo Starr covered the song for his 1992 album Time Takes Time.
Upon returning from an extensive U.S. tour, the Posies thought they were ready to record their third album. They headed to Robert Lang Studio in Shoreline, Washington, in late 1991 and recorded many of the songs they had been working on over the past two years. Among the recordings were three songs written (and two of them sung) by bassist Rick Roberts. Jon and Ken later decided that Rick's songs didn't fit with the band and asked him to leave. The entire recording session was then scrapped and is referred to by fans as "the Lost Sessions".
The remaining members spent the next few months developing new songs, then in early 1992 began recording their third album with Don Fleming. After completing what they thought was their new album with the title Eclipse, Geffen sent them back to the studio in the latter part of the year to record a few "hits". Dave Fox joined to play bass for the last of the "Hit Sessions" and the name then changed to Frosting On The Beater and was released in April 1993. Leadoff track "Dream All Day" enjoyed some success on U.S. MTV and alternative radio, becoming their biggest hit (#4 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart), leading the band to an extensive tour of the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Due in part to rumors of a break-up Dave left the band in 1994 to join the Seattle band Flop.
During a later European tour, a fight between Ken and Mike prompted Mike to leave the band.
In late 1994, Brian Young took over on drums and Joe Howard (AKA Joe Skyward, Joe Bass) played bass. Joe had earlier filled in on bass for a few shows after Rick left in 1992. It wasn't long before the band again entered the studio to begin work on a fourth album. Originally using the working title What Color Is A Red Light?, the bulk of Amazing Disgrace was finished in the first few months of 1995. Once again, the label wanted more hit material so they sent the band back to the studio near the end of the year where they recorded "Ontario". Amazing Disgrace was eventually released in May 1996.
Faced with a changing radio climate and fans who longed for the smoother sounds of Frosting On The Beater, the Posies found less success with Amazing Disgrace in the U.S. than with their previous album. The album fared better in Europe though, and led to it selling better worldwide than any of their previous efforts.
After spending most of 1996 and the early part of 1997 on tour in the U.S. and Europe, and making an appearance in association with their former record company Popllama to perform "Voyage of The Aquanauts" in the Ocean Exploration episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy, the band returned home and shifted focus to other projects outside the Posies. Ken played a new batch of solo songs around the U.S. and released his self-recorded first solo album, This Sounds Like Goodbye. Jon joined Seattle band Lucky Me as lead guitarist, Brian began drumming with Fountains of Wayne, while Joe began work on an album under the name Skyward. All of this solo work caused many to wonder if the Posies were finished as a band.
The Posies also performed with Burt Bacharach on a recording of his song "What the World Needs Now Is Love," which was featured in the 1997 movie, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
Return to indie label, compilation albums and solo projects (1997–2001)
In late 1997, they came back together to play a small number of live shows, many accompanied by rumors of being the "final show". Instead, the band returned to the studio with the intent of writing their last chapter by rerecording a dozen unused older songs. Success was released in February 1998, again on the local PopLlama label. A tour followed, including a return to Europe. It was on this tour that the live album Alive Before the Iceberg was recorded. Upon returning, they played their real "final" shows in September, one in Seattle at the yearly Bumbershoot Festival and another in San Francisco.
In 1999 the Posies played a low-profile benefit show in honor of their longtime roadie and friend Joe Norcio. Jon and Ken spent the rest of the year focusing on their solo work. Ken formed a band called Saltine with Blake Wescott, where Ken's quiet solo songs were transformed into loud and powerful rock. The band recorded an album together late that year, but Ken later decided to break up the band and re-recorded the album with the help of studio musicians. Touched was given the unfortunate release date of September 11, 2001. Meanwhile, Jon formed a band of his own, known as the Jon Auer Band or the Jon Auer Experience. He released a pair of EPs and began work on a full-length album, which would be released in 2006 as Songs from the Year of Our Demise.
Jon and Ken came back together in early 2000 for a one-off acoustic show in Seattle, which was recorded and released as In Case You Didn't Feel Like Plugging In. The show went so well that they decided later that year to put together a large tour of the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Upon returning from the tour, they filled 2001 with a mix of solo work and a handful of live Posies shows played in support of the Nice Cheekbones and a Ph.D. EP, which was recorded the previous year.
Also released in 2000 was a four-CD box set composed almost entirely of unreleased demos, outtakes, and live tracks from throughout the Posies' career. Created mostly to satisfy fans, At Least, At Last showed many previously unseen facets of the band. The same year, DGC Records release Dream All Day: The Best of the Posies, a compilation with songs from the band's major label years and some b-sides and covers.
Comeback and Every Kind of Light (2001–2009)
After playing drums in Jon's band, Darius Minwalla took over on drums for the Posies in early 2001. That summer, Matt Harris of Oranger replaced Joe on bass. The new rhythm section quickly learned the band's back catalog in time for a US tour that summer. The band played together sporadically over the next two years. Though comments in interviews suggested a desire to write new songs with the new lineup, new material didn't show up in live performances until 2004. They wrote and recorded a new batch of songs relatively quickly and Every Kind of Light was released in June 2005; its songs "Love Comes" and "I Guess You're Right" are included as sample music tracks in the release of Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system. A tour of the US and Europe lasted through the end of the year. A brief Japanese tour was scheduled for the summer of 2006. In 2008 Ken and Jon undertook a Posies 20th anniversary tour, playing several shows as a duo in the U.S. and Europe.
Ken remarried and now lives in France with his wife and child, though he travels often to play with the Posies, Big Star, R.E.M., as well as playing in support of his solo albums. He is as of 2008 vocalist in the band The Disciplines. The rest of the line up are previous members of the Norwegian band Briskeby. The Disciplines will join R.E.M. on their European tour in 2008 as a warm-up, and their song "Yours For Taking" was included on a CD with songs selected by R.E.M. for the March 2008 issue of Q magazine.
In February 2010, The Posies announced their plans to record a new album in Spain.
The band released their seventh studio album Blood/Candy on September 28, 2010. The album was recorded and mixed in Spain and their hometown of Seattle, with stops in Ecuador, Canada, Paris and Los Angeles.
The reformed Big Star, which featured the Posies' Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow alongside musicians Jody Stephens and Alex Chilton, came to an end in March 2010- when Chilton died following a heart attack.
Musical style and influences
The band has been compared to The Hollies due to their vocal harmonies and Big Star due to their songwriting. Ken's solo albums have been the more experimental of the band's side projects, while Jon's solo releases reside more in the power pop tradition. Auer has also had some success as a producer.
Jon Auer – guitar, vocals
Matt Harris – bass guitar (2001–present)
Darius "Take One" Minwalla – drums (2001–present)
Ken Stringfellow – guitar, vocals
Dave Fox – bass guitar (1992–1994)
Mike Musburger – drums (1988–1994)
Rick Roberts – bass guitar, vocals (1988–1991)
Joe Skyward (b. Joe Howard) – bass guitar (1994–1999)
Brian Young – drums (1994–1998)
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