Ken Stringfellow says the music of his band The Posies — melodic and dreamy — went against the prevailing winds of the Seattle music scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s. That was a scene dominated by acts like Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, artists who would go on to define the heavier grunge sound poised to take the world by storm.
Now, The Posies are preparing expanded CD and vinyl reissues of three of their almost-hit, cult classic albums, Dear 23, Frosting on the Beater and Amazing Disgrace. An accompanying world tour, featuring an early lineup of the bands, stops in Eugene, May 20, at WOW Hall. In truth, The Posies never stopped putting out records, with their latest, Solid States, coming out in 2016.
The reissues and tour aren’t so much a victory lap, Stringfellow says, but a “celebration of a long career that was earned with hard work. We are here because we love being here.” Early on, Stringfellow continues, “we were proud of our work but never secure in it. Now we’re very confident.”
It’s a tremendous honor, Stringfellow feels, to have these reissues come out on Omnivore Records, LA-based anthologizers of almost-forgotten classics, including works from other power pop artists like Alex Chilton and Steve Wynn. “They keep music alive,” he says. Omnivore knows “there’s a story around these albums.”
Founded in Bellingham, Washington, The Posies moved to Seattle because, as a teenager in Bellingham, Seattle was just “where you go. We were a little naïve,” Stringfellow recalls. Like a lot of Seattle bands, he says, The Posies were informed by punk and metal, but asked, “What if we could take the songwriting craft of the old days and blend it with punk?” This tapped The Posies into a rich vein of rock music called power pop.
Power pop is commonly defined by high-energy rock with major scales and two-part harmony. “That could be The Beatles,” Stringfellow says. “But the greatest power pop band of all time is The Ramones.” One of The Posies’ best known tunes, “Dream All Day,” off 1993’s Frosting on the Beater, is a sweetly punchy rock ’n’ roll ode to the art of daydreaming, featuring Stringfellow’s classic tenor, tight harmonies and power chords, turned up to a grunge-worthy volume, over battering percussion.
Stringfellow’s first real concert was, amazingly, The Clash opening for The Who. “That kind of wild abandon was very appealing to me,” Stringfellow recalls, and playing punk music made Stringfellow realize “that kind of energy was available to everyone.”
Despite not quite fitting into the Seattle sound of their era, Stringfellow feels Northwest music has come around to what The Posies were trying to do. “Bookish, melodic, dreamy” Stringfellow says, mentioning bands like Band of Horses and Death Cab For Cutie. “What didn’t make sense then has become the prevailing winds of Northwest music.”