Ken Stringfellow is getting dressed while on the phone, talking about his fourth solo album, Danzig in the Moonlight. He is in Seattle. I am in Indianapolis. We are his first interview of the day. Stringfellow is valiantly trying to listen and talk and button.
After a few seconds of struggle, he says, "Hang on. I am trying to put my shirt on."
There. Shirt on and the founding member of The Posies, a late 1980s band that made gritty, nuanced and beautiful power pop is ready. Though he plays shows under the band name with the other founding member, John Auer, Stringfellow is decidedly focused on his solo career. The noise and beat of a band in fun, but the music veteran seems to prefer the current run of solo shows, baring his musical soul at close range.
A quick history lesson: Stringfellow's name will always be first associated with The Posies, and he keeps the band alive. As recently as last month, they played shows at Peter Buck's Todos Santos Festival in Mexico. After making their major-label debut in 1990 with Dear 23, and recording two more albums, including 1996's Amazing Disgrace, they were dropped from Geffen. The Posies went back to their original label, Pop Llama for 1998's Success. Then the band disbanded for a while.
Stringfellow caught on with REM, touring and recording with them for nearly five years, and did more solo work, He was also integral in reforming of the seminal power pop band Big Star, touring with singer Alex Chilton before his death in 2010.
Never far from The Posies, Stringfellow reunited with Auer for an acoustic studio EP before The Posies came back together in 2005 with the Every Kind of Light and 2010's Blood/Candy.
Stringfellow, who put out a his first solo album, This Sounds Like Goodbye, in 1997, is on the road with his new effort, a piece that is deep and orchestral and pop - intelligent with a highly produced rawness. It includes the song "Doesn't It Remind You of Something," a duet on the album with the Head and the Heart's Charity Rose Thielen.
NUVO: First, tell me about the new record. You're playing the record here with a touring schedule has an insane number of consecutive one-nighters. (Editor's note: 27 nights in a row, from Boise to Arkansas, with the Midwest, Canada and East Coast in between).
KS: The album came out in October and we've been on tour ever since. I was in Europe all of last year, where I live, and we played in Mexico with Peter Buck. I played solo, with the Posies, and with Robyn Hitchcock. When I am not playing live, I am always in the studio, or doing production or film scoring. But my greatest passion and energy is making the album - making the "thing" and then having people know about it. So I'll be in the US through June. This is my first solo visit to Indianapolis. I played there once, with REM at the Murat Theater. I go back to Europe to tour in the fall.
NUVO: What makes you come from Paris to the US and tour so hard?
KS: The general public might know The Posies a bit, but we weren't that big. Putting and album out, we get a little sympathy from the press (but) I have to get people out to check this out, and that takes a lot of energy.
NUVO: Talk about the tour. You are solo in Indianapolis?
KS: It's a solo Midwest and East Coast tour. The solo show is who I am and what I am about Sometimes the band can wrap people in the sound and make them tap their foot, but that is child's play. When you can transport people by piano, voice and guitar, that is very gratifying. The solo show is more spiritual, in a sense. I've been working on that for years - and it's the best thing I do. Getting strong emotions delivered at point black range is an intense experience.
NUVO: You live in Europe now, right?
KS: I live in Europe all the time, in France, and come here when there is stuff to do. I've been in Paris for ten years. In the US, the coffee is too big and the portions too large. I sold the house in Seattle many years ago.
NUVO: You have other production projects, band stuff, and your solo work. How do you balance it all?
KS: I am 44 - young enough to have the energy to push myself to do stuff. I hope I can continue to do this. I keep working to keep it going. I am too young to retire. I've got a family, and we live in a big, expensive city. When I watch Peter Buck or Robyn Hitchcock, I've found it is pretty inspiring. They still have people interested in what they do and have good energy. Maybe I can do that. We'll see what happens.
with special guest Laura K. Balke
1043 Virginia Ave