Still DIY

The Posies celebrate 30 years on tour with a classic lineup

The Posies circa 1990, for the release of their debut album <i>Dear 23</i>.

The Posies circa 1990, for the release of their debut album Dear 23.

Photo courtesy of James Bush

Catch the Posies 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 22 at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub, 2708 J Street. Tickets are $20-$25.

Ken Stringfellow isn’t the nostalgic type. But after spending the afternoon helping his teenage daughter and her friends write songs for their band, he’s thinking about his early songwriting efforts.

“She has a lot of ideas, but she doesn’t know how to articulate them,” Stringfellow says on the phone from his home in Paris.

It’s different than when he started out, holed up in his room in Bellingham, Washington, with no social media distractions—just a guitar and seemingly endless tedium.

“I felt more alone and I had to figure [songwriting] out on my own,” Stringfellow says. “There’s something to be said for isolation and boredom as a motivating factor. These days with the internet, kids are never bored.”

Stringfellow, 49, isn’t just another grumpy rock ’n’ roll dad.

As co-founder of the Posies, set to play Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub on May 22, he’s part of one of the ’90s most beloved alternative rock bands.

Stringfellow and high school friend Jon Auer launched the Posies in 1987 and released their first cassette, Failure, in 1988. It found success across the Pacific Northwest and, in turn, led to a deal with Geffen Records and the band’s 1990 debut album, Dear 23.

This year, the Posies hit the 30 year mark—a milestone capped off with a North American and European tour, as well as the deluxe reissues of three of their biggest albums, including 1993’s Frosting on the Beater.

This is hardly a sentimental victory lap for erstwhile rockers.

With sunny pop hooks, the Posies occupied a rarefied college rock niche, along with the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet, helping to define a musical era, but with a classic sound that’s never fallen out of fashion.

The band didn’t stop making music. Rather, they’ve traveled full circle from their young scrappy start to major label success and, now, back to those DIY roots.

“I’m the manager, the spokesperson, the social media manager, the tour director—I’m a lot of things at once,” Stringfellow says.

It’s how the Posies always tried to operate, actually.

“With Geffen, there weren’t really alternatives to promote ourselves [but] we could do things on a small scale,” he says. “[Now] the balance of personal responsibility has been elevated by the tools to move it forward.”

Crowdfunding is a key tool. Their albums will be rereleased via Omnivore Recordings, for example, but the Posies launched a PledgeMusic campaign to raise the hefty advance fee required to license their music from Universal Music Group. Available offerings include house concerts, instrument tutorials, signed albums, old flyers and other bits of vintage ephemera.

For the upcoming tour, the Posies have assembled the original Frosting on the Beater lineup, with drummer Mike Musburger and bassist Dave Fox. The band recently played some warm up shows and Stringfellow says the experience was “refreshing” for the way it brought their early days together into a new light.

The band’s first album came out before Auer could even go to a bar, after all. Back then the Posies were just kids, fraught with the attendant 20-something insecurities and anxieties.

“When you’re young, as you’re trying to find yourself, you might perceive a lot of things as threatening or getting in the way,” Stringfellow says. “Now when we get together we’ve all got families and careers and bodies of work [and] that allows us to be helpful to each other.”

And with that Stringfellow has to go. His daughter and her friends, of course, are still waiting on those songwriting tips.