Although firmly entrenched in people's minds and hearts as a power pop band, The Posies were never the rigid adherents to the "verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge" structure as that movement suggests.
While always exhibiting impeccable harmonies, the band never skimped on the power part of the equation, which is why they came into many people's hearts and minds during the grunge era in 1993 with the alternative hit "Dream All Day" and the album Frosting on the Beater which also contained the classic "Solar Sister," a song that surprises the listener at every turn while still earworming its way into your head on first listen.
You can also say that about Solid States, the band's first album in six years, which will come out April 29. Posies founding members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer took a DIY approach, not unlike their very first self-released album, Failure, from 1987. Subsequent Posies albums have toyed with fans' expectations but not to the extent of the new album, which dials back the guitars and super-sizes the trademark harmonies to a degree of sonic measurement that Auer quantifies as "a shit-ton."
"We had a certain concept already chosen, to make a more electronic-based recording using a lot more synths and incorporating programmed beats," Stringfellow says. "The idea was we'd later add some live drums. And in the middle of this, our longtime drummer, Darius Minwalla, passed away out of the blue. Now there was no turning back. The only way was forward. Of course, Darius became a major part of the album as a subject, what we went through losing our friend so young. Then two days before we left on this tour, our longtime bassist, Joe Skyward, died of cancer, which wasn't entirely unexpected. We knew he was sick, but still."
Reduced to a duo first by choice and then by circumstance lends a sense of adventurousness to songs like "Unlikely Places," which has wordless harmonies following keyboards lines, a bit of exotica that hearkens back to pre-Beatles pop like The Chordettes "Mr. Sandman," yet still manages to seem futuristic.
"The structure is less linear than normal," says Auer. "There’s a lot of ear candy, things we might have thought were too precious in the past, but on this record it works."
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The excitement Stringfellow and Auer feel about their new songs (and new drummer Frankie Siragusa) is matched by the fans' enthusiasm for secret shows, where the location of the show is announced the day of the show.
"Most of the shows have sold out already. The Seattle show sold out in two hours and we're not used to that happening," Stringfellow says. "We weren't sure when the album was going to be done so it was harder to predict when we should book the tour. Nine months out you might gave trouble with getting a Saturday night. So we thought let's not book in any of the shows in clubs, and it's worked out wonderfully. We do smaller shows and because space is limited we can set a higher price."
Although the single "Squirrel vs Snake" suggests Stringfellow and Auer relocated to Paris on political grounds ("Don't want a government that thinks I should be spied on"), the move was for personal reasons. And as some of the wordless anthemic choruses on the new album suggest, they are keeping up on what musical trends you kids in this country are loving these days.
"My mom for Christmas had the great idea to get me a subscription to Rolling Stone, all the way here in Europe," says Auer. One Direction, 5 Seconds to Summer ... someone is getting a big fat paycheck at that magazine."