Alex Chilton of Big Star, who has died at the age of 59 in New Orleans, La. after…
- Posted on Oct 19th 2010 2:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
"I would say that my own problems were far more interesting to me 10 years ago," Stringfellow tells Spinner by phone from his home in Paris. "By virtue of the fact I have a family and children and all those kinds of things now, just being more mature, it's actually been very beneficial writing-wise. There are many reasons every day to not be in my own head and be stuck in my own stink. Ten years ago, being a single guy and fighting all my battles by myself, if you are on your own, you can go off into a place you can drift into a corner of your own mind and obsess about all kinds of stuff. That bore down on my songwriting."
"In reality, it's a kind of narcissism to think your problems are important," Stringfellow adds. "Over the last 10 years, it's been my mission to become a better storyteller. I try to write about other people's lives or some amalgam of things I've experienced or things I've seen other people experience and synthesize that into something else."
Auer, who still lives in Seattle, where the Posies formed in the mid-'80s, has taken a similar tact, although he still sees the value in baring his soul.
"There's an aspect of being more of a storyteller," he says. "You do get bored talking about yourself all the time after a while. I will say I tend to save the more personal, potentially melancholy, angst-ridden stuff for my solo stuff these days, just because there's a part of me that really loved that in music. I still don't think there's a more potent equation for music than a beautiful melody and a really wonderfully written sad lyric, or a lyric that maybe takes the pain and maybe transforms it by sharing it. Some of my favorite records are records about heartbreak and things that hurt. It doesn't mean I'm heartbroken or hurting all the time, but it is a great feeling for me. I like experiencing that feeling. What that says about me, I'm not 100 percent sure.
As for the group's famously obscure lyrics, Stringfellow says he aims to convey ideas without being too obvious or too inscrutable -- a balancing act, for sure.
"We've tried to push ourselves to at least be like that, trying to make every phrase original in that sense and trying to play with the language and explore possibilities that aren't obvious," he says. "Right away, that eliminates all kinds of things and it has the flipside of being kind of oblique at times, and a lot of times maybe people can't relate to it."
While Auer says he's unwilling to abandon first-person writing entirely, especially since some fans have told him they prefer his emotionally forthright 2006 solo album, 'Songs From the Year of Our Demise' to the Posies' 'Every Kind of Light,' released a year earlier, he agrees that overly straightforward lyrics deprive listeners of their interpretations.
"This is a lousy analogy, but with 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind,' Steven Spielberg went back and made a special edition where he showed people what it was like in the inside of the mother ship in the movie," Auer says. "And it was like the dumbest move he could have made. He admitted it later: 'I took away everyone's right to their imaginations.' I prefer to keep it mysterious as well."