ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 25, 1996
It’s just after 11 p.m. when Jon Auer from the Posies rings up, but he’s still just scraping the sleep dust from his eyes, and the familiar clink of ice cubes is evidence that potent liquid refreshment is speeding the transition to wakefulness.
It’s actually late afternoon where he’s calling from—a seventh-floor hotel balcony overlooking the glorious harbour of Sydney, Australia. As someone who’s spent time Down Under myself, I’ve got a burning question for the 26-year-old Seattle rocker. I’ve just gotta know if he’s experienced the throat-charming capabilities of the “white rockets” (Toohey’s Draft). Even more than the “black rockets” (Swan Lager) or “green rockets” (Victoria Bitter), it was the white ones that helped me cope so pleasantly with the formidable heat of that place.
“Actually, I’ve been far too involved with the heavier alcohol-like things on our rider than the beer,” says Auer. “It’s gotten to that point at the end of four months of deli trays and dressing rooms, so, yeah, we’re all a bit looped at the end of this thing.”
The night before our chat, the Posies played the final date of a tour with longtime Aussie faves the Hoodoo Gurus. Now Auer is planning to take a couple of weeks off to recuperate—and spend time in an air-conditioned studio producing Aussie group Polyanna—before heading back home and starting yet another tour, one that’ll visit the Starfish Room next Friday (August 2).
For that gig the band will be focusing on tunes from its new CD, Amazing Disgrace, the sleeve of which includes an in-concert photo of Auer standing triumphantly at the foot of a stage, a red Gibson SG guitar held high over his head, a crowd going wild—and one shoe missing.
“The full-on Angus Young tribute,” quips Auer of the action shot. “That was actually taken at the end of another tour, the last show we played in Liverpool with Teenage Fanclub about three years back. I think we had a particularly fun evening, and one of my shoes just came untied and went flying across the stage at the bass player. It was great.”
The rockin’ snap of Auer isn’t the only dramatic image on Amazing Disgrace. Its cover photo—of a weightlifter suffering extreme dislocation of his right arm—is another eye-catcher.
“That’s a cool picture,” says Auer, “and it actually happened—I think at the ’76 Olympics. I forget the guy’s name, but he’s a cop now, somewhere in Middle America, and we had to talk to him and get permission for the cover. He just wanted to make sure there was nothing satanic on the record, and then it was okay with him.”
There’s never been any real concern about occult references or backwards-masking devilspeak on Posies albums; ever since its Failure debut on Seattle’s PopLlama Records back in 1988, the band’s forte has always been carefree, feel-good pop-rock of the first order. Auer claims he wanted to get signed by PopLlama (not to be confused with Seattle’s famous Sub Pop label) because that’s where his idols, the Young Fresh Fellows, were stationed.
In 1990 the Posies made the leap to big-time Geffen Records, and their major-label debut, Dear 23, garnered some very appreciative reviews, including one in the Los Angeles Times that drew positive comparisons to the Beatles’ Abbey Road.
“They said there were definitely elements of Abbey Road that we ripped off,” says Auer with a chuckle, “but it’s no Abbey Road, you know, it’s just a cool pop record. Basically that’s just kind of the school we come from, of lovin’ records like that, and wanting to emulate them. Revolver, the White Album, Magical Mystery Tour—they’re all mind-blowing to me.”
Now hold on just a second there, bub. I’m a longtime Beatles freak, too, and I seem to recall a little album from ’67 titled Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that caused a bit of a stir. Is this young whippersnapper suggesting that the most revered of all Beatles discs wasn’t an influence?
“Well, Sgt. Pepper is great,” concedes Auer, “but gimme ‘I Am the Walrus’ or ‘She Said, She Said’ any day. Or ‘Glass Onion’.”
The Posies’ particular devotion to the Fab Four was reciprocated somewhat when Ringo Starr covered a song from Dear 23, “Golden Blunders”, which poked fun at Abbey Road’s “Golden Slumbers”. The band added to its Beatles-like pop legacy with 1993’s Frosting on the Beater, which—thanks to the popularity of the single “Dream All Day”—became a surprise hit in France.
“To be honest with you, I thought that record would have done a little better,” confides Auer of Frosting, “but it didn’t really take off like a lot of people thought it would. I was just glad that it did really well someplace. It just makes it easier to keep goin’.”
Over the years, the Posies have seen numerous bands that used to open for them—everyone from the Cranberries to Alice in Chains to the Presidents of the USA—gain riches and worldwide acclaim. So it’s not surprising that they feel a tad overlooked in the fame department.
“It can be a little frustrating at times when you go out and work your tail off, and don’t see the rewards that you see going to other people,” says Auer. “And there’s always stuff of much less quality that seems to do incredibly well. I’m not really into namin’ names, but, I mean, you don’t really have to.
“Mediocrity is celebrated in society,” he adds, “but we’ve always aspired to be intelligent and have integrity, and those are things that I will not give up. I got into this for the right reasons, I consider, and if I start giving ’em up because I’ve been in the business too long, I’m just gonna get out. I don’t want to waste my time with superficial bullshit.”