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Ex-pat Posies co-founder Ken Stringfellow returns to Seattle a very different man, musician

Seattle ex-pat Ken Stringfellow returns to town with a far more diverse musical tool kit than his days as a power-popper in The Posies. (Ken Stringfellow image)

Ken Stringfellow’s been around the block a few times, not to mention around the world. And the Bellingham native known for his stints in seminal Seattle power pop band The Posies, REM and Big Star has put it all together in a diverse musical stew that showcases all of his influences on his latest album “Danzig in the Moonlight.”

“I would say that each album I do is like a term paper for what I’ve been learning. This is my fourth album and first album I’ve done in eight years, and in those eight years I’ve been studying hard,” Stringfellow says in an interview with Seattle Sounds.

The new album is a far cry from the hook-laden, bouncy, straight-ahead power pop of the Posies. But after traveling the world as a musician, songwriter and producer, Stringfellow says he’s changed significantly both personally and musically since his early days at the University of Washington, kicking around the Seattle clubs in the 80’s and 90’s.

“I mean the first Posies album came out 25 years ago, so there’s a lot of ‘since then’s’ since then,” he says.

Along with his own music and touring the world with REM and Big Star, he’s also in high demand as a producer, helping craft albums of all kinds for bands in countries from China to Ecuador. Each experience has taken him farther down a path of musical discovery and experience many of his old fans would hardly recognize.

“It’s a big world out there and there’s a lot of perspectives to be had. It’s good to have that perspective and all the world has to offer.”

For example, Stringfellow says when he toured Senagal and other African nations, he found all sorts of music with different scales and time signatures than he’d ever heard before. He says it was “mind blowing.”

“I couldn’t make sense of it,” he laughs. “The scales have more notes. If you had a piano based on that music you’d have to cut all the keys into thirds. There’s so many notes in between notes and they can hear all those differences. And the rhythms I couldn’t follow at all at first.”

Stringfellow left Seattle for Paris nearly a decade ago. He still returns to his old home town occasionally, and finds all of the changes as foreign as some of the most exotic cities he’s visited over the years.

“It’s kind of HG Wells feeling. I feel like I’ve stepped off the time machine,” he laughs.

But he still maintains close ties to friends and family, many of whom will be on hand for his special homecoming shows Friday and Saturday night Feb. 1 and 2 at the Tractor Tavern with the Maldives.

He promises a number of special appearances, including Charity Theilan from the Head and the Heart, who sings with Stringfellow on the haunting, countrified track “Doesn’t it Remind You of Something,” on the new album.

The shows promise plenty of unique twists and turns, much like Stringfellow’s music. As he prepares to head out on another tour that’ll ultimately take him around the world, the only thing certain is nothing will be the same.

“Change is one of those things that you can prepare for it or not, it will just keep doing its thing. And I think once again it’s good to be flexible.”

Ken Stringfellow and The Maldives appear Friday and Saturday Feb. 1-2 at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle.

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