UPDATED: The Posies, a Seattle band that found alternative radio and MTV success in the 1990s, has split up after allegations of sexual misconduct were made by multiple women against co-founder Ken Stringfellow, leading his on-and-off musical partner of the last 35 years, Jon Auer, to declare he believed the women and was quitting the band.
A history of Stringfellow’s alleged misconduct — which he “categorically” denies — was laid out in an investigative story published Monday on the website of KUOW, Seattle’s NPR station, which said its two reporters had interviewed 20 people and reviewed dozens of medical records, emails and texts to verify certain details of the disturbing stories recounted by three women.
“I left the Posies very quickly,” Auer told KUOW in an email, “after hearing from [a friend quoted in the story] about what happened to her,” in conversations that lasted for nine hours. “What she described to me was super disturbing,” Auer continued, “and it made my position immediately clear. I confronted Ken about it on a phone call on Aug, 4, 2021, and canceled our upcoming shows, and flat-out told him that I wouldn’t be working with him anymore.”
Auer added that a nearly finished album the Posies had recorded — which would have been their first since 2016 — was being shelved.
Reached for comment by Variety, Stringfellow provided the same statements he gave the KUOW reporters for their story. “I would never want to harm anyone with whom I have a relationship – sexual or otherwise,” he wrote. “Consent has been the foundation of every sexual relationship I’ve had, and violence has never been a part of any of those relationships. It simply is not who I am as a person who respects women.”
Stringfellow also passed along a statement jointly written by himself and his wife, Dominique Stringfellow. “As a family, we view sexual assault as a very serious issue,” the couple wrote. “As an ethically non-monogamous married couple, we are particularly attuned to the importance of consent and communication in relationships. Over the years, Ken has had consensual and respectful sexual relationships with other women, including the women making the allegations. Our commitment to each other made room for him to do that. While we categorically deny these allegations, we respect these women and do not intend to speak negatively about them.”
Said the KUOW article, “The three women who accuse Stringfellow of sexual misconduct became acquainted this summer and decided to tell their stories, with their names on the record. They said they felt compelled to share in the hopes that others may recognize signs of abuse in their own relationships, and that slowly, as these stories are told, the scales tip more toward justice.”
Although a number of the encounters recounted by the women were described as consensual — including tales by the women of being reluctantly pressured into a threesome, or having an abortion — one of those who came forward described in considerable detail being shoved against the wall of a men’s room stall, violently pushed to the floor, bitten in her genital area and forced to have sex. Although she said at first she was reluctant to describe the encounter to her OB/GYN as an assault, after three weeks of dealing with trauma, she came around to characterizing what happened as non-consensual. The reporters said they also talked to seven other women who had been intimate with Stringfellow that did not describe the relationships abusive, but added that four of them corroborated controlling behavior and unwelcome biting.
Stringfellow also told KUOW, “I have never been into anything kinky, into anything rough. I experienced extreme violence firsthand as a teen. I’m sensitive to aggression, and it’s not something I can be around. I am not down with violence. I don’t want to hurt anyone, ever.”
Stringfellow’s ex-wife, Kim Warnick, a musician in her own right with the bands Visqueen and the Fastbacks, was quoted in the KUOW story as saying that “while he never put a hand on me… it was horrible, what I had to deal with because of all his infidelities. Never ever marry a man for his voice.”
One of Stringfellow’s exes, Barbara J. Mitchell, a Seattle music-biz veteran who is his former manager as well as former girlfriend, spoke up against the article on Tuesday in a public Facebook post, saying that while she bears considerable enmity against Stringfellow, she had doubts about the violence described in the story. “If anyone has wanted him tried in the court of public opinion, it’s me,” wrote Mitchell. But “just because it’s karma doesn’t make it true.” She described convening with other execs about the violence described in the article and said, “We all said the same thing — ‘not his m.o., doesn’t seem like him.’ … Yes, he’s a dick. Just not the one portrayed here.”
Variety count not reach Auer for comment on the article or the breakup. The group’s last album came out in 2016 and it’s not immediately clear whether they’d signed a deal for the now-canceled follow-up. The group’s listed booking agent of record said he no longer works with the band.
The third member of the Posies’ most recent lineup, Frankie Siragusa, who joined six years ago, had earlier announced he was leaving, before the women’s stories went public. He confirmed to KUOW that the women’s stories about Stringfellow were his reason for quitting, with reporters writing that the drummer “no longer wanted to be associated with his long-time hero.” They quoted Siragusa as saying, “I had a ton of tour posters hung up and framed on my walls, and lots of Posies stuff from tours on display in my house. I took them all down.” (Siragusa is pictured above between Stringfellow, left, and Auer, right.)
The Posies came to prominence representing a more melodic but still aggressive side of the Seattle scene that also produced Nirvana, Soundgarden and other bands. Stringfellow and Auer met in high school and began writing and recording together shortly after graduating, with both frontmen equally adept at lead vocals and songwriting, in the rare modern example of a Lennon-McCartney situation that worked, at length. An independent debut in 1988 was followed by three albums with Geffen’s DGG imprint: 1990’s “Dear 23”; 1993’s “Frosting on the Beater,” which included the top 10 alternative radio hit “Dream All Day”; and 1996’s “Amazing Disgrace.”
They returned to indie labels for subsequent projects, which found solo albums interspersed with off-and-on band revivals. Both Stringfellow and Auer achieved notoriety outside the Posies by collaborating with Alex Chilton in a celebrated revival of the 1970s cult band Big Star beginning in 1993, followed by “Big Star’s ‘Third'” tribute shows after Chilton’s 2010 death. Stringfellow also performed as a backing musician for R.E.M. on tour in the late ’90s.The Posies’ soundtrack contributions included songs in the films “Reality Bites,” “The Basketball Diaries” and “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” (the last of these with Burt Bacharach).