Ten Questions with Tears of Silver’s Ken Stringfellow and Grasshopper (@Hi-FI House Oct. 2); Lincoln Calling starts tonight…

Tears of Silver play at Hi-Fi House Monday, Oct. 2. Photo by Greg Dohler.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Tears of Silver is an indie supergroup that truly lives up to that designation. It consists of Posies’ founding member Ken Stringfellow, who’s also played in Big Star and R.E.M., along with three members of Mercury Rev — Sean “Grasshopper,” Jonathan Donahue (Flaming Lips) and Jesse Chandler (Midlake).

The band is touring America playing “unconventional venues,” which are announced 48 hours prior to each gig. Think of it as a “secret show” tour. Omaha’s hidden venue is at the not-so-secret Hi Fi House Monday, Oct. 2.

According to the Tears of Silver website (where you can acquire access) “The evening will be a chance to enjoy the modern classics from each artist’s long history as well as some new music they have created for the occasion (and certainly cover songs beloved to them repurposed and retooled for this tour). This is the first time Mercury Rev’s music has been performed in many parts of America for nearly a decade.”

Below, my Ten Questions with Ken Stringfellow and Sean “Grasshopper”:

1. What is your favorite album?

Ken Stringfellow: I’m too curious to really return to a reliable favorite. I’m always hoping to hear something unexpected and refreshing. Also, at any one moment I have something I’ve recently worked on that I’m proud of and I definitely give a few victory lap listens. This week, it’s the Supercalifragile album by Game Theory I produced. How can I summarize… Game Theory was a wonderful, brainy, exuberant band from the 80s… one of the classic ‘college radio’ bands. I was a fan then, and over the years befriended the band’s mastermind, Scott Miller. He had contacted me about rebooting the band after nearly 20 years, but unfortunately took his own life before this album could be completed. It was up to me to see it through; some songs were partially completed that I was able to finish up and mix; other songs were just fragments of ideas on various hard drives/phones and needed to be finished from the composition to the final mix… to this end I gathered some of his close friends and colleagues that he’d already hoped would have been involved in the album — Aimee Mann, Will Sheff, etc… and we delivered what I think is a stunning album, very true to Scott’s intentions as best as we could know them. It’s out now: https://gametheory1.bandcamp.com/

2. What is your least favorite song?

I woke up today thinking about “Holding Out for A Hero.” It makes zero sense. It’s so typical that this song was written by men, and humiliating that a woman had to sing these preposterous words, that bear no resemblance to anything that I can see in the reality of human relationships.

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Time away from them! If it’s my long time band. I mean, it’s also lovely what a band and its music can mean to people over time. Being that we are celebrating the Posies’ 30th anniversary next year… it’s lovely to have a community that shares the appreciation for the years of work and the results of the music.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

I don’t think I hate anything about being in a band, temporary (like this assembly for this tour)  or long term (like the Posies). The Posies has been, for example a motivating factor in making me work out issues with my bandmates. If we didn’t have a legacy to uphold, I might have ended these friendships. So, in the short term, I hated being stuck with someone with whom I was having a conflict, but ultimately, it made me work to resolve it rather than abandon the relationship.

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

I basically have beatlemania for fresh figs. I’m quite passionate about wine, too, and have a pretty decent cellar in Seattle, and another one in Paris, another in… etc.

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

Well, Seattle is always special, it’s ‘home’ in many ways, still. I have to say, tho, that there are places that have adopted me, too … I feel very ‘home’ when I play in Helsinki, or Barcelona… my shows in and around Barcelona are pretty amazing, in terms of the audience’s openness and love. And then all the stuff around it — the sunshine, the wonderful food and wine, the Mediterranean… and these relationships just keep growing with the years… the more good experiences I have with an audience, the better the *next* show is likely to be… it’s about building trust and good experiences.

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

Hmmm. Have to  be careful here! I had a pretty weird show in Hamburg, years ago, before I really perfected the art of managing being onstage alone. The club was scuzzy, the audience small, and I was insecure, and let that take over. I couldn’t really complete the show, I started to think nobody there cared etc…  it was awful. No fault of Hamburg, had plenty of great shows there since. It was just where I was at at that point in my life and in my learning curve about being a solo artist.

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

I like to say I have been unemployed since 1989. I am loathe to think of what I do as a ‘job.’ It’s really more a continuing flow of miracles, and there’s always enough money to get what I need in life. I basically took a leap of faith at that moment in 1989, when I was 20, to not have a job per se. I starved, until I didn’t. What was important was that I retooled my focus on making my music and my communication the best it could be. It’s still how I think.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

Well, I was very interested in natural sciences; I could have been a biologist, perhaps. I am quite squeamish about human blood and tendons so pretty sure orthopedic surgeon would be hell on earth.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

Well, there’s that whole menage-a-trois thing that Warren Buffet had going, right? it’s pretty fascinating, and I’m sure there are many more tales that all locals know, but… I had to hand it to them for being so open about it. I know, I know, billionaire, so people will say yes to whatever, but … it *sounds* like there was much respect and openness to let that situation be what it was. You tell me!

From Grasshopper:

What is your favorite album?

Grasshopper: Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain

2. What is your least favorite song?

“The Farmer In The Dell”

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

The smell of gasoline exhaust in the morning.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

The smell of gasoline exhaust in the evening.

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Emeralds.

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

Poughkeepsie

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

In Las Vegas, Nevada, because I’ve never played a gig there.

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

I’ve generally been able to support myself through music for 20 years. When times are good I’ve fed the ponies, during tough times, they have given back…

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

I would love to be a jockey. I have the height, but I don’t think I could make the weight. I’d hate to be a proctologist.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

Tom Waits – “A Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis.” The song’s protagonist mentions, in regard to Omaha:  “Everyone I used to know is either dead or in prison”

Tears of Silver are playing Monday, Oct. 2, at Hi-Fi House, 3724 Farnam St. To attend, go to https://tearsofsilveromaha.eventbrite.com. Show starts at 7 p.m. For more information, go to www.tearsofsilver.space.

* * *

It’s night one of Lincoln Calling. Day passes are $29 for Thursday and $34 for Friday and Saturday (per day). Three-day passes are $59 (plus $8 fees). Here’s tonight’s line-up:

Bourbon Theater
Best Coast
Cayetana
Twinsmith

Duffy’s Outdoor
Palehound
Wand
Post Animal
Acid Dad
Matt Stansberry & the Romance
Salt Creek

Zoo Bar
Mount Moriah
Ian Sweet
McCarthy Trenching
The Artichoke Hearts

Bodega’s Alley
Malcolm London
R.O.E.
M Shah
HAKIM
Maddog & the 20/20’s
Stathi

The Bay
Frankie Cosmos
Navy Gangs
Thick Paint
Sean Pratt

1867
Street Sects
Cult Play
Crease
Darren Keen
Low Long Signal
Verse and the Vices
Bomb Earth

Night Market
Jens Lehman
Karmen Delancey
Indigenous AK
Bach Mai
Orion Walsh

Also tonight, The Melvins return to The Waiting Room. Spotlights opens. $20, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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