Big Star Looks Forward Despite Years
Having thrown its hat into the ring as a reunited touring band in recent years, Big Star has set a Sept. 27 release for its first new studio album since 1978's "Third/Sister Lovers."Having thrown its hat into the ring as a reunited touring band in recent years, Big Star has set a Sept. 27 release for its first new studio album since 1978's "Third/Sister Lovers." The Rykodisc set "In Space" was recorded at Memphis' Ardent Studios, the site of the original Big Star recordings, with the latter-day lineup of Alex Chilton and founding drummer Jody Stephens alongside Posies principals Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer.
"We had no expectations," Auer tells Billboard.com of the recording sessions, "and I think we came up with a pretty credible record. It's impossible, of course, to compete with the original Big Star, but it's pretty crazy that a band that broke up 30 years ago made a new record."
Highlights include the ballad "Lady Sweet," replete with Big Star's signature harmony vocals and expert sense of melody, plus prototypical loose rockers like "February's Quiet" and "Best Chance We've Ever Had."
The original Big Star released three albums -- 1972's "No. 1 Record," 1974's "Radio City" and "Third/Sister Lovers," which was released after the band's breakup and founding member Chris Bell's tragic death in a car accident.
But the group's influence stretched far, inspiring, among others, a young Auer & Stringfellow, who would later prove catalysts in the band's rejuvenation when called upon to join Stephens and Chilton for a 1993 reunion concert. Since then, the group has been an on-and-off proposition, touring sporadically.
"In 2003, we played a show in Memphis that corresponded with the opening of the Stax museum," Auer explains, "and we decided that we'd learn some of the back catalog of Big Star. We did a rare actual rehearsal. Once we ran through a couple of the songs, Alex sat down and said, 'I'm not into playing some of these old songs. I really like the standard set we play, but these ones don't really mean anything to me.' But then he said, 'Something I would consider is doing a new record with y'all.'"
An impressed and intrigued Auer says the idea was tossed back and forth a bit and everyone seemed into it, so Rykodisc was brought into the picture, and sessions were scheduled. The recording was very much a collaborative process, as all four members of the current lineup contributed writing and vocals. Recording with their idols after all this time never became too surreal for the Posies, Auer admits.
"If there's anything strange about it, it's that we've been in the band longer than the original lineup was together," he notes. "Ken and I consider ourselves hired guns, but Alex and Jody clearly think of us as equal members at this point."
Still, Auer cautions fans to approach this new album on its own terms and not stacking it up against the Big Star legend. "You can't compete with a myth," he says. "I hope people don't expect it to be like it was, but there's enough of what made Big Star 'Big Star' on this record."
The group is hoping to play select shows in North America in the fall.