P.O.S talks rap, punk, questions he hates, and local bands he loves
|Photo by Erik Hess|
This is why people love P.O.S: You used to see Stef Alexander hanging around at punk shows. You used to see him hanging out at hip hop shows. The first time you saw him play guitar it kicked your ass. The first time you saw him rap it kicked your ass twice. And then, the next day, you still saw him at punk shows and hip hop shows. Because Stef is a Twin Cities homeboy. He didn't come out of nowhere, he bumped into you when you were trying to get to the cash machine at the Triple Rock or he stood next to you at some show at First Ave and there was never a moment, as a member of rap collective Doomtree or hardcore band Building Better Bombs or doing his solo stuff, where he wasn't that kid you always saw at shows. It just happens that sometimes at shows he'd take the stage and blow your fucking mind.
Over the past few years, Stef's profile as P.O.S has grown, even if by his own accounting he's not swimming in money. He's touring and playing huge festivals like Coachella and recording albums for RhymeSayers--another crew of local talent you love because they remain dedicated local homeboys putting Minnesota on the map--but ten to one if he's in town you're going to run into him at a show or find him collaborating with any number of his peers from the rap and punk scenes or just hanging out with his kid. His talent is only rivaled by his sincerity, and that's why you love P.O.S, because he'd rather hang out and do something cool than put up with a bunch of bullshit.
Fresh off a marathon week of shows prepping his Building Better Bombs/Marijuana Death Squads bandmates for a live band P.O.S set at Coachella, I sat down with five questions for Stef and we ended up asking (and answering) about twice that.
Alright, let's start with something simple. When you're doing an interview, what are the three questions you hate to hear?
"Do you hate mainstream rap?" "I heard you used to be in a punk band." Mostly because I like mainsteam rap, and I'm still in a punk band. "P.O.S? What's that stand for?" I guess those are like my least favorite three.
Nice, nice. So, do you hate mainstream rap?
In a past interview, one thing I stumbled upon was you talking about doing Coachella last year and how it was really short notice, so was that part of the inspiration for doing something completely different this year and taking more control?
I think, maybe a little bit, but mostly because me and Bill, just the two of us, toured Never Better for over a year, and that's just too long to try to play the same set. Half of of me wanted to bring more of my friends down so I could have more people hanging out with me, and half of me really wanted to try and do something that was mindblowing out there.
How has the response been for the warmup shows?
Monday was really good, Tuesday was a little bit better, I thought, and then yesterday [Wednesday] didn't sound as good, but it was really fun, probably the most fun, because it was such a small place. I get a chance to play small places with Marijuana Death Squads or Building Better Bombs, but I don't get a chance to play P.O.S shows in small places in Minnesota. I play small places all over the country, but in Minnesota I don't.
So, you're doing these bigger things, Coachella, the Warped Tour, South By Southwest last year. When you're doing the big festival shows does it become a different vibe, a sort of separation?
One thing I kept in my mind about starting to play bigger shows in the first place, not just fesitivals, but any kind of bigger show, is to try to pretend it's not so big. I feel like with festivals and SXSW and conferences, I really try to think that it's not that big a deal. There's so many other things going on, I just want to go do the best I can and have fun. If I keep my attitude low-key, it ends up being a better show.
That was one thing that struck me about Warped Tour when I covered it last year, I spent all day there and I saw a lot of bands jobbing it, but your set felt like a real show, with a real closeness, partially because of the hometown crowd.
It wasn't like a last stop on a tour and it wasn't like a hometown show, it was like, "I'm still doing this job-ass tour, but I'm doing it at home." I didn't move up stages, you know, the guy who puts the stages together asked if I wanted to play a bigger stage because I was at home, and I just thought, I'd stick where I was at. It was really fun, really cool having so many people around that little-ass stage.
What inspired the live band thing, aside from taking some friends down to Coachella?
Mostly my friend Ryan Olson, head honcho of the Gayngs gang, and I've been working with him for years in Building Better Bombs and you know, worked closely with a lot of his projects from Digitata to Mel Gibson & The Pants on certain things, and he's worked closely with P.O.S stuff before. I was on tour at the top of the year, me and Bill, he had the turntables and I had the guitar. It was cool, but it wasn't enough. Just guitar didn't work without drums, and Ben [Ivascu, drummer for Building Better Bombs and about 10 other local bands] is kind of The Dude, he was already playing drums for Bombs, and I was like, "This will work. Ryan knows how to do this, let's do it." So when I was on tour, I just gave the band to Ryan. "Here's the songs that we're gonna do, I'm on tour, figure it out, and if we can figure it out in time, let's do Coachella." Sure enough, I got home, and he said, "you ready?"