Scooterbabe Lives! A Q&A With JJ Posway

On Wednesday, Aug. 26 at the Caledonia Lounge, local band scooterbabe will play its first show in Athens in nearly a year. The indie-pop trio played what was erroneously labeled as its “final show” last Halloween right before lead guitarist and vocalist JJ Posway moved to Brooklyn.

In the last year, scooterbabe still managed to release a career-spanning compilation and a standalone single. The band also played one show in New York, with Posway serving as the only original member. Unfortunately, even though Posway is back in Georgia for the time being, original drummer Grafton Tanner is moving to Chicago. It’s unclear how or if scooterbabe will move forward after Wednesday’s show.

Flagpole talked to Posway about the initial rise of scooterbabe, why he left Athens when he did and what it feels like to come back. 

Flagpole: It’s fair to say that each of the scooterbabe releases (scooterbabe, and the “I Want To Write Your Name Across the Sky In Big Clumsy Strokes” single) featured a noticeable shift in sound and style. How do you think your sound has developed over time?

JJ Posway: I have always wanted the band to mutate, as a lot of my favorite bands do. The first EP was all about finding a sound and sticking to it. I set certain guidelines for myself writing the songs, focused the lyrics around four central characters I created and we all worked to make a cohesive live set based around them… For scooterbabe2, I allowed myself some flexibility within the guidelines I set for scooterbabe songs. Instrumentally, I also wanted to showcase Grafton and Michael more, and start to incorporate some of our other influences, too, so we started writing some longer, more technical songs. We recorded with our friend Daniel DeSimone, who interned at Studio 1093. He could [only] record us if we went in and tracked late at night. Otis Redding III and his band were recording during the day at the time, which was rad, and I think they drank some of the beer I brought to the studio. I’m kind of honored by that. On “I Want To Write Your Name…” I wanted to start taking cues from even more disparate influences. The outro is something I’m particularly proud of.

FP: Why do you think people responded so much to scooterbabe on a local level, especially around the time you first left Athens? How did it feel leaving that behind?

JP: I don’t know why. I’m just honored that people even listen to this music and can connect to it. It felt awful leaving it behind. At the time, though, it felt like I needed to go.

FP: A lot of scooterbabe songs seem very personal, with lyrics deeply rooted in your Athens experience. Can you elaborate on the lyrical themes you’ve tried to incorporate into your songs?

JP: In the beginning, most of the songs had very little to do with me, personally. I tried to focus on the lives of these four characters I created. I decided for scooterbabe2 that I would mostly focus on two characters, Sarah and Annelise. That’s when I also started incorporating feelings about things I was going through. I had lots of anxiety at the time, and I felt really conflicted about being in Athens. Keeping things in perspective, I tried to recognize that I had friends, and that things weren’t so bad. “Last Year Was Alright” references a few particularly touching moments in my life. With “I Want to Write Your Name…” I wanted to go for an emotion larger than me and bring a chapter in Sarah and Annelise’s life to a close. I hope people find their own meaning in the songs, though.

FP: Can we expect a full scooterbabe album anytime soon?

JP: I would say you can expect new material sometime soon. I have an EP’s worth of songs I wrote in New York that I am itching to get out there. There will definitely be a shift in the sound… As of now, most of the songs I wrote in the city do have a lot to do with the move, and they are pretty personal, but I would still like to explore larger themes. I like EPs, though. I tend to spend a lot of time tweaking songs and the way I write lends itself well to EPs, I think… but we should probably do an LP.

FP: Each scooterbabe project has had consistent album art, usually featuring specific locations. Where has that art come from, and how does it tie into the songs and the scooterbabe aesthetic?

JP: We’ve had the pleasure of working with our friend and local artist/comedian Lawson Chambers on art since the tape release of the first EP. I love working with Lawson, because he’s a great friend, and he also gets exactly what I’m going for with scooterbabe. As far as locations go, that started with scooterbabe2. Lawson had a vision, and I loved it. He depicted some imagined Athens-like settings for Sarah and Annelise, and also some real locations that have meant a lot to me. We are real big on depicting settings, not characters, but did decide to put Sarah and Annelise on the cover for the new single. It’s their big moment, after all.