Triumph of the Will-not

Posse’s effortless brilliance.

Here’s to un-ambition! Here’s to taking comfort in your own skin! Here’s to embracing who you are wholeheartedly, especially if who you are is a relatively well-adjusted person with a commute and a day job and a band that practices in a basement.

Sacha Maxim has been a graphic designer at Microsoft for 18 months and in bands since middle school on Mercer Island. Posse is her latest, formed by three 30-somethings three years ago. The band started as a quartet but reduced to a trio when their bassist left for law school in New York. Maxim and Paul Wittmann-Todd play guitars; Jon Salzman drums.

Posse’s second album, Soft Openings, came out last month, an instantly likable life-slice from a band that’s confident, even triumphant, in not trying too hard. Maxim and Wittmann-Todd sing to each other more than to an imagined audience; their guitars are similarly intertwined, slack but insistent, each pinging embellishments off the other until Wittmann-Todd unspools a tasteful, roaring solo. The music radiates personality—vulnerable and cynical, poignant and funny. It’s powerful in its understatement, beautiful in its modesty.

In early March the band threw an album release party at Maxim’s house, where they ate pizza and played in the basement for 50 or so friends. Afterward someone told Maxim that she felt lame for gabbing about her tax return during the party—until she heard someone else talking about their own tax return.

“I don’t mind being the soundtrack to that because I don’t know if I could speak to anything else,” Maxim says. “That’s the stuff I’m thinking about, too.”

Far from trivial, Soft Openings makes meaning out of mundanity. Since Pitchfork offered a free stream of the album before its release, it’s gone on to sell well, in the microscopic, new-music-math sense: The first run of 250 vinyl LPs is gone. Maxim’s label is producing more.

Or rather, her “label.”

“I started it as a joke,” she says. “We self-released the last album and I was like, if a label puts out the second one, it’ll be more legit. So let’s do that. It was intended to be just a name with my Microsoft money funneled into it. Now it’s like, maybe I’ll keep doing this. If I can keep breaking even, why not keep putting stuff out?”

Beating a Dead Horse Records—Wittmann-Todd suggested the name after Maxim had worn him out with other suggestions—will release an album by Neighbors, the band of José Diaz, who engineered the Posse record and produced Dude York’s Dehumanize. Aside from some local all-ages shows, that’s all Maxim has planned.

“We’re not looking to make money off music,” Maxim says. “In fact, if it got to that point I think it would change the way we feel about it. There’d be more pressure. It wouldn’t be an outlet, that thing we leave work to do.” 

Posse plays at Cairo on Friday, April 11.

Photo by Megumi Shauna Arai