Given that none of the members of the band are named James, people always seem to be interested in how James and The Drifters got their name. The story, according to guitarist Brent Chamberlain, is that the band and a couple of other friends were living together in the 509 Community House, a house run by a local church that provides a place to live for people in need, at the time of their formation.
“We were happy to host folks travelling through the area if they needed a place to crash for the night,” Chamberlain said. “We met a couple different guys named James that were passing through needing some shelter for a bit, and we felt the unsettled and transient nature of these drifters was very much alike to how we were feeling at the time, so we named the band James and the Drifters.”
Whether you believe that story or not, there is no doubt that over the past couple of years James and the Drifters have become one of the most recognizable and must-see bands in the area.
The band finished second in this past summer’s whatzup/Wooden Nickel Battle of the Bands, getting the overall nod from the judging panel but missing the win by just a couple of crowd votes. They also have just released their fourth album, All That Gold, positioning themselves for eventual world domination, or at least, domination of middle America.
“We were happy to be a part of this year’s event and to meet so many great musicians,” Chamberlain said about the band’s experience at Battle of the Bands.
Formed in Huntington in 2010, James and the Drifters was the collective idea of Chamberlin, Kyle Jackson, and Tyler Gault. Shortly after forming, the trio entered the studio and produced 20 songs over an eight-hour period, some of which ended up on their self-titled debut album.
The band has released four albums over their four years of existence, and the maturation in their sound has noticeably progressed from album to album.
“It’s been refined,” Chamberlain said in a recent interview. “We are constant learners and explorers of our instruments. We saw the potential for our musical voice early on, but learning how to use that voice, having something worth saying, and saying it creatively keeps us interested in writing new songs and sounds.”
The modern day version of James and The Drifters features original members Chamberlain and Jackson, both on vocals and guitar, along with guitarist/vocalist Andrew Scheer, bassist Andrew Freehauf and drummer Dan Willig.
Chamberlain describes the group as “folk artists disguised as an alt-rock band. There are so many influences we draw from as each of us are so immersed in music,” making their music a unique listening experience.
“I would say lately we’ve been listening to Van Morrison, The 1975, The Cars and Haim,” Chamberlain said, but elements of the Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show and even The Head and The Heart are also easily distinguishable.
There is no set songwriting process for James and The Drifters, just ideas that reveal themselves when they are sought after.
“The song lyrics are written by Kyle and me,” Chamberlain said, “and the inspiration can come from anything. I wish it was always the ‘a-ha moment,’ but most times, for me, I have to set aside a couple hours with some coffee and free time to write for a bit. Then I’ll read for a bit and write down words or phrases that I like. Sometimes a good word is all I need to create a story. Hopefully a song will follow.”
The immediate future looks to be busy, according to Chamberlain, as James and The Drifters “are excited to release the music video for ‘Foxtrot’ very soon. We also plan on recording and releasing a new four-song EP next year as well.”
In addition, the band will continue to showcase its music throughout the region, with tour dates starting in December that will take them to Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Tennessee.
Oh, and that story about how the band got its name? Chamberlain swears it’s true, but they seem ready to put that story behind them, preferring to have the focus solely on the music.
If the quality of songs displayed on All That Gold is any indication, James and the Drifters will be making enough memorable music to keep people interested long after the novelty of that story fades away.