Like many bands, the lineup for James and the Drifters is much different than it was when first formed almost a decade ago.
The group has steadily built a loyal and devout following, making a splash along the way with several album releases, most notably All That Gold in 2014.
Personnel changes did little to deter the band’s progress until a few years ago when it began to look like the end was possible.
In 2016, the release of an EP, Get the Spirit, didn’t match their previous success. Then a bandmate left town. That one-two punch was almost the last straw.
But the addition of Anthony Giraldi in 2016 took them over the hump.
“I moved here in 2014 from Minneapolis to take a job at Sweetwater,” Giraldi said. “I was living in a house in West Central, and my backyard neighbor was Dan Willig, who’s the drummer for James and the Drifters. We got to know each other and became friends, and we’d talk about music.
“After a year or so of being friends, we were talking one day, and he said the band’s bass player was leaving the band to move to Indy. I’ve been playing guitar and bass and singing my whole life, so I said, ‘Why don’t I play with you, and we can see how it goes.’ And we instantly clicked, not just musically but personally.”
Locked and ready to rock
After Giraldi’s successful tryout, the band’s lineup was locked in. Since mid-2016, James and the Drifters features Giraldi, Willig, Andy Scheer, and band co-founder Kyle Jackson, the one constant in the band’s lineup. Perry Childs, their sound engineer, is the final piece of the puzzle and is listed with the four-man lineup in all publicity.
With a history as long as James and the Drifters — and with the multiple releases of original music to their credit — a newcomer like Giraldi could take awhile to get in the groove.
But he found his footing pretty quickly.
“They do have a lot of material,” Giraldi said. “But I’ve been playing for a long time, so I was able to come in and learn the songs relatively quickly. But it’s more than just learning parts. There’s also a lot of things going on when you’re performing, nonverbal cues and things like that that come when guys have been playing together a long time. Even so, it only took a couple of shows to get our feet under us. We’ve played a lot since I joined the band, and we’ve come so far since then.”
And now they have something to show and share for the last few years together. Their new album, The Glow, will be released on Feb. 1, an occasion marked with a release party and a performance at the Philmore on Broadway.
Neat Neat Neat steps in
Planned for some time, The Glow was originally going to be a long-term project. But thanks to some unexpected local support, it turned into a more traditional album release.
“It was originally supposed to happen in four separate parts,” Giraldi said. “In 2017 we released The Glow, Part 1, which was three songs. The plan was to release three songs every few months in four parts so there would be 12 tracks all together.
“We had a lot of material, and we still have a lot of stuff on the shelf, so it was never about a lack of material. We just wanted to consistently release songs over a period of a year so there was always something fresh on the horizon. Plus, we were recording in Michigan so there was some planning required to keep going up there to record the songs. It was probably a pretty lofty goal.
“But Neat Neat Neat Records approached us and said they really wanted to help promote our music. They wanted to sign us to do a full-length record, so we decided to just go for it and finish the album.”
They finished it here in Fort Wayne at Off the Cuff Sound, where they were assisted in the studio by Jason Davis.
The band also re-recorded the original three songs which had been recorded and released before Neat Neat Neat came into the picture. Having recorded them as they did, the remaining cuts allowed for a more uniform and consistent sound, and recording the album here allowed them to finish it for the upcoming release date.
Giraldi says there were no computers used in the recording, providing an “organic sound that’s warm and really different from most records now.”
The originally planned art work, with each of four panels contributing toward a cohesive cover, will proceed as planned.
Taking it to the people
A significant tour is also in the near future.
“We have a ton of dates, and we’re ready to roll,” Giraldi said. “We have a couple of dates here in Fort Wayne, but most of them are outside of Fort Wayne — Chicago, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Nashville, Atlanta. We’ll be out all over the country most of the spring.”
Since most of the band have day jobs that keep them close to home during the week, they hope to take advantage of their weekend availability to visit cities which may not know them but might be willing to check them out on a Friday rather than a Monday, a Saturday rather than Wednesday. That could help James and the Drifters gain a following as devoted as the one they’ve found in Fort Wayne.
Giraldi is looking forward to that as well as finally having some new music to share with their audience.
“More than anything, I’m happy to have a full-length album,” he said. “This will be the first one that I’ll have been a part of, and it’s just great to have a project with these four band members after having worked together the last few years.”