Getting to know James and the Drifters: Fort Wayne’s 'brotherhood-turned-band'

When it comes to putting Fort Wayne’s music scene on the map, James and the Drifters (JATD) is an eclectic four-piece band that is making it happen.

Born out of a “brotherhood-turned-band” about nine years ago, the group explores the depths of passion, happiness, and heartbreak through the of ups and downs of life in their music. Their current lineup includes Kyle Jackson on lead vocals and guitar; Andy Scheer on guitar and vocals; Anthony Giraldi on the bass and vocals; and Dan Willig on drums.

Before calling Fort Wayne home, JATD formed in the outskirts of Huntington County, Indiana, in 2010. Since then, they have written, produced, and recorded numerous records and EP’s. They describe their sound as “a joyous mix of rock and roll riffs, spirited acoustic jangle, and loose-lipped harmonies that rise into the air like smoke from a distant fire.”

After the release of their 2014 album, “All That Gold,” there was a lot of change-over with group members coming and going over the years, Jackson says. Today, he is the only remaining member from the 2014 album.

“It was just kind of a hobby for a long time,” Jackson explains in an interview on the Music Vibes Podcast. “Recently, it’s become more than that.”

Lead vocalist Kyle Jackson performs with JATD for the music video "Tides" produced by Lofthouse Films.

The band released their second full-length album “The Glow” on February 1, 2019, showcasing and amplifying their new, complex sound—raucous, yet intimate. It was recorded at Off The Cuff recording studio in Fort Wayne and released under Neat Neat Neat Records.

“With ‘The Glow,’ fans can expect a more vintage feel,” Jackson says. “They’re polished songs with a lot of sonic, melodic, and lyrical depth. It can be dark at points, and it definitely takes you through some highs and lows and gives a glimpse into the hardships and triumphs members of the band have experienced over the last few years.”

The band prepares for their March performance at the Clyde theatre, opening for Los Lobos.

While the band is coming into their new sound, they’re also staying true to their roots.

“There's still an air of small-town nights and friends playing their hearts out in an old, dilapidated barn on the outskirts of Huntington County, Indiana,” their website says.

“This is kind of a culmination of where we are at now and where we’ve come,” Jackson explains.

As JATD promotes “The Glow,” they’re keeping fans in-the-know by releasing a series of videos filmed at up-and-coming places in Fort Wayne culture.

To start off 2019, JATD released the official video for their lead single, “Tides,” produced by Lofthouse Films and shot inside buildings under construction at The Landing on Columbia Street.

JATD's music video "Tides" was filmed inside buildings under construction on The Landing in Fort Wayne.

They’ve also released a series of live sessions called “Fancy Sessions” filmed at the downtown boutique, Fancy & Staple, and produced by Zero Seven Films, Berry Street Records LLC, and Neat Neat Neat Records and Music. These live sessions give the fans more of a feel for who they are as a band through their songs “All You Have For Me,” “Runaway,” “Higher,” and “Dying Season.”

“We all wanted to showcase who we are now,” Jackson says. “We had the beauty of working on these songs for two-plus years.”

This year’s projects have been keeping JATD busy, too. They’ve already played a live show at The Philmore on Broadway for their album release on February 1; they also played at The Clyde Theatre on March 2, opening for Los Lobos. Most recently, they played a concert at Parkview Field on March 9.

JATD performed at the Clyde Theatre on March 2, opening for Los Lobos.

The band released another video on Facebook in early March, featuring behind-the-scenes footage from their performance at The Clyde. This film was produced by Grant Giszewski to showcase their work and brotherhood.

As JATD amasses more followers, the future is bright. Some of their upcoming 2019 shows include a stop down in Indianapolis at the Lo-Fi Lounge on April 5. They return to Fort Wayne as the headliner for Record Store Day at Neat Neat Neat Records and Music at 1836 S. Calhoun St. on April 13.

This year, they want to keep expanding their Midwest fanbase.

“We’ll continue to play mostly regionally,” Jackson says. “We’ll keep writing, but no set plans on when the next album will be released just yet.”

Learn more

Listen to James & The Drifters full interview on the Music Vibes Podcast, or visit their website at www.jamesandthedrifers.com.

Read more articles by Dedrick Hendrix.

Dedrick Hendrix is Input Fort Wayne's Music News contributor. He was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and graduated from South Side High School in 2009. He also has a music podcast called “Latest Music Vibez for BIG 92.3 Fort Wayne’s Greatest Hits.” You can follow him on Twitter @dchendrix.  
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