AFTERBUZZ TV – AfterBuzz TV’s Concert Experience edition, is a long form interview series featuring Musicians discussing their upcoming projects as well as their thoughts, passions and journeys. In this episode host Katerina Cozias interviews The Saint James Band.
George Castrinos, leader of the Saint James Band, was destined to play guitar and was born to a life as a musician. When he was 10 years old he recalls seeing a red Gibson resting in the bedroom of his best friend’s older brother, which was strictly off limits. “I was drawn to it, in a way I can’t even explain,” says Castrinos. Though the often ill-tempered older brother lay sleeping and rousing him could elicit the most frightening verbal reprimand, Castrinos risked the tirade and stealthily entered the forbidden zone. He knew when he touched the headstock of the guitar that music was what he was meant to do.
Around the same time his brother David played him the album Led Zeppelin II. Life, as Castrinos knew it, would never be the same. The mystic Castrinos explains, “When I was a kid my guitar was my higher power, and when I would play the notes, the sound and tones I would get from it would give me purpose.”
Rooted in this purpose, the Saint James Band’s debut album Always Be With You runs rich with Americana folk-rock, intricate finger picking, roots-influenced slide guitar, and twangy hard-driven blues. The songs might remind you of Neil Young, Eric Clapton, and the early pioneers of Delta blues. Castrinos hopes they will make you think positive thoughts and feel good about yourself and your life, which is exactly what he tries to do. There is a vibe of pervasive consciousness to the material, with most of the songs centered on being with someone you care about and seeking one’s true purpose and calling.
George resides in Los Angeles, and often records in a studio whose walls once housed Orson Welles, which was also used as an echo chamber for classic recordings by Elvis and Bing Crosby. He enjoys a peaceful life, which allows him time for introspection and to focus on his band, after a relatively turbulent time in his youth. Having overcome adversity, and forgiven his trespassers, he has now found his spiritual strength in the songs on Always Be With You.
Along the way, George apprenticed under renowned musicians such as the late Robert Lucas of Canned Heat, who bestowed George with the nickname El Rey James. Castrinos is also heavily influenced by Johnny Winter, Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Mississippi John Hurt, and other luminary players. He has remained true to his musical influences throughout the years, drawing on blues, rock and roots, and his creation of the Saint James Band is a testament to this.
Castrinos, who is a proponent of the power of positive thinking, has written ten uplifting tracks for Always Be With You. “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”, chosen for one of the band’s two forthcoming music videos, was written after his brother David tragically died in 2007. The song is about coping with the loss. Explains Castrinos, “It was a song to him and to my mother, yet it is applicable to everyone.” After David’s sudden death, Castrinos experienced an awakening. His musical focus and passion for his craft turned into a revelation, a new beginning.
In early 2011 Castrinos formed the Saint James Band, where tales of redemption, salvation, forgiveness, and ultimately love became the subjects of his songwriting; a positive outcome from the ashes of a tragic loss. He sees this band as a way to unite people. “I want people to know that there’s a better way to live. Through discipline of your thoughts and actions you can somewhat control your destiny. If our songs can instill hope in people and give them a renewed sense of purpose, then I feel I’ve done my job.”
Though Castrinos has been the lead guitarist in many bands, and has played with some of the finest musicians such as the afore mentioned Robert Lucas and Larry Taylor of Canned Heat, and Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes, the Saint James Band is the first band in which Castrinos is doing everything himself. Says Castrinos, “It’s the first band that I feel is my very own project.” Joining Castrinos in the Saint James Band are bassist Curran McDowell and drummer Ethan Yeager, both alumni of the prestigious, Boston-based Berkelee College of Music. Both are seasoned musicians who also cite Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin as major influences in their musical taste.
For gear, Castrinos’ main guitar is a 1970 Les Paul Custom Black Beauty. He also plays an early 70’s Les Paul Sunburst and a ’69 Gold Top. He uses a vintage 50-watt Marshall Lead Bass combo amp to create the distinctive sound of Americana rock. “There’s something about the Gibson Humbucker pickup and those 60’s and early 70’s Marshall amps that create a classic tone. It’s a legendary sound.” He also plays vintage 50’s Kay and Silvertone guitars.
Most recently, the Saint James Band has played several shows with bands such as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. The latter included George’s daughter Jade, who co-wrote and co-sang their smash hit “Home”. She can also be heard singing with her father on “Sweet Lovely Darling”, the second track on Always Be With You.