Published on May 31, 2016
Gleasons Drift performs live in The Sound Room at WEEU, 830 AM in Reading, PA. Set includes “I’m Tryin” at 0:00, “Always Midnight” at 3:08, and “The Ballad of Boo Radley” at 5:24.
Extended Audio Session Below:
Just as The Replacements will be forever linked to Minneapolis or The Meat Puppets to the Southwest Desert, Gleasons Drift is intrinsically defined by a small-town, rough-hewn esthetic filtered through a transistor radio channeling 1970s rock from an all-night far-off Philadelphia radio station. Their love of unblemished bar-band optimism smashed headlong into twelve-bar blues and country feels right at home next to coal region Pennsylvania’s best-known exports – beer, pierogies, polkas and boilo.
Formed in 2002, in the Appalachian Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Gleasons Drift spent their first 3 years playing blockshoots, bars and hoseys while writing the songs which would eventually become 2005’s “Beaver”, a rough and tumble collection of ten tunes steeped in barroom swagger. “Beaver” defined Gleasons Drift live sound; loose, lean, spontaneous and genuine. This LIVE sound was captured in the 2006 LIVE DVD, “Gleasons Drift and Friends”, a collection of songs recorded at several stops on the 2005 tour. 2007 saw the release of the band’s second full-length “Nickel Rocket”. Nickel Rocket captures the sound that the band has honed live on the road; tight changes, smart melodies, and lyrics that tell the story of the human condition, all the while extending the tradition of American Rock and Roll. In 2010, the band released “Blythe Township Mellencamp”, which triumphed in blending genres, styles and traditions, creating something familiar, yet still managing to surprise. Catch Gleasons Drift at a watering hole near you.
Gleasons Drift brings class to ‘pub rock’
Thursday May 26, 2016 12:01 AM
By Don Botch
Bill Whalen of the Pottsville band Gleasons Drift is no stranger to barrooms. He has been hanging out in them since he graduated high school.
“I had a fake ID,” he said, “and it had nothing to do with drinking. I just wanted to get into the bars to hear the bands.”
So when a British reviewer, in writing about the Drift’s 2005 debut album, “Beaver,” called the music “pub rock,” Whalen didn’t blink. In fact, he has worn that description as a badge of honor ever since.
“I had never heard that term,” Whalen said a couple of weeks back when the latest incarnation of the Drift gathered to discuss its new, self-titled CD after recording a Sound Room session at WEEU in Reading. “He called it pub rock in the vein of the Faces and Stones. Pub rock: just another name for a bar band.
“I think bar bands kind of get a bad rap, but to me, a bar band is a band that’s playing when you’re sitting around drinking and carrying on and having a good time. That is our scene in Pottsville.”
On Friday night, the Drift will trek down Route 61 to Reading to play a vinyl release show at Mike’s Tavern, a bar that reminds Whalen of their home base, Hucklebucks, which serves as the epicenter of the Schuylkill County original-music scene.
“This bar is so much like our hometown bar,” Whalen said of Mike’s. “We’re happy to have found this place that seems to understand and maybe appreciate what we do.”
What they do is play good-old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll the only way they know how.
“Our thing has always been we try not to over-think anything,” Whalen said. “It’s just beer-drinking rock ‘n’ roll, you know what I mean? I don’t think we want anybody to think about it. It’s more just how it makes you feel at the moment. I think that’s always been our philosophy live.”
It’s a philosophy with a proven track record. Their scene at Hucklebucks, after all, has persevered for 20 years.
“That bar has been our rock-‘n’-roll headquarters and our savior,” Whalen said. “We’ve been very fortunate. It seems like like-minded people find each other, and we’ve been able to keep it going.”
Whalen peppers his conversation with references to three-chord rock ‘n’ roll and “spotties” – songs written on the spot at band practice – both of which describe the new album’s first single, “Always Midnight,” a 21/2-minute ditty.
“That’s quintessential Gleasons Drift – what we try to do live,” Whalen said, “which is to try to get everybody revved up a little bit. Barn burners.”
One where they stretch out a little more is “Stop Dragging Me Down,” a song that’s twice as long in which John “J.P.” Lipzok wails on the electric guitar.
Ten years into his collaboration with Whalen, Lipzok still can’t fathom that he’s in a band. The scene at Hucklebucks was going on right under his nose for years before he ever discovered it.
He and Whalen grew up in close proximity to each other but separated by 10 years, and their families were intertwined. One day, at a neighborhood block party, the two struck up a conversation in which Whalen told Lipzok about Hucklebucks.
“I lived only a few miles away and had no idea this great rock-‘n’-roll scene was going on,” Lipzok said. “I stopped over one night, and I couldn’t believe it. I’ve always been a music fan, and I didn’t know there was an outlet like this.”
He became a fan of Whalen’s previous band, The Dry Spells, as well as the Mullets and a host of others on Whalen’s Blind Pigeon label, and before long was opening some of their shows as a solo acoustic act.
A few years later, when Whalen needed a guitarist for the Drift, Lipzok jumped at the invitation to join.
“John writes these three-chord rock-‘n’-roll songs that a lot of times are about our local area, which we always try to interject that into what we do,” Whalen said, “whether it’s the dialect or the stories that we grew up with.”
Whalen, who pens and sings most of the band’s songs, also has long-standing connections to the other two members, both of whom joined after the CD was recorded. Drummer Ray Miske is the nephew of one of Whalen’s long-ago mates in a band called the Woodsmen, originators of the scene at Hucklebucks. Miske had been away from music for 23 years when Whalen came calling at his barbershop and asked him to come out and jam. Miske did, and was hooked.
“This, to me, it’s simple: You get people moving,” Miske said. “And we all look at each other (between songs), and we’ll switch our set around just to keep people dancing. I absolutely love it.”
Bassist Aaron Parker, the youngest member at 25, said he wouldn’t be playing music if not for Whalen’s encouragement when he was a student at Blue Mountain High School, where Whalen teaches art. After high school, Parker said, he played in punk bands and helped establish a scene at Kutztown University while he was a student there.
“We’re really happy to have Ray and Aaron in the band,” Whalen said. “These guys have both rejuvenated us. They play the songs more like I wrote them in my head than any other formations of Gleasons Drift, so I’m excited.”
He already has his sights set on the next album, which he doesn’t anticipate taking four years to complete the way this one did.
“We have probably 20 songs that we’ve been playing that we never recorded,” Whalen said. “I’d love to get these guys to record soon, and get them some ownership of these songs that have been around and just kind of floating in the ether.”
Contact Don Botch: 610-371-5055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.