THREE years ago, an exhausted crowd at Kendal Calling were revived by a euphoric set of sing-a-long anthems from James that brought the weekend’s festivities to a close.
Now the quixotic Mancunians are returning to Lowther Park, this time to get the party going as they open the newly-extended event on the Thursday night.
“It was a lovely festival and it sticks clearly in my mind,” said bassist and longest serving band member Jim Glennie.
“We like festivals – it’s a great opportunity to get a new audience and I enjoy having the challenge of having to win people over.”
For most bands, the strategy for a festival set is to play all the hits, although Jim laughingly explained that this is not exactly James’s style.
“It’s just the nature of this band that we don’t really do stuff like that – we should, of course we should.
“Famously we played Reading Festival in 1991, when we were at one of the pinnacles of our success, and we played the whole of the new album which hadn’t been released yet.
“We went through all 11 songs not realising that nobody knew any of it.”
But paradoxically, Jim said the reasons the band are still around and still making music after 30 years is “because we make stupid decisions.”
“We do what we want and we’ve always been quite selfish. It means we’ve not always made it easy for ourselves but it keeps the band exciting for us.
“We need to challenge ourselves, and if that means leaving our biggest songs out of the set then so be it.”
Audiences at Kendal may even be treated to a very early showing of some new material, as before the festival, James will have spent most of July recording album number 14.
The new record, like its 2014 predecessor La Petite Mort, was written in January during an isolated few weeks near Jim’s home in the Scottish Highlands.
“It was Tim [lead singer Tim Booth] who suggested it and the results were just great,” Jim said.
“We like it up here because it means we can lock ourselves away for a couple of weeks with no distractions and spend long days writing.”
The album is set to be completed in September, meaning the group will spend the next few months “arguing which songs to lose and which ones to use.”
It would be an understatement to say that James have had plenty of ups and downs since one of their early incarnations, Venereal and the Diseases, played their first show at Eccles British Legion in 1980, but Jim believes they are in another one of their ‘up’ periods.
“The last record got us a lot of attention and it does feel like a really exciting time – we’re in probably the strongest position we’ve been in since the late 1990s.
“Some of the songs from La Petite Mort really seemed to catch on with people and it’s opened doors for us again.”
James formed in 1982 and were active throughout the 1980s, but most successful during the 1990s.
Following the departure of lead singer Tim Booth in 2001, the band became inactive, but reunited in January 2007 for a new album and international tour, and have kept going ever since.
Through all its line-up changes over the past three decades, Jim is the only original remaining member, surviving financial struggles, sudden success in 1991 with ‘Sit Down’, the band’s near demise in 1995, their 2001 farewell tour and 2007 reformation.
On the highlights of his time with the band he said: “One of our best gigs was playing to 30,000 people at Alton Towers in 1992 – that was fantastic.
“It’s the small things you really remember – I remember so clearly getting my first gold disc and giving it to my mum.
“I used to love seeing bands at the Apollo – I remember seeing The Jam there once and seeing the words ‘Sold Out’ on the poster outside.
“I said: ‘One day it’s going to say the name of my band there with ‘sold out’ on it.’ The first time it actually happened I had my picture taken next to it.”
With the music industry a very different place to when James were starting out, Jim sais there are parts of the business now that make him ‘really angry’.
“Streaming is very annoying – it’s great that people have access to music but it’s a pathetically small amount that goes to musicians.
“People say it’s the future of music but we don’t get any money from it.
“The upside is that it’s thrust the focus on live performances – you can’t download the experience of being at a gig so you can always rely on people turning up.
“We love playing live – it’s our favourite medium so we’re more than happy that it’s become an integral part of the industry.”