EAST TAWAS – When a new band emerges, it can take time for the members to establish a name for themselves, and for venues to begin allowing them to perform.
But Lori & The Darlings – despite it being only six months since they started playing shows together – is already booking gigs at an impressively rapid pace.
Included was a recent performance at Edelweiss Tavern in Oscoda, just a short drive from the hometown of three of the four band members.
Electric guitarist Roger Marchbanks, as well as the group’s manager and drummer, Eric D’Aigle, are natives of the Tawas area. Singer/songwriter Lori Keisler has lived in Iosco County her entire life and, for the last 20 years, has called East Tawas home.
Lori & The Darlings is rounded out by bassist Nick Callender, Detroit, which is also where D’Aigle and Marchbanks now reside.
D’Aigle and Keisler started the band a little over a year ago, with Marchbanks joining shortly thereafter, and Callender coming on board in June 2021.
They released their first EP in December, “and we hadn’t even started playing shows until that time,” D’Aigle said. So, he noted, they’ve technically only been “active” since December.
In that short window, the band – which describes their style as folk rock with a blues edge – has been packing their schedule with show dates and speaking on radio stations, while simultaneously churning out new music.
They also have their own merchandise now and, in fact, D’Aigle said that the Edelweiss show on April 30 was the first time they began selling Lori & The Darlings T-shirts.
They’ll be back in the studio this month to record the last couple songs for what will be their second EP. An acronym for extended play, EPs generally feature about half the number of tracks as a full-length, long play (LP) album. The band is inching closer to the latter, as well. The first EP they released, entitled “Gratitude Side A,” will soon be followed up with “Gratitude Side B.”
“And then when this one’s done, our plan is to release them all as ‘Gratitude,’ on vinyl,” D’Aigle said, of what will be their first LP.
They record at the Tempermill in Ferndale, which boasts dozens of awards, including a Grammy. Studio personnel have worked with everyone from The White Stripes and Kid Rock, to Loretta Lynn and Jeremy Spencer who, among other credits, was in the original Fleetwood Mac lineup.
Although Lori & The Darlings do play covers from time to time on stage, they are an all-original band and this is their main focus.
However, some of them still enjoy separate projects where they do showcase their own spin on other artists’ songs, such as Keisler, who also continues to take the stage at various venues with her FLiPSiDE band mates. A familiar name to many in the area, the group has performed at a number of local spots, as well as all of the summer street dances from AuGres to Harrisville, including Tuesday Night Live in East Tawas.
When she has time, she also works with the Tawas Bay Players in East Tawas. “I love doing musicals with them,” Keisler said.
D’Aigle has a cover band, as well, while Callender is a member of three bands total. He and D’Aigle have also been interviewing musicians for a podcast they’ll be launching.
D’Aigle says that their main priority, though, is Lori & The Darlings and creating original music. Keisler writes the songs, “and then we all piece it together and make it what it is.”
Along with everything else they have going on, each of the members also have full-time occupations. But, if all goes as planned, their long-term job will solely be Lori & The Darlings.
To help accomplish this, Keisler will actually be moving to Detroit, where the band is headquartered. “And I’ll be doing music full-time down here,” she said, as the group was interviewed for this story via Zoom, while practicing together downstate.
The relocation is welcome news to her and the fellow Darlings, as they’re anxious to pursue this permanently; not to mention, take some of the stress and travel time out of their planning when it comes to getting everyone together for rehearsals and the like. Currently, Keisler drives to Detroit at least once a week. In between that, D’Aigle, Marchbanks and Callender also do some work on their own. So they’re ready to have the whole team in the same city, which will be a big benefit in taking their careers to the next level.
They’re already penciled in for plenty of shows throughout their beloved Mitten State and, when asked just how far they intend to venture on this path, “We would love to go for it,” D’Aigle said.
“We’re shooting for a tour this fall,” added Keisler, who said that the band has been speaking with booking agents as they seek to take their music on the road.
Lori & The Darlings have completed a key step in setting themselves up for success, by establishing a good foundation. In chatting with the group, it was immediately clear that their personalities complement one another and they have fun working together. Their humble, down-to-earth attitudes also stand out, as they consistently give credit to their band mates, above themselves.
For example, when discussing the moves they’ve made since the group’s inception, Keisler praised D’Aigle’s drive, motivation and all of the extra work he puts in to secure and promote shows. “He is the backbone of the band, for sure,” Keisler said.
“You are!” she then insisted, when D’Aigle modestly downplayed his efforts.
When it comes to creating their music, Keisler draws inspiration from a number of experiences when penning the lyrics. This may stem from a particular time in her life or even just a general encounter/interaction but, most often, it relates to a specific person, be it a family member or otherwise.
As for their sound, it’s all their own. But they each have plenty of artists they admire, spanning a range of genres and generations. This includes the guitar stylings of Jimmy Page and Stevie Ray Vaughan, noted by Marchbanks; the drum skills of Steve Jordan and the song writing talents of John Mayer that D’Aigle cited; and all things Motown, which Callender grew up on and remains a big fan, along with blues and jazz.
Their tastes are all over the board, which is also true for Keisler, who counts Bob Dylan and The Beatles among her top picks. “I love every kind of music, I really do,” she said. When washing dishes recently, for instance, she went from the likes of Metallica and Rage Against the Machine, before switching over to some Jewel.
With each of the members having such varied preferences, it’s bound to show through in some of their songs also.
Marchbanks said that one thing which seems to tie them all together, is they each have a pretty big blues interest. This isn’t necessarily reflected as their main sound, but they all have a connection to it. They like to bring different genres together, and the blues is where they really tend to shine. “We’re all such big fans,” he went on, so this often seems to find its way in to their music.
Keisler, who also plays acoustic guitar, agreed. She said that she’ll bring a song, with her voice and guitar, and everything after that is what that the other three band members evolve the song into.
“I just give them the bones and they do all of the layers. So at the end of the day, when the song is done, it does not sound like what I brought to them. They truly create a whole song, just from the scratch that I bring them,” she said, pointing out that it does seem to lean towards the blues a lot of the time.
As for what keeps them motivated to put their all into a music career, “For me, it’s kind of everything,” D’Aigle answered.
He’s been playing for 20 years now, and the best part is the rush of being on stage. He said there’s nothing like the crowd’s response to something that the band is a part of or helped to create, noting that it’s similar to selling a piece of artwork, in a sense. Just how an artist creates a painting and gets to sell it so that someone can enjoy it on their wall, the same goes for performing music, only it’s in real time. “That’s my favorite place to be, on stage. It’s amazing.”
Keisler echoed that sentiment fully. “I love feedback on what we have written,” she expressed. “It feels good that they are there to listen to our music and that they appreciate it and enjoy it.”
“Just connecting with other people, too,” D’Aigle added. He said he discovered that music means a lot to him for different reasons. “And one of them is I feel my own feelings with songs someone else wrote.” So, it’s quite an experience to be able to help someone else feel their feelings, through what his band creates.
Before he had music, “I really had trouble connecting with people,” Marchbanks said. But being on stage with his guitar – which is the one constant in his life that he’s consistently put work into and has gotten great experiences out of – feels like the one time he can just be himself. “I can do the thing that I think I do the best, and I can entertain people.”
While Lori & The Darlings hope to spread their music beyond the Michigan borders, their hearts remain committed to their home.
“I love being from Michigan, as far as music goes, because Michigan has a very long history of birthing amazing music, especially Motown,” Keisler said. “So many talented people in this state, so much musical energy in this state, and I love being a part of it.”
D’Aigle agreed and, more specifically, also mentioned his time in Iosco County, where some of his family and best friends still live. He has gained a newfound appreciation for the lake, community, beaches and parks each time he visits, which people can take for granted when they live here and experience these things every day.
In their hometown or not, audiences will have several chances to catch Lori & The Darlings live and in action this summer. In addition to shows they have lined up Flint, Saginaw, Detroit and other cities, they are also slated to perform in and around Iosco County.
This will include a return to Edelweiss Tavern in Oscoda on May 28, and again on Sept. 24.
In July, they will be lending their talents during an all-day benefit concert in Tawas City Shoreline Park’s Town Square, with proceeds going to the Huron Hockey & Skating Association.
Reflecting on a past experience at this same location, Marchbanks said that when he and D’Aigle were younger, they watched some of their close friends perform solos for the choir at Town Square.
Marchbanks said that it had a big impact on them, as musicians, so it means the world to have this full circle moment and be able to play for family and friends from the very site that changed his life musically. “It’s a really big deal.”
Elsewhere in the near future, Lori & The Darlings will play at such events as Corktown Summer Days in Detroit, on June 11. They are also set to perform at Crunkfest in Mikado, which is scheduled for June 17-18, and will feature a number of different bands and styles of music. “And we will be headlining the first night of that,” D’Aigle said of the event, which is expected to go on until midnight.
For additional details on where and when they’ll be performing, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LoriandtheDarlings/, which also has links to their website and other social media pages. They frequently upload videos to YouTube, as well, and the band can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.