After a brief sojourn in Los Angeles, James settled in San Francisco and began studying writing at San Francisco State University; the new surroundings and creative discipline encouraged James to begin writing songs. James worked for a while at Universal Records
, and it wasn't long before he was convinced he could make music at least as well as many of the acts signed to the label; James was emboldened to record a demo tape of his new songs, and through a craigslist ad he met drummer Ben Cook, who immediately bonded with James over their shared love of Led Zeppelin
. After an unsuccessful search for a bassist who fit in with what James and Cook wanted to do, Leopold and His Fiction began playing out as a two-piece in early 2005, and they released their debut, Leopold and His Fiction, in the fall of 2006. Both the album and the duo's live shows earned them a reputation as a band to watch on the Bay Area music scene.
In 2008, Cook amicably parted ways with James. Rather than simply replace the drummer, James opted to use Cook's retirement as a chance to reshape Leopold and His Fiction, and he brought aboard a pair of multi-instrumentalists who had already been working together, bassist and singer Micayla Grace and Jon Sortland, who plays drums and keyboards as well as singing backup. This new edition of Leopold and His Fiction appeared on the group's second album, Ain't No Surprise, which was issued in January 2009. James then took some time away from the band, co-founding the folk-influenced trio Cowboy and Indian
with vocalist Jazz Mills and singer/guitarist Jesse Plemons. He returned to Leopold and His Fiction for 2012's 3. Around this time, he also moved to Texas, where he welcomed the birth of his daughter. In 2017, Leopold and His Fiction delivered their fourth full-length album, Darling Destroyer, featuring production from James and Chris "Frenchie" Smith (Jet
, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
, Ringo Deathstarr
). Included on the album was the single "Waves (Golden)." ~ Mark Deming