Sunday, January 16, 2022

You’re Among Friends




You’re Among Friends is a band from Cleveland, Ohio. Tagged as “casual rock” by Powerpopaholic, their music has been described as having “rollicking blues at its core with a sugary coating of power pop” by Cleveland Scene and as “a laid-back style of funky, blues-infused folk rock” by Eclectic Music Lover. Although singer/guitarist/songwriter Anthony Doran and bassist Kevin Trask have been the constant core of each incarnation of the band, recent addition Mike Janowitz immediately became an essential member as soon as he joined on drums.

Anthony and Kevin formed You’re Among Friends with drummer Chris Tarka in January 2007. This original lineup hit the ground running by playing a bunch of shows at venues like the Red Parrot, the Grog Shop, the Hi-Fi, the Phantasy, the Symposium, Club 87, the Orange Street, Club Khameleon, and Verlie’s Cafe. Vickie Verlie described the band as “a pop trio — very ‘60s like, though the singer sounds like Elvis Costello. I could hear the Beatles, Tommy James and the Shondells, the Faces, and Tom Petty, but still in their own style. A band to watch.”

You’re Among Friends released their self-titled debut album on July 3, 2007. Cleveland Scene categorized the music as “bluesy powerpop.” The opening track, “From Now On,” received some local radio airplay on Inner Sanctum (92.3 K-ROCK) and Resident Rock (91.1 WRUW-FM). “Koumbaros” earned Anthony some more Elvis Costello comparisons. “Favourite” was called “top-drawer powerpop” by the Sweet Spot on Stranger Radio. Anthony, Kevin and Chris played shows throughout the summer to promote the album, including a CD release party at the Grog Shop.

The group started working on their second record in early 2008. Elements of rock ’n’ roll, power pop, blues, soul, funk, and jazz are scattered throughout these songs. Chris drummed on most of the new recordings before leaving the band that spring, but Sarah Luffred took over on drums just in time to play on “Until the Next Girl Comes Along.” The In Due Time EP was released on August 1, 2008. Powerpopaholic called the band’s music “casual rock” for the first time in a short blurb encouraging readers to check out the EP. “Until the Next Girl Comes Along” has been played on Franklee Speaking and Indie Pop Takeout. “Friends Like Me” and “Grandeur” have been played on the Music Authority and Odyssey Radio. “Basement” has been used as the closing song for many live sets over the years.

Anthony, Kevin and Sarah played shows at Club Khameleon, the Robin Hood Inn, the Symposium, the Outpost, and the Phantasy. In July 2009, Sarah was replaced by drummer Tony Randall. This new lineup played shows at Roc Bar, Wilbert’s, and the Cove by the end of that summer. The owner of Wilbert’s, Michael Miller, described the band’s music as “CLE rock ’n’ roll that is reminiscent of Graham Parker.”

Anthony and Kevin briefly reunited with original drummer Chris Tarka and added Ben Gilbert on saxophone in May 2010 to record a couple of new songs. The Enjoy Life & Half a Thought single was released on June 11, 2010. Cleveland Scene pointed out that both of the songs seem to be “Elvis Costello-inspired.” “Enjoy Life” has received quite a bit of radio airplay, while “Half a Thought” has become a lasting part of the band’s live sets. Anthony, Kevin, Chris, and Ben played a show together at the Symposium on New Year’s Day of 2011.

Throughout the summer and fall of 2011, Anthony and Kevin played some acoustic shows with keyboardist Bryan Garvin at Red’s, Wilbert’s, Bela Dubby, Bobby O’s, and the Rathskeller at Kent State University.

Anthony and Kevin were joined by drummer Adrian Higgins in the late summer of 2015. Over the next few months, the band sprinkled some new songs into their set lists when they played at venues like the Happy Dog, the Euclid Tavern, Wilbert’s, and the Grog Shop. Anthony, Kevin and Adrian recorded ten new songs throughout the first half of 2016. It was clear right away that songs like “Years Go,” “Any Day Now,” “Building Bridges to Burn,” and “The Opposite” would become indelible parts of the YAF canon. “A Way to Get Away” and “Rope” have both been used to close the band’s live sets. Early on in the mixing process that June, it was announced that the band was parting ways with Adrian. Drummer Chris Szuch joined the band just in time to play at the CD release party at the Euclid Tavern.

As We Watch the Years Go… was released on July 31, 2016. Cleveland Scene claimed that these songs “reveal a simple truth about You’re Among Friends: they just enjoy playing music, and want nothing more than for you to sit back and relax.” Eclectic Music Lover called this “a fun and mellow album that makes you think a little bit about life in all its craziness as you’re enjoying the music,” and he went on to say that he hears “touches of Steely Dan, Elvis Costello and The Grateful Dead in their sound, and Anthony’s vocals really channel Randy Newman at times.” Small Albums said that the album reminded them of “sprinklers watering the grass on a warm summer morning when you first wake up.” Divide and Conquer said that the album “exemplifies the mastery that You’re Among Friends has accumulated and hones in their many years in the business of creating entertaining and meaningful music.”

In January 2017, Cleveland Scene featured You’re Among Friends as their ‘Band of the Week’ as the group celebrated their tenth anniversary by playing at Wilbert’s. A couple of weeks later, CBS Cleveland mentioned the band in their ‘The Best Places to See Indie Rock in Cleveland’ piece by saying “on an average night, Wilbert’s hosts sublime indie groups like You’re Among Friends.” After a few more shows that spring at the Beachland Tavern, the Happy Dog, and the Grog Shop, the band was headed for yet another lineup change. Anthony and Kevin played shows as an acoustic duo at the Winchester and Now That’s Class that June to try to keep the momentum going.

In the summer of 2017, Frank Mirabelli became the next drummer to come through the group. Anthony, Kevin and Frank recorded four new songs together in July, and they went on to play a show at the Beachland Tavern in August.

One Day You’ll Look Back was released on November 28, 2017. Indientry said that the EP is “chock-full of power-pop disguised as bluesy rock,” adding that it “is nothing if not funky” and that “the bluesy sound is effortlessly cool.” Eclectic Music Lover called it “a nice little EP featuring songs with simple melodies and compelling lyrics that make for a highly pleasurable listen” and said that it “delivers the kind of honest, relatable songs about life and relationships the band does so very well.” Powerpopaholic mentioned that the band sounds “a little bit like a really loose version of Steely Dan” and that “the jazzy ‘I’m Happier Now’ and funky wah-wah chords on ‘Back To Work Tomorrow’ are worth exploring.” Franklee Speaking on 93.3 CFMU has played “I’m Happier Now” and “You Lost Interest First.” While playing most of the EP on his show, Joe Wright from Northern Pirate Radio remarked that “‘Back to Work Tomorrow’ is probably my favorite off of the new EP because I love the way the guitar sounds. It sounds very psychedelic ’60s, bellbottom-y, kind of hippie style – like there should be lava lamps all around me and whatnot!” The 1001 Records for Music Lovers blog included One Day You’ll Look Back on their ‘Best Records of December 2017’ and ‘Best Records of 2017’ lists, and they featured “I’m Happier Now” as part of their ‘Song of the Day’ series. According to Divide and Conquer, “this EP was short, fun and an easy but delightful listen. Recommended.” Bucketlist Music Reviews kicked off their review of the EP with the line “if there’s such a thing as a punk rock Randy Newman, I think this is it,” and they went on to say that “One Day You’ll Look Back certainly lives up to the power-pop name; this thing is seriously catchy. I can’t count the number of times the chorus of ‘I’m Happier Now’ has gone through my head today.” Best Song Day featured “I’m Happier Now” on their blog, and Review Rhino called it a “catchy tune with a NYC ’60s pop soul feel that will make you move.”

At the beginning of January 2020, Mike Janowitz became the band’s new drummer. Anthony, Kevin and Mike started working on a new album during their first afternoon together. All three members felt that the music flowed very naturally and organically during their weekly sessions. The stay-at-home orders issued as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that spring didn’t interrupt the recording process too much since Anthony needed time to overdub his guitars and vocals anyway. When Anthony finished his tracks, he sent all of the files to Kevin for mixing.

Start Making Sense was released on May 8, 2020. In a review posted on the release date, Cleveland Scene said “the album begins with the punchy ‘Trying to Take It All In,’ a track that draws from the Grateful Dead’s poppier side (think ‘Touch of Grey’). Another highlight, the quirky ‘Once the Toothpaste Is Out of Its Tube,’ features lurching guitars and off-kilter tempo changes. ‘Hills You’re Willing to Die On,’ a song that begins with a thick bass riff, offers a change of pace as it has a jazzy feel, albeit with sneering vocals.” Eclectic Music Lover said “with Start Making Sense, You’re Among Friends have delivered yet another thoughtful and pleasing album for us to enjoy. As their name implies, it’s like the return of an old friend with whom we’re able to pick right back up from where we left off. And that, my friends, is a mighty good thing indeed. That comforting low-key vibe, combined with their thoughtful, down-to-earth lyrics about this crazy thing we call life, has a way of making me feel that everything’s gonna be alright. And boy, we can all use more of that right now!” CoolCleveland said that Start Making Sense is “a nine-track disc of relaxed folky pop tunes with an early ’70s vibe and even a faint hint of country/Southern rock,” going on to say that “the colloquial titles, such as ‘Once the Toothpaste Is Out of Its Tube,’ ‘Why Do I Dwell On Things?’ and ‘String a Few Nice Words Together,’ capture the unforced vibe of tunes that feel like they emerged, appropriately, from late-night conversations among friends.” Poprock Record said “I love the jazzy swing on ‘Waiting for Life to Start Making Sense,’ definitely a bit of early Elvis Costello-vibing here, and the groove anchoring ‘Once the Toothpaste is Out of its Tube.’” Powerpopaholic said that the album “plays out like a fun jam in someone’s basement studio. Love the funk melody on ‘Once the Toothpaste is Out of Its Tube.’ More terrific casual rock like ‘Just Keep Being Nice’ makes this a great album to chill with.” The Music Files (UK) called You’re Among Friends “the ultimate feel-good band that will automatically leave you in high spirits after the first listen,” going on to say that ‘Once the Toothpaste Is Out of Its Tube’ has a “sweet blend of soulful melodies carried on throughout. With the catchy drum beat, infectious bass line and upbeat guitar hooks, listeners will be hooked from the get-go. We recommend you listen to this track after a long day – within minutes you’ll be up dancing your worries away!”

Several songs from Start Making Sense have received podcast and radio airplay on Power Pop Overdose, Ice Cream Man Power Pop and More, Indie Pop Takeout, Garagerocktopia, Cobwebs and Strange, Blues-ish, Psychedelic Jukebox, the Rockin’ Blues Show, NWR Live with Mitch and Mark, Radio TFSC, Lone Frequencies, J.A.M. Radio, Indie Radio YFM, Pluto Radio, Odyssey Radio, Willow Haven, Mad Wasp Radio, Banks Radio Australia, Steve Garnett’s New Music Radio Show on Revival Radio, Rockin’ the KOR, Radio Candy, the Music Authority, and Northern Pirate Radio. “Why Do I Dwell On Things?” has been featured on the Radio Indie Alliance weekly Top 40 list. “Why Do I Dwell On Things?” and “On Again, Off Again” have both been featured on the Radio TFSC daily Top 24 list. Banks Radio Australia included “Once the Toothpaste Is Out of Its Tube” on their daily Top 10 Tracks list.

Anthony, Kevin and Mike recorded ten new songs together during the last few months of 2021. Good Enough Sometimes was released on January 10, 2022!

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