You’re Among Friends is a rock ’n’ roll band from Cleveland, Ohio. Their music has been described as “rollicking blues at its core with a sugary coating of power pop” by Scene Magazine and as “a laid-back style of funky, blues-infused folk rock” by Eclectic Music Lover. Although the band has endured several lineup changes over the years, each incarnation has been devoted to playing original songs written by singer/guitarist Anthony Doran.
Anthony formed the band with bassist Kevin Trask and 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. Scene Magazine described the music as “bluesy power-pop.” Anthony wrote most of the songs five or six years earlier for previous projects, but he wrote “Curveball” and “Koumbaros” specifically for this new band. 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 batch of recordings in early 2008. Chris’s impeccable drumming and Kevin’s melodic bass playing provided a solid groove for Anthony’s new songs. Upon hearing “Friends Like Me,” “Grandeur,” “Basement,” and “Red Parrot Blues,” listeners are likely to notice that each track features its own unique blend of rock, powerpop, blues, soul and funk. Chris left the band after playing one more show at the Grog Shop that spring, but Sarah Luffred took over on drums just in time to play summer shows at Club Khameleon, the Robin Hood Inn, the Symposium and the Outpost. Sarah was also behind the drum kit when the band recorded Anthony’s freshly penned rock ’n’ roll tune, “Until the Next Girl Comes Along,” in early July. Unfortunately, the band was already a couple of weeks into a year-long hiatus when their In Due Time EP was released on August 1, 2008.
Anthony, Kevin and Sarah regrouped to play one more show together at the Phantasy in July 2009, but Sarah was replaced by drummer Tony Randall a few days later. Anthony and Kevin quickly taught Tony a bunch of their old songs. They even added a couple of Anthony’s newest songs, “Enjoy Life” and “Half a Thought,” to their set list before playing at the Roc Bar and Wilbert’s in August. The owner of Wilbert’s, Michael Miller, described the band’s music as “CLE rock ’n’ roll that is reminiscent of Graham Parker.” After playing one more show at the Cove in September, the band fell into another long hiatus.
Anthony and Kevin briefly reunited with original drummer Chris Tarka in May 2010 to record the two songs that were left behind by the previous lineup. The Enjoy Life & Half a Thought single was released on June 11, 2010. Scene Magazine correctly pointed out that the songs were “Elvis Costello-inspired,” but some vintage soul and R&B influences also shine through thanks in part to Ben Gilbert’s saxophone playing on “Enjoy Life” and the tight rhythm section that drives both tracks along.
The Anthony, Kevin, Chris and Ben lineup played a show together at the Symposium on New Year’s Day 2011. That summer and fall, 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. Several of Anthony’s newest songs were played live for the first time at these shows, including “Years Go,” “Building Bridges to Burn,” “Dumb Complaints,” “Sour Grapes,” and “Rope.” Around this time, Anthony and Kevin co-wrote “Dreaming of the Past” and “Calling Anyone.” Unfortunately, the band fell apart again by the end of the year.
During this long hiatus, Anthony released seven albums and played nearly fifty shows as a solo artist. Daryl Rowland from the Civic Commons said that “Anthony Doran’s tight singer-songwriter material sounds like a brilliant long-lost Elvis Costello recording.” Michael Miller promoted Anthony’s shows at Wilbert’s by using the line “think: if Graham Parker was from Cleveland!”
Anthony and Kevin finally relaunched You’re Among Friends in the late summer of 2015 with Adrian Higgins on drums. Right off the bat, they started working on full band arrangements of the songs that were left behind by the previous lineup. They also revamped an old song of Anthony’s called “The Opposite,” which was originally attempted for the In Due Time EP. Along the way, Anthony brought in a brand new song called “Any Day Now” and he co-wrote “A Way to Get Away” with Kevin. Over the next few months, the band sprinkled these 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 this new batch of songs throughout the first half of 2016. 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. Scene Magazine 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, Scene Magazine featured You’re Among Friends as their ‘Band of the Week’ as the group celebrated their tenth anniversary by playing at Wilbert’s. Leading up to that show, the guys worked on full band arrangements for a few songs from Anthony’s solo albums. “I’m Happier Now,” “You Lost Interest First,” and “Back to Work Tomorrow” all became highlights of their live sets. That February, 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 sixth drummer to come through the group. Anthony, Kevin and Frank spent most of their first jam session tightening up the arrangements for the three songs that were left behind by the previous lineup, but they also worked on a song called “Not My Thing” from another one of Anthony’s old solo albums. The next time the band got together, they recorded all four of those songs. The trio 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.” 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.”
Anthony is the type of songwriter who likes to believe that the song he is currently working on will turn out to be his best one yet. Stay tuned for some new music in 2018!