The local rock group You’re Among Friends has just announced that it’ll play its first live gig in almost five years. The trio performs on Saturday, April 30th at CODA. The gig will mark the first live appearance with new drummer Mike Janowitz (Blue Lunch).
“Mike used to be a music teacher, so he has a formal music background,” says singer-guitarist Anthony Doran when asked about what Janowitz brings to group’s music. “It has been really cool to hear his explanations of what we are playing. Whenever we hit a rough or weak spot in a new song we are working on, Mike has been able to suggest something clever to get us out of trouble. He has come up with so many interesting beats and grooves that take these songs in a totally different direction from what I had in mind when I wrote them. I love that, though. It is a huge part of why I send [singer-bassist] Kevin [Trask] and Mike stripped-down demos with just my vocals and acoustic guitar. I want them to feel totally free to be creative and add whatever they want to the songs.”
Doran had been in another local band prior to forming You’re Among Friends in 2007 with singer-bassist Trask. Since forming, the band has steadily gigged since then. In 2020, it released Start Making Sense. During the pandemic, the band recorded its latest effort, Good Enough Sometimes.
“For better or worse, the anxiety of these times we’ve been living through ended up bleeding into some of the songs,” Doran says of the new album. “I suppose it was inevitable. ‘Bad Karma and a Special Place in Hell’ is about politicians and healthcare professionals who have downplayed the pandemic for the sake of the economy. If it wasn’t clear already before all of this, these people don’t give a shit if we live or die as long as millionaires and billionaires can still make a profit. ‘This Is Unsustainable’ is about the worsening working conditions and exploitation many people have been facing, even those who have been labeled as ‘essential workers.’”
Most of the recording sessions for this album were completed between the Delta and Omicron surges. Doran’s family caught COVID-19 around Thanksgiving, so sessions were put on hold for a few weeks while the family quarantined as a precaution.
Doran says there were a few songs that the group didn’t get around to due to the delay, but the band has talked about recording those and putting them out as an EP later this year.
The group laid down basic tracks for Good Enough Sometimes in Trask’s basement in Mentor.
“We would get together in the late morning on a Saturday or Sunday, work out arrangements for a couple of new songs, and rehearse until we really had them down,” says Doran. “Once we had the basic tracks done for all ten songs, I took our 24-track recorder back home with me to Bay Village so that I could overdub my guitars and vocals. After I finished my stuff, I sent all of the tracks to Kevin so that he could mix them. He ended up adding some really cool keyboard tracks during the mixing process.”
Janowitz helped shape many of the arrangements on Start Making Sense, and he had an even bigger role on Good Enough Sometimes. Trask’s overdubbed keyboard parts also added a new dimension.
The opening tune, “Don’t Borrow Trouble,” features a bit of a twang, giving it a Wilco feel.
“I love Wilco,” says Doran when asked about the tune. “As a songwriter, I really admire [Wilco singer-guitarist] Jeff Tweedy’s ability to write compelling lyrics, whether he wants to be honest and direct or totally oblique and abstract. He has always been able to pick a dynamic supporting cast to keep around him too. They are able to shift very effortlessly between twangy, folky, soulful, bluesy, rocking and experimental textures.”
Songs like “You Know What You Want” are kinda jammy and reflect the band’s love for the Grateful Dead.
“I like the Grateful Dead a lot, but I tend to stick with their studio recordings because I don’t have much patience for some of their live noodling,” says Doran. “I know that probably disqualifies me as a Deadhead. I like the laid-back, relaxed feel of a jam band, but I also love the catchy, melodic hooks of a good pop song. We were actually going for a funky ’70s soul vibe on ‘You Know What You Want.’”
The group has relearned some of its old tunes for the upcoming CODA gig, and Doran says the band is excited to be back in front of a live audience.
“We have spent the past few weekends relearning some of our songs,” he says. “Since we haven’t had a chance to play any of the songs from our two latest albums live yet, those have been our top priority. It has been so much fun to listen to our songs being played on the radio, to read reviews of our latest albums and to interact with listeners through social media. Even though our music has probably been reaching more people than ever lately, we’ve really been missing that instant feedback you get from playing to a live audience.”
– Jeff Niesel
Cleveland, Ohio’s You’re Among Friends take a very laid back approach on this new release. “Here in the Middle of the Pack” is like a stoner Spin Doctors tune and the melodic funk of “You Know What You Want” will appeal to NRBQ fans.
– Aaron Kupferberg
You’re Among Friends are right up my alley! There’s definitely a bit of early Steely Dan in their music, as well as Grateful Dead. Their warm and laid back sound definitely struck a chord with me, and I look forward to hearing more music from this band.
– Christian’s Music Musings
Aptly-named Cleveland, Ohio-based indie band You’re Among Friends want us to feel welcome when hearing their music or watching them perform. With their laid-back style of funky, blues-infused folk rock reminiscent of the music of Steely Dan and The Grateful Dead, with touches of Randy Newman and Elvis Costello, listening to their music is like spending time with a good friend. That comforting, low-key vibe, combined with relatable lyrics touching on everyday aspects of life in this crazy, mixed-up world of ours, has a way of making us feel that everything’s gonna be alright at the end of the day.
The band was formed in 2007 by founding members and long-time friends Anthony Doran (lead vocals and guitars) and Kevin Trask (bass, keyboards and backing vocals). And like too many bands, they’ve struggled to find and keep drummers, but their current (and seventh) drummer Mike Janowitz, who came on board in late 2019, has turned out to be a perfect fit.
You’re Among Friends released their debut self-titled album in 2007, followed by an EP and double single, but the demands of life, work and starting families took so much of their time, they went on a hiatus in 2011 lasting four years. They reconnected in 2015, and the following year, released their second album As We Watch the Years Go…, with songs inspired by their life experiences, as well as the passage of time and how it affects friendships and relationships. They followed in late 2017 with an EP One Day You’ll Look Back, then dropped their third album Start Making Sense in May 2020. Now the guys are back with their fourth album, Good Enough Sometimes, which dropped January 10th.
One of the many things I like about their songs is that the titles let us know exactly what they’re about, as well as the conversational flow of their down-to-earth lyrics that make us feel like we’re speaking with a friend. Kicking things off is “Don’t Borrow Trouble,” a mellow, upbeat song advising us to not overthink or worry over things we can’t change or that haven’t even happened yet: “Don’t borrow trouble, why worry about something before it’s here. By the time the dust settles, and the moving parts stop, don’t you know it may not be as bad as you fear.” These simple but wise words could be directed at me, as I’m frequently guilty of obsessing over a lot of shit.
Several tracks address the theme set forth in the album’s title, starting with “Here in the Middle of the Pack.” The lyrics advise us that it’s okay to be average, so long as we do our best and feel contentment with ourselves: “Don’t have to be the best. Just strive to be consistent./ It all works out eventually.” I like Anthony’s guitar noodling and endearing vocals that remind me of Randy Newman. On a similar vein, “Okay is Good Enough Sometimes” urges us not to expect everything in life to be perfect or the way we want them to be: “Got to let some things go, to preserve your mind and soul. Not everything is worth your peace, try not to lose too much sleep, because okay is good enough sometimes.” Anthony’s bluesy guitars and Kevin’s funky bassline are terrific.
The guys take a somewhat different tack on “You Know What You Want,” with lyrics about not giving up on your dreams and aspirations, “When you set your mind on something, you don’t stop til you’re done. It’s one of those things that I love about you. Someday your chance will come. Cause you know what you want.” I like the quirky and cool instrumental flourish in the bridge. And on the sweet “Accompanied,” Anthony sings his praises to a loved one who’s always there for him: “Sometimes life brings me down. That’s when I’m glad you’re around to pull me through. It’s tried and true.”
But sometimes, even friends need a bit of tough love. On the catchy “Toxic Positivity,” with its bluesy Grateful Dead vibe, Anthony calls out those who spout meaningless positive adages like “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”: “Spare me your toxic positivity. When the world’s pissing in my face, I don’t have to pretend it’s refreshing rain.” On “Learn to Leave Well Enough Alone,” he admonishes someone to get off his back and mind their own business: “You’ll be the first to know when I want to hear opinions from folks who don’t understand a thing about my business.” The song has an interesting sound, with a repetitive bluesy groove, and delightful jazzy organ and percussion at the end.
Though You’re Among Friends don’t get political very often, there are times you just need to call out corporations, politicians and the media for their duplicitous actions too. The dark “Bad Karma and a Special Place in Hell” decries those who promote fear to keep the masses fired up and their profits soaring, while “This is Unsustainable” speaks to corporate greed and income inequality: “Don’t expect them to understand, how they’re living off our backs.”
With a breezy, upbeat groove that hovers in a sweet spot between Steely Dan and the Grateful Dead, album closer “Plan Cancellation Chicken” is one of my favorite tracks from a musical standpoint. Anthony’s guitar riffs are really wonderful, nicely layered over Kevin and Mike’s jazzy, thumping rhythm. The song circles back to the album’s overall theme of just calming down and going with the flow, with lighthearted lyrics that describe a romance in a cheeky, backhanded way: “It’s all a big game of plan cancellation chicken. I’m so glad you caved and canceled before I did. It’s looks like I won this round. Let’s keep each other around, so we’ll have someone to cancel plans with.”
With Good Enough Sometimes, You’re Among Friends serves up 30 minutes of pleasing songs – with a few edgier ones thrown in for variety – we’ve come to expect and enjoy from them. Like I’ve mentioned previously, it’s like the return of an old friend with whom we’re able to pick right back up from where we left off.
– Jeff Archuleta
Eclectic Music Lover
You’re Among Friends 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.
– Aaron Kupferberg
Who? Anthony Doran on vocals and guitar, Kevin Trask on bass and Mike Janowitz on the drums all make up Cleveland’s very own band better known as You’re Among Friends.
For fans of? Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, and Sam & Dave.
Why are we diggin them? The ultimate feel-good band that will automatically leave you in high spirits after the first listen. From jazz to rock to blues to folk, You’re Among Friends have a variety of different styles, which certainly makes them stand out from the crowd.
Favourite track? ‘Once the Toothpaste is out its Tube’. The sweet blend of soulful melodies carry 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!
– Chelsea Ness
The Music Files
Eclectic Music Lover nailed it when he described You’re Among Friends as “funky, blues-infused folk rock” channeling “Steely Dan, The Grateful Dead and even a bit of Elvis Costello.” I might add a bit of chooglin’ CCR on a few tracks. From their new record Start Making Sense, I love the jazzy swing on “Waiting for Life to Start Making Sense,” definitely a bit of early Costello-vibing here, and the groove anchoring “Once the Toothpaste is Out of its Tube.”
– Dennis Pilon
The Cleveland band You’re Among Friends initially formed in 2007 when it released its first, self-titled album. Life got in the way and the band took a break during the early 2010s. They released an album called As We Watch the Years Go… in 2016 and an EP not long after that.
Now they’re back from another short hiatus, and in early May, they announced their return with the release of new studio album called Start Making Sense. Fortunately, they’d finished most of the recording prior to the pandemic quarantine, finishing up vocal and guitar overdubs and mixing apart. The result is a nine-track disc of relaxed folkie pop tunes with an early ’70s vibe and even a faint hint of country/Southern rock. 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.
Guitarist/vocalist Anthony Doran and bassist Kevin Trask (who formed the band initially from the remnants of another band they played in together) went through a lot of drummers over the years, but currently they’ve got Blue Lunch/Mr. Downchild veteran Mike Janowitz backing them up. He joined the band early this year, just as they were starting work on the new album.
Cleveland, Ohio-based band You’re Among Friends are most definitely among friends at this blog. Their laid back style of funky, blues-infused folk rock seems to channel Steely Dan, The Grateful Dead and even a bit of Elvis Costello, and always makes for a pleasurable listen. 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!
I’ve had the pleasure of featuring them twice on this blog, first in June 2017, when I reviewed their 2016 album As We Watch the Years Go…, and again in January 2018 when I reviewed their EP One Day You’ll Look Back. They’ve just released their latest album Start Making Sense, which dropped May 8. It’s their first release in two and a half years, and they sound better than ever.
You’re Among Friends was born in 2007 when guitarist and vocalist Anthony Doran and bassist Kevin Trask – who’d both played together in another band – rechristened it with a new name and began reworking songs from the previous band’s repertoire. They released their debut self-titled album in 2007, then soon followed up with an EP and double single. As the demands of life, work and starting a family took more of their time, however, the band went on a hiatus in 2011 that lasted four years. Once they reconnected in 2015, they began working on the album As We Watch the Years Go…, with songs inspired by their life experiences as well as the passage of time and how it affected friendships, relationships, and the band itself. Their follow-up EP One Day You’ll Look Back continued to explore some of the themes first addressed by the album.
Like more than a few bands, You’re Among Friends has struggled since their beginnings to find and keep drummers. They’re now on their seventh drummer in the person of Mike Janowitz, who appears to be a perfect fit. In a recent interview with Jeff Niesel of Cleveland Scene, Anthony commented “Mike is great. We have had some drummers who are great technical drummers and skilled, but they often treat us like we’re a stepping stone to the next gig. And then, we’ve had some cool, nice guy drummers, who aren’t that great at drumming. Mike is the best of both worlds. He’s the best drummer we’ve ever played with.”
Anthony wrote the music and lyrics for most of the songs, and all three members worked out the arrangements together. They began recording songs together for Start Making Sense this past January and early February at Kevin’s house prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Anthony later overdubbed his guitar parts and vocals at his home from late February through early April, then Kevin mixed the recordings from late April through early May at his home. Anthony noted: “We haven’t been in the same room since February. It’s really weird, but we kept going with the album and let it happen naturally.” Mike came up with the album title, and Kevin designed the artwork using a photograph he took during one of their sessions.
Opening track “Trying to Take It All In” speaks to the pressures of trying to keep up with the constant flood of information that can be downright overwhelming these days, and coming to the conclusion that’s it’s really not all that important in the end: “Things move fast these days. And folks who try to say if you’re not keeping up the pace, you’re in the wane. But I’m beginning to think that I could handle the shame. Getting kicked out of the race might be okay. But if I ever move too slow, you should probably know I’m trying to take it all in. It doesn’t matter who’s the fastest, when there’s this much information to process. The avalanche rolling down the mountain is gonna bury us all just the same.”
Their song titles let us know exactly what the songs are about, and I really enjoy the almost conversational flow of their lyrics, which are easy to understand and relate to. On the toe-tapping “Waiting For Life to Start Making Sense” they tell us to lighten up a bit and not take everything so seriously: “Take life as it comes. Don’t get uptight. Just keep moving on. Never know about what’s coming next. Seems like the worst could turn out to be the best.” I like Anthony’s guitar noodling on the track as he lays down a catchy little riff, as well as his endearing vocals that remind me of Randy Newman.
The short and sweet “Once the Toothpaste is Out of its Tube” uses a simple but brilliant metaphor to describe how our words and actions can sometimes have more impact than we might realize: “Stuff you put out into the world, might come back around to you. So don’t forget what happens once the toothpaste comes out of its tube.” “Why Do I Dwell on Things?” asks why some of us (me included) focus on the negative rather than all the good things in our lives. “Why do I dwell on things that I can’t change? What good does it do, it just winds me up, and life has to go on anyway.” The funky guitars and bass on this track are really good.
One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Hills You’re Willing to Die On“, not only for Kevin’s wonderful bass-driven groove and Mike’s jazzy drums, but also its message about how so many people today choose to blindly cling to their political beliefs: “Carefully choose the hills you’re willing to die on. Those coattails you ride on get more torn and frayed by the day.” About the song, Anthony explained to Cleveland Scene: “It was during the impeachment hearings that the lyrics came to me. We’re all divided, and we can’t communicate any more because we’re all set in our ways.”
The first thing we hear on “Just Keep Being Nice” are the faint spoken words “That does not count against me. This is the one.” Whether intentional or not, it reveals, to me at least, how funny and real these guys are. They also serve up more funky guitars and jazzy rhythms as Anthony advises us to not let the blowhards and assholes get to us: “Life is too short to give anything they say a second thought. Smile and pretend you agree that their message has value and meaning as it goes in one ear and out the other. Just keep being nice. And pretend to play the game. Act like you want to win, although none of this means anything.”
On the sweet “On Again, Off Again“, they touch on how some friendships and even love affairs can wax and wane, yet endure through time: “We go from the closest of friends to the coldest of strangers. But whenever we find our way back here again it seems like no time has passed and nothing’s changed between us.” From a musical standpoint, “String a Few Nice Words Together” is one of my favorites, as I love Anthony’s funky guitars and Kevin & Mike’s cool, jazzy rhythms. The lyrics, however, speak to the singer’s shortcomings with regard to his actions not living up to his words: “Talk is cheap, but that’s always been good enough for me. I understand when you say that my apologies don’t mean anything because things never change. They always go right back to the way they were before.”
Kevin wrote the lyrics for the final track “My Best Friend Is Never Coming Home”. It’s a poignant song about remembering a best friend who’s gone: “So much has changed since you left us. I’ve got kids now. You would have loved them. They would have loved you too. But now you’re gone. I’m all alone. My best friend is never coming home.” It has a languid melody that suits the wistful lyrics quite well, without sounding maudlin or depressing.
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.
– Jeff Archuleta
Eclectic Music Lover
Friends from the local music scene, singer-guitarist Anthony Doran and bassist Kevin Trask formed the indie rock act You’re Among Friends in 2007, and while the group took some time off in the early 2010s, it returned to recording and playing live in time to celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2017.
Since celebrating that milestone, the band has added new drummer Mike Janowitz (Blue Lunch, Mr. Downchild), and just this week, it released Start Making Sense, the first album to feature him on drums.
“It’s been a huge change to have Mike,” says Doran in a recent Zoom call with Trask and Janowitz. “He’s our seventh or eighth drummer. Mike is great. We have had some drummers who are great technical drummers and skilled, but they often treat us like we’re a stepping stone to the next gig. And then, we’ve had some cool, nice guy drummers, who aren’t that great at drumming. Mike is the best of both worlds. He’s the best drummer we’ve ever played with.”
Doran and Trask say Janowitz helped shape the songs on Start Making Sense.
“He improves our songs,” says Trask. “These songs came out a billion times better because of his input.”
Last year, Doran and Trask started assembling the songs for the album.
“As we worked through the songs, we wanted to make each arrangement different,” says Doran. “We didn’t want anything too similar in terms of rhythms and tempos. Having the input of the full group really helped.”
The group recorded at Trask’s house in Mentor prior to the COVID-19 shutdown.
“It was different in that it was a routine this time around,” says Doran when asked about the recording sessions. “On our previous releases, we would just record whenever we had time between gigs and record maybe once or twice a month. This time, every Sunday, we got together at Kevin’s house and started rehearsing. We would learn a couple of new songs each time. That was nice to have that routine worked out.”
The album begins with the punchy “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.
“There’s a lot of negativity going around right now,” says Doran. “You get mixed messages. I think a little kindness goes a long way right now. I have a 6-year-old son in kindergarten and 17-month old daughter. It might seem childish, but that kind of message needs to get out there with these kids.”
“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.
“It was during the impeachment hearings that the lyrics came to me,” says Doran of the track. “We’re all divided, and we can’t communicate any more because we’re all set in our ways. The piece that made the song stand out was when Mike came up with that drumbeat.”
“It was the first thing we played together,” adds Janowitz. “We had never played together before. It was this organic flowing of ideas. It just clicked with all of us.”
Because of the COVID-19 shutdown, the band wasn’t able to schedule a release party for the album, but members say they’re anxious to start playing the new songs live.
“We haven’t been in the same room since February,” says Doran. “It’s really weird, but we kept going with the album and let it happen naturally. I got my vocals done in early April. I was half-serious, but I told my wife that I wanted to get them done in case I got sick. I tried to do vocals after the kids went to bed. I finished them in early April and sent the files to Kevin for mixing. It’s been a long process getting it done, but now we’re here and we’re happy it’s out. We want to get together to start practicing as soon as we can to play all the songs. We might just have to practice on Zoom first.”
– Jeff Niesel
If there’s such a thing as a punk rock Randy Newman, I think this is it. You’re Among Friends are a self-described bluesy power-pop band from Cleveland, Ohio and their newest EP One Day You’ll Look Back managed to get me out of the old “I had to push my car out of a goddamn snowbank and was an hour late for work” blues.
You’re Among Friends is essentially the brainchild of guitarist/vocalist Anthony Doran. Doran’s kept the band going for over eleven years through various lineup changes, though you wouldn’t know that from listening. With bassist Kevin Trask and drummer Frank Mirabelli, the band jives really well.
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. The warbling vocals throughout aren’t the most conventional, but if you’re into artists like Elvis Costello, you’re bound to appreciate the style. The contrast between the happy-go-lucky melody and comparatively dismal lyrics on songs like ”Not My Thing” makes for a pretty interesting listen and brings a bit of thematic diversity to the EP.
The EP’s short run-time is a bit of a double-edged sword. At only four songs, One Day You’ll Look Back doesn’t really have time to get boring. You’re Among Friends never branch too far from their main sound and, were it a little longer, that would be more of a problem for me. That said, maybe a longer track listing would have forced the band to step outside their comfort zone.
Hypotheticals aside, One Day You’ll Look Back is a fun listen and I can’t say I have any complaints about what you’ll hear on this thing. You’re Among Friends are pretty far outside of my usual wheelhouse, but they’ve found themselves a new fan.
– Justin Bruce
Bucketlist Music Reviews
Anthony Doran (vocals/guitars), Kevin Trask (bass) and Frank Mirabelli (drums) are You’re Among Friends. Doran and Trask have a long musical history together going back about eleven years. Apparently, they have a bit of a Spinal Tap type of thing going on because Mirabelli is the band’s sixth drummer. They recently released One Day You’ll Look Back which is a four-song EP which continues and arguably improves from their previous release As We Watch the Years Go….
The band gets going with “I’m Happier Now” which sounds about as cheerful as the title. It’s jazzy, loose and easy to appreciate. The guitars are clean and is supported by a slick drum beat and bubbling bass line. I really enjoyed the opener. It’s a simple song but extremely catchy.
“Back to Work Tomorrow” reminded me of Mac Demarco within the first fifteen seconds. However I felt the vibe and feel changes to almost something more funky when the verse hits. Similar to the opener the song is catchy and infectious.
“You Lost Interest First” is the arguable highlight. The song felt somewhere between The Shins and Johnny Cash. There’s a pretty wicked guitar solo around the one-minute mark that hits all the right notes. They end with the melodic and somewhat ’50s inspired “Not My Thing.” The verse in particular has a ’50s feel but goes into a more indie rock-esque feel when the chorus hits.
The one thing I would like to hear from this band at some point is to get away from the lo-fi bedroom recording aesthetics whether by going in a professional studio or doing it themselves. It can work on some genres but for this EP it doesn’t seem to do it justice. For reference Father, Son, Holy Ghost by Girls might be a good starting point.
This EP was short, fun and an easy but delightful listen. Recommended.
– Matt Jensen
Divide and Conquer
Despite a ragged, DIY-esque production style, One Day You’ll Look Back, the latest EP from Cleveland-based band You’re Among Friends, is driving and full of unexpected twists. It’s chock-full of power-pop disguised as bluesy rock, and the warbling vocals and guitar take on a new life in each track.
One Day You’ll Look Back is nothing if not funky. Although the first track, “I’m Happier Now”, isn’t anything out of the ordinary with its warbling vocals, distorted guitar and warpy melodies come into play on “Back to Work Tomorrow”. The bluesy sound is effortlessly cool, and despite a mellow tempo, there’s a distinct vigor behind every note.
“You Lost Interest First”, however, is full of cheesy pillow-sayings, drily fitting together cliches like puzzle pieces and forming a surprisingly catchy folk song. Sarcastic lyrics like, “Say, if you love something, you’ve gotta set it free” and “But out of sight, out of mind/folks who wander might find themselves lost” should feel tired, but You’re Among Friends adds a new energy to the music, especially with an invigorating guitar solo.
The EP closes on a cynical note; “Not My Thing” blends pessimistic lyrics (“It’s just that smiling is not my thing/Don’t like the sunshine, I like the rain”) with poppy melodies, contrasting the clashing moods. It’s confusing in the best way.
Despite being a band for eleven years–with a rotating cast of characters, of course–You’re Among Friends still maintains the creativity needed to write songs with such an enthralling composition. There’s just enough warping, cynicism, and cool funkiness on the album to shake things up.
– Abby Jeffers
You’re Among Friends is a Cleveland, Ohio-based band who play a laid back style of funky, blues-infused folk rock that just makes you feel good. Following up on their wonderful album As We Watch the Years Go… (which they released in July 2016 and I reviewed last year), they dropped a new EP, One Day You’ll Look Back, at the end of November 2017. It’s a short EP, containing four tracks totaling only ten minutes in length, but it delivers the kind of honest, relatable songs about life and relationships the band does so very well. Making the music are Anthony Doran (lead vocals and guitars), Kevin Trask (bass) and drummer Frank Mirabelli, a recent addition to, and sixth drummer for, the band.
The first track, “I’m Happier Now,” is a pleasant, upbeat tune about the happiness and joy a loved one brings to his life: “I can barely remember what life was like before you arrived. So I know I’m happier now. All I know is that I’m happier now. It’s true.” Anthony’s jangly guitar nicely complements Kevin’s humming bass line, while Frank bangs out the mellow beat on the drums.
The guys get philosophical on the funky “Back to Work Tomorrow,” speaking to the soul-crushing routine of a dead-end job, and advising against letting it define your life. I love the rather cynical lyrics to this song, as I think a lot of us can relate to them:
Work your fingers down to the bone
But in the end what do you have to show for it?
Except a few dollars that you’ve already spent
Because the money rolls out faster than it comes in
Well it’s an uphill battle towards a long decline
If you let your work define your life
If you worry about it you will lose your mind
It’s not like you get paid to think
Time flies, even when you’re not having fun
One day you’ll look back and half your life will be gone
Well that’s all time that you’ll never get back
I hope it was worth it working so hard for the man
“You Lost Interest First” has a country vibe with an infectious bouncy guitar riff and toe-tapping beat. The song’s about a couple who’ve both lost the feelings for each other that initially drew them together. A catchy, uptempo beat belies the somewhat negative sentiments of “Not My Thing.” With a hint of resignation in his voice, Anthony sings:
It’s hard to make me smile
You can try your best but it probably won’t work
It’s not that I’m depressed
I don’t try to be dark, I’m not a jerk
It’s just that smiling is not my thing
Don’t like the sunshine I like the rain
All in all, One Day You’ll Look Back is a nice little EP featuring songs with simple melodies and compelling lyrics that make for a highly pleasurable listen.
– Jeff Archuleta
Eclectic Music Lover
This Cleveland rock band has been described as bluesy power pop, but it sounds to me a little bit like a really loose version of Steely Dan. The jazzy “I’m Happier Now” and funky wah-wah chords on “Back To Work Tomorrow” are worth exploring.
– Aaron Kupferberg
I am happy to announce that my friends are back! You’re Among Friends from Cleveland, Ohio, just came out with a brand new EP called One Day You’ll Look Back. It just came out a few days ago, so it’s fresh off the press and still has that new smell about it! I’ve got three of these new songs that I’m going to share with you. The first one is called “I’m Happier Now,” and I want you to hear how this song swings. This is just a beautiful song. I’m going to follow that with a song called “Not My Thing.” The last song that I am going to play, “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! My hat goes off to them for this great song. Look up You’re Among Friends on Bandcamp to hear this great new music along with all of their past releases!
– Joe Wright
Northern Pirate Radio
Cleveland, Ohio band You’re Among Friends wants their fans – and everyone else for that matter – to feel welcome and comfortable when hearing their music or watching them perform. Comprised of Anthony Doran (lead vocals and guitars), Kevin Trask (bass, keyboards and backing vocals) and Chris Szuch (drums), You’re Among Friends play a laid-back style of funky, blues-infused folk rock that just makes you feel good while being entertained.
You’re Among Friends was born in 2007 when Anthony and Kevin, who’d both played in another band, rechristened it with the new name and began reworking songs from the previous band’s repertoire, all of which had been written by Anthony. When I asked him about how they came up with their band name, he explained:
“Kevin was the one who first suggested ‘You’re Among Friends’ while we were kicking around some ideas for a band name. Around the time we started playing together, Kevin had a roommate who played guitar in a band called ‘Wisconsin.’ At one point, [the state of] Wisconsin was using ‘You’re Among Friends’ as a tourism slogan on their bumper stickers and stuff. So I guess Kevin’s initial idea for our band name was meant to be a subtle nod to his roommate’s band, but I think it was us wanting to be welcoming to listeners and fans that ultimately won me over.”
The band’s had five drummers over the past ten years, and Anthony and Kevin have been through many life changes during that time period as well. Anthony described the bonds that have kept them together as a band:
“Kevin and I have been through a lot together over the years. We’ve watched each other get married, start careers, buy houses, have children, etc. Sadly, we also both had younger brothers who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Over the decade that this band has been around, Kevin and I have gone from being carefree kids in our early twenties to being in our thirties with all sorts of adult concerns, regrets and responsibilities. Oddly enough, we seem more committed than ever to our friendship and making this band work.
Our outlook on playing in this band has changed drastically over the years. We used to take a lot of things very seriously and get all bent out of shape when things didn’t work out exactly the way we planned it. We’ve learned to take it easy and go with the flow, especially when the situation at hand is out of our control. We appreciate all of the opportunities that come our way to be able to share our music with people. We also just thoroughly enjoy playing together. Some groups of guys go bowling or go to ball games together. We go out, drink a few beers and play our songs for people. This isn’t a bad way to hang out with your friends if you can pull it off. Sometimes we even get paid for it!”
Based on the kindness and gratitude Anthony has shown me in our conversations by email, I would definitely like to hang out with him and the band over a few beers.
You’re Among Friends released their debut self-titled album in 2007, a solid effort featuring 11 songs. They followed a year later with a six-track EP In Due Time, then dropped a double-sided single Enjoy Life & Half a Thought in 2010. You can check out these earlier releases on Spotify or Bandcamp. The band took a hiatus in the early 2010s and didn’t play for four years. As Doran explained to Scene Magazine: “There wasn’t a falling out; it just happened. We started to have kids and had a lot going on at that time.”
Once they reconnected in 2015, they began working on a new album As We Watch the Years Go… Seven of the ten songs on the album had previously been written by Anthony and three – “A Way to Get Away,” “Calling Anyone” and “Dreaming of the Past” – were co-written by Anthony and Kevin. As evidenced by its title, the album explores life and the passage of time, and how it’s affected friendships, relationships, and the band itself. Anthony stated that “being able to record those songs for this album in 2016 seemed like we were finally wrapping up unfinished business.” The album’s cover – a photo of a baseball field – is a tribute to their brothers, who both liked the sport, and the album is dedicated to them.
As We Watch the Years Go… was released at the end of July 2016. The band’s previous drummer Adrian Higgins played drums on all the album tracks. Chris Szuch joined the band as the new drummer in July 2016, just in time to play his first show at the band’s CD release party. The band’s music features nimble guitar riffs, anchored by sturdy bass lines and just the right amount of percussion to keep everything moving along smoothly. I hear touches of Steely Dan, Elvis Costello and The Grateful Dead in their sound, and Anthony’s vocals really channel Randy Newman at times.
The album kicks off with “Years Go,” which serves as the title track and really sets the tone for the album. Lively guitar riffs, accompanied by a bluesy bass line and gentle percussion, make for a mellow rock and roll song. The lyrics are upbeat yet nostalgic, addressing the inevitable passage of time that seems to move ever faster as we age: “Remember when we were younger, and the summer seemed to last for years. Now the years are passing, summer moves so fast now. All those days disappear. June turns into July, July turns into August. Soon there is the fall, as pumpkins go to harvest. Then comes the snow, where did the year go? Now I’m an age I never thought I would be. It’s not so bad growing older, because you’re here with me.”
Kevin’s funky bass has a starring role on “Any Day Now,” a song about staying optimistic in the face of life’s adversities, both big and small. Anthony lays down some tasty riffs on this track. Being an irresponsible, immature screw-up is the theme of “Building Bridges to Burn,” while “Dumb Complaints” is an honest admission of a chronic whiner (a song I can identify with, being a whiny-ass complainer myself). Anthony plaintively sings: “I can hear you loud and clear babe, you’re sick of all my complaints./ I complain no matter what’s going on. Reach for the moment, and it’s gone. ‘Cause I wasted it on dumb complaints.”
One of my favorite tracks is the funky “A Way to Get Away,” an ode to the preference for personal freedom rather than romantic entanglements. “Sneak attack, you’re trying to back me against the wall. You got me under siege, but you’ll never get to watch me fall./ I need a way to get away. I’m looking for a way to get away.’ The terrific distorted guitar solo at the end of the song is pure ear candy.
The guys play the blues on “Sour Grapes,” with some nifty Southern blues-rock guitar riffs over Kevin’s buzzing bass line. And the intricate, layered guitar work on “Calling Anyone” is awesome.
Another of my favorite tracks is “Dreaming of the Past,” a melodic ballad that’s a bit of a departure in sound for the guys. The song begins with lovely synth chords that continue throughout the song, overlain by Anthony’s skillful handling of his guitar, proving without a doubt that he’s quite the axeman.
The album closer “Rope” speaks to ridding your life of toxic people who’ve used you and brought you down. “Give them enough rope, maybe they’ll hang themselves. You won’t have to blame yourself anymore. Don’t make another excuse for the way you’ve been used, by all of your so-called friends.” I really like the jangly strummed guitars on this track. But then, I love the guitar and bass on all their songs!
As We Watch the Years Go… is a fun and mellow album that makes you think a little bit about life in all its craziness as you’re enjoying the music.
– Jeff Archuleta
Eclectic Music Lover
Sprinklers watering the grass on a warm summer morning when you first wake up.
– Small Albums
Having already been making music for over a decade, You’re Among Friends is a rock band based in Cleveland, Ohio. Their latest of four releases, an album entitled As We Watch the Years Go…, is a unique blend of blues, power pop and alternative rock and is a great place for new listeners to begin before listening to the band’s earlier works.
Hints of beach rock and traditional rock and roll pepper “Years Go” the album’s opening track. Wistful lyrics are complemented by a host of guitars and percussion instruments, making for a light and bright, yet full, soundscape. The following track “Any Day Now” relies heavily on bass guitar riffs for the song’s rhythmic foundation, which is built upon by percussion, electric guitars and layered vocals.
“Building Bridges to Burn,” a highly melodic and relentlessly emotive song, transitions nicely into “A Way to Get Away,” a laid-back, head-bob-inducing tune that alternates seamlessly between several dynamic structures and rhythmic decisions that make for a truly intriguing listening experience. Next, acoustic guitars take the spotlight in “Dumb Complaints,” a very catchy, swinging ballad that takes cues from blues and folk styles.
The energy of the album peaks in “The Opposite,” a hard-hitting rock song that incorporates harmonic guitar riffs with fast-paced lyrics, steady drums and fast strumming patterns. Although the tempo is slowed down in “Sour Grapes” the energy of the song remains sky-high before becoming slightly more subdued in the more acoustic-based “Calling Anyone,” a tune that gradually crescendos and becomes more and more musically complex as the song progresses.
An electronic synthesizer is featured in the ambient, beautiful “Dreaming of the Past” signaling a slight turn from the band’s characteristic sound. However, this deviation is short-lived, as “Rope,” the final song on the album, returns to the band’s typical instrumentation. Overall, As We Watch the Years Go… 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.
– Andrew Westberry
Divide and Conquer
On an average night, Wilbert’s hosts sublime indie groups like You’re Among Friends… (mentioned in a piece called The Best Places to See Indie Rock in Cleveland)
– Mario McKellop
BAND OF THE WEEK: You’re Among Friends.
MEET THE BAND: Anthony Doran (lead vocals and guitar), Kevin Trask (bass and backing vocals), Chris Szuch (drums).
LETTING THE GOOD TIMES ROLL: Doran was in a band 10 years before forming You’re Among Friends, and Trask joined that band at the very end. Right before the group was to play a show at the Red Parrot in Lorain, the lead singer quit. Doran, the band’s guitarist and songwriter, knew all the lyrics and stepped into that role. The group soldiered on as a trio, eventually rechristening itself as You’re Among Friends. “The band name reflects what we think about playing music together,” says Doran. “We think of it as a way to have a good time. We drink a few beers and then just have fun with it.”
CELEBRATING AN ANNIVERSARY: The group put out a self-titled album in 2007, retooling songs from the previous band that Doran and Trask played in. Though the group will revisit some of the songs for its upcoming 10th anniversary show, Doran says he doesn’t necessarily identify with the tunes. “It’s hard for me to play songs I wrote when I was 17 or 18,” he says. “But that early album and band was a stepping stone.” For the anniversary show, the band also plans to play some new unreleased songs. “We can’t wait to finally have some recordings with Chris Szuch on drums, though,” says Doran. “He’s our fifth drummer, but he also seems to be the best fit that we’ve had musically and personally.” In addition, a keyboardist will make his debut with the guys and join the group for a few songs. “There’s always someone leaving and joining the group,” says Doran, “but that keeps it fun.”
WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: The band took some time off in the early 2010s and didn’t play for four years. “There wasn’t a falling out; it just happened,” says Doran. “We started to have kids and had a lot going on at that time. Before that hiatus started, Kevin’s younger brother passed away and then when my younger brother passed away, we reconnected and bonded over that. [Last year’s As We Watch the Years Go] brings that experience into it.” The disc’s baseball cover art is a tribute to their brothers, who both liked the sport, and the album is dedicated to them. While tragedy informs the content, the songs come off as mid-tempo rock and blues numbers that have an uplifting feel to them. Album opener “Years Go” features a twangy guitar riff and gruff vocals as Doran sings, “We’ll be taking it slow/as we watch the years go.” “I wrote songs that were angrier when I was young,” he explains. “As I get older, I try to draw from the positive side of things.”
– Jeff Niesel
There are a lot of other radio stations, personalities, magazines and critics out there that use really weird words to describe bands. I don’t like to use these big words and blend a whole bunch of adjectives together to explain people’s music. I like to keep it simple. And so, to all you good people out there, You’re Among Friends’ music is simply this: it is happy music. It makes you happy, it keeps you happy. If you’re in a bad mood or feeling down in the dumps or glum, this band’s music is uplifting and takes the clouds away. This is happy music and that’s all there is to it. They are friendly guys. I hope everybody in the Ohio area gets a chance to see these guys! (you can listen to the entire segment by clicking here)
– Joe Wright
Northern Pirate Radio
The prototypical “local band with a lot of heart,” Cleveland’s You’re Among Friends is no stranger to relentless gigging and self promotion around the area. Despite the work ethic, however, the music gives off a much more mellow vibe. Their new record, As We Watch The Years Go…, is rollicking blues at its core with a sugary coating of power pop, doused in more than just a little bit of ’90s alt-rock nostalgia — basically, what 311 would sound like if they tried to write Black Keys songs. The unpretentious innocence of songs like “A Way To Get Away” and “Dumb Complaints” 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.
– Eli Shively
Think: if Graham Parker was from Cleveland!
– Michael Miller
Anthony Doran’s tight singer-songwriter material sounds like a brilliant long-lost Elvis Costello recording.
– Daryl Rowland
You’re Among Friends’ new release is available as a free download for a limited time on Bandcamp. The set includes the Elvis Costello-inspired “Enjoy Life.” The band plans to charge for the music soon, so get it for free while you can.
– Jeff Niesel
CLE rock ‘n’ roll that is reminiscent of Graham Parker.
– Michael Miller
You’re Among Friends is a bluesy power-pop trio. Their new self-titled disc is available now.
– D.X. Ferris
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.
– Vickie Verlie
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