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 at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at CODA. Wayward Blues & Co. and Adrienne Leska share the bill.
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 has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]