Veteran Local Drummer Helped Shape the Songs on the New You’re Among Friends Album

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click to enlarge Veteran Local Drummer Helped Shape the Songs on the New You’re Among Friends Album
Courtesy of You're Among Friends
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.”

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About The Author

Jeff Niesel

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]
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