In 2003, a group of young men from Chandler were returning from summer school. On the spot, they decide to form a group.
Seven years later, Anarbor scored their first mainstream hit, “Let the Games Begin,” from their debut studio album. The words you don’t swallow released in 2010. This song was used daily on ESPN sports center and on the MTV reality series The hills. Just a year before they contributed a track for the film Scooby-Doo! The mystery begins called “You and me”.
Although the latter song was a drop in the bucket on the soundtrack, it furthered their appeal to young rock fans of the time.
This week, the group celebrates nearly two decades in the music business with a new album, which will be released on Friday, September 2. This is their fourth studio effort.
Title Love & Drugsthis 11-track collection is something of a transformation from the soft punk band that started playing to become the alternative pop masters they are today.
One of the songs on the album, entitled “Letter in a Suitcase”, best illustrates this transition. With a smooth intro and almost ballad-like scenery, the hook hits the listener with an unexpected hard-edge dance beat and distorted vocals, perfectly counterbalancing the melancholy nature conveyed by the lyrics.
This duality honors their old fan base while giving new listeners an introduction to their adopted mainstream sound.
Today, the band consists of vocalist and bassist Slade Echeverria, 32, with guitarist Danny Stravers, 30. Echeverria says the change in sound is intentional, but he still doesn’t want to forget who’s been there all along.
“We kind of wanted to shout out to some of our older fans,” Echeverria said recently. Phoenix New Times on the composition of the song. “Of course we hear the ‘you don’t sound the same anymore – we like your old stuff better’, and it’s like we have to grow up somehow, we can’t just stay the same.”
And they didn’t stay the same. Not by far. The band originally consisted of five members, later four, including Adam Juwig and William Wilson. Former band members were Jess Myers, Dave Melillo, Mike Kitlas, Greg Garrity and Tyler Hedstrom. Sadly, Hedstrom passed away in 2017. Their original band name was Troop 101, a title stolen from a box of cookies.
“We were just little kids,” Echeverria says. “And we were eating Girl Scout cookies. And, on the box, there is this troupe blah blah blah. And we were like, ‘Well, let’s call our group Troop 101.’ We just needed a number and troop 101 provided it. This moniker lasted about three years until the band members started taking what they were doing seriously and labels started showing interest in signing them.
The group reunited on AIM Messenger (the social media at the time) and launched new names. “We wanted something that wasn’t a word, that sticks to a word,” recalls the singer. “Anarbor was one of them.” It is a stylization of the name Ann Arbor; a city located in Michigan. However, they are unrelated.
Nonetheless, the group has a following, and whether its name is Troop 101 or Anarbor, it has a strong presence in Phoenix. Echeverria admits the band could have been more successful had they released record after record over the years, but he’s happy with the laid-back path that’s been taken.
“We still have a lot of success and I wouldn’t take it away for the world,” he says. “The road itself is a struggle, but I think the reason all of this is happening is because of the fans and the listeners. I could have put this down a long time ago and not done it, and moved on with my life. But there’s a demand for the band and I’m extremely blessed and lucky to be able to do it, so yeah, I wouldn’t be pulling it out, that’s for sure.
Love & Drugs is another example of this perseverance. Although it’s now just Echeverria and Stravers, the freedom to experiment with new compositions and musical styles is a natural progression from their initial sound. The singer partly thanks his parents for this because part of this album is inspired by their love of 80s radio. This influence and his own alternative tastes make this new album a personal breakthrough.
“I have 80s pop on my playlist, and when I’m in my car listening to the radio, I listen to 80s,” the singer explains. “I literally love dissecting these songs because at the time they had nothing of what we had. It was just so much more of an organic process, which I love. And that’s almost all my inspiration that comes from the 80s and 90s and a bit of the early 2000s.”
As for the title of the album, Love & Drugs, it has nothing to do with the constitution of the group. It’s more of a metaphor.
“We kind of based it on growing up,” Echeverria says. “The difficulties of going through relationships and going through life. And when it comes to the drug part, we’re not really talking about doing any kind of drug,” he says, explaining that the word can mean anything; whatever his vice, including love. “It’s just the daily struggle, the daily battle and it doesn’t have to be… because love is amazing.”
Anarbor is keeping a low profile for now, leaving the album’s Friday release (which will be available on all digital service providers) to do most of the traveling. They will perform at the album launch party on Saturday, September 3 at Valley Bar (130 North Central Avenue).
Echeverria says Anarbor also has a concert on October 21 in Las Vegas at the When we were hungry festival, and they also do a guest spot with a band called The Higher in November. Beyond that, a full-scale album tour isn’t in the cards.
“I’ll be honest,” admits the singer. “I don’t think I can do it anymore, man. Unless it’s like a tour with a big band, and it’s worth it. I just don’t know if I can still sit in a bus or van for 30 days. I am too old. I have kids and stuff now.
The tickets for the Love & Drugs album release party is $18-20 (plus a $5.02 service charge) on the valley bar website. Doors will open at 7 p.m. and the show at 7:30 p.m.