In 2003, a group of young men from Chandler were driving back from summer school. On the spot, they decided to start a band.
Seven years later, Anarbor scored their first mainstream hit, “Let the Games Begin," from their first studio album The Words You Don't Swallow
released in 2010. This song was used daily on ESPN's SportsCenter
and on the MTV reality series The Hills
. Just a year before that they contributed a track for the movie Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins
called “You and I.”
Although the latter song was a needle drop on the soundtrack, it solidified their appeal to young rock fans of the time.
This week, the band is celebrating nearly two decades in the music business with a new album that will be released Friday, September 2. It’s their fourth in-studio effort.
Titled Love & Drugs
, this 11-track collection is a transformation of sorts from the soft punk band that started out playing to become the pop alternative masters they are today.
One of the songs from the album, called “Letter in a Suitcase,” best exemplifies this transition. With a smooth intro and almost ballad-like landscape, the hook broadsides the listener with an unexpected hard-edge dance beat and distorted vocals, perfectly counterbalancing the melancholy nature the lyrics convey.
This duality honors their earlier fan base while giving new listeners an introduction to their adopted mainstream sound.
Lead singer Slade Echeverria of Anarbor.
Today, the band is comprised of lead vocalist and bassist Slade Echeverria, 32, with guitarist Danny Stravers, 30. Echeverria says the changeup in sound is intentional, but he still doesn’t want to forget those who have been there since the beginning.
“We wanted to kind of give a shout to some of our older fans,” Echeverria recently told Phoenix New Times
about the song’s composition. “Of course, we get the ‘you guys don't sound the same anymore — we like your old stuff better,’ and it's like, we gotta grow in some way, we can't just stay the same.”
And they haven’t stayed the same. Not by a long shot. Originally the band consisted of five members, then four, including Adam Juwig and William Wilson. Past band members were Jess Myers, Dave Melillo, Mike Kitlas, Greg Garrity, and Tyler Hedstrom. Sadly, Hedstrom died in 2017. Their original band name was Troop 101, a title stolen from a box of cookies.
“We were all just little kids,” Echeverria says. “And we were eating Girl Scout Cookies. And, on the box, there is this troop blah blah blah. And we were like, 'Oh well, let’s name our band Troop 101.' We just needed a number and Troop 101 was it.” That moniker lasted for about three years until the band members started to get serious about what they were doing, and labels were becoming interested in signing them.
The band got together over AIM Messenger (the social media of the time) and threw out some new names. “We wanted something that wasn't a word, that kind of stuck with you with one word,” recalls the singer. “Anarbor was one of them.” It’s a stylization of the name Ann Arbor; a city located in Michigan. However, they have no ties there.
Nevertheless, the band has a following, and whether its name is Troop 101 or Anarbor, it has a strong presence in Phoenix. Echeverria admits the group could have seen more success had it released record after record over the years, but he’s happy with the casual path that was taken.
“We still have plenty of success and I wouldn't take it back for anything,” he says. “The road itself is a struggle, but I think the reason why it all happens is because of the fans and listeners. I could have put this down a long time ago and just not done it, and kind of gone on with my life. But there's a demand for the band and I am extremely blessed and lucky that I can do this. So yeah, I wouldn't take it back, for sure.”
Love & Drugs
Danny Stravers (left) and Slade Echeverria of Anarbor.
is another example of that perseverance. Although it’s only Echeverria and Stravers now, the freedom to experiment with new compositions and musical styles is a natural progression from their initial sound. The singer thanks his parents for some of it because part of this album is inspired by their love of '80s radio. That influence and his own alternative tastes are what 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,” says the singer. “I literally love to dissect those songs because back then they didn't have anything that we had. It was all just such a more organic process, which I just love. And that's almost all of my inspiration is from the '80s and '90s and a little bit of early 2000s.”
Anarbor's Love and Drugs will be released on Friday, September 2.
Anarbor album cover image
As for the title of the album, Love & Drugs
, it has nothing to do with the band’s constitution. It’s more of a metaphor.
“We kind of just based it off of growing up,” Echeverria says. “The struggles of going through relationships and getting through life. And when it comes to the drug part, we're not really talking about doing any type of drugs,” he says, explaining that the word could mean anything; whatever one’s vice is, including love. “It's just the daily struggle, daily battle and it doesn't have to be … 'cause love is amazing.”
Anarbor is keeping a low profile for now, leaving the Friday release of the album (that will be available across all digital service providers) to do most of the footwork. They will perform at the album release party on Saturday, September 3, at Valley Bar (130 North Central Avenue).
Echeverria says Anarbor also have a gig on October 21 in Las Vegas at the When We Were Hungry
festival, and they are also doing 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,” the singer admits. “I don't think I can do it anymore, dude. Unless it’s like a tour with some big band, and it's worth it. I just don't know if I can sit in a bus or a van anymore for 30 days. I’m too old. I got kids and stuff now.”
Tickets for the Love & Drugs
album release party are $18-$20 (plus a $5.02 service fee) on the Valley Bar
website. Doors will open at 7 p.m., and the show is at 7:30.