Her.ie Chats To... The Fray
Mention indie rock band The Fray and chances are, someone will sing a few chords of How To Save A Life right back at you.
The mammoth single was the title track of the Colorado band’s debut album and became the second best-selling rock song in digital history, as well as being nominated for a Grammy, but drummer Ben Wysocki admits that the song’s phenomenal success has been a double-edged sword for the band.
“It put us on the map and defined us to a lot of different people. In a lot of ways, we wouldn’t be able to have the career that we do if it hadn’t been for that song. It can be tough though because as an artist, you are always trying to move forward. In a lot of ways, that song has been bigger than us… it’s taken on a life of its own,” he explains.
“We just birthed it and let it out into the world and now it’s about how people interact with that song. All in all, it’s still an honour to perform it. We’re proud of it but it’s definitely still a challenge to move on and try and continue to redefine ourselves… not outside of that song but maybe further beyond it.”
Wysocki, with Isaac Slade, Joe King and Dave Welsh, has since released two further albums, The Fray and Scars And Stories, but The Fray’s follow-up efforts have received harsh criticism from some critics who accused the four-piece of sticking to the tried and tested formula of their wildly successful debut.
The band would have previously disputed this, highlighting the fact that they had worked with producers including Brendan O’Brien in an effort to capture a more urgent and live feel in the studio, but Wysocki admits that, with hindsight, “each one of them was a continuation of the previous… in a way that was sometimes unintentional but sometimes it was just what we naturally felt”.
“Through those records, we were getting better as a band and learning more about how to write and how to really make a record in the studio. Scars and Stories was the best version of The Fray that we could come up with at that time but once we came to that point, we were ready to change it up and maybe in some small way redefine what we were doing. In many ways, just for ourselves.”
With Helios, the band enlisted the help of Stuart Price and headed in a more electronic direction in an effort to “get out of our comfort zone”.
Wysocki revealed that the band had been through some “very tough times” at a personal level while working on previous releases but the new album saw a more settled and inspired group of musicians on board, with Slade teaming up with a team of co-writers including Matthew Thiessen and One Republic’s Ryan Tedder.
This injection of fresh influences came as a welcome shake up for The Fray and Wysocki says that with a quicker turnover on Helios “your vision gets a little clearer”.
“We were a bit more decisive and because the turnover was so quick and the process in the studio was really fast, it became clear pretty quick what was working and was not. If something wasn’t working, we just moved on for the sake of momentum. Momentum was a big deal for us, we just wanted to keep the energy high in the studio and keep pushing forward,” he says.
“There’s definitely Fray-isms on this record but I think mainly it’s much more intentional. I think in the past, some of what we had made was a little bit accidental. This time, there’s a little more confidence and intentionality with what we were trying to accomplish. I think Helios is a much more outgoing record that what we’ve done previously.”
One thing that the band was definitely trying to avoid is letting their Christian influences alienate their potential fanbase and the 29-year-old said that the process was “an important balance for us”.
“We all grew up in Christian homes and it’s a big part of who we are but we don’t want that to define us as a band. We don’t want to alienate anybody from the music we make and the label of a ‘Christian band’ can be very alienating for a lot of people. The way that we live our personal lives is one thing but other than that, we just want to make music for as many people as we can so we try to draw a line there.”
The Fray play the Olympia Theatre on Tuesday 23 September and Wysocki says that the band “cannot wait” to bring their new material before an Irish audience.
“We had such a blast last time. Performing in front of people can be both amazing and frightening at the same time because you get such an honest reaction but it’s been amazing, the new songs are super fun to play live and it ends up putting a new energy into the tracks. This is definitely one of our favourite tours, there’s a lot of fresh energy on stage and that’s fun for us.”
Tickets for the gig are priced at €30 and are available from Ticketmaster.ie.