American alternative rock band, The Fray, have been making music together for almost a decade. Three years after their Denver, Colorado start, The Fray reached double platinum success with their début album, How to Save a Life. Their single of the same name, “How to Save a Life,” became internationally successful when it was used as the main promotional song for hit television drama, Grey’s Anatomy.
Right now, the Fray is gearing up for the February 2012 release of their third album, Scars and Stories, by promoting their first single “Heartbeat.” Last Thursday, Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ presented an energetic show with the socially conscientious and earnest alternative band.
The Fray talked about how they got their start in the cover-hungry clubs of Denver, losing money playing “Follow The Queen” with super-producer Brendan O’Brien, and how Kanye West thanked them for their cover of “Heartless.”
The band, often likened to U2, premiered their new single, “Heartbeat,” when they opened for the seminal band. They also opened their set at the Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ with the emotional song.
Much like their musical idols, the Fray was inspired to write “Heartbeat” after meeting an expatriate woman from Rwanda who held the hand of front man Isaac Slade and told him the story of escape from the horrors of her life.
While the horrors of a bad radio interview are not remotely comparable to the those in Rwanda and South Africa, they are substantial enough to invoke a tongue-in-cheek Twitter jab from The Fray to Stryker.
The radio joq joked that he had established his “long” relationship with the band three hours before the show and they threatened pepper spray if the questions were awful.
Fortunately for all involved, Stryker didn’t get pepper sprayed, although the earliest incarnation of The Fray might have had some possible pepper spray enemies while playing in the cover-hungry clubs of Denver. Apparently, the music crowds of Denver were less music-forward a decade ago.
The band elaborated: “Denver was a tough scene. A lot of cover bands. A lot of bars. A lot of people screaming out ‘Freebird.’ We got a lot of crap for playing originals. We got a new mayor who put a lot of money into the music scene.”
Although the band reached immense success in the arguably small time-frame of three years, their initial start was less than glamorous. Slade and rhythm guitarist, Joe King, were scrubbing toilets to pay their first EP although they got an eloquently written nod from Denver’s Westword. Slade told the story:
“We were not touring. We didn’t have any money. Joe and I were scrubbing toilets at this office….the Westword wrote about us…They said it was the ‘Best Song Of The Year To Listen To While Stopped At A Red Light.’”
The elaborately labeled song in question is international smash-hit “How To Save A Life.” After playing “You Found Me,” The Fray played “How To Save A Life,” garnering massive audience excitement.
Some of the audience also got the chance to ask the band a couple of questions–none of them pepper spray worthy. One audience member asked the band where they got their artistic inspiration from. Slade explained that many of their songs are the product of tension.
“For me, to be something that turns into a song, it has to have tension…If it’s just a happy thing, nobody believes it. So it has to be something happy that makes you cry.”
Another audience member asked The Fray what their “most memorable show” was. Like many other artists asked the same question, The Fray said that Red Rocks in Colorado was their favorite show because of the “connection” they felt with their audience.
“My most memorable show was we play three nights at Red Rocks in Colorado and the second night poured rain. And about three people left. And it was dumping rain….You always work to connect with the audience and then suddenly the rain came and we were connected.”
Despite the fractured or isolated imagery implied by their name, The Fray is a band that holds tribute to connection, a feeling definitely fostered in their relationship with super-producer, technical genius behind their new album, and master “Follow The Queen” stud poker player–Brendan O’Brien.
“It was blast, we made in Nashville, at a studio named Blackbird. Brendan just gets the band and he came into our dynamic. And he can tell you what you suck at without making you feel horrible…It was just a blast.”
O’Brien helped the band from sounding like the product of an “advertising agency”–a goal that the commercially popular band never has in mind when “whatever’s happening in life is what comes out in our music.”
The Fray are definitely not as product-placed as Black Eyed Peas lead singer, Fergie, whom the band lost an award to over her song “My Humps.”
“I’ll be pissed only if Fergie is #1 and we’re not. Nothing against her. She’s lovely. I think I just have this little bitter thing in my heart because we lost to ‘My Humps’…we’re working through that in therapy…letting it go.”
Although they are, thankfully, not letting go of their stylish alternative pop-rock sound and aren’t hesitant to esteem other “pop” artists like Kanye West.
For their fourth (and unplanned) song, The Fray played a cover of West’s “Heartless”–a cover that they weren’t totally prepared to play but that has received compliments from the songwriter himself.
“Kanye came up to me and said, “Thank so much for covering ‘Heartless.’…and then he shuffled off into the darkness.”