Spotlight Report had the chance to talk to Isaac from The Fray about all things 2014. The four piece band, consisting of Isaac Slade (vocals), Joe King (guitar, vocals), Dave Welch (lead guitar) and Ben Wysocki (drums) who make up The Fray. After having a long running successful career with hits like ‘How to Save A Life’ and ‘Over My Head (Cable Car)’, the guys are back with their debut single ‘Love Don’t Die’ from their upcoming fourth album.
In chilly New York City, Isaac took the time to share with us some of his personal triumphs on the album, v’s new album direction and the personal milestones of the band – from getting married to having their first child.
SR. The sound on the new single is so different from anything we’ve heard on the first three albums – what inspired this change?
IS. A lot of things but I mean really the principal that you either evolve or you die, and we wanted to not die.
I think now that we are on our fourth record we really need change and to take more risks. I was excited to find that producer to really push us. We found this guy Stuart Price and he is an awesome mid thirties British DJ that tried his hand at producing and has been really successful at it – he has worked with Madonna, The Killers and the Pet Shop Boys and a bunch of other artists that we really like. He just pushed the hell out us, all the way to the edge, we fell off and we had to climb back up. He really succeeded in getting all four of us to do things brand new – process wise, vocal wise, lyric wise, reality wise and everything. He really got us to question everything and figure out the core of who we are and than change everything else.
SR. Would you say that the new single than sets the tone for what we can expect from the rest of the album?
I love catching people’s ear for good or for bad
IS. I don’t know if it is actually. We were talking the other day, we really like the song and we love putting a strikingly different song out there. Even if everybody hated it, I would love the reaction. So many people just put their songs and everybody just shrugs their shoulders and goes ‘Meh, next’ but I love catching people’s ear for good or for bad, for if it sounds like us or if it doesn’t sound like us but I think the record stuff is actually a lot more electronic. There are bits and pieces of electronic in our ‘Love Don’t Die’ song, but for the most part I think when I listen to the record as a whole, it’s defiantly more club heavy than anything we have ever done, which is really exciting.
SR. So the new album comes out in February next year, what else can we expect from it?
IS. I think we have kind of carved out a mix for ourselves – being kind of a heavy, dark band. You know trying to write songs that are released with the intention of good and bad, sadness, fear, hope and love and everything like that kind of all rolled into one. This record is more of that for sure but it does have a new brightness to it that, not a lot of stuff that we have done has had and honestly don’t think we have ever been better. Personally we just try to write real songs and have real snapshots of who we really are.
Personally we just try to write real songs and have real snapshots of who we really are
You know we started The Fray in the middle of our 20s, in our identity crisis, trying to figure out who we are and what we are doing on earth. If you listen to those records in order you hear an emerging person – there’s four people in each song but it’s almost as though you hear this emerging person questioning themselves and fearing the worst and than facing it, than finding that the sun still comes up the next day, no matter how hard it was. This fourth record is kind of that sun coming up the next day. There is a casualness and light heartedness to it and a fun aspect of The Fray that I don’t think we ever even known was there.
SR. Can we expect any more vocal solos from Joe on this one?
IS. Actually no, he doesn’t have any songs that he sings on this one but he did go full board for the background vocals. He recorded the craziest, most amazing vocals behind every single vocal I did, he did like 40 vocals- Queen style, just stacks and stacks and stacks of huge choirs. So really Stuart really pushed Joe on the vocals to go to new places.
SR. So far none of your albums have included any collaborations – is there a reason for this? Is that something you think you maybe interested in doing in the near future?
IS. There really isn’t an actual reason for it, we have talked about it a lot and we than we would start talking to somebody but than we’d run out of time or we never really got around to it. There’s no collaborations on this new record as far as people singing on it but we are quite open to it. We tried getting a few people on this one but we just ran out of time. We did, however, open up to writing songs with other writers on this record. We have never done that before because we really wanted to establish our sound and kind of our name on our terms, doing it ourselves before we started collaborating with other people. Maybe we could have done it sooner, but it was defiantly part of our thought process and we were asked for our fourth record and we were just really excited about sitting down with those professionals and write song, after song, after song – day after day after day. It was incredible; it turned out to be 35 songs in about four months or even 3 months.
we really wanted to establish our sound and kind of our name on our terms, doing it ourselves before we started collaborating with other people
I have never had that much output, we just showed up and worked – it was great. So in a sense, none of the songs say featuring such and such like a hip-hop album or something but every single song was co written with somebody that we have never written with, so actually it’s the most collaborative album we have ever made.
SR. And do you like that process better – the collaborative writing process, that is?
IS. I don’t know if I like the collaborative process better but I love it, I love doing it. I want to do it again. It was incredible, maybe because where we are at in our career or maybe it’s the people we ended up writing with but there is so much talent and skill out there in the pop music world specifically that I was shocked. It was such an honour to work with these people that really know what they are doing. I was just stuck, there was a point in every single song that I was just stuck and threw up my hands and just said ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ or ‘I don’t really like it’ or something like that and the person I was writing with would just say, ‘It’s alright, let’s just keep writing’ and we would just push through. The things we would get stuck on just became the huge chorus that worked out perfectly and we would have never figured it out if we hadn’t got stuck and taken that left turn. So I learned so much and I defiantly want to do it again.
SR. So last time you were here with Kelly Clarkson on her tour – Any plans to do any of your own headlining tours in Australia next time?
we have played Australia so many times; clearly we just love it
IS. I hope so, man, I really want to. We really love touring in Australia. Statistically, it’s our second biggest market outside of the U.S, so the record label has been a huge support to us down there, and management is always trying to get us down there. A lot of the times it’s hard to get to markets that are on the other side of the water. But we have played Australia so many times; clearly we just love it. I liked how it worked out last time with Kelly because we were touring with her in the U.S and she had a headline tour down there so we just kept playing and jumped on her tour. I would like to come back next time on our own tour, our production and fans and do it up. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it by the end of next year, around late summer, early fall but defiantly coming down as soon as we can.
SR. You did play an intimate sideshow in Sydney last time you were here – in general do you prefer playing the bigger arena shows or smaller venues?
IS. We try to do both every record. We try to do the big shows to get as many people as possible to play our songs for, because I love that energy. You know like opening for U2, you’ve got to see what that looks like, playing in front 50,60 or even 70 thousand people. It becomes a whole different animal. Then there’s playing the really intimate stuff and you are up close and personal. I can turn my head and smile and everybody is just looking at me; it has such a purpose to it. It’s so intimate, I almost can’t get enough of it, so we try to do a good balance of both. You know like when we are warming up the record we’ll play a bunch of smaller clubs and then move on to arenas – so that way we can give everybody a chance. We give the introverts a chance to come to the quiet, small shows and the extroverts the chance to come to the big ol’ arena shows.
SR. Your music has been used in so many movies and T.V. shows, I mean ‘How to Save A life’ was huge, partially because of the exposure it was given on Grey’s Anatomy, if you could write a song for any TV show or movie, which would it be and why?
IS. Oh, that’s a good question. There was a TV show called ‘The West Wing’ that I’m obsessed with. It’s not on anymore, it stopped airing. Oh my gosh, I’m obsessed with it. If I could rewind and write a song for that show I would love to do that. I think as far as movies go, I am a big Steven Spielberg fan but there are plenty of really cool directors that probably nobody have ever heard of that make incredible movies that I love. But I’m really curious about the really big Hollywood directors that have everybody’s ear, and what they do with that kind of platform. You know, because some people when they get really famous and have million dollar budgets, they just blow everything up and try and impress everybody, and their movies make tonnes of money but Spielberg has just held onto his story telling craft for decade, after decade and that is hard to do.
Not a lot of people manage to balance the art and business of what they do, and Spielberg has done a really good job at it. So if ever I got a chance to write a song for a Spielberg film, I would jump on it.
SR. Because you guys have been friends and band mates for so long you must have pretty crazy tour moments- do you have any that you can share?
IS. There is many that I cannot share but some that I can though. We were touring in the U.K one time, and they give double Decker tour buses over there, so there is a whole bunch of beds upstairs, and a whole bunch of party downstairs. So we would just play a show, normally we are used to drive 8 hours, 9 hours or even 10 hours, going from Boston to Philadelphia or even longer all the way out to Kansas. We go to bed after the show, and you wake up and you’re still driving – 11 hours later. So when we got to England the drives were like 40 mins from Devonshire to Westonshire, so we’d get off the stage and have about 8 hours to do nothing – between 11pm and 7 am the next morning, so we would just discover every pub we could. On Halloween, we all dressed up in Nottingham, we dressed up as Robin hood from the Nottingham boys – and we got big ol’ costumes and outfits. So we hit the town, and went to as many pubs as we could and our wives were out with us. It was pretty incredible, that was probably my favourite three-week period in this band where I just hit the clubs hard and drank as my Guinness as possible.
SR. Finally, other than the new album, what does The Fray have in store for the New Year?
IS. We have a lot actually, the album is coming out right around the same time as our drummer having his first child, which will be interesting waters to try navigate, which is around mid Feburary. My wife and I are having our first baby in March, we are trying to figure out how to raise a kid on the road and all that. Joe is getting married actually. He met this incredible women named Candice, she lives in Atlanta so they are going to have a big old’ wedding in October and we are doing a big summer tour in the States and Canada in May, June and July – I think. So we are going to have a pretty big, busy year.
Their new single ‘Love Don’t Die’ is out now – and their fourth album ‘Helios’ is expected to be released in Australia in February 2014.