On Jan. 20, Chart Beat sat down with the Fray's Isaac Slade and Joe King before the band's performance at the iHeartRadio Theater presented by P.C. Richard & Son in New York.
The Denver-based quartet, rounded out by Dave Welsh and Dan Wysocki, performed at the venue (in conjunction with Clear Channel Media and Entertainment's iHeartRadio platform) to preview its new album, "Scars & Stories," out today (Feb. 7). The set is expected to storm the top 10 of next week's Billboard 200 album chart.
The affable Slade and King discussed the new album (featuring first single "Heartbeat," No. 11 on Adult Pop Songs), the band's 10th anniversary and how, sadly, even their own family members may not be the biggest Fray fans.
Billboard: The producer on "Scars & Stories" is Brendan O'Brien, who's known for working with such harder rock bands as AC/DC, Incubus and Pearl Jam. Does the album mark a new sound for the Fray?
JK: Once we started to compile the album's list of songs, we started to kick around producers. We didn't necessarily say, 'Let's have more guitars.' It's just, we wanted the sound 'big.' We wanted the record to sound big enough for the back row.
We were even able to test out some of these songs when we toured with U2 last year and it was the best way to see if a song fell flat. And, several of them did (laughs).
Brendan O'Brien just seemed to be a good fit for us. We wanted a guy who was decisive and could push us and he definitely did that.
Billboard: What was touring with U2 like?
IS: Touring with U2's a funny thing because you get swallowed up in the machine a little bit. It's a whole production with hundreds of people and hundreds of semi trucks.
Somehow in the midst of it all we got that sense that the four of them remain human.
JK: Thinking back to our first U2 show in Denver ... I have two little girls, and they love coming to shows, but they don't know who U2 is; they know who Taylor Swift is.
But, they came out to the show and one of my girls is on my shoulder and watching the U2 set. Right in the middle of it, she leans down and says, 'Daddy, why is U2 so much cooler than the Fray?'
IS: It's a question we've been wondering for some time ...
JK: It was a good moment, like, ok, the burst of the bubble. Daddy's not the biggest rock star in the world. For sure.
Billboard: From Ryan Tedder and OneRepublic to 3OH!3 to the Fray, so much hit music is coming out of Denver. What's the secret?
JK: The Governor puts a little creative drop in the water. Sometimes Ryan gets it, sometimes we get it ...
IS: Denver used to be all sports bars. We would play an original song and just get crucified, everybody screaming for a ZZ Top song that we'd never heard of.
In 2003 or 2004, the scene started shifting and local music started being promoted on local stations more and the press started covering local music a little more seriously.
Some songs started coming out of this little mountain town of Denver. A bunch of bands got signed to major labels within two years ... Flobots, Devotchka, us. The scene was just happening.
It still is.
Billboard: Featured on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scrubs," "How to Save a Life" became a hit before synching became as common as it is now. Do you feel that you helped start a trend that has become so prevalent in how music is now promoted?
JK: We were worried at first. We didn't know if we were 'selling out' or if TV was a credible format for our music to be on.
Then we started seeing acts like Wilco and Ryan Adams working with major corporations and it was just like, alright, artists just need to get music out nowadays. There's no right or wrong now.
Billboard: The Fray is celebrating 10 years as a band this year. What's the ride been like?
JK: Ten years, do you believe that? ... Are we old now?
IS: Ten years ago we wanted to quit our jobs. Joe was working at an auto body shop. I had a little gig at a coffee shop and was still at my parents' house.
My girlfriend at the time, who finally agreed to marry me, confessed years later that she never thought we'd actually make it. She thought it would be a phase, like, 'Oh yeah, Isaac's band phase ...'
Then, two years into it, she started getting the sense that we were going to be doing this for awhile.
You know, there are hard parts to it, but, by and large, it's the best job we've ever had. It's a dream job.