The Fray's Sonic Shift on 'Love Don't Die' Follows 'Dark Time' for the Band

Epic Records
The Fray

The group's first collaboration with fellow Coloradoan Ryan Tedder finds favor on the rock charts... New album "Helios" out Feb. 25

The members of The Fray are in a better place these days -- individually and collectively -- and frontman Isaac Slade is confident fans will hear that on "Helios," the Denver quartet's upcoming fourth album. 

"With the band, whatever we're going through makes its way into the music, whether we like it or not," Slade tells Billboard. "And what we're going through now is pretty great stuff, so it just reflects in the music." 

That includes Slade and drummer Ben Wysocki expecting their first children, while guitarist Joe King is engaged to actress Candice Accola and guitarist Dave Welsh recently married -- a marked difference from the time surrounding 2012's "Scars and Stories," when King and Welsh were in troubled relationships and, Slade says, "it was a real dark time and just in general, as a band, we weren't exactly getting along. That's an understatement."

Some "band counseling" and those improved life situations led to a sunnier disposition as Slade and company began working on the material for "Helios." 

"I think it was one of those things where we all wanted this, but we didn't necessarily know where it was going, and suddenly we're this pretty well-known band and it was a bunch of pressure and everything," Slade explains. "We were just a bunch of punk kids that literally quit our jobs at coffee shops and ice cream shops, and we just had a little whiplash, I think. We had to decide after 10 years if we wanted to keep doing it, and thankfully all four of us over the course of two years had that same conclusion -- 'Y'know what? This IS what I want to do. I do love these songs. I do love these fans, and this beats the hell out of making coffee at five in the morning.'"

"Helios" -- preceded by the single "Love Don't Die," the Fray's first-ever collaboration with fellow Coloradoan Ryan Tedder -- also refreshes the Fray sonically, with producer Stuart Price encouraging the Fray into its most aggressive outing yet. 

"We did have a goal to go to new places -- not necessarily for the sake of it, but we definitely wanted to chase down the songs wherever they seemed to want to go," Slade says. "We just knew if we were going to get in the room with this late 30s British DJ who's done a bunch of stuff with the Killers and Pet Shop Boys and Madonna he was going to push us, and push us he did. Each one of us had new territory we ventured into, whether it was Ben on brand new drum samples or Dave trying to come up with his electric guitar tones on synthesizer or Joe making these 40-track, clean background vocal walls or even me lyrically, just writing about happy stuff that I've never really allowed myself to write 'cause I was terrified to be cheesy or something. So each guy got pushed sonically and lyrically into new territory."

"Love Don't Die" holds at No. 11 on the Hot Rock Songs chart this week, and No. 12 on the Rock Digital Songs tally.

That could help explain why the new material has been going over well during the smattering of shows the Fray has been playing. The group will be part of the Bringing Human Rights Home Concert on Feb. 5 at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, but a full scale tour likely won't start until the spring, according to Slade, to allow for the band births. 

"I think we're going to do a newlywed bus and then a baby bus, a couple of very different buses following the Fray around," says Slade, whose wife is due in February. And he and his bandmates are hoping to be able to outfit the newborns in hometown Denver Broncos championship attire after this weekend's Super Bowl XLVIII.  

"I think we're gonna win it, but I think it's going to be a close game," says Slade. The Fray played during halftime of the AFC Championship Game in Denver, but, he adds, "I'm actually a bit of a Seahawks fan as well My wife's from Seattle, so it's gonna be a tricky game around my house. But I'm confident my marriage is strong. We'll get through it."