Piano rock giants The Fray are dropping their long-awaited third full-length 2/7 on Epic Records. Baeble is going to be releasing some exclusive work we've done with the group chronicling "A Day in the Life" of the band. We also had the chance to interview lead singer Isaac Slade who graciously answered our questions on everything from the pitfalls of working in the mainstream music industry to the self-doubt that plagued him while working on his first two albums to the frustrations of often being singled out as a "Christian" artist. Laid back and easy going, Slade showed that the sincerity and genuineness that shines through in the Fray's music crosses over into his real-world persona as well.
Debuting with as much success as the Fray would cause even the most confident performer to fret about future releases. The Fray's debut album, How to Save a Life, peaked at #14 on the Billboard 200 and went double platinum. It spawned two massively successful singles, and the "How to Save a Life" single is tied for the sixth longest charting single on Billboard's Hot 100. Their self-titled follow up debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and went gold. Yet, despite such impressive feats to live up to, Slade seems more confident in the band's music than ever before.
"The first record was full of fear" Slade explained and the band was worried that this was the only chance they were going to have to get their music out. By the time The Fray LP was released, their new concern was hitting a "sophomore slump." Slade was quick to state that now the band is just concerned about "releasing a bad-ass third record." The first two albums were built out of Slade's need for "everybody to like me" and a "nice guy shell" he says he had growing up. He's able to say, "I trust my instincts a lot more now". Rather than trying to please everyone else, Isaac Slade and the rest of the Fray are simply making music for themselves now.
Much of the Fray's carefully driven piano rock/pop sound has been compared to the British piano acts like Keane and the mega-successful Coldplay, and while Isaac Slade says he enjoys those bands and that there are "much worse comparisons to have," he also offered up some surprising insights into the bands he felt had the most influence on himself and the other members of the Fray. Slade talked about heavily being into "late '90s college rock" and acts like Counting Crows, Better than Ezra, Pearl Jam, Tori Amos, Wilco, and Bush. Modern experimental rocker Gotye also got a mention from Slade as a more current act that he has been listening to.
Although the Fray don't make any overtly religious music, the band's past heavy involvement with churches in their local Denver has often led to the Fray being pegged as a "Christian" band. While Slade says the mainstream music industry has never tried to force him and his bandmates into a particular niche market, "the Christian market does. They try to sink their teeth into us." but since the band doesn't "sing about Jesus," they've managed to avoid that label. Slade was frustrated that the press seem to only be obsessed with rock acts that are Christian. Slade knows artists that are Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim but only the Christian artists seems to get pegged and specifically talks about how no one talks about the Killers' religion (Brandon Flowers is Mormon). Slade simply wants "to be loved or hated based on our music", not the band's religion.
Scars and Stories features a darker and more aggressive feel than the Fray's previous two albums, as well as more prominent guitar pieces. Discussing some of the real-world inspirations for this new record, Slade regaled us with tales of getting lost by about 500 miles with his wife and simply not caring ("48 to Go") as well as more heady subject matter such as a philosophical connection between reading about the Large Hadron Collider while in Germany and how this search for the God particle (Higg's Boson) and its ability to hold everything in the universe together is related to his inability to sufficiently explain his attraction to his wife ("Munich"). The steady rejection process and the toll it took on Isaac (as well as the way it made him toughter) also led to this more mature and introspective sound.
During his time touring, Slade has had chances to interact with one of the biggest names in the music world (U2 who they toured with) and one of the biggest names in American politics (President Bill Clinton). While touring with U2, the Fray was taught an important lesson by U2's spiritual advisor who talked about how despite being one of the most successful bands in the history of popular music, U2 "never talks about being bigger. They talk about being better." That has become Isaac Slade's outlook on the future success of the Fray. They don't want "to get more vanilla" or "stop trying." Slade said "if bigger comes, I'll take it," but the band's focus is simply on being better, not making more money or playing bigger venues.
With the last-minute cancellation of Bryan McKnight, the Fray also had the chance to play at Hillary Clinton's birthday party, where Isaac Slade managed to embarrass himself in front of the former POTUS. Noticing that President Clinton was wearing an old and worn-out friendship bracelet on his hand, Slade made a friendly, jesting comment to the President about the bracelet. After the President smirked and walked away, Slade was pulled aside by Chelsea Clinton who explained that it was a bracelet given to the President by a survivor of the Serbian wars in Sarajevo and that President Clinton had refused to take it off even when going in for his open heart surgery.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the interview was Slade's advice for all of the aspiring musicians. "If at all humanly possible, don't do music for a living," Slade warned. "I love it. So glad I do it," Slade continued but he contends that playing music for fun rather than professionally keeps you "pure," "innocent," and "awesome." Doing it for a living exposes you to the "very, very murky waters of the entertainment industry." Though if you insist on pursuing it for a career, Slade says to just keep at it and keep working.