Meaning Of Fray: Weary. Cause Friction. Fight
A group's name can often be a joke or it can be quite revealing. When somebody calls themselves The Fray it can only mean things regularly come undone.
Renewing their friendship after bumping into each other at a local music store in '02, Denver residents Isaac Slade (vocals/piano) and Joe King (guitar/vocals), began writing songs. Dave Welsh (guitar) and Ben Wysocki (drums) were next to join. Slade's brother Caleb also became a member but he was ousted after a brief tenure. The first fray. The sibling conflict eventually provided the inspiration for the band's breakthrough hit "Over My Head (Cable Car)." The band decided to continue without a full-time bassist using Jimmy Stoffer for touring.
The fray continued as band members fought regularly and intensely over lyrics and other song elements. This argumentative tendency led directly to their name.
"Over My Head (Cable Car)" earned local airplay. This got the band noticed by Epic Records who signed them. But before their debut, "How To Save A Life," arrived in September of '05, The Fray opened for Weezer and Ben Folds.
Here is where the music business gets unpredictable and fun. "Over My Head (Cable Car)" barely broke the Top 40 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart in September. But, oddly enough, the track didn't fade away. The song gained national airplay landing on the Billboard chart in February of '06, where it amazingly continued to rise for 12 weeks before peaking at #8.
Second single, the title track, also took an unusual trajectory. "How To Save A Life" was featured on two T.V. medical shows (figures), one a comedy - Scrubs; and the other a drama - Grey's Anatomy.
The Fray's debut sold over 2-million copies in the U.S. They won some awards and were nominated for others. '06 saw The Fray issue "Live At The Electric Factory: Bootleg No. 1" and "Acoustic In Nashville: Bootleg No. 2." The latter could only be purchased at Target and the iTunes Music Store. They finished the year with live cover of John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." The track landed on the Billboard 100 - doing better than the original.
Aaron Johnson and Mike Flynn, the team that produced The Fray's debut returned for the group's sophomore effort. The lead single, "You Found Me," was used in a commercial to promote the ABC show Lost (played during Grey's Anatomy). The group's self-titled sophomore set arrived in early '09.
The Fray collaborated with Timbaland on his album, "Shock Value II," prior to releasing the "Christmas" EP as a free download on the band's official website. There were five acoustic covers of popular Christmas carols ("Oh Come Oh Emmanuel," "Silent Night," "Noel," "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" and "Away In A Manger"). Then The Fray recorded a cover of "Take Your Time" for the "Listen To Me: Buddy Holly" tribute album.
The group's third album "Scars And Stories," was produced by Brendan O'Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine) and recorded in Nashville. "Sonically, we wanted to make this record sound as close as possible to the live shows," Slade stated in an interview with the Colorado Daily.
In addition to his guitar duties King also contributed bass on several tracks. Originally scheduled to drop around Thanksgiving '11, "Scars And Stories" didn't arrive until the following January.
Led by the single "Love Don't Die," The Fray's '14 release, "Helios;" debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200.
2005 How To Save A Life
2009 The Fray
2012 Scars And Stories
On "How To Save A Life" The Fray sound like a Wallflowers variant or maybe they're just Train taking No-Doz and washing it down with De-Caf.
The Fray are mid-tempo popsters. Calling them Alt. Rockers is a silly joke. Lyrics are a big deal here. But The Fray lack Jakob Dylan's (Wallflowers) inherited and well-developed sense of image and wordplay. However, they do display a genuine sincerity.
"Over My Head (Cable Car)" wears well. It's easy to see why the track took so long to resonate and how it was able to hang around long enough until it did.
"How To Save A Life" is straight-ahead piano pop. The Fray also delves into acoustic ballads which they perform in a heartfelt manner. King and Slade actually sound like they are listening to what they're singing.
Considering the success of their debut, there wasn't any need or desire, at least of their label's part, for any major re-tooling on "The Fray." This effort has finely crafted pop songs that benefit from dense arrangements reminiscent of Oasis.
The mid-tempo "You Found Me" has a lethal pop hook that sounds effortless. Of course, if it was so easy why do countless other bands fail at the very same thing? The uptempo "Where The Story Ends" and the acoustic guitar album closing "Happiness" show The Fray can escape the piano ballad template at will.
"Scars And Stories" reiterates The Fray's pop tendencies. Great melodies, by-the-book arrangements and vocals with just enough emotion to work, are the band's stock and trade. As such, there are a lot of ballads - some good ("48 To Go" and "Rainy Zurich") and some okay (the rest). The album opens with the catchy "Heartbeat" which leads to a pair of appealing uptempo tracks, "The Fighter" and "Turn Me On." "The Wind" and "1961," which has a touch of twang, are the other keepers.
"Love Don't Die" is easily the best track on "Helios" but it's not alone. "Give It Away" and "Closer To Me" also tout The Fray's finely honed song structure and arranging sensibilities. The litmus test comes on the inevitable piano ballad "Break You Plans." It succeeds both as a song and as a performance, thanks mostly to Slade.