Drummer Ben Wysocki talks about recording new music and performing.
By Lauren Ingeno
The Fray seemed to achieve almost instant commercial success after the band’s debut album, “How to Save a Life,” was released in 2005.
The attention may have been a lot for the Denver-based quartet to handle at the time, but after more than a decade playing music together, its members are no longer “in over their heads.”
For the past year, they have been busy recording their fourth album — a follow-up to 2011’s “Scars and Stories” — and those from the George Washington community will be among the first to hear the new music when the Fray headlines Colonials Weekend on Oct. 19.
“This is our fourth record, and we’ve gotten to know ourselves really well — as far as what kind of band we are and how we make music and what kind of songs we like,” said Ben Wysocki, drummer for the Fray.
That level of familiarity has actually allowed the Fray to step out of its comfort zone, and the band is looking forward to watching their audience experience the new music for the first time, Mr. Wysocki said.
He talked to George Washington Today about getting back on stage, collaborating with other songwriters and preparing to visit Washington, D.C.
Q: The Fray just began touring again this month after a one-year hiatus. What has it been like to travel and to be back on stage again?
A: We’ve been in the studio for pretty much the last year working on this new album. And so this month is kind of our first adventure out to test out the new songs, dust ourselves off a little bit and get used to playing onstage again. We spent the better part of last week rehearsing in Nashville. It’s fun to be nervous again, you know? You have this nervous energy around these new songs that haven’t really seen the light of day. Once you reveal them in front of people, it can be a pretty vulnerable thing. But it’s going really well so far, and it’s really exciting for us. And it’s got a sense of urgency now that gets lost over a couple of years when you play the same songs hundreds of times.
Q: So it’s safe to assume that you guys will be playing a lot of new music during Colonials Weekend?
A: Nearly half the show will be new songs, which is cool. It’s fun to play brand new stuff for people, because you can watch them hear something for the first time. We’re so used to fans that are familiar with our music, which is amazing in its own right, but it’s really cool to get those different experiences — to watch them discover something new. So yeah, when we’re there, that’s definitely what’s going to be going on.
Q: Have you finished recording the new album yet?
A: We’re completely done. We’re now doing some artwork for it. We just did a photo shoot a few weeks ago. And so there are way too many emails flying around about who likes what and this and that. But yeah, we’re in that phase now — which is exciting. We’re getting close.
Q: Do you have a release date?
A: We don’t have a release date for the album. It’ll probably be in the middle of January. In just a few days we’re going to put out the first single. It’s called “Love Don’t Die.”
Q: How about D.C.? Has the Fray performed here before? Are you excited to come back to perform at a college campus?
A: Yeah, we love D.C. We’ve been there multiple times. The first couple of times we were in a 15-passenger van with a trailer — way before our tour bus days. When we were touring in a van we had different experiences of cities — we were more intimately connected, as opposed to being in this isolated bus where you just kind of roll in and roll out. So we have some really good memories of D.C.
And yeah, we love playing college shows. There is a different excitement there, when you come on to a campus. I think people feel a sense of pride when you’re on their turf, and we love that.
Q: Speaking of college, you all started playing music together when you were in your early 20s, right?
A: We’ve known each other since way before. We played in multiple different bands throughout high school and stuff like that. Then we kind of went our separate ways for a while. Then just a couple of years after high school, we met back up again. Joe [King] and Isaac [Slade] started writing songs together, and then they pulled Dave [Welsh] and me on about a year later. So we’ve had a long history. But yeah, the Fray, as it is now, came together around 2002.
Q: So it’s been 11 years since then. A decade ago, did you ever imagine that you could ever turn music into a career or that the Fray would experience this much success as a band?
A: We had really high hopes for what it could be. But hopes and reality are two very different things. There was no way we could have guessed that this would turn into what it is now. And there is no way we could have been prepared for it whatsoever. We try to remind ourselves of that every day, so we don’t lose perspective and take it all for granted. It is really amazing. Even when we did dream of doing this for a living, our dream looked nothing like this. Every day we’re surprised and humbled. We have the coolest jobs ever. Our lives are pretty unique, and we’re grateful for it.
Q: What can you tell me about this new album? How does the sound of your new music compare to your songs from the early 2000s? I read that Matthew Thiessen from Relient K helped write some of the new songs?
A: Matt and Isaac did write a couple of songs together that are on this new album. Isaac explored a lot with writing with outside people — friends and different people we’ve met along the way who were really excited about collaborating with us. And for whatever reason, we just weren’t really ready for that until now. And it was a really exciting thing for him to do. He would go to Nashville for a week and go to L.A. for a week and write with these people and come back to Joe and Dave and I with this pile of demos that we would then turn into Fray songs. So that sort of breathed new life into the process. And having that influence from other songwriters was a good way to do it. Because the bones of the song had a different origin, a different attitude, but then we could sort of paint it in the same way that other Fray songs have been painted in the past. So the sound will still be familiar to people, but it has definitely evolved.
That first single, “Love Don’t Die,” I think will surprise people a little bit. This is our fourth record, and we’ve gotten to know ourselves really well as far as what kind of band we are and how we make music and what kind of songs we like. The more we got to know ourselves, the more ready we were to pull ourselves out of a comfort zone and do things a little differently. [For the new album] we worked with an electronics-based producer named Stuart Price, who has done a lot of work with the Killers and Madonna. We had a really amazing time with him, and we really clicked creatively. He basically stretched us into a new place that I know we’re really excited about, and I think fans are going to be excited about it too. We’re so excited to play some new songs for you guys.
The Fray will perform at Colonials Weekend on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 9:00 p.m. in the Charles E. Smith Center. Doors open at 8:00 pm. Tickets range from $35 to $95 and are on sale now. Purchase tickets by visiting the Colonials Weekend 2013 Ticket Page.