Kate's Notes

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Fray

The Fray

The Fray (born 2002) was formed by schoolmates Isaac Slade and Joe King as a four-piece piano, rock band in the sleepy sprawl of America's Mile-High City, Denver, Colorado. Their melodic pop-rock songs and soaring vocals resonate with their tales of hopefulness and heartache. On their debute album, How to Save a Life released in 2005, they found a hit with their first single from that album of the same name, which charted the #3 of the Billboard Hot 100 and was a top 5 single in Canada, Australia, Ireland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The song also fit right in with the theme of the hit television drama, “Grey’s Anatomy,” on ABC and became the song for the show's title sequence.

The Fray also found national success with the song "Over My Head (Cable Car)," which became a top ten hit in the United States. How to Save a Life was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and was also certified platinum in New Zealand and Australia.


The Fray was formed in 2002, and currently consists of Isaac Slade the lead vocalist and pianist, Joe King on guitar and vocals, Dave Welsh on guitar, and Ben Wysocki on drums and percussion. They have no official bassist, but recently have been touring with bassist Jimmy Stofer, also a member of the bands Dualistics and The Commentary. While many critics compare the band to Coldplay, the band lists its main influences as U2, Better Than Ezra and Counting Crows. Although the band draws comparisons to Christian rock groups, they state that they "don't call [themselves] a Christian band.”

Early Life

All the boys in the band were consummate musicians. A pianist from an early age, King competed in the local recital circuit before dropping piano altogether and picking up the guitar in junior high. "The coolest guys in my eighth grade class all played guitar," confides King. "I wanted to fit in." Slade began singing when he was eight, but temporary voice problems led him to discover the piano at age 11. After regaining his vocal abilities a year later, he continued studying piano and learned guitar in high school. "I wrote my first song at 16," explains Slade, "which is when I first picked up the guitar." Wysocki began taking drum lessons in the sixth grade, but only after having endured piano lessons at his parents' request; and Welsh grew up in a musical household, and struggled with piano and saxophone before settling on guitar at age 12.

In the spring of 2002, schoolmates Isaac Slade and Joe King met up in a local Guitar Center. They soon began regular two-man jam sessions that led to writing songs and devising a style pitched between the arena-friendly style of U2 and the rock bands like Coldplay. Slade and King later added Zach Johnson and Slade's brother Caleb to the band. Johnson left the band to attend an art school in New York. Wysocki, a former band mate of Isaac Slade, then became the drummer for The Fray. The bittersweet relationship between the brothers became the inspiration for "Over My Head (Cable Car).” Since Caleb's departure, The Fray has not used a bassist on a permanent basis. Later, Welsh, who was another former band mate of Slade and Wysocki, was added to the band.

The band chose their name, The Fray, from a suggestion bowl that was placed at a graduation party for Caleb Slade. The members of the band first claimed that they found the name suitable because they frequently quarreled over the composition of the lyrics in their songs. However, they have since stated that the band is usually on good terms while composing music, and acknowledges contributions from all of its members.

Movement and Reason: 2002 - 2005

In 2002, the band released Movement EP, a collection of four songs. Very few copies were pressed, and it is currently unavailable for purchase. The next year, they released Reason EP to some local critical acclaim, and earned a loyal grassroots following through impressive area gigs and the support of local radio which led a listen-driven campaign to get the band a record contract. With strong word-of-mouth, the band won "Best New Band" honors from Denver's Westword magazine.

Despite these rave reviews, the band struggled to launch a single. Denver radio station KTCL rejected eight of their songs before the band decided to submit "Cable Car." The song found airplay on a KTCL radio show highlighting local bands, and the radio station received a large number of requests for it soon thereafter. "Cable Car" eventually became one of the stations top thirty most played songs of 2004, helping the band's popularity to grow locally.

Later that year, the band was voted "Best New Band" by Denver readers of Westword. Epic records found out about the band through Westword's original article, which had the interest of A&R man Daniel Davis. Epic Records officially signed the band on December 17, 2004, and released their debut album, How to Save a Life, in September 2005. The band changed the name of "Cable Car" to "Over My Head (Cable Car)," and by the end of 2005, it had become KTCL's most played song of the year. Adding even more fame to the song it was included on the soundtrack for the film Stealth.

In July 2005, The Fray opened for Weezer for ten concerts. At the conclusion of the Weezer tour, the band opened for Ben Folds for twelve shows. The Fray headlined their own tour in January 2006, playing with Mat Kearney and Cary Brothers.

"Over My Head (Cable Car)" became a top 40 hit on the Modern Rock Tracks chart in late 2005. It lasted three weeks on the chart and peaked at position #37. The single gained airplay nationally, entering the Billboard Hot 100 charts on the issue marked February 25, 2006. Fourteen weeks later it reached its peak position at #8 on the Hot 100 chart. The song found success on the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart, where it reached the #2 position. The single also saw airplay on some Christian radio stations and spent several weeks on the R&R Christian charts, where it peaked at #27.

In January of 2004, The Fray were “no-namers” trying to find gigs. However, by December, they were getting radio pick-up and playing sold-out shows at 500-capacity venues.

How to Save a Life: 2005 – 2007

While "Cable Car" was rising on the charts the song "How to Save a Life" was featured on a second season episode of the television drama, “Grey's Anatomy” and during a fifth season episode of “Scrubs” with Zach Braff. Despite not having been originally released as a single, "How to Save a Life" entered the Hot 100 chart on the issue marked April 15, 2006. The song was promptly released as the band's second single. On August 18, 2006, ABC announced that the song would be used for the main advertising promotion for the season premiere of “Grey's Anatomy.” Only weeks after this promotion started, the song became The Fray's second top forty hit in the United States. The song reached the top three of the Hot 100 chart, surpassing the peak position of "Over My Head (Cable Car)", and has sold over one million downloads.

To promote the album, The Fray have performed on several popular television shows including “The Tonight Show,” “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Rove Live in Australia.” They also released a live album, Live at the Electric Factory, on July 18, 2006. The concert was recorded on May 21, 2006 at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The digital download of the album is available on iTunes, Napster, and orders for a CD version of the album are available through the band's official website as well as select independent music stores. On September 19, they re-released How to Save a Life as a CD/DVD set with exclusive content including a documentary on the making of the album.

Critics have said that the album is full of “stick-in-your-head hooks, bright guitars and eloquent narratives of personal relationships that together seem custom-made for top-forty radio or your favorite teenage television drama.” The title track “How to Save a Life,” addressed Slade's work mentoring a crack-addicted teen, who also happened to be a musician. "I wrote the song about how there's no formula for bringing somebody out of that," he says. "Life is this organic risk, this give-and-take. You could lose your life – you never know."

How to Save a Life also appearantly has its tales of love lost, like with the track "Vienna": "Actually," Slade admits, "'Vienna' was a break-up song I wrote before [this girl] and I even started dating. It's the tragedy of 'this might not work.'"

As of January 8, 2007, their debut album has sold over 2 million copies in the United States, and has been certified Double Platinum by the RIAA. The single "Over My Head (Cable Car)" has sold 1.3 million digital tracks, and the single "How to Save a Life" has sold over 1,225,502. The Fray won all three awards in the digital category at the 2006 Billboard Music Awards, including digital album and digital songs artist of the year. They also performed "How to Save a Life" at the event. On December 7, 2006, the band was nominated for two Grammy Awards: Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal ("Over My Head (Cable Car)") and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal ("How to Save a Life").

The band released a live cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” to iTunes as a 2006 Christmas single. The song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at #50, due to a large number of digital downloads. This marks the first time this song has charted on the Hot 100.


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