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The Fray

Getting serious

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By Gary Graff  
artist

Denver modern rockers the Fray came together in 2003, but the four members' roots together go back farther than that -- to junior high and high school, where "older" members Isaac Hayes (vocals, keyboards) and Joe King (vocals, guitar) became acquainted with drummer Ben Wysocki, with guitarist Dave Welsh coming along later. The quartet worked the local circuit, winning an independent following that led to a major label deal for the album How to Save a Life and the huge hit single, "Over My Head (Cable Car)."

Q: How did the Fray come together?

Ben Wysocki: Isaac and Joe are about four years older than I am. When I was in seventh grade, Isaac called me to play with him. He was doing a cover of the Eagles' "Desperado" at some school event. Then I met Joe in high school. I actually dated his little sister-in-law, but the only thing I knew of Joe was he was this older high school student that was a lot cooler than I was. We all graduated and had different bands before the Fray came together.

Q: Do you come from musical backgrounds?

Wysocki: Yeah, I think Dave probably more than any of us. His dad is a chorale teacher at our old high school. Both of my grandpas were drummers. Both of Isaac's brothers play and make music. Joe comes from a very athletic family, all kinds of quarterbacks. He played soccer for a long time. None of us really know anything about sports or follow them at all except Joe. If anyone starts talking sports aorund us, we immediately point them Joe's way.

Q: How did the group's sound develop?

Wysocki: In the early days it was more pop-rock, more keyboard sounds and less pure piano. As we grew as musicians and started to learn how to play like we wanted, we got better at learning kind of, "How do I do that?" I think once we started taking ourselves more seriously, the music got a little more serious. We went from being just a fun basement band to writing and performing in that more "serious" mindset.

Q: How are the songs written?

Wysocki: Joe and Isaac are a really good writing team, so they normally get together and they'll write a pretty rough structure of a song, then bring it to the band as a whole and we kind of hash it out. Once it comes to the band it takes on a new face. We'll play on it and totally twist it into something different than what they thought it would be. Isaac tends to write way too slow. I'll speed it up five times more than what he's comfortable with. (laughs)

Q: Did "Over My Head (Cable Car)" have that kind of evolution?

Wysocki: "Cable Car" was one that didn't evolve very much at all. Isaac brought us a new song he had written and we laid down some simple things and went in and recorded it, and it hasn't changed much since. It actually made us sound more musically mature than we are.

Q: Any good road stories yet?

Wysocki: Oh, there are tons of stories. We all grew up on Weezer, so it was just an unbelievable privilege to be on tour with them. Rivers (Cuomo) is a pretty quiet guy and hard to break. In an attempt to get through to him, we were in catering, eating dinner, and Isaac had an idea to carve the word "Thanks" into a banana and go give it to Rivers to thank him for letting us be on the tour and see if we could crack him. He just kind of smiled -- "Oh, thanks. Banana." Then we went and played our twenty-minute set and came back and there's a pear on our table that said "You're welcome." So we had a nice kind of fruit sculpture exchange.

Gary Graff writes extensively about music. His work has appeared widely in such publications as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Detroit Free Press, and Billboard.