As you listen to the upcoming hits collection Through The Years: The Best of The Fray, you’ll hear a sonic shift with the albums. Twelve years have ticked away since the band started in 2004 and lead singer Isaac Slade muses the band has gotten bolder in claiming its musical identity and remaining true to itself. “As we got older and a little more passionate in our own voice, we were able to take some risks,” he says. That brazen attitude continues on the new album, out Nov. 4, as the four-time Grammy Award nominees also release three new tracks that are slower than most, and some even infuse a smooth, soulful groove. The band joins American Authors Nov. 6 at the House of Blues. We talk to Slade about freshening up classics and the new releases.
Q: When you are performing the iconic songs, do you go back to when you first wrote them?
A: The nature of performing sort of forced this beautiful challenge of finding new connections to the material. Otherwise, I’m just singing about old things. It’s kind of forced me to dig my roots deeper to find new inspiration and new sources of pain. [Laughs] Like “Vienna,” for instance, that was about a relationship that I was in before I ever met the woman I’m in a relationship with now. I don’t have these longings for that old relationship anymore. And I’m like, happily — I’m in a relationship, it’s real and it’s hard and it’s so solid and so content, that I have to sort of find those moments of disconnection in my functioning relationship, which are plenty. [Laughs] That’s just kind of a glimpse into the window of a singer. I’m thinking instead of about the breakup with that other woman, I’m thinking about a fight I got in with my wife a couple days ago.
Q: The new single “Singing Low” has a slower beat than recent hits. Why make that decision?
A: There’s just a little more boldness in the ranks, to sort of indulge our creative appetites for us to have a little more groove to it. We used way more stuff that moves us emotionally and also moves us physically. Not to get too nerdy, but there’s a 90 beats-per-minute genre that we’ve never really been able to write in. Most of the hits on the radio are up in the 120, like dance hits. And then you go on a record — you have to go back a ways — but you go on a record like Chronic. Almost every single song is 87-93 BPM’s. It’s just laid-back, chill, and it’s got tons of aggression, and it can get really sultry. But it’s not quite as eager, like, “Hey, hey, like me.” It’s a little more like, “We’re going this way, you can come if you want.” And we tried to write songs like that for years. And there’s been demos from every single album that have been down in that kind of more laid-back, chill range. And this was the first one that all four of us loved.
Q: Another one of the new singles “Corners” is a rather personal song. Can you tell me what the inspiration for that song is?
A: This mentality these days with relationships that usually translates to a new person. And it’s really hard to watch cause they get into a relationship and then it magically expires and they don’t know why, and they go on to another relationship. And one of my favorite sayings about relationships is when you stick around after it gets boring or after it gets really, really difficult or after you get so terrified because you’re so close to somebody, all you want to do is leave, then, things start getting really interesting — if somebody knows all your moves, conversationally or even physically. And then you stay, you start discovering what I think is the mystery of life that you can’t really find if you keep jumping ship from one to another. “Corners” is all about that novelty and newness and really the thrill of discovery within a relationship that you sort of stayed true in. You don’t see that a lot in movies, and in music and art. It’s so easy just to say, “Oh marriage isn’t for me and it doesn’t exist,” and it does. And that’s what “Corners” is all about. It actually is real, it does work, and you have to work harder for it than you could ever imagine having to work for anything, but if you can crack that code, it’s just a hell of a thing.