Q&A: Ben Wysocki of The Fray
The last decade has been "wild" for members of Denver-based The Fray, says drummer Ben Wysocki. Sitting in the catering room at Phoenix's US Airways Center, Wysocki said it's been a ride he couldn't have envisioned back when the band got started.
"It's cool every once in awhile when you get short glimpses, when you look back in your iPhoto or in your journal and see what happened," Wysocki said.
"Some of the coolest things are the moments are when you meet somebody like another band or another artist whom we either grew up listening to or we really like -- even if they're a relatively young band that we really like. Now being a popular band that's either on the radio or whatever, just the same as they are, they see us as contemporaries. It's just like we're another band. But we see them as, 'Oh my God. It's so and so.'"
Case in point: A trip to London, England when he met indie darling Ryan Adams. Wysocki approached Adams as a fan and professed his love for his music. When Adams asked Wysocki what he did for a living, Adams said "Oh my God, I love The Fray."
"That didn't make any sense," Wysocki said with a laugh. "It's my life and I never thought it would intersect. It's strange when you become a name that people refer to. That's a trip."
The Fray's fans are flocking to arenas throughout the United States as the Grammy-nominated band makes its way across the country co-headlining a tour with Kelly Clarkson. Carolina Liar serves as opener.
The Fray is pushing its third full-length album "Scars & Stories," which debuted at No. 4 on The Billboard 200 chart.
The Fray -- which also includes is Isaac Slade (pianist/vocalist), Joe King (guitarist/vocalist) and Dave Welsh (guitarist) -- formed in 2002 after high school friends Slade and King bumped into each other at a local guitar shop. The band achieved national success with its first single, "Over My Head (Cable Car)," which became a top 10 hit. The second single, "How to Save a Life," expanded that fanbase overseas.
Wysocki took the time to talk to SoundSpike about "Scars & Stories," working with uber-producer Brendan O'Brien and the last good movie he saw.
SoundSpike: How's the tour going with Kelly Clarkson?
Ben Wysocki: The tour's going good. This is only the fifth or sixth show so we're still fresh and getting warmed up, I guess. We have a lot more days off than we're used to. So we're finding a different pace. But it's nice. It's healthy, I think.
What do you do on your days off? Are you able to go back home?
Sometimes. My wife was just off for awhile so we hung out. Usually a day off consists of room service and a movie, or we go to the movies. On a day off, we'll all go find a nice place to eat in whatever town we're in. it's pretty low key. On our show days, there's so much going on. On any day off, nothingness is kind of what you desire.
What was the last good movie you saw?
"The Dark Knight Rises." It's really great.
Tell me about your new album "Scars & Stories." You worked with Brendan O'Brien, correct?
Yes. We've been listening to records he's made forever, not forever, but since we were younger. It was cool. We met him through ... I'm not sure how we met him. I think he brought his daughter to a show and we just kind of kept in touch. We talked to and about a bunch of different producers when we were starting to work on this record. We wanted to do something different. We used the same guys for the first two records. We wanted to switch it up. He became kind of an obvious choice later in the process. So it was good. It was a really different process. Working with somebody different kind of stirs the pot a little bit. You can get comfortable doing something a certain way. It's really good to get to know somebody, but when you work with somebody new, you're a little bit more on your toes and he works really fast so there's very little over thinking. He would say, "Just do it and move on, forget about it. Your intuition, that's where your talent comes out. You start overthinking things. You edit yourself. When you act out of intuition creatively, that's where your true self comes out." So that was cool. That was a big lesson for us to learn. In the past we became masters at overthinking things. It was a much different process. We're really proud of it. That brought out a whole new level of confidence in us that wasn't really there before that I think you can hear on the record.
What was the most important thing you learned from Brendan?
He works so fast. It took a lot of getting used to. At first, we didn't really like it very much because it was so different. We had to adjust to get up to his speed. That confidence was probably the biggest thing. When we first met with him about doing the record, he was saying, "I'm thinking, you're a good band. I'm a good producer. So if we have good songs, this should be relatively easy. We'll each do our jobs." That's a good point. He had more faith in us than we did, really. He said, "You're a great band. You've proven yourself. You just kind of need to apply that." It was cool because then we would go in the studio, "Hey, we're a great band." Not in an arrogant way, but it's good to have that confidence and to know what you do so you can go in and do it because the music's always going to be this separate thing that moves through you. We're the messengers. It's our job to get it to people. That was a good thing that he taught us.
This album has a completely different sound for you.
We think it's the best version of The Fray that we've released to people, mostly because we learned how to be ourselves. In the first couple records, you have to learn how to express yourself in the studio much less in music. It took a couple records to figure it out.
The first single, "Heartbeat," had such a strong response.
You never know what's going to happen. You can plan all you want and take all these meetings and have all these rehearsals whatever, but it comes down to whether people like it or not. That's why it's such a funny business.
What was the songwriting process like on this album?
It was a little different. Joe and Isaac usually turn in all the demos, just little verse or chorus ideas, and it'll grow from that. It was the same on this record, but they did a bit of traveling. They went out seeking, hunting inspiration. They'd go to different places and just kind of hang there for awhile and soak up the culture for awhile. There were a lot more songs on this record that were born out of soundcheck jams. When we were on tour, we would just jam in a soundcheck on an idea that somebody had or whatever. We would just name it after that city we were in. There are digital voice memo recorders on the iPhone, and we would all set them up on stage and play these ideas. Just so later we could go back and say, "Hey, what was that thing we were playing around with in Munich?" There's a song on this record called "Munich." It was this idea we were playing around with there. We all just named it "Munich April 2" or whatever. That's how we always referred to it. As the song grew, we kept referring it to "Munich" and it never changed. It was a new thing. We'd never really had that process before. Everyone's a little bit different.
What else do you have planned for the rest of this year?
We'll be on the road for the rest of the summer with Kelly. We're going down to Australia with her as well. We're hoping to start on some new music sometime soon. Even though this record just came out back in February ... any time we're through with anything, we're already thinking about what we're going to do next. That's just what we do. We'll be working on some new stuff later this year in the winter, with the hopes to get it out next year, probably.
Have you started writing songs yet?
We all have ideas brewing. We always do. There are some ideas that we started when we were working on the last record that we just never finished that we might go back to. There's always stuff out there. You just have to grab it.
What's your favorite song to play live?
That song "Munich" that I was talking about? Actually, I really like playing that one live. There are some old songs that have new life because the new ones that were written give you a different perspective on the old ones. When you play the new songs and there's a different energy with this whole batch of new songs on stage and you apply that to the old ones, it's pretty cool.
23 - Bristow, VA - Jiffy Lube Live
25 - Mansfield, MA - Comcast Center
26 - Holmdel, NJ - PNC Bank Arts Center
28 - Toronto, Ontario - Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
29 - Canandaigua, NY - Constellation Brands - Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center
31 - Grand Island, NE - Heartland Events Center (Nebraska State Fair)
1 - Tinley Park, IL - First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
2 - Noblesville, IN - Klipsch Music Center
5 - Independence, MO - Independence Events Center
7 - The Woodlands, TX - The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
11 - Virginia Beach, VA - Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach
12 - Charlotte, NC - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
14 - Tuscaloosa, AL - Tuscaloosa Amphitheater
15 - Nashville, TN - Bridgestone Arena