18 Feb 2007: The Fray are far more interested in God than girls. So how are the American piano rock sensations going to cope with being mobbed, asks Amy Raphael.
Are you ready for the God-fearing Keane? The Fray’s emotionally-charged piano rock is huge news in the US, where their debut album, How to Save a Life, is the country’s biggest-selling digital album ever, beating Coldplay’s X&Y. Now the four-piece look set to repeat their Stateside success here, with single ‘How to Save a Life’ A-listed by Radio 1 weeks ahead of release, and both single and album release dates brought forward.
Isaac Slade is the 25-year-old who wobbles on his piano stool like Chris Martin and sings in the yearning, melancholic style of his hero, Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz. After an early lunch of barbecued chicken, ribs and cheeseburgers in Clark Gables, Florida – the latest stop on an apparently never-ending world tour – he talks in his soft Colorado drawl of the band’s success as being a ‘very, very strange trip’. After all, he grew up ‘middle-of-the-road Protestant’ and wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music as a child. ‘We had a very strict home. I was 18, living at home with my parents and still not allowed to watch The Simpsons. Actually, my dad says “crap” now and he’s just not a guy to use that kind of language.’ Still, his parents encouraged him to abandon engineering school in favour of pursuing a career in music, which in hindsight was a pretty smart move.
The Fray, it seems, touch people. Slade’s songs are vignettes of love, loss and taking the right path in life. ‘Over My Head (Cable Car)’ is about falling out with his brother, Caleb, who he unceremoniously sacked from the band in the early days, while the single ‘How to Save a Life’ was influenced by Slade’s experience working as a mentor at a camp for troubled teens. ‘I still get an incredible number of emails about that song. We’ve got friends who think it’s great not having to think because they’re drunk or high. But there’s a better way to be happy.’
None of this is delivered in a smug tone; Slade simply sounds wise beyond his years. Not for him the girls that come with life on the road. All four members of the band are married and they have a strategy to keep the groupies away. ‘If a girl is vibing on one of the guys, the other three jump in and take her away,’ he explains, laughing. ‘It’s just not an option.’
Although the sleeve notes to the album thank ‘our creator who made this all possible’, Slade would also like to show his gratitude to Bruce Springsteen, who he met last year. ‘Evidently his life fell apart until he learned to separate his stage persona from his real life persona. He’d come off stage still thinking he was the Boss. Now he lets his wife tell him what to do and he takes out the trash. For me, the screaming fans and the excitement about the band is real but it’s limited to that format. When I get home and my wife tells me to scrub the floor, I scrub it.’
· The Fray support the Feeling tonight at Wolverhampton Civic Hall as part of their UK tour. How to Save a Life is released tomorrow, and the single of the same name on 26 February