After recapping its career so far on the new Through The Years: The Best of the Fray, the Denver group is ready for its next step -- and telegraphs it with the three new songs included on the compilation.
"When we were putting together the hits album we knew we wanted a few songs on there as a snapshot of where we are now to complete the full picture of the arc of our career, and those three are kind of obvious choices," The Fray drummer Ben Wysocki tells Billboard. "We had been writing for awhile and had a lot of material to sort through. We weren't sure what we were going to do with them or how we wanted them to be represented, so this felt like a good way to get them out."
The Fray still has a backlog of new material it's been working on, which the group is sorting through and working on while it's on the road. "We do have a fair amount of new material," he says. "I think the process of looking back has been essential for us to know where we want to go. In the past we might have by default just pushed ahead and record things when we have them, but right now I think we're starting to look at the bigger picture of how we want to release the music or why we want to or what we want that to look like." He's certain, however, that whatever comes will incorporate some new directions and flavors.
"I think we've grown in a way," Wysocki says. "I think we've gotten better at incorporating what it means to be current, in contrast to what it means to be trendy. 'Corners' and 'Singing Low' from ('Through They Years') sound more modern than we've sounded in the past." Lessons, meanwhile, are being taken from act such as The Weeknd ("These massive pop songs that are undeniable, just on a sonic level," Wysocki says), Kendrick Lamar, Tame Impala, Beyonce, Adele and Taylor Swift, among others. "It's fascinating for us to study why they're working, why they're connecting, and what we can take from them and apply to what we do," Wysocki notes.
"In the past we thought that we have to stay up at the speed everyone else is moving in order to get anybody's attention," Wysocki acknowledges. "I think that has been to our detriment sometimes in the past, where we've rushed to do some things we maybe shouldn't have. Now we're trying to take a deep breath and pay attention to what's going on and do it right."
The Fray is also paying attention to the mood of its audiences in the wake of this year's presidential election. The group has been pleased to find that the earnest pop of hits such "How To Save A Life, "Over My Head (Cable Car)" and "You Found Me" have provided something of a balm for fans. "It's been cool, man. I think it's kind of encouraged us to maybe let our guard down a little bit," Wysocki says. "We played New York the next day and I remember us all kind of being in a pretty raw place emotionally and trying to figure out what our role was. The temptation is to think 'this feels really futile to just get up and play our instruments at a time like this,' when in actuality it's the most important thing we can do. We have a responsibility as artists to speak...and create a moment for people to express themselves. It's reminded us the reason we do this is to give people an outlet in our music, and that's really a humbling opportunity."