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Adjusting to fame in The Fray

Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

If the four members of the Fray want to know how hot they are these days, all they have to do is turn on the radio and inevitably hear their single, "Over My Head (Cable Car)."

But the Denver rock group got a flesh-and-blood indication of the buzz surrounding it last week, when its tour bus pulled up in front of the Columbus, Ohio, club they were playing.

"We've never been to that city," reports guitarist Dave Welsh, "and there was a line about two blocks long. And we play this show in this place we've never played before, and there's, like, 1,500 people there or something, a sell-out.

"We all stop and go, 'Wow. Why? How does this happen?' It's cool. We're not complaining, but...How does this happen, you know?"

But even though the group seemingly came out of nowhere, it hasn't happened overnight. The Fray was formed four years ago by singer-pianist Isaac Slade and guitarist Joe King, who released an independent EP, 2003's "Reason," in Denver before adding Welsh and drummer Ben Wysocki, who had played with Slade in previous bands, and recording the group's full-length debut, "How to Save a Life."

"The drummer they let go was actually my best friend," Wysocki, 21, says with a laugh. "Before I was in the band I used to go to Fray shows and sit in the back row and watch, just 'cause they were friends.

"When they called to see if I wanted to play, I figured, 'I'm not doing much, why not?' I never guessed we would be where we are now."

The rest of the group likely felt the same way as far as its sound was concerned. The Fray's early incarnation was louder and harder-edged than the melodic popcraft that populates "How to Save a Life." Wysocki says that reflects the impact he and Welsh had on the band when they joined.

"I think Dave and I really kind of mellowed the band out a little bit," the drummer explains. "We've all got our rock veins in us, but Dave is a big fan of the alt.country scene, and he studies Wilco and those kinds of bands. Counting Crows is really important to us, too.

"As we grew as musicians, we started to learn how to play like we wanted. When we heard something we really liked, we got better at learning how to do that."

All of that, Welsh adds, has made the Fray more of a team effort -- even though he acknowledges that the Mohawked Slade cuts a formidable figure as a frontman.

"We've always wanted it to be more of a band and less of the Isaac and Joe show," Welsh, 21, says. "There are moments when not everybody understands that, but that's OK. When it's the four of us and we're in our element, writing or rehearsing or whatever, it's pretty much a band."

Both musicians expect that will be even more of the case when the Fray starts to work on its next album. But with "How to Save a Life," released in September, still on the ascent, it may be awhile before the group sees the inside of a studio again.

"We're just trying to keep things moving," Welsh says. "Hopefully these fans that enjoy the good songs will translate into them enjoying the band. Sometimes a good song can be a little too transient and they leave you when they're done with it. We just hope they stick around and embrace us as a band, not just the guys who sing that one song they like."

The Fray and Brandi Carlile perform Wednesday at Clutch Cargo's, 65 E. Huron St., Pontiac. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 in advance, $19 at the door. Call (248) 333-2362 or visit

Web Site: www.clutchcargos.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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