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Life, And "Life," Are Good For The Fray

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Joe King, guitarist and cofounder of The Fray, has a simple answer for those who ask him why his band has been so successful.

“I don’t know,” he says, before breaking into a laugh.

But he’s willing to hazard a guess.

“From the beginning,” explains King, 26, “we just wanted to write some music that reflected our lives and reflected who we are as people. It’s our lives. We’re singing about real things.

“And I think maybe that resonates with the fans and the people that listen, ’cause they can feel that.”

There’s plenty of evidence to support King’s theory. The Denver pop quartet’s 2005 debut album, “How to Save a Life,” has sold more than 2 million copies in the United States, propelled by the pensive hit title track and the similarly sober follow-up, “Over My Head (Cable Car).” The group earned two Grammy Award nominations and swept the Digital category of the 2006 Billboard Music Awards

All of that has created a substantial demand for The Fray to play live, which has kept King — who formed the group in 2002 with singerkeyboardist Isaac Slade — away from his home and two young daughters. But he’s not complaining.

“We signed up for this,” he acknowledges. “We signed up to play music and travel and tour. This is what we love, so we don’t take it for granted.”

King, Slade and their mates — later arrivals Dave Welsh on guitar and Ben Wycocki on drums — also know that a follow-up success is not guaranteed, and it’s weighing heavy on their minds. Even though the guitarist notes that The Fray’s record company “would love to do five singles and push this thing into the group for another year,” the band is starting to feel like the “How to Save a Life” campaign is nearing its natural close.

“We don’t want to be the band that pushes for three years on one record,” King explains, “and then by the time that is over, you lose perspective on how to write and there’s no breathing room for the fans or us. We just want to go back in the studio and take some time way.

“I think the fans need it, too, ’cause we’ve had Fray all over everything for the past year, really. So I think they’ll probably need a break after summertime.”

The group’s current U.S. road trip — “Definitely our biggest tour to date,” according to King — runs through early August, with some mid-August and fall dates in Europe. It’s playing a few new songs, too, though King promises that they fit well with the material already familiar to fans from “How to Save a Life.”

“I think, generally, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel on the second record,” he says. “I don’t think we’re at the point yet where we need to say, ‘OK, let’s scrap how we’ve done things and change it.’

“So, yeah, it’s kind of similar stuff. But it’s better; we’re better songwriters, better performers, better players. When we recorded ‘How to Save a Life,’ Dave and Ben were barely 20. ... We’re just kind of growing up, and it’ll sound like it.”

Which is a good thing, because King acknowledges that after “How to Save a Life’s” success, there will be high expectations — not to mention considerable pressure — on The Fray’s sophomore album.

“Our five-year goal has kind of already happened, so naturally there’s pressure,” King says. “I want to eliminate the pressure of having to write a record that will commercially be a successful and even eliminate the idea that I need to write hit songs, because I think that’ll just kill the creativity.

“But you still want to do well with your second (album). You see those bands that fall off the Earth on their second record. We don’t want that.”

The Fray, OK Go and Mae perform at 7 p.m. Saturday (June 16th) at DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road north of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $39.50 pavilion, $28 lawn. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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