Get to know Isaac Slade

Nicole Fano

If you think you have The Fray all figured out, you’re wrong.

Isaac Slade (lead vocalist and pianist), Joe King (guitarist and backup vocalist), Ben Wysocki (drummer) and Dave Welsh (lead guitarist) currently make up The Fray, which Slade and King founded in 2002.

Slade spoke to The Chronicle in a phone interview on Saturday. He admitted to playing many colleges with random names before and Quinnipiac is no exception. The Fray’s first college tour included opening for Ben Folds five years ago. Slade describes college performances as “a different mentality.”

“Everybody in the crowd is coming from the same dorm room usually or same campus at least,” Slade said. “Everybody has that sense of identity that you rarely get.”

The Fray burst on to the music scene in 2005 with their debut album “How to Save a Life.” Ever since, Slade’s goals have changed drastically. Early on, Slade’s goals consisted of quitting Starbucks, selling out 1,200 seats at the Gothic Theater where he used to work, and having a photo shoot with renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz.  Eventually he quit Starbucks and sold out The Gothic.

“Still haven’t gotten that phone call from Annie yet,” he said.

While The Fray has been compared to piano-based British bands Keane and Coldplay, the foursome considers Counting Crows, Radiohead, U2 and Better Than Ezra as musical influences. Faith is another poignant musical influence, since all four members grew up Protestant. Critics have praised the group for their emotional vocals and lyrics, and soft-rock ballads.

“I think tension is probably at the seam in a lot of things that we write about,” Slade said. “They’re not just happy, not just sad. There’s an element of hope and despair, and there’s an element of sadness.”

Slade’s younger brother Caleb was the group’s original bass player, but he was later asked to leave for unnamed reasons. Isaac and Caleb’s strained relationship led to the inspiration for the band’s hit single “Over My Head (Cable Car).” The Fray’s single “How to Save a Life” was inspired by Slade’s experiences working at a camp for troubled teens. He worked closely with a 17-year-old musician who faced several problems at a young age.

“No one could write a manual on how to save him,” Slade said in a USA Today interview. Once The Fray composed that manual, “How to Save a Life” secured the No. 3 spot on the Hot 100 chart in 2005.

Slade defined The Fray as “fighting for meaning.” He explained that in the midst of national fame, it can be difficult to understand your identity and place in the world.

“We know that we’re here, we know that for sure,” Slade said. “No one really knows why we’re here, and you can’t just go to your local bookstore and pick up a paperback and figure it out.”

The Fray will tour on their self-titled second album for three more months, and then open for U2 in June. According to Slade, the band plans to “close up shop for a while,” and put out a new record next spring.

Despite having achieved worldwide fame and success, Isaac Slade is still your everyday man. When he was younger he wanted to work for NASA, he hates public restrooms, and all he really wants is to connect with people and their personal stories. To top it off, he offers professional advice to aspiring singers and musicians at QU.

“Keep going, Quinnipiac,” Slade said. “If you stop now, you’re definitely not going to make it to where you want to be because its plenty harder once you get through the local scene, into the regional scene, and then to the national scene.”