x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Dubai's Sandance: enter The Fray

We talk to Isaac Slade, the lead singer of The Fray, who are playing at Sandance at Nasimi Beach in Dubai on Friday, he talks about how travel, Bruce Springsteen, hanging out with Skillrex influenced their last album.

HOLMDEL, NJ - AUGUST 26: (L-R) Joe King, Ben Wysocki, Isaac Slade and Dave Welsh of the band The Fray perform at the PNC Bank Arts Center on August 26, 2012 in Holmdel, New Jersey. Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images/AFP
HOLMDEL, NJ - AUGUST 26: (L-R) Joe King, Ben Wysocki, Isaac Slade and Dave Welsh of the band The Fray perform at the PNC Bank Arts Center on August 26, 2012 in Holmdel, New Jersey. Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images/AFP

Before recording your new album Scars and Stories, the band travelled widely for inspiration.

We went to a bunch of different places such as New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans as well London and Rwanda. Africa was a whim, actually, New Orleans was planned and London was a layover and New York and Los Angeles was just a matter of showing up and seeing what happens. It was great, man, it was so fun.

What did you learn from your adventures?

People are so different but the more different the cultures are the more obvious the similarities are. I am not sure if I am saying it well, but the culture in Kigali is so different to Denver but if you step a little closer you realise everybody wants to be significant, safe, loved, received and wanted. These are all things we humans strive for and what we rotate around.

From the new album’s title to the songs, the major theme seems to be healing. Has the band’s success not necessarily resulted in happiness?

We did go through some real ups and downs over the years. The period around the second record is the roughest we ever had, so going into the third we took stock of what we had, to see who is still here and standing and who is with us back home and who is not. Growing older, some relationships get better and some get worse. So, yes, healing was a big part of that.

You have taken a new, rockier direction with Scars and Stories. How did that come about?

The first two records were very cathartic for us but we always hit this invisible boundary where I wanted to move and not just speak. I would go to these rock shows such as Springsteen and U2 and dance parties with Skrillex and see the effect the music had on people around me. I wanted to incorporate that into the experience in this third record.

You studied song composition. Does this mean you can’t enjoy music viscerally anymore but it’s more academic instead?

In Springsteen’s show his drummer kept making fun of me because I kept taking these notes on my phone. I did that for three hours, taking notes about the key, the links between songs and this and that. I do get more academic about live shows than songwriting.

You made no secret of the band’s Christian rock background. What prompted you to musically move in a more secular direction?

I had a band before and it was a church band, basically. I remember playing a set at a coffee shop and I realised that none of the people listening understood what I was talking about. I went home that day and I threw away all of my lyrics. It wasn’t a way to get away from my faith but to translate what I am thinking to a language that I and the people around me speak.

Maybe that’s why your first single How to Save a Life struck a chord with so many.

Absolutely, because I know how differently I would have written that song if I was in a specifically religious group. I would put an answer in there, a big crescendo and an exclamation point so everyone can relax because everything is solved. I think the song relates to a lot more people because I asked questions, left the answer wide open.

The soft rockers The Fray, on stage at 7.30pm, are not the only highlights of Friday’s Sandance return. Those wanting edgier sounds will be satisfied with some of the other artists on the bill

Dizzee Rascal

Exit Example for perhaps a bigger star. Rascal has been booked at the last minute after his fellow UK rapper cancelled his October tour because of leg and back injuries. No matter, as Rascal will hit Nasimi Beach with his own bag of grimy hits including Dance Wiv Me, Bonkers, Holiday, Dirtee Disco and Shout. Rascal is on stage at 10.30pm.

Matt Kearney

A star on the rise, the American singer songwriter has been amassing a growing legion of fans with his hip-hop meets folk stylings. He will be performing tracks from his latest album Young Love. Look out for the charming single Hey Mamma.

Krafty Cuts

It’s no easy feat to win the Breakspoll Awards Best DJ Award three years in a row. The British DJ, real name Martin Reeves, should wow crowds with his deft deckwork and ear for a killer dance tune.

Frankie Knuckles

A musical institution. Simply put, if you want to hear where part of house music comes from then check out the DJ set by the Chicago legend.

Chuckie

Cutting his teeth in Holland’s competitive dance community, the Dutch DJ is no stranger to big events, having played at the mass global dance gatherings Sensation. He is also making his name as a producer, remixing work with artists including LMFAO.

DJ Fresh

An English dub-step producer and DJ and member of the dance supergroup Bad Company. As well as working with the leading drum and bass group Pendulum, Fresh played alongside Pet Shop Boys and DJ Shadow.

Omar Basaad

Representing the GCC will be the Saudi electronic dance producer Omar Basaad. Look out for his Nehyatina Eh, renowned as one of the first Arabic dubstep tracks.

The Fray will perform as part of the Sandance Festival on Friday from 2pm-2am, at Nasimi Beach, Atlantis, The Palm, in Dubai. Tickets cost from Dh275 from www.timeouttickets.com

sasaeed@thenational.ae