Seems like only yesterday that indie pop-rockers The Fray were in the thick of things — their debut single “Over My Head (Cable Car)” put them solidly on the map in 2005. A year later, the ABC series “Grey’s Anatomy” put their followup single “How to Save a Life” to good use, which helped the band garner an even bigger following — and a chart-topping hit. The group’s radio hit-heavy roster would go on to include the likes of “You Found Me,” “Never Say Never,” “Heartbeat” and “Love Don’t Die.”
Four million album sales later, the Grammy-nominated foursome is back with its latest songfest, “Through the Years: The Best of The Fray.” Produced by Grammy-winner Brit Stuart Price, the album is a collection of greatest hits and three new songs. The latter trio may not be the stuff of radio, but as guitarist/vocalist Joe King explained, that type of success is solidly in the rearview mirror for the bandmates.
They’re out on the road in a headlining tour that brings them to Chicago on Nov. 11. King recently chatted about the band, which also features Isaac Slade (piano/vocals), Ben Wysocki (drums) and David Welsh (guitar), and its musical journey thus far.
THE FRAY With: American Authors When: 8 p.m. Nov. 11 Where: Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State Tickets: $34.75-$74.75 Info: www.ticketmaster.com
Q. What was it like 10 years ago when you guys exploded on the music scene? How did you guys wrap your heads around that level of furious success?
A. It was an out-of-body experience. It didn’t really sink in that it was happening until several years afterward. You lose perspective and [a sense of being grounded]. It just changes everything very, very fast. Everyone wants to talk to you and be close to you and you don’t know how to process that. You’re dreams are coming true and your life changes. But we had and still have each other to be bulls— detectors. [Laughs] Back then and even now I can’t get away with too much ’cause the guys are like, “Dude … !”
Q. So what’s it like to be out on the road this particular headlining tour?
A. The tour is about halfway through. It’s going really well. [Laughs] The band’s still all on the same bus and getting along. No one’s been left at a small truck stop somewhere! Honestly, we’re getting to play our favorite rooms across the country. The classic theaters, like the Chicago Theatre. It’s just all these inspiring rooms to set foot in again.
Q. What’s the biggest surprise you’ve discovered about yourself this time out on the road?
A. Probably that when I jump off the drum riser my ankle may not be as supportive as it was. [Laughs] And that I’m much more aware that I need proper sleep because if I don’t get it my voice will suck tomorrow. And I should only have one glass of whiskey!
Q. What was the mindset as you guys went back into the old songs for this album? And what was it like to work on the new songs?
A. As far as the studio time, we used that primarily for the new songs. The old songs are representative of how we [originally] recorded them. The three new songs, honestly it was just fun to do them. At this point in my career I want to be proud of the music we put out, regardless of whether or not it ends up on the charts.
Q. What did producer Stuart Price bring to the new album?
A. British humor! [Laughs] Seriously, though, he’s like a synth god. He can add textures and layers that are just so beautiful. He keeps everybody really light and working in a jolly atmosphere because you can get almost too serious in the studio, because you’re way too zoomed in.
Q. “Singing Low” is a bit of a departure from the band’s early music. Was that intentional?
A. If anything, we weren’t trying to put out a radio-friendly song. That’s just not where we’re at as a band. We’re not trying to chase a trend. We just liked the songs and we recorded [all three of them]. The label was like, “Let’s do ‘Singing Low’ as the first single,” and that’s what we did. … I’m writing more new songs now. I have a bunch of songs that are probably the best I’ve written in a long time. I’m waiting for the right time to put them out. It will present itself. Right now we’re just enjoying the here and now.
Q. Musically, is this the best you’ve ever played?
A. I think it’s just us in this moment. And I’m happy with it. The longer musicians play, we can become very cynical of ourselves and our peers. I think collectively we’re just enjoying where we are right now.
Q. What are some of your favorite memories of playing Chicago? What has the city meant to your music?
A. Chicago is the one city that started to pop very early for us. I remember playing Schubas and fans were going nuts. How did they know about us there? Our music wasn’t out yet; it was before we recorded our first record! It’s just a special city. Seems like every show we’ve had there has been memorable.
Q. In light of recent events, are you guys Cubs fans?
A. Oh yeah! We sang the 7th-inning stretch. We threw out the first pitch at Wrigley five or six years ago. [The players] have come out to our shows.