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| 27 August 2022 | Reply

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur – Toddstar Photography

According to a recent press release: “Frayle’s newest single and video may be their most gripping yet. The ritual doom metal act, featuring frontwoman Gwyn Strang and guitarist Sean Bilovecky, is partnering with to premiere the video today. Filmed in New York City and Salem, Massachusetts, the infamous site of the Salem Witch Trials, the provocative art piece is a powerful meditation on empowerment and shedding the mask to reveal the true self. Heavy, Low, & Witchy. Frayle is a doom, sludge band from Cleveland, formed in 2017 by guitarist Sean Bilovecky (ex-DISENGAGE) and singer Gwyn Strang. They draw their inspiration from bands like Sleep, Portishead, Bjork, Kyuss, & Black Sabbath. Frayle makes music for the night sky.” We get frontwoman Gwyn on the phone to discuss new music, touring, and much more…

Toddstar: Gwyn, thank you for taking time out of your schedule. I know you are busy, always so much going on with you. I’ve been able to catch some of the music, both live and on the internet like everyone else, but you have an anticipated album coming, Skin and Sorrow, about a month from now. I think the 23rd of September is the push date.

Gwyn: That’s it.

Toddstar: What can you tell us about this album that people listening through might not grab the first or second time they spin through it?

Gwyn: Oh, well, gosh, that’s kind of a stacked question. I guess the album itself is about pain and suffering. A lot of the stuff that we write is. This album was started before COVID, and then COVID hit, and I had a lot of losses, lost some people close to me. The album took a dark almost somber turn, so a lot of the songs on there are about feeling loss, but also how we still have to go and put on a happy face. So the album name itself, Skin and Sorrow, is about how when you have lost and you’re going through grief, you feel empty, and you feel like all the joy has been taken and all that’s left of you is just skin and sorrow.

Toddstar: That’s a great insight. You can feel that when you hear the songs. I was able to witness some of this live during an early tour swing you did with Cradle of Filth. How different is it for you mentally when you know you’re going to perform these songs that are deep and almost cathartic in front of a crowd versus you and Sean in a recording studio?

Gwyn: Well, the most personal songs to me on the album are probably “Skin and Sorrow” and “Perfect Wound.” And I have to say, we’ve tried playing “Skin and Sorrow” because we thought audiences might like that, but I can’t get through it. So the most personal ones, I feel like I have to keep for myself live. I can put it out there, but I can’t perform it. I can’t get through it.

Toddstar: Is it just because of the nature and how it strikes you or is it more of a performance, as in it just tears you down and you can’t get through it or is it just maybe you can’t replicate live?

Gwyn: Well, maybe a bit of both. When I recorded that when everything was still very raw, and it took a long time to actually record it because, again, trying to get myself together so that I could sing again, but it is so personal. And even though it’s been a year and a half or a year since everything happened, it still feels fresh. The lyrics to me are very personal, and they feel dig deep. And our songs aren’t fast. They’re very, very slow, and so there’s a lot of time in between that you really think about what you’re saying so I can’t do that one live for that reason.

Toddstar: Well, you gave me a perfect segue in that. When watching you perform live, you seem almost methodical with every vocalization, every glance at a crowd or down into the crowd, or just looking at the back of the venue just to maintain that concentration, and maybe helping yourself get through something that is painful or just not pleasant. Are you very aware of that as you’re doing it or do you almost leave yourself so that you can get through some of these songs? Because as you say, they’re slow, they’re very concept-oriented almost in my mind in listening to them.

Gwyn: So performing is a very spiritual experience for me. At its best it’s a flow of energy between us and the audience. And I’m not really one of those performers that looks above the head of people just to get through it and kind of do your thing. I want to connect with you, and that’s why I try to look directly at the audience so that I can make a connection. For me, that’s what makes the whole experience spiritual exchange of energies and stuff like that. I don’t think before I go on stage, I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to connect with this person and this person.” It happens naturally. So when you’re emoting and you’re telling people about the darkest and deepest parts of your life, you want to connect with somebody because you’re trying to say, “I understand where you’re coming from. I’m sure you’ve been through something like this as well. Let’s exchange that.” And then, at its best as well, it can feel like an exchange of blessings between, again, myself and the audience. I push a lot of energy out into the audience. I don’t really move a lot, but my hands are constantly moving and that’s pulling and pushing energy.

Toddstar: I’ve mentioned the live show a couple times. I was able to catch your show when you opened for Cradle of Filth at The Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan.

Gwyn: Oh, cool.

Toddstar: What is it about your delivery of these songs and the music itself and the fact that you got Sean there on stage with you, and it’s you two plus a supporting cast. What is it about a more intimate venue like that you feel helps you connect better with the audience as you’re performing?

Gwyn: Well, I think, like I said about how I like to perform and how I like to sing and exchanging energies, I think it’s easier with a smaller crowd. You can kind of connect with probably not every single person, but a good percentage of the people there. And I think that’s always the special thing about a small venue like that.

Toddstar: The visualization’s important. As you’ve mentioned, your music’s slower, more methodical. Normally when you get into that type of music, they leave the lighting and everything else very moody, very dark. Yet you aren’t afraid to go out there with the bright yellows and the bright whites and everything else. Is the visualization and the concentration and what we’ll call the emotive experience on your face as you’re delivering these songs, is that as important to you as the lyrics and the song itself?

Gwyn: So we get asked questions similar to this a lot. And I think we understand that visuals are increasingly important to a band. Now, me personally, I don’t know about facial expressions and stuff like that. I think that’s just what I do naturally. Some people perform in all kinds of different ways and that’s just how I perform. It wasn’t something that we thought out and we thought, “Okay, well, we need to get bright light on Gwyn because she’s making weird facial,” that sort of thing. But I do think that we’re not afraid of into the light, so to speak. I think that because the other guys are kind of just doing their thing, and it makes the most sense, I guess, to put most of the light on the singer, but it’s just I don’t think we really thought about it as much as it just kind of naturally happened organically that, okay, this looks better if we do this. More light up here and less light back there. And for The Machine Shop show we actually had Wes who was the lighting tech for Cradle do our lights for us. And he wanted to do them there because he actually put together the lights for The Machine Shop. So we were so thrilled because he’s amazing, obviously. You can see what he did. And the only directive we gave him was making me look like I’m wrapped in the fingers of God.

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur – Toddstar Photography

Toddstar: Oh, just that. No big deal. [laughs]

Gwyn: Yeah. But I think he did that very well, so.

Toddstar: I think he nailed it. I’ve shot there a lot in the past, and some of the photos I got of you are some of my favorites actually because of the lighting and the way you are contrasted. In that live experience and being less organic, you have placed a very cool cover of “Ring of Fire” in the set. What is it about that song that, if you were going to drop a cover in your set, speaks to you?

Gwyn: I think when we chose to cover that song a while ago, it was just so… Well, number one, I’m a big Johnny Cash fan. I think he’s amazing. I think his cover of Nine Inch Nails is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever heard. So to me, covering something by him was a natural, and “Ring of Fire” is just such a classic. And it was an honor to be able to pull it apart and reconstruct it in a way that spoke to us.

Toddstar: Going through your set list and the songs from the new material, what are the track or two that not only you look forward to when you know they’re coming in the set, but do you think will stand the test of time and just always be part of what you do sonically in a live scenario?

Gwyn: One of my favorite songs both live and on the album is “Treacle and Revenge.” And I just think that Sean nailed that riff. He wrote that. And we have a studio in our house and the studio is up on the third floor, and I was on the second floor, and I heard this happening. I was like, “What is going on up here? This needs to be something.” So we recorded that. So that one’s always a fun one for me. “All The Things I Was” is a fun one to sing. We don’t really know if that’s going to be a single or not, but I enjoy singing it. I know that Sean loves “1692.” So we don’t have room for it in the short set, but for the long sets that we’ll be doing coming up, we’ll probably be bringing that one back. He loves that one.

After a faux pas on my end regarding the misreading of an email header and clearing up that Frayle is NOT playing Slipknot, but had their newest single added to Knofest radio…

Toddstar: How is the new single and video “Bright Eyes” being received?

Gwyn: Yeah, it’s actually been amazing. I think this one’s a little bit more straightforward, so I think people are really kind of latching onto it because it makes sense. “Treacle and Revenge” is a little bit more, not experimental, but it leans a little bit more that way. “Skin and Sorrow” is very sad, and not everybody wants to feel that, but “Bright Eyes” is about, again, putting on a happy face when you’re going through something really dark so that you can get through the day and not make other people uncomfortable and not make them feel like they need to talk to you, or you don’t really want to talk about it so you just put on a happy face and go through your day. So I think everybody can kind of relate to that, so I think it’s been very well received.

Toddstar: That said, what still amps you up either when you’re trying to get creative, or you’re thinking about a tour, or you’re thinking about just getting out there and you want to do something artistically? What still influences you to do what you do?

Gwyn: Influences come from a lot of different places. Listening to other artists, not necessarily in the same genre because… Although sometimes I get a lot of inspiration from King Woman. I love her. I love looking at art. I love looking at fashion. I love going out in nature and being inspired by that. We watch movies. We get inspired by soundtracks. The very symphonic kind of soundtracks has a lot of influence on us. So really, influence is everywhere. You just have to kind of capture it and take advantage of it when it’s still there.

Toddstar: With that in mind, because you do draw from different genres and everything else as you alluded to, what’s the one we’ll say musical guilty pleasure you have that fans of your music, or even your genre might be surprised to know that you spend and enjoy?

Gwyn: Well, I’m not above listening to some Britney every now and again.

Toddstar: I don’t think any of us are.

Gwyn: Right. “Work Bitch” just really gets you up and moving. I’m sorry, but it’s just the way it is.

Toddstar: I know you’re busy so I want to close out for you, but looking back through the history of music, if you could pick an album or what you know was a specific recording session, what piece of music just strikes the nerve within you that you would’ve liked to have been there, whether it was to actually contribute or just be a fly on the wall and experience the magic as it happened?

Gwyn: Well, I think Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath, I think that to me is one of the most evil riffs I have ever heard. And so I would really like to be there when that was happening and just see how it came to be. Were they thinking, “This needs…” Oh, my cat just jumped up on my lap. “This needs to be as evil as possible, and so, how can we make it more so?” Or did it just come about naturally? I mean, to me that was just such an impressive song, but also nothing like that had been done before, so what brought that into being? I would love to know that.

Toddstar: Well, what else would you like to tell people about? I know you have a European tour. You’ve got some huge festivals. I think you will be out most of November. What’s next for Frayle other than the album release and that tour? What can we look forward to?

Gwyn: Well, on September 9th, we have another show at Post Festival. We’ll be playing before Boris, and then, yeah, September 24th is the record release. November 1st to 19th we’re going to be in Europe, and we’re already working on the next album, and I think that’s going to be… Well so far, it’s going to be probably a little bit more, I don’t know, again, not experimental, but with a nod towards that. So that’s all that we’ve been working on so far. And of course, more videos. We’ve got to put together two more videos, probably one for “Roses” or “Sacrifant” and “All The Things I Was.” So those should be coming out soon.

Toddstar: Sonically in my mind, that’s a powerful three pack in that I know they run together on the album and the 1, 2, 3 punch there is just sonically amazing to listen to.

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur – Toddstar Photography

Gwyn: Oh, cool. Thank you.

Toddstar: Well, listen, Gwyn. I appreciate the time. You made me a believer. I knew little about you other than what Selena had sent me ahead of time, and when I caught the show at The Shop with Cradle of Filth, again, you made me a believer. I love the music. I love what you’re doing. I love the presentation, the whole package. So I hope we get more experience of you up here in the Detroit area.

Gwyn: Well, thank you so much. We hope to get back there soon. Thanks. Take care.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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