When I think of Cleveland’s Frayle, the word majestic comes to mind. From its inception in 2017 the band has captured audiences, mesmerizing them with their music. Part stoner doom, part be-witching and soulful, Frayle mix elements of bands like Portishead and the music of Bijork with harder acts like Black Sabbath and Kyuss. Although you hate to single out the vocalist, it is hard not to with Gwyn Strand. Beyond her powerful voice, she has such a strong sense of style and owns the jewelry/clothing line, LITHIUM Clothing. It was a no-brainer for the band to be features on the upcoming Women of Doom compilation from Desert Records. Their new album,1692, signifies the year of the Salem Witch trials. Witches being a running theme within the band’s music. Gwyn was kind enough to chat with us about her background, influences and her personal beliefs.
First off, congrats on all your success and excellent reviews. I was able to catch you last year live and it was truly incredible. Were you born and raised in Cleveland? Does living there bring inspiration considering it’s a rust-belt city, dark and gloomy?
G: Thank you so much! It really is all so wonderful and surprising!
I grew up on the east coast of Canada in the province of New Brunswick. It was beautiful and scenic but you are really quite isolated. I think that isolation makes you want to break out and do magical things.
Living in a tiny town that was built on marshes also means that you are surrounded by eerily beautiful scenery. You really start to appreciate the foggy vast expanse in all your teenage gloom. It kind of drags you into melancholy and makes you want to live there.
Obviously, there is a lot of references to Witches in your music and you released your album Dead Inside with a limited-edition Alchemy Box. What is your relationship toward the occult? Do you practice any sort of spiritualism? I read somewhere you went to Catholic school, as did I. I think sometimes that can give a person a distaste for organized Religion.
G: I didn’t go to Catholic school but we were definitely very catholic! I was an altar girl, and I played the organ for and sang in the church choir. I think you’re correct in your assessment that it can give you a distaste for organized religion. I used to leave mass feeling eviscerated. The song “Stab” on the new album talks about that.
I’m not Wiccan or Pagan. I’m not sure what you would call me, really. I don’t really believe in labels per se. I believe in hermetic and some Wiccan philosophies and I believe that we are all gods. I don’t really believe in organized religion in any form. If it makes you feel good, then good for you! Continue with what makes you feel good. If not, then create your own religion.
With all the politically correctness nowadays, there was some discussion when “Women of Doom” compilation was announced. I saw women online complaining thinking it was a way for the label to make money off women. When I spoke with the label, they were kind and explained themselves, so I am confident they aren’t trying to profit off women. Did you have any issues being a part of this? What is your opinion of feminism and categorizing your band as “female-fronted” or being singled out because you are the women in the band?
G: Everyone we worked with at Desert Records and Blues Funeral were nothing but kind and professional.
I definitely consider myself to be a feminist. I’m not sure how you can be a woman and not be! I guess I’m not sure how you couldn’t be a feminist, period. I know that there has been a lot of discussion about whether to label your band as “female fronted” and I can see both sides of the argument. My thought is that as long as you are using the term to describe your band, and not exploit the “female” part of the description, then I’m fine with it. If you are trying to ride the female empowerment wave and choose a female to front your band just to get more people interested, then I do have a problem with that.
You have a new album coming out soon, 1692. What can your fans expect from this album? Was there anything different about your writing process for this? Obviously, we can assume 1692 represents the year of the Salem Witch trials. Was that a specific inspiration?
G: Sean and I always write the same way. He writes a bunch of riffs, then I sing a scratch track. We go over everything and map out the song, then I write lyrics. I have a library of hundreds and hundreds of lyric notes. Maybe a line from a poem I read, or something I was thinking about. Then I expound on one of the notes and make it fit within the confines of the song. I usually find a loose “theme” after we’ve finished recording. It’s kind of interesting to figure out which demons I was exorcising during that time.
We actually named the album after one of the first songs that we wrote for this album. The song is written from the point of view of a witch as she is awaiting her trial, so, yes, definitely an inspiration.
As we continued writing, I decided that I really wanted this album to be a love poem for those who have been singled out and persecuted for their beliefs. I wanted to create a safe haven. A place to be vulnerable among the chaos.
I must ask about your amazing Jewelry line. It is beautiful! Did you go to school for design or is this just another natural talent you have?
G: Thank you! I went to school for clothing design in Toronto.
I will be adding clothing to the Lithium Clothing shop soon.
I just want to make everything I possibly can!
How do you define your personal style? Is that something that’s important to you?
G: I’m not sure how to define my style…I just always thought it was more important to look interesting than conventionally pretty. It is very important to me. I really enjoy designing. I like how things evolve as you’re making them. I enjoy styling for videos and photo shoots too. I just want to make all the beautiful things!
How has the music business been for you? What are your opinions on it? Do platforms like Spotify or Pandora bother you as a musician?
G: When Sean and I released “The White Witch” on band camp we certainly didn’t expect anything to happen with it. It was a project that we wanted to do just to have fun and to create something together.
I think Spotify and Pandora have their place. For a band like Frayle, it’s exposure. We certainly don’t expect to make money off of those platforms. In a perfect world, the artist makes the majority of money from their art, but sadly, this is not the world we live in. You go into these agreements with your eyes wide open.
What is the best way for a fan to approach you in person?
G: Please just come up and say “hi!” I’m very nice, I promise!
I am very shy so if I’m super awkward, please understand that it is me and not you!
G: Many times, with social media, we see artists and performers as perfect. Tell us something human about yourself that other women may relate to. Does anything make you self-conscience?
G: It was very difficult when Sean asked me to sing because I was never very confident with my voice. I didn’t have that typical “blues” type female voice you often hear with this type of music, and I’m definitely not a power singer. Sean pushed me outside of my comfort zone.
Fear held me back. I now mourn the time I lost worrying about who would like my voice, and who would like what I had to say.
Please, please don’t ever let fear hold you back. Amazing things are on the other side of that fear.
G: When you die, which we hope isn’t for a very long time, what would you want to be written on your tombstone?
A phrase that has always resonated with me is “Vis Vires.”
It’s a phrase that means Strength and power, but more of will than physically. I feel like a strength of will is the only thing that has gotten me through certain times.
Maybe someday, someone walking in a grave yard will need to see something like that to help them power through.