Corey Fry turns white trash into a thing of beauty on new album ‘Westward’

Sunrise Reset frontman Corey Fry regularly rides his bicycle along a path that sneaks along the back of some low-income areas on the West Side — neighborhoods that he also happens to work with as an elementary school counselor.

On a ride one beautiful fall afternoon, Fry noticed two teens smoking weed on a bridge on the bike path, and the scene inspired him to compose a new song, “Invisible Rope,” in his head for the rest of the ride. “West side white trash/Smoking weed on a bicycle path/I hope you get what you need/I hope your life can find some peace,” Fry sings over finger-picked guitar that doesn't stay delicate for long.

“I was basically a white trash kid myself,” Fry said in a recent interview. “That's what somebody who saw me would have called me. I don't think that's a pejorative thing, but I know in our culture it could be. But I have so much empathy for the communities I work in, which do have a lot of poor people who one might look at and call white trash.”

To come up with a video for “Invisible Rope,” the third of nine tracks on Sunrise Reset's new album, Westward, Fry searched “white trash” on YouTube. “I found the videos that had the lowest view counts and pilfered them and strung them together to make a loving homage,” he said. “I find the video kind of touching and humorous. Life sucks, but it doesn't always have to suck when you're poor. Life can be kind of nice, too. I tried to put in a lot of footage of happy things — people dancing, smoking weed, people at parties and concerts.”

Fry didn't realize he was poor until he moved away from Columbus in middle school. “It was like my Garden of Eden moment, where suddenly I had this knowledge of, ‘Oh, my god. I'm a poor kid,'” he said. “From that point on I always felt like an outcast.”

Fry, who used to helm Sunrise Reset precursor Monolithic Cloud Parade, lived in different parts of Ohio from age 13 to 22, which he chronicles on Westward tracks such as “Ohio” and “Nature vs. Nature.” But that outcast feeling never quite went away. It just takes a different shape now that Fry and his wife are in their 30s without kids.

“All of our friends have children. It feels weird to be the one without kids. It's cool to hang out with those people's kids, but the dynamics change. The relationships change,” Fry said. “Our friends are wonderful people, but we are the ones who don't fit in. … We're finding other things to do with our childless existence.”

Fry and his wife love to travel and explore the outdoors, and for artistic catharsis, Fry has Sunrise Reset, which, on Westward, is beginning to shy away from folk-rock, thanks in part to drummer Michael Yonchak, an Otterbein University music professor. “[Yonchak] also drums for a country band and teaches jazz drumming … but with us he unleashes his inner rock god,” Fry said. “Over the years of playing with him, his style has contributed to some of the more aggressive tendencies I could have. The album starts with huge, heavy, distorted cacophony. … We're not really folksy anymore. We're kind of rock.”