An album launch and a jam-packed US headline tour have made for a particularly busy period for The Devil Wears Prada right now. But even so, time was made for me to jump on the phone with the band’s frontman, Mike Hranica, to discuss their current proceedings, a new album, being a band for near-on 11 years & a potential Australian appearance next year…
Hey there Mike. How are you doing, and where are you calling from at this point in time?
I’m doing alright Corey, and I’m back home in Chicago at the moment. How are you?
Oh, very nice, I’m doing well thank you. With the album release and US headline tour so close on the horizon, is it safe to assume that you’re relaxing in the calm before the storm?
Yeah, pretty much. We’ve done our rehearsals and pre-rehearsals, little things here and there but mostly a week from tomorrow, do we head out to start the real deal.
For sure, and it’s a huge tour that you’re headlining in the US, boasting Memphis May Fire, Silverstein, Like Moths to Flames and of course, yourselves. So with that, regarding your set list and a new album soon to be added to your already extensive discography, how did you go about choosing which songs to perform live on the tour?
It’s most certainly not easy. We tend to procrastinate as much as we possibly can but this time we’ve got video productions so we had to lock it in. Thankfully our tour manager was very heavy handed in helping us figure it out not at the last moment. Usually in the past when we’ve released an album we play a lot of new songs, however, this time, we’re kind of scaling back a little bit, with regards to having five full length and two EPs, which I guess comes with the territory.
Oh, so does that mean you’ll be playing a few songs from the first two records or like I’ve heard you say in the past, are you trying to still forget they exist?
I try to forget but unfortunately others do not. So, what we’re planning on is this sort of medley, stuffing a bunch of songs into four minutes and we’ll see how it goes.
Yeah, that’s a good idea! I’ve seen a few bands do that, We Came as Romans and Enter Shikari, for example. It seems like a win-win too, because you won’t have to perform as much older stuff, but the fans will still get a taste of it.
I hope that’s how they feel!
I’m sure it’ll go down well. Anyway, on to the new record ‘Transit Blues’. You’ve released two singles titled ‘Daughter’ and ‘To the Key of Evergreen’. Can you please divulge the lyrical content for me?
Well, the first song ‘Daughter’ is based off the climax in a novel called ‘The Mandarins’ by Simon De Beauvoir, and the manic moment involving this mother coming to a suicidal acknowledgement. She comes to the realisation that she never loved her daughter, which I found very compelling and powerful the second time I read the novel. The second song is a song about two lovers on a cross-country car ride born from or influenced by Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.
They’re both interesting concepts. So did you read these novels, and feel inspired to in turn write a song about them?
Not exactly. We wrote To the Key of Evergreen before Daughter and I started on this idea and then I realised the parallel to Lolita and drew certain lines between the song and the novel. With Daughter, we were collectively writing the back half of the album and I was reading The Mandarins at the time. I actually wrote a note down the first time I read it saying “this moment was very powerful, maybe it’s a song”. Then as I was re-reading it I was like “oh, this is a song!’. I don’t know, we felt the interpretation was so open to something rapid and violent and aggressive in being a metal song, but also having this very sentimental moment within that novel.
For sure! So in regards to the rest of the record, does it follow the same path as the two singles in being influenced by novels? Or does it still have the political and faith-based themes of past works?
You know, realistically there isn’t a lot of faith in the new album, which isn’t anything to say based off or anything to say about my own faith. However, it just isn’t as much at the forefront of what I want to do in regards to the immediacy of my work. Politically, there actually is a song on the album called ‘Lock & Load’, which follows the gun epidemic the US is facing, along with other parts of the world, but primarily the idiots here in the US. Our current set of laws and regulations are doing nothing besides killing hundreds and hundreds of people.
It’s a huge issue without a doubt, especially when even us Australians are hearing about it daily.
You know, one of the amazing things is what you guys did with guns and the result you achieved, all being quite excellent considering the situation over here. I have no idea what the people over here are concerned of when they say the government are coming to take their guns. If it weren’t so tragic, you guys could probably share a pretty good laugh about it.
I agree, the logic behind the whole situation is bizarre. Anyway, back on the new record. From the singles, it seems to be following on from the Space EP structurally, rather than the verse-chorus-verse-chorus of the older material. To me, the clean vocals are placed where they make sense and where necessary, rather than just for the sake of it. Would you agree?
Yeah, I can definitely agree with that. In regards to the structure, yeah we definitely intended to stray from the typical metalcore verse-chorus-verse-chorus. Just playing all the songs live and touring so many months out of the year and just being like “damn, why is there this chorus again?” or “this just feels too predictable”. That predictability is exactly what I wanted to avoid. I have a few records that I approached our keyboardist John who has a very heavy influence in the band’s songwriting, and really the band itself. I mentioned these records in certain songs and being like “these are kinda verse-chorus songs, but they don’t feel that way”. They abandon all sense of predictability and that was something we wanted to be bold about in coming up with these songs. I think that’s what made certain songs in 8:18 meld together and cut the songs sustainability and longevity.
Predictability in metalcore these days is, well… predictable, so stay bold! Now, drummer and original member Daniel Williams left the band not too long ago. Did that have much of an effect on the songwriting for the new record?
We’re kinda just going along as usual. You know, for years and year’s we were praised for always keeping the same members and as we’ve all grown older and half the line-up has changed, now everyone is astounded. It all feels very dramatic to me and rather over-thought. With what’s happened between James, Chris and Daniel, it’s all been for the absolute best for the band and for those people, I feel. Therefore, I feel the band is still moving along very naturally and very much according to whatever it is that we are to be.
That’s great to hear! So it’s really not the fresh start that the media would coin it as, just moving along as you do?
Well, it’s a little of both. You hear from a business side that’s it’s ‘Prada 3.0’, I’ve heard those analogies a lot and you know, it does feel fresh to have certain minds in the room and changing things around I do often find to be fruitful. But yeah, we’re still getting together and playing, and it still feels that this is where we’re meant to be. If there’s ever this hanging bit of hesitation or reluctance then I think that’s when it’s time to discuss hanging it up. Specifically, in regards to member changes, this is our band and you know, we’re still here.
Well, it’s good to know that after 11 years, you’ve still got that drive!
Yeah! We’ve had conversations with people that go very strangely, from “Oh you’ve been going at it for 11 years” but there’s still so much praise. While there has been so many flops in that time, there are still bands like Every Time I Die that can laugh at only 11 years, and at the same time, that’s what we aspire to if it’s what is still honest in the creative process and the performance process.
For sure, even Silverstein are still killing it, and they’ve been at it a little longer than Prada.
Yeah, they are. They brought us out years ago and it was the first time I’d ever played a House of Blues, which I imagine you’re familiar with, but it’s kinda like a chain venue here in the states. It was the first time we’d ever played to these huge crowds and we’ve kept up with them ever since. Whenever they play in Chicago I still hit up Bill all the time, great dudes and they most definitely deserve much respect for making it as long as they have and still being as fresh and energetic and colourful as they are.
Definitely. Even when all the mid-2000’s post-hardcore/metalcore bands they were clustered with from the beginning started breaking up, they stuck at it and they’re still here, which is awesome to see. It’s as if they’re one of the only decent sized bands left from that era of the genre(s).
True, and it doesn’t feel desperate or dated. That’s the vibe I get from it. There’s such a devotion that is most palpable with those guys. Again, it is to be commended.
It sure is. Now back to the member changes, did that influence anything very specific in terms of the writing, or was it simply a few altered ideas occasionally?
I mean, it was specific in who was at the reigns and the sort of democratic process. There’s always going to be a guy that doesn’t like this or a guy that doesn’t like that, and that sort of relinquishes to some extent, and it sub-sides with certain members when it starts to become clear when their time is diminishing in having a part in the band. Again, I don’t mean to say that in a negative manner by any means in regards to Chris and Daniel, but it’s something one can sense, I can say that. If that makes sense?
Yeah, that definitely makes sense in my mind. Now I know you have a touring drummer currently; Giuseppe who used to play in Haste the Day. Is he becoming permanent, or do you have one in mind?
The plan is for him to be permanent. He’s only played a handful of shows as we’ve only played that much this year between writing and recording the album, of which he was a part of. Everything’s great, though, I’ve known Giuseppe for I think almost 10 years now. He played a lot of our first shows and then played in Haste the Day, who we’ve toured with and done festivals with for what seems like a very long time. So I’ve known him forever, he’s out in Pittsburgh and I see him every time I’m there. I’ve always had that relationship, and he was the first person I called when Daniel quit the band.
Oh awesome, seems like the perfect fit then!
Perfect fit indeed, yeah!
Awesome. So I’ll finish off with what a lot of us would all like to hear. Will we be seeing The Devil Wears Prada down here anytime soon?
(Laughs). This is actually the third time I’ve been asked this recently and I can’t say when, but I will say yes. I’m very excited, you guys have treated us very well.
That’s good to hear! It’s been a while since a headlining tour too, the last one being for the release of ‘Dead Throne’. Is headlining at the top of the agenda, or am I trying to squeeze too much info out of you?
I haven’t received any confirmation yet so I won’t talk too much, but potentially yes. If something falls through, then I’ll make as many phone calls and emails as necessary to be sure we’re back in Australia in 2017.
I’ll hold you to that. Well, it was a pleasure speaking to you, good luck with the album release and I hope to see you soon!
Thank you very much, sir, take care.
The Devil Wears Prada’s fifth full-length offering, ‘Transit Blues’, is out October 7th via Rise Records.