The Devil Wears Prada’s Mike Hranica Talks ‘Transit Blues’ Album, Touring + Current Lineup
The Devil Wears Prada continue to evolve. With their sixth studio album, Transit Blues, recently arriving, the group have turned their focus to themes of travel and separation. In the process of making the disc, the band underwent a couple of lineup changes, but have emerged stronger than ever. We recently had a chance to speak with The Devil Wears Prada's Mike Hranica about the new album and the vocalist told us about some of the album's key tracks and themes, the creative process and how the band has adapted to the recent lineup changes. Check our the chat below:
I know this is kind of a little bit of a different album for the band. Did you have an idea ahead of time that you wanted to explore these themes and separation, or did they just kind present themselves as you started writing and working on this?
I mean, I had the title for quite some time, so there was definitely a sort of loose recognition, somewhat subconsciously I read something, watched a film recently that talked about songwriting being subconscious and something happening, your body recognizing something before you even write it out or create something out of an idea, I think definitely I knew where I wanted to go with Transit Blues years ago, which isn't to say that that there was no spontaneity or even writer's block, but I was definitely pretty dead set on the idea.
Did the decision to live and record together over this time period, did that mean anything different to the recording of this album, and how it came together? Do you feel it comes across in the album itself?
I think more so writing than recording. I think the fact that we all lived together, and worked on-site, on premise in Wisconsin and Michigan were extremely important to the work process, and the general flow of coming up with the songs. It just seemed like it really eliminated the need to be like, okay, I'm going to the practice space, or I'm going to the band space, studio, or whatever, and I have to be creative. When you know, we have these, the farm, and then the little Airbnb in Michigan, it was like, a lot of the time, you know, it was just figuring what we want to have for dinner, getting groceries, cooking and what not, and then all the moments in between is when song writing came about, and different ideas, and ... brainstorming for me as far as lyrical content, and whatnot. So I think the living conditions definitely played a huge part with writing. On the recording end it was just the same, out in New York, with Dan Korneff in Long Island.
Did you learn anything about the guys that maybe you didn't already know, in terms of being in that close of quarters 24/7 all the time.
I don't think so. After 11 years, especially Jeremy [DePoyster], Andy [Trick], and I knowing each other this long, and also the three guys that collectively live in Chicago, miles from each other, we go out drinking, we watch football games, parties at Jeremy's house, with significant others and whatnot, like we, I think we have a pretty good idea of ourselves at this point. I think what is really cool about living together in a house is that it's much easier than getting together on a bus, so there's a little more liberty and freedom and seclusion, at least for me personally that's very important. Important component of all my creative process, as far as just being able to be myself and just isolate.
I know you have a voracious appetite for reading, and was just curious. Did the things that you were reading around the time of recording the disc, did those factor at all into the direction of the album, or were you pulling from things from way back when?
Well, reading was highly, highly influential, especially with Lolita turning into the idea behind "To the Key of Evergreen" and "Daughter" being based around the climax of a novel called The Mandarins so those components were extremely pivotal, very very important as far as those songs specifically, but there were a number of things I wanted to try to improve upon, to make a better album than what we've done before, and one thing that really felt compelling and immediate to me was trying to approach topics differently then what is so cliche in metal, so threadbare and overdone. I wanted to be able to talk about more ordinary topics, and... for the most part that's just what really has gripped me in my own musical taste, and I wanted to find a way to have these aggressive songs but be able to talk about more mundane matters, and I think that's also very much born from literature. A lot of reading is not going to be these highly intense sort of moments all the time, as compared to, you know, if you look at the substance behind a metal record, where it's all so dire and dramatic.
You mention "Daughter," which has done well for you guys. And it comes from the Simone de Beauvoir novel. It's somewhat tragic, but also a somewhat freeing place where that comes from. Can you address what led you to basically picking that in particular, and wanting to express that emotion and get that onto a record.
As long as I've been in this band, I've jotted down lyrics in my phone, or in notepads, and whatnot. Really it's always been my phone, and then I transfer to a notebook, and then I write lyrics by hand. And I've tried to eliminate that, because I think a lot of the time it makes for too much filler, and it makes for too much content that blends together rather than having more specific of an identity. So I've tried to be intentional about that, but I still jot down ideas, and the first time I read The Mandarins I jotted down that page number, and like, "Wow, this is so passionate, this is so moving." And it does have like that, that sort of dire immediacy that is so often grouped with this aggressive kind of metal music. So as I was re-reading The Mandarins in Michigan, I got back to that exact moment in the novel, and it definitely felt just as compelling as it did the first time, and it really felt like a song, and this entire portrait created in what was happening in that moment, as far as like, the dizzying nature of the, the physically saying pitch black, pitch black in a manner that Mrs. Beauvoir wrote it, so yeah, it stuck out to me twice, and at writing the back half of the album in Michigan it was definitely like, "Oh oh, this is an idea that really feels inspirational to me and feels like a total kind of concept that I haven't heard often, or at all, in metal."
Because reading can kind of generate a unique response to each individual person, how do you make sure that you and your bandmates are on the same page musically, in terms of what you're trying to translate with that feeling that you're getting from something like this.
It's actually become much easier with where the band is at now, like, I've worked with Kyle on a side project for years, and then he started teaching for the band, and now he's a full time member of the band, and guitar player, so him and I just like really hit it off when we first met, and have a tremendous amount of things in common, as far as how we approach guitar, how we approach music and many other aspects of our lives. And with that, we really have a similar taste in music, and Jeremy is pretty eclectic, as is everyone you know, as all musicians are, but he can definitely get behind the sort of the little more obscure music that we listen to, and with that coupling in, and Kyle being a part of this full time, I think that it's really allotted a lot of open space for us to be able to explore different avenues rather than just the stereotypical chorus, bridge, you know, verse structure of a Prada song.
Another real point of intention for Transit Blues was to not force three choruses every time, not listen to the song, and go like, oh well, here comes the big end breakdown, that I'm probably going to forget because I've heard it on five records already. It's just sort of all on the back of our minds and we all can read it at this point. Even with Kyle [Sipress] being a newer member, I mean, I think Jeremy and Andy and I, our general direction, as well as Jon [Gering], our keyboardist who plays a very huge role in our songwriting, it's just this unspoken kind of chemistry that works well.
To be more direct to your question, to get over the course of our career I've been granted and blessed with the liberty to be able to have these specific concepts for songs, and the band hear that out, and then try to work off of it a little more, so... I know it's probably not so transparent to listeners but on our end as we're making these songs, and especially it started with the Space EP, we're trying to do something sonically that really matches what's happening lyrically, and it's not complicated by any means, I mean before it was just a Prada song, and then I would put lyrics over it, and then we would polish it up, and that was that. But now it's like, okay, I have this idea, and we'll make a song off of that, or there's one riff, and I'm like, oh, this is going to match well with this idea, and then the rest of the song comes to fruition based off of that sort of, umm... I don't know maybe elementary lyrical concepts, that kind of... yet to be born child of a lyrical idea...
I had a chance to check out "To the Key of Evergreen" video that you guys did. It's a very well done video, and just wanted to get your thoughts on what we see in the "Key to Evergreen" video and how it relates to what you're original intention was.
Yeah, when we had the song together I knew immediately I wanted to work with Maria again. Maria Juranic did our videos for "War" and "First Sight" from our last full length, 8:18. And I think the world of her. When she did the "First Sight" video, the first music video we ever received and said, in the first rough draft, we said don't change a thing, color correct it, it's done. This is amazing. You totally hit it out of the park. And we didn't get to work with her on the Space EP, but with "To the Key of Evergreen," I just knew that her understand and her recognition of like, the kind of warm colors, and everything that geographically is happening in that song, that she was the perfect candidate for the music video. She was already a bit busy, so the video took longer than any of us wanted to release it to fans and listeners, but I wouldn't have done it any other way because I knew that Maria was a perfect fit.
Specifically as to what's happening lyrically versus the video, she added a bit more as far as this idea of the past and the present, between these lovers, and this sort of like apparition of this man's lover, and that she's kind of gone, or, again, kind of like a ghost or an apparition, and then in the end with the leaves, that kind of cemented romance between them. And those principles aren't happening lyrically. Lyrically it's honestly much simpler and boring and dull, but at the same time, yeah, I absolutely loved what she did, and I think it is a really beautiful depiction of what is meant to be a really beautiful story between these two people.
One of the first things I see on this album is "Home for Grave, Pt. II." How great has it been for you to basically sit here and see the evolution from the orginal song to you doing the short story, and now we have ‘Home for Grave, Pt. II."
Yeah, I mean... getting to do something, I consider it just an all in all, like a creative exercise, and having the ability to do that is incredible. And it's, to me these kinds of things are the most important thing about trying to grow and become a smarter creator, I hate to call myself an artist, or a musician, so I'll try to avoid that. But with the first song I wanted to create this story of an ordinary man, his life never comes to fruition, and it just never treated him fairly and then he died an untimely death. But for the short story, I wanted to kind of use different, stereotypical characters to depict all that, and to try to put it in terms of... the kind of, like a midwestern reality I guess, I would describe it as. And the back half was basically everything that, and his perception of it, which was the ordinary man's lover, or his ex girlfriend who, their relationship ended poorly, or never, like much of the ordinary man, Ian, like his wife, just never really grew, or never came to life so much. So, a lot of "Home for Grave Part II" follows inevitable death, and looking at it through the lense of this woman that lost someone that she really cared about. But yeah, I'm excited, and I'm really pumped to have been able to this short story, and the part two version of the song, mostly in that it's much bigger than just one simple song, it's a little more depth, it allots a little more depth.
You talked a little bit about Kyle earlier, but I know Giuseppe is drumming with the band as well. Can you talk a little bit about, obviously you had Daniel for a long time, but can you tell me a little bit about what Giuseppe brings to the band, and do we look at him as being the long term guy now?
Yeah, we hope so. I mean, he's in the picture, as far as everything in the immediate future, and touring and everything. And we're really looking forward to kind of starting from blank with him, rather than starting from what we had as far as just getting to the start from scratch with him, rather than him starting from the kind of cheap programmed drums that John has in there as a placeholder. But he's an absolute machine. It's really really encouraging, and inspiring for all of us to be around someone that's so good at their craft, and someone that is so non-complacent with it, and always so driven to become better. A part of Kyle playing with us, I think as really inspired something in Jeremy and Andy to learn, and try to be better at guitar and bass, and I've learned so much as a guitar player from Kyle. And Giuseppe [Capolupo] is the same kind of personality, it's... it's just like that lack of being stationary, it's trying to be better and better and better at drums, and that kind of mentality is amazing to have around.
And you're obviously getting a chance to basically bring him into the fold on tour now. I know you guys are playing dates with Memphis May Fire, and then taking it over to Europe. Can you talk a little bit about how this tour has been with Memphis May Fire, and you're relationship with the guys?
Yes, certainly. It's been good. I have met the singer of Memphis, Matty, years ago at Riot Fest, back home in Chicago, but... it's been going well. You know, same label as is the whole lineup, the Rise Up Tour. But really man, I'm just excited to be back, we haven't done any full touring since a co-headline with Motionless in White a year ago. So it's good to be back out here consistently, and I have to give a shout out to Silverstein too, because those guys like, some of our first big shows were them taking us out for like these little weekends, while I was still in high school and whatnot, so, it's super cool to be with Silverstein again, too, and for the upcoming Europe run, European run Silverstein has, and Prada is going to be sharing a bus, so that's going to be pretty, pretty wild I think.
Looking ahead at the dates, and I noticed you guys are overseas during Thanksgiving, I think you're actually in France I believe. Have you done Thanksgiving overseas, or had a holiday overseas while you guys had been on tour over the years, and what are you expecting from this holiday coming up?
First of all it's very informative that we're in France, I had no idea. It's such a busy time for us to tour, that I can't remember the last time I had like a Thanksgiving with family, which isn't a complaint because I don't like... I'm like a total scrooge, and I don't like obligatory holidays to spend time with people. I think people should do that outside of holidays. But that's a whole other story.
Honestly, I don't think it's that big of a deal. We had a Thanksgiving overseas when we were on tour with August Burns Red, and honestly I can't even remember what we did. And this is going to sound like I'm totally just like, blowing smoke, but I'm really excited to be back overseas. We haven't been once to the U.K. or Europe this year, and we didn't at all last year either, so like just being back there and being a part of that culture, and getting to experience it, is just like so so inspiring for us. Whether it's Thanksgiving or not, we're going to have fun, I mean, France is actually... I mean, France is incredible, so it's not in the States, I think that's a good place to be.
Very good. In the few times we've talked over the years, you've talked about your vinyl collection, and the things you picked up. Just wondering if you have any cool recent vinyl finds, or things you've added to your collection.
I feel like it's been a really good year for music, which is awesome. I think the... it's nothing too special, but I just picked up a different, I think it's like a burgundy color wave of the newest, or the brand new Neurosis record, which whether it is vinyl or not, is really really f--king good, but, I'm stoked to have a limited edition color of that guy. The record is like, I think maybe the best metal release of the year, if you want to call it metal. Otherwise... I haven't had any deluxe editions in a minute. I think maybe the last deluxe edition I did was the second METZ LP, which is called ‘II.’ Honestly, I'm spending a lot of time trying to cook up the next awesome Prada deluxe edition. So I'll be stoked on that as well. I mean, new Helms Alee is awesome, I got a cool splatter of that. Gosh... I found an old Hatred Surge record that's really really good, that I just like slept on from a few years ago, but that's not like a cool color wave or anything, I don't think.
It's just cool to have.
Oh definitely, well that's how LPs go. It's cool to have.
Basically we've got the tour going into Europe at this point, but what do the next six months or so have in store for you?
More touring, especially because we've been pretty light on shows this whole year and everything, and have been taking time off to write and record. So a lot of touring, but a lot of, through this next year we're sitting on, I feel, it's not that many things, but I feel like a number of really really cool exclusive things for fans, and more behind the scenes look at, really just more content for Transit Blues and the Space EP. I can't give away too much, but we'll have new media, new content, new cool things for fans, and listeners, within this next coming year.
Our thanks to The Devil Wears Prada's Mike Hranica for the interview. The band's 'Transit Blues' album is available via Amazon and iTunes. And be sure to keep up with the band's touring at this location.
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