The Devil Wears Prada’s Mike Hranica Discusses New Album Progress + Tour With As I Lay Dying
The year 2012 was a great one for the Devil Wears Prada, as the band had a prime spot on the Mayhem Festival tour while promoting their ‘Dead and Alive’ concert album, in addition to their 2011 studio album, ‘Dead Throne.’
After some late year touring overseas, the Devil Wears Prada started getting back to work on their next album. Loudwire caught up with singer Mike Hranica during a break in writing sessions, and he told us about the progress for their forthcoming disc and he also spoke about the band’s upcoming co-headlining trek with As I Lay Dying, which kicks off Feb. 22.
After taking a break for the holidays, do you build up any rust as you get ready to head back on tour?
Right now, and I know the tour is sneaking up on us about a month away, but really we’re quite distracted. We’re working on really finishing the record as far as writing. We’ve been doing that for about two weeks. We’re all in Portland right now working, so right now the big thing on the table at the moment is getting everything figured out for our new record in terms of timing, producer, engineer, mixing all of that stuff, and even more immediate is making sure we have our songs good to go. So that’s weighing on us right now and keeping us real busy.
But it was great to be home for the holidays. We had about five weeks in Europe into Thanksgiving and spending a lot of time overseas. It was particularly exhausting, so it was good to just wind down in December and then get back at it writing right now and we’ve got about another week of this. Then in the beginning of February we’ll relax again and get ready to tour.
When we talked at the Mayhem Festival last summer, the ideas for the new disc were just starting to pop up at that point. What can you tell me about how this album is progressing?
Since ‘Dead Throne’ came out, I knew what I wanted to do. This is not a conceptual record, but it’s kind of like what the underlying theme of the record would be. I’ve had that for a while, but after Mayhem we recorded four songs and actually tracked vocals and everything and now that we’re in Portland so far I have another four tracks and the rest of the guys have a number more on top of that. They’re really refining and fine tuning I suppose. Before we’re done here, I’ll try to track some more vocals so we’re definitely on the right page and being diligent about it. It’s exciting to be writing songs again.
I know that ideas come from the other band members as well, but how difficult is it to gather all the ideas and make it into something your own.
[Chuckle] It’s kind of forced. I mean the band lives all over. Chris is in Portland, Dave’s in San Diego and then the rest of us are in Chicago, so when it’s time to meet up, there’s no option. It’s time to go. I think for me at least, and for all of us, you know you have to do it. It’s just that time and I know for me personally it’s not a huge challenge to try to write better songs than what I was doing previously, but it’s never a challenge to write because I always have stuff on my mind. I’m always ready to come up with new things, at least for the most part. I was very excited with ‘Dead Throne’ and it still feels like a very relatable record to me and it’s still truthful. I guess I’m always good to write for the most part and now that it’s been a while since we worked on ‘Dead Throne’ and recorded ‘Dead Throne,’ there’s definitely more stuff on my mind.
You mentioned ‘Dead Throne’ and you also had the concert disc, ‘Dead and Alive.’ Do either of the experiences from those albums carry over into the creative process for this disc or are you starting fresh?
For me, I definitely feel a little bit of a carry-over from ‘Dead Throne,’ particularly because it was a very cool record for me learning, for me learning to write better and that was working with a new [producer] … working with Adam [Dutkiewicz] for the first time and having [A Day to Remember‘s] Jeremy McKinnon working on some of the songs with us, and I feel I took a lot from that. On ‘Dead Throne’ there were better vocal parts and everything was more cohesive and understandable and made for better song structure and everything and that had had a big impact on me creatively and so it’s definitely carried over into this.
Conceptually, the concepts of ‘Dead Throne’ didn’t carry over. I feel like that would be repetitive and monotonous to keep going at the same subject matter, but obviously it all comes from the same place and I can say that nothing got more happy or uplifting really. So I think it’s very much the Devil Wears Prada but also it’s got a bit of freshness and originality to it and I think that even musically we started approaching the songs differently. Like this song could be more like this and working off of a base we never really worked off of before.
You mentioned getting back together in Portland and I’m wondering does location ever factor into the mood or feeling of what you’re putting together? Does this new music have what you might call a Portland-feel?
I don’t think it drastically changes what I’m writing about. For me the things going on in my personal life is more immediate and turns into songs and lyrics rather than where I’m writing it from … unless we’re in Europe and then I might write a song and work off of that. But the big thing for me is that this is the first time writing outside of Chicago for a while, because we usually write there … In Chicago, I go to practice and I go home and I’m right there to write and everything. Here I don’t have those comforts and pleasures of being at home. It’s different in Portland and I think it has a good effect on a few of us in terms of having a separation and letting us know it’s time to work and it’s time to create, so being in Portland has a little bit of a different effect, but I don’t think it’s anything too drastic. I think if I was somewhere sunny and warm, it would definitely have more of a firm hand on the songs.
While sunny and warm may be a few months off, here in the heart of winter you’re heading back indoors for club and concert hall-type shows. Do those type of shows hold a special place for the band in terms of what you get out of intimate venues?
I’ve always really liked everything as long as it works and nothing is breaking and there’s actually enough room onstage. But I’ve always really liked doing tiny club shows that we’ll throw in here and there. I’ve always liked the House of Blues routing, which we’ll be doing on this As I Lay Dying tour, and I love doing Warped Tour and Mayhem, as well. It’s just nice to have a good knack for it. The last tour we did was a European tour with August Burns Red and it was the same thing, small-to-midsize venues or whatever, and it is a bit of separation from what we were doing on Mayhem but I’m excited to get back into it. We haven’t done indoor in the States for about a year now, so I’m definitely enthused to get back into it and be playing a lot of the cities that we love to be in where we’re seeing such a rewarding and complimenting crowd.
As I Lay Dying joined you last summer on the Mayhem Festival and I’m sure you’ve crossed paths before. Can you talk about the relationship there and why they’re the perfect compliment for you on this run?
The first time we toured with them was 2008 on Warped Tour and I didn’t really get to know any of them back then, but there’s been a few run-ins since then and obviously Mayhem, we really got along with them well on Mayhem. Even prior to that we always got along and also before Mayhem, Tim [Lambesis] was on ‘Dead Throne’ and had a guest part and sincerely, I love that band. I’ve been listening to them since I was a sophomore in high school, and it’s awesome to be doing a proper venue tour with them because we’ve never done that. It’s always been the sort of festival thing.
You mentioned Tim and his guest role on ‘Dead Throne.’ Any thoughts on him possibly guesting during your set?
A few times on Mayhem, every couple of days or so, he’d come out and do his part on ‘Constance.’ We haven’t written a set list for the tour yet, so I don’t know if we’ll be playing ‘Constance,’ but I know a lot of people will want it and they’ll want to see Tim do the part.
I’ve done parts on other band’s records and when your on tour you have your own set to play and then you have someone else’s set and have to do the song with them, it can be a little pain-in-the-butt hassle, so I hate to put that on Tim, but we’ll probably be playing ‘Constance’ and it’s just up to him if he’s busy or wants to do it. It’s not like he’s obligated to doing the song every night.
You’ve got a couple of acts opening as well and one of them, For Today, just had a little pre-tour drama with their guitarist leaving after sparking some outrage with his online commentary. Your band has been around enough that this probably isn’t the first time you’ve toured with another act dealing with a change or some headline-making drama. Does that make it any weirder or more difficult to approach them when you know a band is dealing with something more than just playing shows?
I don’t think things will be weird with our relationship with For Today. We’ve toured with them. They did our ‘Dead Throne’ tour, the first one we did in the States, a little over a year ago. I mean, we’ve always gotten along with the guys. I know [singer] Mattie [Montgomery] really well and I was talking to Mattie yesterday. I don’t think it’s going to burden them. They’re really strong men, really strong in their faith and I don’t know. I think if everything that happened with the comment had subsided while on tour, there would have been a noticeable amount of tension, but I’m not too concerned about it. It’s a very heavy issue to be speaking about and I don’t mean to underplay the comment, but we’ve always really got along with that band and we’re really happy we’re touring with them again whether they think those things or not. It’s nothing that we agree with, but we have the same faith and we enjoy touring with them.
I’m not sure of the timeline, but do you plan on recording before hitting the road or after?
We haven’t scheduled anything proper yet, but we’re trying to hop into the studio close to after the tour is finished. Right now, we did it with ‘Dead Throne’ and we’re doing the same thing this time around. We track everything and Chris [Rubey] demos everything out and I’ll do vocals over it and it really really enhances the pre-production process as far as getting into the studio. Last time, it was with Adam D. and really being able to cut the songs apart rather than standing in a room playing songs and saying, “I feel like you should change that,” and taking so much time to do that, you have it all right there in front of you. So we’ve realized how important that is in terms of being sustainable and sufficient and recording and coming up with the best songs that we can so, right now it’s just a matter of writing songs and working on the songs that Chris already has and then demoing it all out and throwing some sloppy vocals over it and having a couple of months to listen over it and then when you hit the studio you can say, “Oh the progression should have gone this way so the melody can go this way” … so really that’s the important thing to us. Everything is tracked out, but not really sounding very good.
I thought this was kind of cool when I talked to you last, but you were walking around Mayhem with a Julian Penti record that a fan had given you. I just wanted to see what you’re listening to these days and see if any of your fans had turned you onto any other music.
Lately, all I listen to is Nick Cave. Really, for most of the year. He’s got a lot of albums so there’s plenty of options, but I really love him. He’s the greatest so I’ve been listening to a lot of that. And [Julian Plenti], that EP, that vinyl turned out to be pretty good. The opening song, the bass is just fantastic. Overall though I was a little disappointed in what I heard this year. I did a couple of ‘Top 5′ records [posts] and I had a choice, but at the same time it was not like there were records that will always be an important part of my life. I really like mewithoutYou’s record, ‘Ten Stories,’ and because Underoath is breaking up and on their farewell tour, I’m actually flying back to Chicago for the show and I keep listening to them, reliving my high school life and experiencing nostalgia. So a little bit of Underoath, but really Nick Cave. And there’s this thing called Power Trip, that’s a thrashy metal band out of Texas.
Obviously we’ve got the touring coming up and the record is primary in your mind, but any other things on the horizon we should be looking for?
I’m close to finishing up a project I’ve been working on for about a year-and-a-half, but I haven’t told anyone about but I can almost start telling people about it pretty soon. Tentatively keep an eye out. I need to use this Twitter thing to let people know what I’m doing.
Is it a solo thing or full band?
No, it’s not musical. It involves music but it’s not a side project.