When The Devil Wears Prada comes on stage at The Paramount in Huntington, NY, the first stop on their month-long Apollo X Tour with Motionless In White, there is a distinct air of modesty surrounding them. Notably absent are any elaborate props or theatrics, a stark contrast to their co-headlining counterparts; even forgoing an introduction before bursting into the vibrant metalcore for which they have become known. Throughout their hour-long set there is virtually no talking or any sort of interval besides the occasional mumbled “thank you” from vocalist Mike Hranica, barely giving fans (or themselves) a moment to breathe before beginning the next song. This is the kind of quiet, but nonetheless powerful, presence audiences have come to expect from Prada. There is no need for any extra additives to their live show simply because their music alone commands the energy in the room as soon as the first notes ring out.
Earlier this year, the band hid away in producer Dan Korneff’s West Babylon studio to work on Space, the six-song EP that serves as a follow-up to 2013’s 8:18. Space focuses around the story of a lone astronaut who finds herself in alien territory, disconnected and leaving her life on Earth behind. This disc comes five years after the group’s notable Zombie EP, another project where they focused on building a conceptual narrative through their music.
This isn’t the only kind of creative writing to expect from the band’s members. Hranica released Three Dots & The Guilt Machine toward the beginning of the month, which marks his third published book. During a brief stop in Canada as part of the run, the frontman took time to discuss the inspiration behind the new disc, pop music, and what exactly the Guilt Machine is.
How is the tour going so far?
It’s great. We’re only on our fourth show but I’m really grateful that we were able to make this happen with Motionless In White. We had approached them a while ago about trying to do a co-headliner tour but they were super busy, but their schedule ended up getting opened up and we were able to put this together. I’m really pumped; I’m pumped for the run. Yesterday [Motionless In White vocalist] Chris Motionless and I did a joint interview, and it was funny, because he actually hit the nail on the head by saying that we’re both quiet bands, and we both kind of just keep to ourselves. We hang out within our camps but not really outside of them. We’re both just the two quiet bands that will say hi to one another and that’s it, but not have a problem.
That’s pretty cool, at least it’s comfortable. I was at the first show in Long Island and noticed that you have a very dramatic light show. How did that come about?
We came across our light guy Brian because he was hired by As I Lay Dying when we were doing a co-headlining tour and he said he would do us as well. He just has a very violent, sporadic style that we love, and it almost feels like a trademark to our show now. We’re not much of a production as far as props and whatnot like what you can expect from a Motionless or a Slipknot set—we’re much more boring. But we rely on lights heavily. We’ve always really liked the silhouetted light shows that you could maybe see derived from Nine Inch Nails.
I wanted to talk about the Space EP, which came out in August. Why choose to do an EP instead of a full-length follow-up to 8:18?
We like mixing things up. It becomes really monotonous to keep shoveling full-lengths down listeners’ throats; I feel like it’s an easy way to just tire your band out. There are so many great bands that just kept doing the same thing over and over and even though the records were good, there’s still just this decline in interest. We try to avoid that. I know I love hearing the same thing from the bands that I like and I very much model what we do after my own personal tastes, and I can only handle so many full-lengths. Doing these EPs feels like a breath of fresh air; something to digest differently. Creatively, it’s very enjoyable for me and the other guys.
You just said that you draw inspiration for the band from your own tastes, were there any influences which you felt were particularly strong on this EP?
Anywhere from Death Throne onward, I’ve been very driven from more post-hardcore stuff and generally everything not metal, vocally. It feels like metal vocals are very often mundane and never really have much of a hook. I’m trying to have the vocals carry the song as much as possible, the same as like a pop song. So there’s influence just from outside of metal as far as guitar work and whatnot, but when I assumed some of the guitar responsibilities, I got into this thing called Triptykon, and they put out a record last year called Melana Chasmata that’s very evil and very good. Simple guitar work, but it’s so heavy and tasteful that record just feels right. It feels like older metal, but at the same time it’s progressive without becoming too complex.
Why choose the concept of space, and were there any other themes you were toying with?
We were joking around with doing a new theme for every song, so there would be like a pirate song, a cowboy song, and so on. But when it came time to sit down and write, space just felt awesome. There’s a sound that you describe as “space.” Bands have “spacey” songs. Just getting to do songs with a space theme already provides so much. I wanted a song about the moon, so when you go into writing “Moon God,” it felt like it had to have that vacant feel and moon winds at the beginning of the song.
Also, and we kind of did it accidentally with the Zombie EP in 2010, it felt like we hit a hot topic even though we weren’t totally meaning to with The Walking Dead coming out around the same time. This time as we were writing Space we were like, “Oh no, people are going to think that we are totally just ripping off Interstellar!” It feels like we accidentally hit a hot topic again, not to pat myself on the back too much (laughs).
How did the band get involved with producer Dan Korneff?
I think he had done an Underoath record and that’s where I came across his name. Then he mixed 8:18 and a single we did for Record Store Day called “South Of The City.” He’s amazing. He’s very professional. Producers can be difficult to work with. Communication can be iffy. But Korneff is totally on top of it and that means the world to us, seeing that we tend to be very hands on and very nitpicky. So when we had the chance to actually record with him and actually be in the same building as him it was absolutely amazing. I can’t say enough about him. Unless something terrible happens, he will be at the reigns of the next album for sure.
Can you talk about your new book, Three Dots & The Guilt Machine?
It’s a scrambled collection of writing that I’ve accumulated over the past four or five years; poetry and ideas that felt like they would never work for Prada, and it built up. I ended up with maybe 200 of them in a sort of tour diary that I called “The Guilt Machine” and the intention of it was to pursue very raw thoughts and just be abrupt and sort of rude about it. I keep saying I was very Bukowski inspired, which I was, but I hate saying it because he’s amazing and I’m not. These are about half the things that I had and deleted the rest, so if people hate it then they know it can be worse (laughs).
“The Guilt Machine?” Where did that come from?
I was worried someone would ask me this. The Guilt Machine is basically the fact that I always feel like a bother. I hate obligating other people and I often feel guilty in certain ways. I imagine the Guilt Machine as this being that is just being totaled up and just accumulating these certain things. It’s definitely hard to describe, but I think the writing describes it well even though I can’t (laughs).
How do you differentiate between writing material that becomes Prada lyrics and what you use for personal projects like books?
It’s getting trickier. Like what I was saying with pop songs and trying to implement more accessible vocals into Prada, I’ve also been really drawn to talking about ordinary things in songs. A lot of my favorite music over the last couple years has really been just these songwriters that are talking about the most ordinary things imaginable, and it feels like what entertainment should be in some sense, like you don’t have to try that hard. So yeah, being drawn to ordinary things that creates a harder divide to distinguish between what will be for Prada and what will be for something else.
Kyle [Sipress]—who is playing guitar for us now on stage right—and I started a band. We actually met and started a band together years ago, and now it looks like I might be singing for it so I have to write lyrics for that too, and it can’t be anything like Prada. So, to answer your question, I don’t know. But I’m definitely trying hard (laughs).
The Apollo X Tour, which includes headliners Motionless In White and The Devil Wears Prada along with Upon A Burning Body, The Word Alive, and The Color Morale, will come to Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on Nov. 1. Three Dots & The Guilt Machine and Space are available now. For more information, go to tdwpband.com.