Interviewed by Robert Cavuoto
The Devil Wears Prada will hit the road starting March 29th with Anthrax and Killswitch Engage for the 27-date; KillThrax Tour of North America. This tour comes on the heels of the band’s sixth and critically acclaimed studio CD, Transit Blues.
Mike Hranica [vocals/guitar], Jeremy DePoyster [rhythm guitar/clean vocals], Andy Trick [bass] and Kyle Sipress [guitar] have toured with Killswitch Engage back in 2010 and are eager to join them again on the road.
I spoke with vocalists, Mike Hranica, to find out what fans can expect on this tour as well as to discuss their special Limited Edition Vinyl offering of Transit Blues.
Robert Cavuoto: I’m excited to see you on the KillThrax Tour. I’ll be at your first show in Montclair, NJ. Tell me about your connection with the bands and how you got the opening slot?
Mike Hranica: We were lucky enough to receive the offer as we’ve toured with Killswitch in 2010. We got to know Adam Dutkiewicz from that and he ended up working on two of our CDs. He’s become a close friend of the band and in many ways a mentor. The entire band is very cool, polite, and friendly. They’re a super solid band and getting to know them has been amazing. Any opportunity to collaborate or open for them is exciting for us. We’ve worked hard to prove ourselves so it’s nice to be recognized and brought out on tour with them again. Funny story, back in 2010 at our first show in Boston opening for Killswitch; it was one of our worst shows ever. Hopefully the first show on this new tour will be a little better [laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: Having that type of friendship with a touring partner must make the tour more enjoyable?
Mike Hranica: Definitely! It’s important to know the right bands to go out with. Bands like them who are courteous and not a total group of assholes.
Robert Cavuoto: How long will you have to perform on this tour and what can we expect to hear?
Mike Hranica: It’s a short set about 30 minutes, which is exciting for us versus the 16 song set list. This set list is super comprehensive and favors more of the newer material; which is how we want to present ourselves to the Killswitch and Anthrax fans. We have three new songs off Transit Blues, one from the Space EP, one from the Zombie EP, one from 18:18 and another from Death Throne. No long pauses between songs; we are going to cram together as many songs as possible in 30 minutes.
Robert Cavuoto: When you head out on the road, how long does it take the band to prepare and get up to speed?
Mike Hranica: It’s hard to say how long it takes. Kyle Sipress joined the band a few years ago; he is very diligent about practicing. Jeremy DePoyster and Andy Trick are the same way. Jeremy and Andy just went out to Kyle’s house in Michigan and worked all day running through the songs. I know our drummer is doing the same. For me I worked a few odd jobs during the break and took off starting last week in order to get into the right mind space. We haven’t been off from touring this long in ever! Usually when we are home for three or four months we are either writing or recording a CD so we’ve all been hanging out and earning some money. We’ll be flying to Nashville in a few days to film a new video; that will be a good transition from our normal lives to “Prada Mode.”
Robert Cavuoto: On tour, how do you typically prepare for the show? Do you have any rituals?
Mike Hranica: It’s all about taking it easy and getting a good night’s rest. I love to exercise but have to stop when I’m on tour in order to prepare myself a little better. I just started playing hockey again so I’ll try to play on tour if there’s room for my gear. Also sticking to a healthy eating routine helps. One of my dogs comes out with us too. Having that canine presence is fun and all the dudes in the band are either dog lovers or dog owners so having one of my little critters along with us sends out good vibes.
Robert Cavuoto: Transit Blues is being released on a special Limited Edition vinyl packaging, tell me about it.
Mike Hranica: When we did 18:18, we did a deluxe vinyl box set that included a book of paintings that potentially could have been used as the cover artwork. It wasn’t until we were back with our label, Rise, that we had the capabilities to do a photo book like we are doing with Transit Blues. It’s something I wanted to do for a long time and really excited about. Being a vinyl collector, the more limited edition stuff or cool products we can share with the fans the better. I’m grateful for Rise Records for supporting me on this. One of my best friends in the world, Anthony Barlich, was the photographer. He was around shooting when we wrote half the CD in Wisconsin and finished writing the second half in Michigan. He also came out for a few days when we were recoding in long island. Its comprehensive and I think it is cool to share with fans.
Robert Cavuoto: I found the photos in the book to be very personal and honest. I saw a group of friends having fun making music. What was your take on the stylistic approach for the photos?
Mike Hranica: I’m glad you received it that way because that’s how it was intended. We are all normal dudes. We hung together and cooked almost every night. We drank together, watched sports together, and lived together. There is no part of our process that is ever “mailed in” compared to some bands where one guitar player writes the songs and everyone goes into the studio after sharing them via Drop Box. That’s not us, these days we are trying to write more innovative and collaborative material. It’s about continuing to have that community amongst each other and that what the photos reveal.
Robert Cavuoto: What I found interesting was the serenity of the farm where you recorded the CD and the energy, fire, and ferocity on the CD. Tell me about that dichotomy. I would have expected to hear James Taylor acoustic songs coming out of that environment [laughing].
Mike Hranica: [Laughing] I guess we are a little bipolar in that most of us spend more time not listening to metal as opposed to listening to metal. The common thread that is woven through us after all these years is that we still find passion with aggressive music. Still to this day, I’m excited by aggressive heavy music at the same time we are not super metal guys. We’re often criticized for being “hipsters.” It’s not like I have to live in a dungeon to enjoy aggressive heavy music.
Robert Cavuoto: Your lyrics are so interesting from a storytelling perspective; tell me about that style of writing?
Mike Hranica: It’s a little difficult and it’s been something that has taken a long time to move past my honest but not so great cohesive lyrics from back in the day. It’s something I’m intentionally trying to remedy as I get a little older and hopefully a little smarter. What’s interesting in writing lyrics for metal is that there is an automatic tendency for it to be brutal, epic, or one of those exhausted adjectives. Again, this discussion is about how normal of a person I have been and to create anything too dramatic isn’t really honest anymore. That’s just a bit of the hub where I exist in writing lyrics for Parda. When I first joined the band and even to this day, I consider myself a lyricist more than a musician. I have always been entrenched in literature and still am when I’m writing. That is what I was planning for college before this whole silly band thing became a thing.
Robert Cavuoto: Who influences you most as a songwriter?
Mike Hranica: It often switches. I feel as I have been out of the game a bit. Transit Blues was very cathartic and exhausting as we were really trying to challenge ourselves to write something better than anything else we have done. After months of writing in rehearsal and in the studio, I fell away from it. We have been talking about what our next project will be and I have to start thinking about where I’m going to look for lyrical inspiration to base my work off. I just picked up a new record by Minsk and it’s such an epic record. I find bands that do that “doomier stuff” to be more relevant to my metal taste as a guitar player and when looking at lyrics. Things that feel like they are more on the attack are very tired at this point.
Robert Cavuoto: How are you affected when fans tell you your music or lyrics are inspirational to them and helped them get through a difficult time in their life?
Mike Hranica: When we wrote our third CD, With Roots Above… a part of my objective was to do something to uplift to people that were having a hard time. I find myself writing way from that now. I felt like I had I answers back then but honestly; don’t feel that way anymore. There are fans moved by our new material, which is coming from inside of me rather than me being a guide. There’s been a transitions from With Roots Above… to Death Throne which was a very forthright CD saying; “I’m not your hero don’t look up to me.” That’s been more my perspective now. It’s still amazing to hear a song like “The Key of Evergreen” is something that can help a person in any way. There are certain bands where their entire lyrical content is like a fucking self-help manual. I really hate that and it’s not something I look for in new music. It’s not something I put forward to Prada anymore.