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The Devil Wears Prada: Craft work

1.the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.

This is the road on which The Devil Wears Prada sits. Eyes ahead. Band evolving. Always.

The process has been accelerated since 2013’s ‘8:18’, their own appetite to evolve teamed with the departure of drummer Daniel Williams and guitarist Chris Rubey. No reasons offered, just amicable statements aplenty. It’s enough to throw some off track, but not them.

Forward they continue, with the theme of transition at the core. “It feels fluid to me,” says vocalist Mike Hranica, on these shifts in the band. “It feels quite natural. I think that as we have gotten older and gone from being 16 years old to 27 years old, there’s been so many changes and we have always done our best to adapt.”

Adapt they have, with ‘Transit Blues’ being the latest triumph in the face of huge change. “I feel it’s completely automatic to evolve ones musical tastes,” he explains, “especially where I have grown in my own tastes and influences, and the same with the other guys in the band. That totally influences what we do and what feels immediate to make a song about or what tonality to use, or just all the million aspects of creating a song. It’s growing older, evolving our influences as well as just trying to be better at our craft.

“We have the ability know to surround ourselves with guys who aren’t complacent with just playing guitar or playing drums. It’s something that’s a passion and is part of our lives. I feel that way about writing and playing guitar and getting to use that every time we come back, to start writing more, and it creates songs that are evolutionary, and don’t get mucked together or don’t evolve enough.

“It all feels pretty terrific and if it didn’t, I think we would all be pressing the brakes.”

The Devil Wears Prada are a band who have barely considered even tapping the brakes, whether it’s the EPs between albums, or the way in which they zone directly into topics to handle. ‘Transit Blues’ is a triage of transition, separation and mourning, the inevitable process of growth and change as people move, drift and settle in a new part, or place, of life.

They locked themselves away, living and working together fully for the first time. “This is the first we have Kyle [Sipress, lead guitar] full on actual being in the band on guitar,” explains Mike. “He demoed so many songs, probably about twelve to fifteen in the end and then we spent two-three weeks out in the middle of Wisconsin on a farm, writing in a barn and living in a house on the same property. Then it was sort of the same thing early this year in Michigan. We were in a vacation home that had a separate house where we set up all the gear. The goal was to write without any guideline or restriction, no travelling between our place of stay and our actual band space. So, we had the freedom and liberty to be able to write with confidence.”

The writing skirted closer to Mike’s own preferences than usual. Their ‘Zombie’ and ‘Space’ EPs were clear in their theme, but both could be held at an arm’s length. They were never his ‘thing’, those parts of the world where people dive into, learning and obsessing about every detail. For him, the distance gave them more to toy around with, but here it felt natural to delve into his own interests a little more freely.

“When we did the ‘Space’ EP, people were asking about my understanding or my passion behind space, and zombies when we did the ‘Zombie’ EP years ago,” he says. “I guess the ironic thing is that I’m not too passionate about either topic, but the fact that I’m more of a mere observer feels like I can sort of dramatise of exaggerate those circumstances between space and zombies.

“I was telling people that I would never do that with something I was closer to, specifically literature. However, when we started working on these songs and ‘Transit Blues’ in general, I felt like it was a really immediate comparison or parallel to be used.

“‘Praise Poison’ was the first song that we wrote and the chorus references William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and it just felt like it was one of the most rewarding kind of comparisons to use as far as what the song speaks of, to use the degradation of that specific novel – that was the starting point.

“As I was re-reading Lolita, I felt drawn to a song about that, which is ‘To the Key of Evergreen’ and later I was re-reading The Mandarins by Simone De Beauvoir, who influenced my song ‘Daughter’, which is the first song we put out. It became something very instinctual for me to incorporate literature into songs on ‘Transit Blues’.”

This dip into Mike’s own little library has given classics in literature a fresh and ferocious new life in their album and sparks a real, and surprising, delight for someone who said ‘never’ – even mentioning literature is met with more fan-like enthusiasm than most other topics of influence. This far in, much of the creative process almost feels like a managerial role for Mike, so well-oiled a machine is the band, well-honed his writing skills.

“I mean I could go on about songs forever,” he laughs. “I try to craft things with depth and much intention as to what each song is and each song’s identity. I feel like it’s an important part of my growth and trying to be a better lyricist. I’m kind of manager over these songs, guiding them and everything sonically that’s happening. But each song is quite a bit different I think.”

Now it’s time for ‘Transit Blues’ to reach its next stop, in the hands and heads of fans, then playing out on the stage the world over. “I try not to set too much expectation at this point,” he notes on this tipping point for the album. It remains about capturing a moment, really.  “After releasing this many albums and EPs creating any expectation feels kind of worthless to an extent. You put so much effort in, being honest every time – when we release something it’s intended to be natural and fluid to our creativity and where we are all sitting at in our lives.”

The Devil Wears Prada’s album ‘Transit Blues’ is out now.