By: Curtis Sindrey –
The road, literally and figuratively, brought The Devil Wears Prada to their sixth full-length album, Transit Blues.
In many ways, the group—Mike Hranica (vocals), Jeremy DePoyster (rhythm guitar, clean vocals) and Andy Trick (bass), with the recent addition of Kyle Sipress (guitar)—has embraced transition and change since their 2005 formation. After the pivotal breakout With Roots Above and Branches Below in 2009, the quartet challenged the status quo and notched widespread critical acclaim, landing two consecutive Top 10 debuts on the Billboard Top 200 for the conceptual Zombie EP  and Dead Throne . 2013’s 8:18 continued to expand their imprint on heavy metal.
“Transit Blues is all about growing,” Hranica says of the new material in a press release. “We’re constantly in motion on tour. You’re endlessly going from one place to another. Aging physically and mentally is more at the forefront. In the past, anger was a big inspiration. These days, separation and mourning are the more immediate topics. Zeroing in, it’s specifically the separation that comes from traveling.”
As part of the journey, The Devil Wears Prada markedly evolved. Longtime friend Guiseppe Capolupo [Haste The Day] entered the fold on the drums for the recording of Transit Blues. In order to foster creativity and tap into their camaraderie, the guys, along with touring keyboardist and co-writer Jon Gering, holed up in Watertown, WI and Sawyer, MI rental homes and barns during the winter to write Transit Blues together (joined by Hranica’s two puppies, of course). In the end, Transit Blues propels the next era of The Devil Wears Prada, and it’s their most urgent, unbreakable, and undeniable yet.
In our new interview, DePoyster details the making of Transit Blues, the “ridiculously huge” fantasy world of the Malazan book series, gun control, and more!
This is the first time where you’ve lived and created in a shared space, what was that like, and how did it impact the creative process?
It was awesome, you know we… especially between Mike, Andy and I have spent the last 11 years of our lives together. So that part is not so uncommon and Kyle our guitar player has been touring with us for at least two years now. The living together part was not so much the craziness as being able to create in that space together… it’s just made it so that any combination of people at any time can go and work on ideas together. I think because we are such, I guess a communistic type band. We feed and thrive on that, we like to have everyone’s ideas, be totally equal and the best one wins. If these two guys want to work on melody together do it, if you want to sit in your room alone and then come back with something do it. You know if a drummer and two guys want to jam something out do it. So that part was just awesome.
You know we use to be like that at the very beginning, because we were young dumb kids and just like everyone would throw out a part and we would be like ‘yeah okay we will go into that next’ and then it would be like, ‘what about this’ and we would be like yeah okay we’ll go into that next. And then a breakdown and then this… slowly I think probably starting with the Zombie EP we did and a few records after that we’ve morphed it into two styles. One where we did those jamming together and coming up with ideas in a group. And one where everyone kind of wrote stuff on a laptop primarily… especially Chris our old guitar player and then that worked really well, we got a lot of really great songs out of that. But, I think that idea had kind of run its course and now we all know what we like, we know what we want and especially having Mike being able to be so open and creative with guitar ideas and stuff like that is just really cool.
What does the album’s title, Transit Blues, mean to you?
So I know where Mike’s coming from with it and I know his perspective but I think, really it’s something we can especially relate to. The struggle and the balance between good and evil of what we do. We are so lucky and so blessed…we really, really do not take for granted the fact that we have been able to have an awesome and amazing life as well as tour the world for a living. But in certain ways it has robbed us of a normal life, you know. It sounds stupid to somebody who just wants to go see the world, to say, ‘Hey yeah I just kind of wanted a normal life man’, but when you are out there living it…it is exhausting not being able to go to trivia nights and not being able to spend enough time with your family. With all of those kinds of things you tend to miss out on them. The older we get, the more adult, I guess we become, the more we do miss that normalcy in our lives. Because it’s not a regular way to live the way we do which can be exhausting. I think the balance is between loving it and the opportunities and also being ‘oh man’ it drains you.
Mike [Hranica] has said that the album deals with the “separation that comes from traveling.” – Can you elaborate more on that?
I think that’s kind of all about what I was just talking about. The separation from your home life. Mike, Andy and I lived in Chicago and we love the city it’s a part of us now. I’ve been here for eight years and I think they have both been here for at least seven years. So it really has become our second home, so I think for Mike especially, knowing him the way I do. I can see the struggle with that. The whole this is my church, bars, restaurant and this is where I walk my dog. When you’re gone it is that separation, you know.
The minimalist album cover looks great. How did that concept come about?
Our buddy Micah [Sedmak] actually who just moved back to Chicago then did a piece and tons of layers and merch design, as well as various website designs for us over the years. He’s awesome.
Mike and Micah have a really close working relationship they actually use to live together for a couple of years. We’ve known Micah and his brother Luke who actually does a bunch of t-shirt designs for us too, also backdrop designs and things for different tours. They are really amazing designs and have great chemistry with Mike. Mike and Micah can go back and forth, I know Mike wanted a minimalist thing and I forget the exact ratio that came back but Mike was playing with the idea of a pyramid and all these shapes building out the logo in a way but different. We are just not…I love Maiden, Slayer and Metallica, I literally love that music so much but we are just not those bands and we don’t sing about those things. Nor do we have that kind of imagery. Some people think it’s like hipster douchy…kind of for us to have things like that. However, I think that is more honest than sticking on a skull holding out a flaming sword, I like that but it’s just not us. It’s not this band.
If it doesn’t feel authentic everything we do and the bands we look up to and really enjoy have an authenticity. It would feel faked and force to do anything else other than what we have done.
You guys have went through several line-up changes going back to March 2015 when Chris left all the way to July 2016 when Daniel left. How has that instability impacted the recording process?
Man it’s so funny, because we never had any line-up changes ever and we were the only band we knew that never did. After a while time and everything just catches up and things move on. We’ve been really lucky that Mike, Andy and I can still do this together.
But I think a positive outcome was our separation from Chris was super, super mutual. He was just not in a good place at the time and wanted to be with his family and he’s doing amazing, Chris works at Rise Records, our record label now, and he has a great life out there. So a part of me is so thankful to Chris for all the amazing songs that he wrote and the songs we wrote together.
But another part of me is so excited because I love Kyle and I love writing guitar parts with Kyle, he thinks so differently than Chris or I ever did. And because of that I think it creates this cool vacuum of where there are these eight brain children morphed together at our show. Because when you make this record and you have songs on it, not only as an entity but you go and play a concert… playing all kinds of songs from every record. I think that is kind of a cool thing because of these changes… Giuseppe the guy who played drums on the record is so talented, he’s probably more talented than any of us even are. That energy is invigorating and that’s probably the biggest thing to narrow it down, it’s just the energy. Kyle hasn’t been doing this for the last 11 years so he’s like yeah, let’s do this, come over to my house and get all these guitar parts tightened up before rehearsal. Anti-burnout so it’s awesome.
Several tracks directly refer to literature. Any books that you’ve been reading lately?
My wife gets me on to some books here and there but I’m embarrassed to say that the majority of what I read are these fantasy novels that our bass player Andy has gotten me into. The Malazan Series, so it’s pretty freaking dorky and cool but if you want good literary input I’d check in with Mike. Mike has a really good balance, him and my wife actually talk often and Andy’s wife as well talk about the kind of books they are into. Mike’s always into the French stuff, I went through a period of reading all kinds of existential philosophies…but who knows what kind of philosophies I even have so.
What is the The Malazan Series about?
Malazan is a ridiculously huge fantasy world where there are thousands of years of history and stuff in this made-up world.
This is your second album with producer Dan Korneff. What did he bring to the table this time around?
So Dan… I won’t even say he’s the unsung hero because we sing about him often. Dan mixed 8:18 and when we got that record back we were like ‘whoa’ this is not only by far the best mix but it took a bunch of creative liberties with it that none of the other test mixers did; immediately we were like, we have to go with Dan. I always say what are the odds that you not only wrote a really cool song but that you have all of the best ideas for it. It’s possible someone else hearing it may have a better input too. Dan is great about harnessing the good ideas that are already there, then encouraging and being able to bring out the best performance of each individual musician. Which is great because as a band we are all involved at the same time when it’s not just one person coming in to record.
The track “Lock & Load” on the new album takes aim at the world’s gun epidemic. How important is it that the world’s governments find a solution to this issue?
You know I hate to say generic things like this but it is literally close to home for us. We live here in Chicago with this epidemic of gun violence. And I think in a lot of ways you can hate gun violence without having to get into the epic of gun control and things like that. I have my own opinions obviously and it’s hard not to living here. But I think that it is ridiculous to deny the fact that terrible, horrible things have afflicted our American society more than anything else. It’s absurd, ridiculous and disgusting so we have to figure out a solution as a society because it cannot continue. If it was any other thing cancer, trafficking drugs that happened to be causing this kind of violence and death… we would already have a solution for it, it’s ridiculous that we don’t with guns.
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