The Devil Wears Prada’s new LP battles your ‘ADD’ with perfect song placement

“Every time we get together as a band, we realize we have more to explore, more to create, and more that we want to say to the world.”

Some metalcore bands veer perilously close to being one-note performers, but not The Devil Wears Prada. Rather than taking an “all-pummeling, all-the-time” approach, TDWP have deftly woven melody and harmony into their head-banging track beds, as evidenced by the scope of the 11 tunes on their sixth studio album, Transit Blues, out now in various formats via Rise Records.

From the chugging call to arms of Lock & Load to the breath-catching tone break of Flyover States to the slow build to caterwaul of The Condition, Transit Blues shows that when it comes to creating new music, the song most definitely does not remain the same with The Devil Wears Prada. And that’s something the band, a longtime Warped Tour fan favorite, felt was key while collaborating with their go-to producer, Dan Korneff (Pierce the Veil, Motionless in White).

“I wanted Dan to define the voicings and the different sonic elements of each song in order to create an individual identity and get something that felt a little less repetitive or monotonous,” TDWP vocalist/guitarist Mike Hranica told Digital Trends. “Dan will sit around playing with amps and pedals and a couple-dozen guitars all day to find out exactly how we want something to sound, how we want it to be voiced, and how we want it to be heard.”

Digital Trends got on the line with Hranica on the eve of TDWP embarking on a European tour to discuss vocals goals in metalcore mixes, the art of song sequencing, and the modern-streaming blues.

Digital Trends: When you began working on Transit Blues with Dan Korneff, what were your goals for how your vocals needed to fit into the album’s mix?

Mike Hranica: For me, vocals usually feel pretty automatic, but Dan loves to use a lot of vocal effects. About half of them are proposed by me, and the other half are things Dan wants to hear, so I’ll either give him the yea or the nay.

On Transit Blues, you can feel a bit of a range when you listen to something like Lock & Load, which has this very industrial growl — it was actually run through my ’70s Model T amp — versus something like To the Key of Evergreen, which has a kind of rhythmic pummeling. We do try to come up with some kind of environmental expanse to create those ebbs and flows throughout the course of the album.

That’s a good way of putting it. There is an ebb and a flow to the journey that this record takes you on, in the very specific order you chose to present it to us.

Ah, you are aware of these things! (chuckles) It’s exactly … our design as we were making the album. Growing up in high school, I loved listening to albums from bands like Jimmy Eat World — I still do. They always had a magic way about going “up” and “down” throughout an album. It’s always going to start fast, then there’s going to be three or four slow songs until the end.

Every time I turn on one of their albums, I have to finish it. That’s by their intention of the track listing — and the magic of that band, I suppose.

“Track listing is hard. I think we’ve failed at it a couple of times.”

That’s also the magic of having a full album experience, something you hope comes out of the current vinyl revival. Maybe a new-gen listener will go, “Hey, I can actually sit still for 20 minutes and pay attention, rather than do 50 things.”

Exactly, absolutely. It is underestimated how difficult the exercise of track listing [i.e., song sequencing] is within the practice of making an entire record. Track listing is hard, to say the least. I’ve always struggled with it, and I think we’ve failed at it a couple of times.

But I think Transit Blues feels right. Even closing with the song Transit Blues — I always knew I wanted to finish the album with this conclusive, explanatory piece, which is why it is the title track, and it even goes to repeating lines from the very beginning of the record. It’s a nice way to draw it full-circle.

I like that kind of callback, because it mirrors a certain literary style that’s in your music. We also get a little bit of William Faulkner in Praise Poison [via a reference to his 1929 novel, The Sound and The Fury]. It’s the kind of thing that reveals itself when you listen to a record more the one pass all the way through.

Certainly! Some of my favorite artists’ albums I didn’t even like at first because it took some time to think through them.

Give me an example.

You know, Nick Cave is my favorite artist/musician/writer in the world, and when I first heard some of his material, it didn’t really draw me in.

Another one of my favorite albums is by a band called Young Widows, In and Out of Youth and Lightness (2011). When I first picked it up I was like, “Wow, this is such a disappointment after the effort they had before.” But in a matter of time, it boldly became my favorite.

It’s hard to prescribe that to listeners by saying, “OK, time to think!” We really are living in a couple-minute ADD mindset these days — a lot of playlists, and people bouncing from one song to the next. Maybe that’s another symptom of what’s so enjoyable about putting on an LP, to me.

You mentioned To the Key of Evergreen — were the vocal effects on that song an idea you brought to Dan, or was it more of a direct collaboration?

“We really are living in a couple-minute ADD mindset these days — people bouncing from one song to the next.”

The vocal effect that really stands out on the song comes toward the beginning, where things kind of suck out and there’s only one beat, and the lyric is, “Right here with me.” It’s done in what we call “the lows” — my lower, growly register — and we have this totally distorted static on it. I had it that way in the demo, because it just felt like it needed that sheer aggression. As I’m recording it, I’m telling Dan, and he’s making notes. He dials in a lot of that stuff in the post-production and the mixing process.

Another vocal effect is towards the end, after the first quote-unquote chorus: “Soon enough the sun will go down, but it’s no bother/I’m not tired.” And that first “it’s no bother/I’m not tired” kind of sucks to the background. If I recall correctly, that was a Korneff decision, but I like it. That moment feels really desperate — almost childishly desperate — and when it sucks out, it’s just the lonesome vocal singing, “I’m not tired.”

It almost reminds me of when you tell a child, “Go to bed!” and they go, “But I’m not tired!” All of those little sentiments are applicable to what the song is actually talking about, and the voicing of the perspective. But there’s more emotional weight to it because of that vocal effect on the first verse from Korneff.

Sometimes I get songs back and it’s just, “Man, that effect feels too gimmicky.” I understand the importance of those effects, but looking back at our catalog, I also understand there was a lot of filler and a lot of material that needed seasoning, if you will. Vocal effects are usually a cool way to handle that. But there is also a point where it is too much.

As an artist who prefers listening to and creating full albums, what is your view on streaming?

Um, I’m not a fan. I’ve never really been tempted to subscribe to one of those services. When I pick up an album, I have this kind of crooked dedication and devotion to having to know it. I need to know what the band is about, where they’re from, and their history — and then I will collect their history.

I tend to be really stubborn and cantankerous whenever a friend goes, “Oh, listen to this band!” I don’t always have the headspace or even the monetary means to fall in love with another new band. I know that’s a pretty lame excuse, but it’s how I function — though listening to radio kind of defies that. (chuckles)

I see on Spotify that Dez Moines has 5 million listens and your recent single, Daughter, is starting to pick up with 434,000 listens. Do you hope that exposure to both of those songs will spur some people on to listen to all of Transit Blues?

“I’ve never been tempted to subscribe to one of those streaming services.”

That is what one can hope for. Last month marked the 11th anniversary of our first show, and over the course of that time, it almost feels reckless to create expectations. So I try not to pay too much mind to those components or even how I want to “guide” listeners. Frankly, it very rarely works. People won’t pick up on things the way one would hope. I don’t mean to say that as a jaded asshole or total complainer (laughs), but the fact of the matter is, people are buying the whole album and are coming to the show.

And even more than that, we still want to make the music. If people weren’t coming to the shows, chances are we’d still be making more music, because every time we sit down, we realize we have more to explore, more to create, and more that we want to say to the world.

Me, I’m the kind of concertgoer who wants to see as much of your new material as possible.

And that’s another tricky line we sort of stumble along. We’ve been very forthright in not wanting to play our old material. We think a lot of it is inferior material. On this most recent tour, we did put together a medley of old songs for fans to enjoy — which feels like a little bit of a compromise to us, but at the same time, we knew we were doing our best. It was always a matter of honesty; it wasn’t a matter of selling a trend. Whenever I talk about this, fans seem to get mad at me. But there are tons of bands and artists out there with old songs that don’t feel as forward or as immediate as they once were.

Looking ahead, is Transit Blues a signpost for what you want to do in the future, balancing 5-minute songs like To the Key of Evergreen with 2-minute blasts like Praise Poison?

(chuckles) You’re inexplicably astute about everything we wanted to do. I like songs that are either really long, or really short. Part of us creating the aforementioned filler all that time before was just us feeling this obligation to write songs longer: “Oh, that song’s too short.” Short feels immediate to me, and that’s the full bearing of the most important component of a song — to be immediate, whether it’s to be aggressive or sad or happy or whatever the goal of the work is.

Do you think you’ve entered a new phase with Transit Blues? Eleven years into the band, do you feel even more creative than ever?

It’s funny — every time we finish a record, I’m like, “This is my last Prada album! I’m totally exhausted. I’m threadbare and dry.” But then I sit down and think about it for a bit and go, “Well, I still have something more to say.”

Not to take a hard left, but America’s political matters have me ready to write now. But even a little break always helps me come back to it. All of this is going to have us very enthusiastic the next time we sit down together, whether it’s for a single, an EP, or a full-length album. We really have no idea right now of what it is other than we know we have more content to create, to share, and to express.

Product Review

The competition was fierce, and this is the best TV of 2018

With stellar picture quality, excellent ease of use, and rich features, the LG C8 OLED is the best TV you can buy in 2018, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is right for you. Check out our review to learn more.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Harlem Globetrotter Big Easy talks new app, favorite gadget

We welcomed Harlem Globetrotter Nathaniel Lofton to talk about how he became a Globetrotter 14 years ago. Big Easy also told us about the brand-new Harlem Globetrotters app that is now available on Android and Apple.
Android Army

Why commercials in Android Auto could turn your dashboard into a dumpster fire

Google announced some tweaks to the Android Auto experience, focused on making messaging and media easier, but I worry about the future of the platform. For better or worse, there’s a real chance our dashboards could turn into dumpster…
Music

Brian Eno sets out to change music (again) with Bloom: 10 World

We always felt that Bloom was a musical system that could be developed further -- it was as if we’d built a CD player and only ever released one CD. For this release, we’ve created ten new worlds, starting with a reimagined version of…
Home Theater

Plex amps up its music offerings with tight integration with Tidal

Plex may not be the first platform you think of for music streaming, but that may be about to change. The popular media server has added Tidal to its growing list of features, letting Plex users integrate their collections with Tidal's.
Smart Home

Apple Music hits the Amazon Echo. Is the cold war over?

It's about time. Amazon and Apple seem to have called a truce as Amazon agrees to add Apple Music to an ever-growing line of streaming music services on its Echo smart speakers that includes competitors like Spotify.
Deals

Enthusiast alert: Get up to 67% off Polk Audio speakers at Adorama

Any time is a good time to upgrade your home theater sound system, which makes Adorama's Polk LSI Blowout Weekend Sale particularly tempting. Adorama has discounts up to 67 percent on Polk Audio's top-of-the-line LSiM Series for…
Home Theater

An acclaimed Apple analyst says the new AirPods are coming in 2019

Apple plans to release new AirPods much the same as it does new iPhones, and a wireless charging case, water resistance, and better Siri integration are among the improvements we can expect in future models.
Mobile

You may soon be able to listen to your own songs on Spotify’s Android app

If you love Spotify's streaming, but also have a large collection of niche music, then it can be hard to marry your two passions. Thankfully, Spotify appears to be testing the ability to import local songs to its Android app.
Music

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Music

The best free music download sites that are totally legal

Finding music that is both free and legal to download can be difficult. We've handpicked a selection of the best free music download sites for you to legally download your next favorite album.
Computing

Block out the sun and drown out the haters with Bose’s new AR sunglasses

Bose has announced its quirkiest listening device yet, a pair of headphone-integrated sunglasses that allow you to meander the brightest places with your favorite tunes in tow. Called the Frames, the glasses will sport 3.5 hours of battery.
Home Theater

Spotify Wrapped reveals rad facts about your musical tastes and habits

The website may be a bit tough to find at first, but Spotify Wrapped tells you awesome facts about your year in listening. From how many minutes you spent jamming out to your top artists, and beyond, there's a lot to dig into.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.