Track By Track: The Devil Wears Prada

September 13 2011, 7:00 AM EDT By Matthew Bemer

(Photo: Adam Elmakias)

MIKE HRANICA and CHRIS RUBEY of the Devil Wears Prada take AP track by track through their new album, Dead Throne.

“Dead Throne”
Hranica: I love that “Dead Throne” ended up opening the record, because lyrically it really explains a lot of the questions about the title and everything. You’ll know exactly what Dead Throne means when you hear the first song on the album. Song-wise, it’s short; it’s really easy to follow. It really never goes anywhere too far from the beginning. It sticks along the same track [of] just [being] pretty relentless and aggressive.

Rubey: “Dead Throne” was one of those songs that was written in demo form right around [the time of the Zombie EP], and it was intentionally written as the opener to the album. We knew we wanted to start with a fast, heavy song, and we were okay with having some shorter songs around two minutes, two-and-a-half minutes [in length]. It’s the first song on the album that I do vocals on—I just do some backing vocals, which is pretty cool. It is kind of hard to tell which ones are me and which ones are Mike, just because he does a lot of his yells [and] a lot of new vocal stuff on this album as well. I just do some backing yells/scream type things.

Hranica: “Untidaled” is kind of a bridge into the rest of the album. I wrote it a little bit differently than I’ve ever wrote anything else; [I wrote it] like a poem and then put it to the song rather than building off the song too much. “Untidaled” lyrically is one of my favorites. I feel like the way it breaks into the singing part later in the bridge—it’s very Prada-esque. The way we recorded vocals for the choruses was an interesting process, and I’m really glad how it sounds. “Untidaled” starts with the lyric “back for the fourth time around.” We were thinking about opening the record with it, but instead we did the second song, which still works as far as the fourth full-length.

Rubey: I think a lot of [band members] forget to mention [“Untidaled”] when they’re saying what songs are their favorites, just because it sits as second on the album. I really like all the breakdowns with the bass where it drops out, the bass guitar and everything like that. The one singing part in it Adam [Dutkiewicz, producer] made a whole bunch better. That part used to be really different—I think Adam actually took a few breakdowns out of the song just to keep everything flowing. The chorus has lots of fun guitar parts to play. That’s one of my favorite songs on the album.

Hranica: [Producer] Adam D. really took [“Mammoth”] and transformed it from a bunch of parts into a verse-chorus song. It opens with a really beefy part, but at the same time it has a very moving air about it, which we all really like. It feels like it goes from sounding like one band to sounding like another band—and at the same time really being us, though, not a rip-off song by any means.

Rubey: “Mammoth” interestingly enough was the last song that was written for the album. Adam went through and he actually removed the main riff from the song that was in the demo version. He basically cut it up and was like, “The song is going to start here.” And where the song starts is a minute into the demo version. I love how it has a punky thrash feel to it the whole time. The middle section of the song where everything stops and Mike says, “Pick it up,” and goes back into it—Adam says it makes him feel like he’s playing Need For Speed or some racing videogame. I’m kind of pulling for it to be a single at some point.

Rubey: As the main songwriter, I view [“Vengeance”] a lot differently than people who hear the song do. People that I’ve showed the CD to tend to say that “Vengeance” sticks out to them as a song that they really like. It’s honestly one of my least favorites, just from a guitar standpoint, because the song is simple. “Vengeance” is actually a song that we wrote [as a] full band. Normally, I write a good majority of the songs on my computer sitting by myself. [But] we do some time-signature changes and some tempo changes in [this song] that I normally wouldn’t have been able to come up with on a computer. The only reason that I’m not the biggest fan of “Vengeance” is because the song is composed of the same three root notes the entire song, but if you listen to it there’s so many layers. Maybe that’s why people think it’s so catchy.

Hranica: I feel like anyone who hears [“Vengeance”] and knows that Jeremy McKinnon helped us out on the record would be able to tell that he definitely had a part in [the song]. The chorus is bouncy and very singy. Lyrically, it’s something that McKinnon and I both collaborated on, basically an experience that we’ve both been through. It’s just super funny that we actually did it, because it’s something I would usually never really write about—but it’s something that Jeremy would always write about. It’ll always be a memory getting to work with Jeremy like that.

Hranica: “R.I.T.” was a Jeremy McKinnon idea as well. When we were naming the song, he was like, “Let me name it, let me name it.” It’s super cheesy, but “Rest In Torment” which is what “R.I.T.” stands for. The song itself is probably one of my favorites from the album. If someone said, “Alright, pick the heaviest song from the album right now,” I’d have to say “R.I.T.” Lyrically it means a lot, too; basically, the idea of the song is taking an angle of depression in the form of a female. It’s definitely one of the darker songs.

Rubey: I’m assuming that people are going to think “R.I.T.” is closest to the Zombie EP. It’s got the same aggressiveness and heaviness as the Zombie EP, but I wasn’t trying to make it scary. The chorus has a really nice groove, the intro riff is just groovy and weird. It’s all meant to be, I guess you could say Devil Wears Prada a little bit techier, but still understandable for our fanbase. If we went too math metal or technical, we would lose a lot of listeners, and I didn’t want to [do that]. I do some backing vocals on that song. That’s probably my favorite song, backing-vocal-wise. I think the only thing people won’t like about it is that it doesn’t have too many elements of melody in it. It’s more of a shredder.

“My Questions”
Hranica: Funny enough, when we wrote “My Questions,” I thought it was going to be the first single, my favorite song [and] the best first chorus song to put out. Honestly, it just ended up blending in with everything else. “My Questions” is definitely one of the more love/lost songs definitively and intentionally. It brings back very powerful memories for me, and it has some of my favorite lines from the record.

Rubey: This one is more of a test of the melodic side of our band. The lyrics and the vocals, even though I didn’t write them, tend to give me chills if you read along with the lyrics and you know what [Mike’s] saying. It’s a really emotionally driven song, since it’s so melodically driven. It’s got the longest bass slide the Devil Wears Prada has done, right smack dab in the middle of the song—like, a two-measure-long bass slide in it. “My Questions” was actually one of my favorite songs before we recorded it, and then we made some changes that made it a little less this and a little more that, and I’m not sure if I like the album version more than I like the demo version. That’s the only song [on Dead  Throne] I feel that way about, from going from demo to album version, but I still like the way it came out.

Hranica: I am really proud of the song, and I really like the way it turned out. Everyone does a ballad song or an instrumental song to break up the record, and we did “Louder Than Thunder” on With Roots Above [And Branches Below]. “Kansas” sort of does that as far as breaking up the album, but at the same time, we hope it doesn’t come off as, “Okay, they’re slowing it down, now they’re going to pick it back up again.” I had the idea to do an instrumental song, and I know we very well could write an instrumental record as fast as a vocal record if we wanted to, because we always write these jams and interludes during our sets between songs. Basically, that’s what we did with “Kansas.” That song probably had the most effort go into it even though it doesn’t have any vocals on it.

Rubey: “Kansas” was written full band. There’s a sample that plays that’s a voice speaking, and it’s that portion of the song that I had written super, super long ago. Some of the riffs I took from songs that I was writing a long time ago for some solo project I had that never happened. It was kind of like Minus The Bear, Pelican-y influenced guitar-driven stuff, so that’s why we decided to put those parts in an instrumental.

We intentionally wanted an instrumental, and when we were conceptualizing the whole album, the album definitely needed some breaks. You can’t just give full-blown metal the entire time. We didn’t want to give the fans something we made in GarageBand. It turned out to be a three-and-a-half minute track, so I think it’s something that the fans haven’t really heard from us. If we ever play that song live, I think Mike is going to play guitar on it because there’s so many layers.

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