Ground Control to Space

For the first time in their career, The Devil Wears Prada is faced with member changes. Instead of hanging up their boots, they've matured, paring down their songs and collaborating more than ever, learning their new Space in the world

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Photo by Anthony Barlich

“Ten years later, when you’re not 17 years old anymore, you want to focus on writing songs and not just writing a really cool riff. We’re now more of the mindset that if the song isn’t really a good song, then don’t put it on the album.”

 

The Devil Wears Prada is in a new space now. The band was a unit for the entirety of their then-seven year career until keyboardist James Baney opted to exit the band in early 2012. They picked up touring keyboardist Jonathan Gering, but hadn’t suffered any additions or new changes and were able to write and release a well-received piece of work, 8:18, their fifth full-length studio album. They captured a slot on 2014 Warped Tour’s main stage, and soon thereafter began prepping to write for their next group of songs when founding member and guitarist Chris Rubey decided to move on.

After speaking with the band’s guitarist Jeremy Depoyster, another founding member, it is clear the band’s maturity has been shining through in this new-to-them process. Now with four core members, they first tried to write some music to see if the band could still be, well, a band. Not only did it work, they realized how beneficial the new collaborative landscape was working for them. Touring guitarist Kyle Sipress began contributing music with Depoyster for what would come to be called the Space EP, while other members — including Rubey, vocalist Mike Hranica and Depoyster solo — also wrote and added their touch to major portions of the release. The result, a six-song piece of well-crafted and out-of-this-world songwriting, comes out later this month. We talk with Depoyster about the importance of being picky with their songs, what brevity has to do with piecing together an album that works and what the next steps for a new The Devil Wears Prada look like.


Hey Jeremy! Long time, no speak. Are you at home? Are you back from Mayhem Fest?
Yes, I’m sitting in my backyard.

Must be nice, even though they didn’t give you much of a break; they still have you answering phone calls from me.
(Laughs) Hey, if that’s my job, then it’s still a pretty good one.

That’s really good perspective to have. Well, I wanted to ask you about your new EP coming out. First, why an EP, man? Did you just decide, based on some of the recent band happenings, it was the best thing to do for you guys to move forward? Or was it always a planned thing?
No, we already kind of had the idea for quite some time. Even maybe a year ago we had already been talking about what kind of theme we were going to do. We passed around ideas, like maybe a movie theme or something along those lines, so, actually, when Chris (Rubey, former guitarist) left last September or October, we were like, oh man, we need to write this EP. We already knew that that was happening. I think because of the success of the Zombie EP and seeing how much the fans had latched on to that, we knew it was inevitable to do something, and this just made sense.

It seems like a pretty happy coincidence, because it’s something you can write as it’s pretty short, something you can get out there and get the fans excited about the new lineup, especially because it’s something you guys haven’t really had to deal with in the past.
That’s very true.

Tell me a little bit about the new guys. I was also reading about the new EP, and it also says they were writing a little bit with you guys. How did that come about? Were you guys friends with them beforehand and, when you decided to start writing the new EP, they started to chime in and everything went well and you all decided to just do it as a new six piece?
(Laughs) What happened was, on the last record, we had brought John (Gering), our keyboard player, in, and he did all the keyboards and helped produce that album as well. He’s just a very talented dude. Super awesome, super fresh perspective on things. At the same time, I think that somewhere along the line, there was this weird, misconstrued idea that Chris wrote all of our music and then we all just kind of learned how to play it. I don’t know where the implication came from (laughs). He would definitely sketch out ideas, but, for the most part, it was still a really collaborative effort.

We actually had a conference call where he told us he was going to be leaving. Mike called all of us back separately right after that and goes, “I am far from done. I hope you guys are, too.” And we were like, Yeah, totally. Then we decided to start writing to see if it would even work, to even have the band anymore.

Kyle actually came up with a couple riffs he sent me in a video. I started to turn those into a song. We went over to Mike’s house and he put some ideas down and we really turned it into a song. Then our keyboard player, John, wrote a song. Mike wrote a song. I wrote a song. Chris had some ideas for a song that he sent us, and then we jammed some other stuff out together. It was the most collaborative we’ve ever been.

That’s awesome to hear. With some of that fall out, when you start writing again, you hope it clicks, even without some key members. I’ve heard the EP and I think the best way I can describe it is probably a little more aggressive, especially compared to some of your 8:18 stuff. Do you feel like that writing process had something to do it? Maybe, if you strip down everything and you go back to your roots, it’s like, “Where do we go from here?” and that’s what came out?
I think so. Knowing what everyone said about the Zombie EP at the same time and remembering the climate we were in — we had just made an album that was very much on the lighter side of things, there were still some heavy parts on it, but a lot of melody and a lot that aspect was on our last album before the Zombie EP — so when we wrote Zombie, it was this, “Hey, we’re a metal band, we’ve always thought we were a metal band but we were never really good at it, so let’s actually try and do it.”

I think we had a similar perspective this time (with Space). I know the song I wrote and the song I wrote with Kyle were very much intentionally heavy and loud and metal. You see so much garbage coming out — and I won’t name names because I like a lot of the people in those bands, but their bands are just so terrible. So I’m like, we play with these bands and we go out on tours with bands we really like, and we’ve written some cool heavy stuff before, let’s just keep doing it and see what happens. I think probably the next full length there will still be some jammier stuff, and there is some on this one, but you’re right: The aggressive, hostile nature is just fun. It’s more fun.

I didn’t know if it was a result of the writing process or if it was because it was an EP, maybe you thought you could make it more of a shotgun blast. With 8:18 you had a little bit more freedom. You guys are an older band, you could throw in some ambient stuff, you could exercise a little more of your creative muscle. In shortening things with an EP, I didn’t know if it changed your mindset.
I think so. I think, also, Mike has talked so much to me about how he feels like we wasted so much time on 8:18 with too many songs. There’s just very little possibility of being able to write 13 or 14 really good songs in that span of time and have them all flow together as an album. We would have all these songs… There’s just so many songs that were forced on to these albums that people literally don’t even care about now that sometimes I think it gets distracting from the songs that are actually good. Ten years later, when you’re not 17 years old anymore, you want to focus on writing songs and not just writing a really cool riff. We’re now more of the mindset that if the song isn’t really a good song, then don’t put it on an album.

Let’s talk a little bit about the theme. You mentioned you talked around some other thematic ideas. I know Mike said he doesn’t have a particular interest in space, so when he started to write the lyrics and you guys started to write the music, how did the space theme come about and then how did you approach it once you decided on the theme?
It’s funny because I don’t think he ever really had a vested interest in zombies, either, and now people really try to talk to him about horror movies and zombie culture.

That poor guy!
(Laughs) And he’s just not that kind of a dude. He’s a writer, and that’s what interests him more than anything else in the world. That’s who he is. If you give him a theme, it’s really fun for him to do research and to write into it and try to make it authentic and fun. He loves the Ridley Scott stuff. He loves the Alien stuff and Prometheus and all that, but he’s not really into Star Wars or Star Trek or all kinds of sci-fi. That’s just not really his cup of tea, so I think it’s a fun little challenge for him to do that. I think he likes to be given an idea and to write into it. Picking his brain, I mean, some of the themes he’s written about so many times, it’s like, you don’t want to keep doing the same thing over and over again.

I think that’s a very good point. True writers want to get into different mindsets and really want to stretch his or her self, and giving them a theme is a great way to do it. How did it play in for you? When you were writing the music, were you focused on the space theme, or were you just focused on kicking some ass as a metal band?
A little bit of both. I would try and write some really basic riffs or take another person’s riffs and structure it into a song, but then on top of that, I would come back in and do some very spacey leads. Kyle and I both spent a lot of time on that. I think I wrote the leads on maybe three or four of the six songs.

I’ve always had that perspective on leads. I want them to be spacey, I want them to have big, quirky, weird effects on them because metal can get so repetitive. There’s no point in writing a Slayer song when they’ve already written it. We’ve always tried to do something different. It was a little bit of both. Write something fast and heavy and then come in with the leads on top of that.

I haven’t seen any videos come across yet; do you have any plans on returning to the director’s chair?
Yeah, we actually already shot one video. We just got a little snippet from one, getting ready to finish it off and put it out ahead of the record. Our plan is to do as many as we possibly can, with the goal being to do one for every song. We didn’t do any for Zombie, and so it would be really fun to be able to do one for every song. We’ll see how that works out. Right now, we already have one that we shot in Chicago in the middle of Mayhem, and so that’s going to be coming out really soon.

How about you, personally? Are you doing any creative stuff on the side? One of the things I always like most about you guys was that you have your band but then you always have your stuff on the side, like Mike’s writing books and all. Are you working on anything else creatively?
I actually shot something about the EP that I’m editing right now, kind of like Mike talking about a bunch of the stuff and his ideas on each of the songs, that sort of thing. I’m hoping to have that out ahead of the EP. I did a video for a song on our last album, so I’d like to try and do that again. Self-produce something. That’s always fun because you have direct communication with the guys in the band; they can tell you if it’s good or not. But there’s a lot of people that do it a lot better than me, so who knows (laughs).

Well, I’m going to put in this article that you’re available for hire, just so you know.
(Laughs) I am, thank you brother.

It’s nice to hear your voice, man. I really hope it goes well for you; the EP is a really solid piece of work.
Thank you so much. As you said, with this stuff, you never really know. We could bounce back and try and write an album and it sucks and no one really like it and it’s all over, so I really appreciate the kind words.

The Devil Wears Prada was posted on August 7, 2015 for HM Magazine and authored by .