The Devil Wears Prada are launching a North American headlining tour on Wednesday, March 12—the Take Action Tour, which benefits the Living the Dream Foundation—with The Ghost Inside, I Killed The Prom Queen and Dangerkids. (Get tickets now!) In this exclusive interview, frontman Mike Hranica explains what the charity does (see the video above for more), how their headlining shows will differ from their appearances on this summer's Vans Warped Tour, how songs grow and change from studio to stage (or vice versa), and more.
Tell me about the Take Action Tour—how it got started, the cause it benefits, etc.
The tour is fantastic. It’s benefiting the Living the Dream Foundation, which is along the lines of the Make-a-Wish Foundation—it sounds harsh to call it smaller-scale, but it’s not on such a massive scale to where emotional sincerity is lost, which from their explanation sort of happens with Make-a-Wish. It’s music listeners and fans that have serious illnesses, and they build that bridge between whatever band they want to meet and themselves. So on the 8:18 tour, when we were a little north of L.A., we met a young man named John who was in fatal circumstances, I guess I would describe it as, and we gave him some merch, he came on the bus, we hung around, and then he could watch the show from the soundboard, hang out in the green room and stuff. [Watch the video above.] So basically on the Take Action Tour, we’ll be doing that in a number of cities.
How would you compare these shows with what fans can expect seeing you on Warped Tour this summer?
I would always, always recommend seeing our band in a room. When we are playing a proper venue, a House of Blues or something like that, our production is awesome—we love our lighting design and spend a lot of time on that, and that’s something you lose on Warped Tour. But also, when you’re in the confines of a room, it’s more of an environment to play slower songs, jammier songs that really seem to get lost in an outdoor, festival setting. Which isn’t to degrade Warped Tour in any way, because we love playing the shows, and the crowds are always amazing, so it’s not like I’m trash-talking Warped Tour…
No, but it’s two different experiences—indoors vs. outdoors, daytime vs. nighttime…
Precisely, and I guess that’s how I would describe it to someone in that hypothetical situation, choosing between Take Action and Warped.
Have you been anywhere for the first time on this touring cycle?
The last tour we did, which was mid-January to mid-February, we got to go play in Asia, which was incredible. It was our second time in Tokyo. We got to play two shows there; that city’s just indescribable. It was our first time in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, our second time in New Zealand…unfortunately, we had to cancel Thailand because of the unrest and all the political protests that were going on around their elections, so we didn’t get to eat any authentic Thai food, though we did eat lots of other really, really good food.
What are the biggest differences you notice when touring globally versus in North America?
It really fluctuates. Certain places where we do well, we’ll be on a huge festival so there’s good catering and really lush luxury, I suppose, but it really fluctuates. Being in Singapore was just—the whole place is just pristine, it’s immaculate. Everything’s really expensive, too. That one was great, cause it was close to the venue and the green room was awesome, but then Jakarta was the biggest show we played on the tour, and it was just a little tent backstage and a van, with people leaning in and taking pictures of you sitting there. So that was a strange circumstance.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Yeah, I do a quick warm-up, five to ten minutes, and a bunch of us will stretch out a bit. And we have silly little things before we walk on stage. These days, we also get a little bit of booze in us, which I find really helps the show. Certain days when I have a sober day and we play, I find that I really have a hard time—even though I don’t speak much between songs, the little that I do say, if I’m sober I find it’s just uncomfortable and awkward for everyone. So we’ll have some beers before we go on.
What’s the one thing you absolutely have to have with you on tour?
I would say books. Usually when I’m home I don’t get to read as much as I’d like because I get so distracted with, like, Netflix and going out and enjoying the city and whatnot. But on tour, I try to discipline myself into reading as much as possible.
How much new material are you playing, and what are your favorite songs from 8:18 to play live?
We’re playing quite a bit, and about a week or two ago we were starting to exchange emails—given that we don’t all live in Chicago—specifically for Dan, our drummer, about what songs to learn, and I know we’re gonna try to add some more songs. The most recent 8:18 tour in December, we played I think six or seven, and I know some people are a little bitter about it, because they like to hear old songs, but for us, and I know it’s selfish, but it’s just not satisfying to play old material, and very gratifying to be able to play new stuff, so we try to play as much as possible, and 8:18 specifically I have a lot of fun playing most of the songs. Since we started doing it live, I realized I really like playing “Sailor’s Prayer,” but “War” is terrific for me, because I get to play guitar on it as well, which I always really appreciate. The song “8:18” is definitely one of my favorites to perform live—yeah, those three are probably my favorites.
Do songs ever change between the studio and the stage, or vice versa?
Yeah, definitely. We didn’t get to do it with Dead Throne at all, we didn’t play any new songs until we’d already recorded everything, but this time around we got to play “Gloom” for a tour before we actually recorded the album, and that was awesome, because we made significant changes to it and it became a better song: vocally we were able to bend it and make it more memorable. So from stage to studio there was a difference there, but for the most part I definitely have—something I tried to do with 8:18 was elude the precision that’s always been very prominent in our recordings, as far as everything being in time and very polished. I’ve recorded that way for a long time, but I’ve never, ever been that way live, so I tend to lose that meticulousness. It just feels mathematical to play shows and try to do it as completely accurately as possible. I’d much rather lose myself in what the stage environment offers and create something different so you’re not just listening to the record. That’s always been very fundamental for me, as far as my philosophy on what I do with this band live.
Are there any songs you’ve always wanted to play live, but never have?
I can’t speak for the other guys, and I’m not sure if they have any songs they’d really like to play, but don’t. And not so much anymore, because it’s from an older record, but the last song on With Roots Above And Branches Below is called “Lord Xenu,” and on Warped Tour, we would open the show with the breakdown from the end of that song, start our set that way, which was a lot of fun. And people that picked up on it really enjoyed it. But I’ve always really wanted to play the whole song. I felt that—and it seems to happen repeatedly, though not as much with 8:18—people never really appreciate the end of our records. I think with 8:18, people definitely liked “In Heart,” but they didn’t seem to have the patience or the energy to get all the way through With Roots Above. Which is fine; I’m that way with certain records. But I felt like “Lord Xenu” was a song that was sort of underappreciated.
On the other hand, are there any songs you’d like to drop from the set, but fans love them too much?
Oh, yeah. Half the set. [laughs] I mean, we’ve done a good job—we don’t play anything from Plagues or Dear Love, which some people are bummed about, but we just hate those songs; they’re so bad, and it’s exhausting to expend the energy playing songs that you feel are just musically horrendous. So we’ve always been pretty uncompromising about not playing really old stuff. We still play three songs from the Zombie EP, and I’m definitely tired of those. I don’t think they’re the worst songs—I would definitely redo a lot of the vocals for them, not lyrically, but just the patterns and the rhythms, which I don’t think are very good. But whenever we play those Zombie songs, it’s a part of the set where we’re like, “All right, let’s get this over with.”
The Take Action Tour runs from March 12 to April 2; get your tickets now!