Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s lay down the facts. The Devil Wears Prada’s forthcoming release ZII is straight-up-and-down about the zombie apocalypse. But – and bear with us now – it’s also an EP about much, much more.
It’s an anthology of death and decay, in the same way that it’s a study of the intrinsic human benefits of unbridled exposure to such things. It’s the heaviest that The Devil Wears Prada have ever sounded, right as they achieve their highest levels of commercial success. Ultimately, for an EP purely about the hopelessness of facing a zombie horde, there’s a lot to unpack with ZII.
“I think the beauty of doing five zombie songs,” The Devil Wears Prada frontman Mike Hranica explains to Blunt Magazine, “is that you can really turn your brain off. It’s just chugging and riffs. You’re not going to question your life over these songs. And that can be really, really liberating and freeing.”
While ZII does offer the listener an opportunity to switch their brain off, the EP is far from brainless. There’s a real-world urgency to the record, an uncanny timeliness that becomes impossible to ignore. “We definitely spun off the pandemic. It just felt too relative to ignore,” Hranica elaborates, which explains the general malaise of despondency strewn throughout the five-track release.
“I think I see that in The Devil Wears Prada across the board, even in our full-lengths. I look back to With Roots Above and Branches Below and there were so many themes of hope and strength and like, ‘Pick yourself up.’ Now our songwriting, in a lot of ways, has just come to a point of defeat.”
As Hranica would explain, much like the EP itself, this notion of defeat also has nuance, in that it’s not an acceptance of defeat, but an affront to it.
“I find a lot of catharsis in suffering and bringing the songs to be as sad as possible when the time calls for it. And I see that with the Zombie EP. The first one was like, ‘Okay, how can we kill the undead?’ And this one is like, ‘It’s all ending. It’s all over. Here is suffering.’ I think it’s just the spin that Prada has taken, to material in general, even if it’s a not-so-serious EP.”
It’s been over a decade now since the Zombie EP was released, landing at #2 on the Billboard Rock Charts. At the time, it represented an absolute coup not just for a heavy release, but a heavy release purely about the zombie apocalypse. Throughout that period, The Devil Wears Prada themselves had experienced innumerable changes. Hranica points to one of the more gratifying ones.
“When we did the first EP, I was very inspired by some of the other bands in the scene, bands like Whitechapel and The Ghost Inside, I was like, ‘Holy shit. These guys’ voices are just…It’s just power.’ And I never really had that. I was very intrigued and inspired by that…But with ZII, I think it’s just exercising what I’m capable of doing. So, in terms of the current state of music, I don’t look to that so much as just really trying to amplify what my present set of skills are. As far as the current state of heavy, I’m not so focused on [that], as compared to just coming in with these songs and being the best vocalist I can be.”
This sense of internal inspiration; the idea of competing with themselves rather than anyone else, couldn’t have come at a more fortuitous time. Indeed, it’s the level of mindfulness that The Devil Wears Prada have that will come in handy in helping them navigate through the levels of success in which they’re now operating. Last album The Act’s ‘Chemical’ is their first single to hit mainstream airwaves, heralding in the fact that a new chapter truly has begun.
“We do feel a very tangible momentum right now, as far as the radio pickup behind ‘Chemical’, but also the fact that this is the most hype we’ve had around a release, as far as bringing people back to The Devil Wears Prada. We work hard, so I don’t want to just chalk it up to total coincidence, but the fact that The Act, our last record, is still climbing up, and ‘Chemical’ is receiving better acclaim in the radio world and the rock world is really exciting. To also be countering that with a bunch of new material as far as a second Zombie EP, 11 years after the first one even charted on Billboard, is still crazy to think about.”
The buzz felt by fans regarding the release of ZII has made it all the way to the band, certainly not going unnoticed: “Our group chat’s blowing up all day. It’s blowing up right now. I think we just sold the last of all of our vinyl variants. The whole rollout’s been really exciting. We felt that, [but] we’re not going to make a record or make music to be like, ‘Okay, we need to capitalise on this or something.’ It’s not economics. It’s tunes. It feels really good. “
Given that they’re at the top of their game, what’s next for The Devil Wears Prada? It wouldn’t be unreasonable to imagine that the answer is some downtime. In typical fashion, Hranica shuts that idea down with a brief but assertive “no.”
“We’re anxiously writing again. It’s time to work.”
ZII is out on Friday, 21st May.