by PAIGE RICHMOND & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & t 19 years of age, Mike Hranica should be living the teenage rock star's dream. He started playing in a metalcore band called The Devil Wears Prada two years ago and signed to Portland-based hardcore-haven Rise Records not long after. Following the same formula that launched former labelmates Fear Before the March of Flames and Anatomy of a Ghost into stardom -- screaming lyrics over metal guitar riffs plus emo crooning during guitar breakdowns --TDWP went from playing small shows in its native Dayton, Ohio, to playing sold-out crowds at the South by Southwest Music Festival.
With this kind of success -- including two full-length albums, one EP and a clothing label called ShipShape Clothing -- frontman Hranica could be out partying every night, hooking up with chicks and spending cash on disposable material goods.
But he's not. Hranica and the five other members of TDWP (who are all between 19 and 22 years old) are Christians, and Hranica himself claims affiliation with "straight-edge," a subculture of the hardcore movement that abstains from alcohol, smoking and drug use. Even the band's name, which comes from the 2003 novel by Lauren Weisberger, condemns society's obsession with designer clothes and personal appearance.
"We thought it was reflective of non-materialism," says Hranica, who also claims that he was the only member of the band to have read the book when the name was chosen. TDWP's lead singer has also publicly railed against the superficial side of the music business. As a guest blogger on MTV's Website for metal fans, Headbanger's Ball, Hranica denounced fans who are "obsessed with the celebrity side of the music scene." He wrote about not relating to fans who would rather meet a musician than see that musician play live: "I still find the time to go to shows and enjoy the entertainment of a good band, and most certainly not in hopes of meeting some famous dude that is actually no different than you or me."
Hranica's unflinching personal dogma sets him apart from lead singers in other metalcore bands, since -- let's face it -- most of those frontmen sound alike, with their growling vocals and nasal singing. He spoke with The Inlander about hanging onto his morals despite the evils of fame.
Were all the members of the band Christians when you started playing music together?
No, not completely ... When I joined the band as the new vocalist, I brought it up about writing Christian lyrics and everyone was like, "Yeah, that's fine," because I actually went to church with Dan [Williams, TDWP's drummer] before I joined the band. Chris [Rubey, guitarist] and James [Baney, keyboards] had a relationship with God, too, so were just like, "We'll go with that." And as we got bigger, we all kind of became stronger with it, and we developed as a Christian band, I guess.
Metal traditionally has been -- I'm thinking bands like Black Sabbath here -- about sex, violence and the occult. How do you reconcile writing Christian lyrics in that kind of genre?
It's not the most original thing in the world to be a Christian band that's metalcore, because there've definitely been bands that are far heavier than us that are Christian bands. There's nothing to say that a metalcore band can't believe in God and do it for God and stuff. Other bands have always done it, so we're doing it too. There's really nothing in the Christian doctrines or religions that say you can't say you can't enjoy metal or anything like that.
Does that mean you listen to secular music, too?
We're much more laid-back compared to the super-tight Christian churchgoers. I think we're all adult enough to know that if the band is saying something that is totally against what we believe in, we're not going to believe in that just because the band says it. My favorite band is [Arizona-based alt-rock band] Jimmy Eat World.
Are you ever received differently in the hardcore community for being a Christian band?
That definitely happens. When we were on Sounds of the Underground tour -- which is a more metal, secular tour -- we were heckled a lot by the crowd and some of the bands. Being in a Christian band really shouldn't change being able to hang out with [other bands]. I think a lot of our fans have a relationship with God, but a lot of them don't, and that's fine.
Isn't there a lot of temptation in the musical community? Do you ever have the urge to give up being straight-edge?
Not everybody in the band is [straight-]edge. It can be kind of difficult, just seeing them change and stuff. It happens with everybody, is how I justify it. It's their choice, but no one drinks on tour, which is kind of good. I was never interested [in drinking], even when I was super-young and na & iuml;ve and didn't know anything, really. I'm never really tempted. I know what I believe, and I make the decisions I make based on what I think is best ... I'm strong with what I believe.
The Devil Wears Prada w/ The Hollowed, Dead Horse Express, City Sleeps, Hail the Gunfire * Saturday, Jan. 26 at 5 pm * Tickets: $10 * The Blvd. * 333 W. Spokane Falls Blvd * Call: 325-SEAT or 455-7826