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Since reconvening in 2011, Adelaide metalcore titans I Killed the Prom Queen have toured sporadically while preparing to unleash their much-anticipated third studio album early next year via new label Epitaph Records. They’ve done so despite the departures of founding drummer JJ Peters and long-time bassist Sean Kennedy this year. Band mainstay, guitarist/vocalist Jona Weinhofen (also formerly of British superstars Bring Me the Horizon and US heavy-hitters Bleeding Through) chatted with Loud about the new material, his former bands and hostile receptions from metal crowds. (Note- since this interview was conducted, it has been confirmed that the band’s new record, Beloved, will be released on February 14). 

Q: You worked with renowned producer Fredrik Nordström again on the new record. Several years removed from the previous album Prom Queen recorded with him, was the experience much different this time around?
A: Not too much different. The studio’s moved, but I had actually recorded with Fredrik at this current studio during my time in Bring me The Horizon as well. So I’ve kept in close contact with him and we’ve bumped into each other every time I’ve been through Gothenburg. I have a lot of friends there, and being based in Oslo for those few years I was, I wasn’t that far from Gothenburg and Sweden either. There wasn’t too much of a difference, he has a new partner now called Henrik (Udd), who wasn’t there when we recorded the last Prom Queen record. Having him help us out was really awesome too; he’s got a really good team there and we managed to maximise everything we could with the recording, and get it sounding pretty rad.

Q: Do you believe he “gets” the Prom Queen approach better than any other producer?
A: Yeah, I mean, we went to him initially because we were such big fans of his sound. The whole sort of Swedish, melodic heavy metal sound and I think his productions translated really well into our more hardcore-influenced, metalcore sound. So that was one of the biggest reasons we decided to go back, was that he pulls the exact sound that we’re after.

Q: How does this record compare to 2006’s Music for the Recently Deceased?
A: I think we stepped it up on all aspects. We spent longer in the studio this time around. We actually had six weeks, whereas the last record, we only had four. Production-wise and everything, we’ve brought in some new elements here and there. We’ve actually got (a) live, real string quartet on a lot of the songs. It’s not over-powering and it’s not like we’re a symphonic metal band or anything like that, but we just wanted to add a few different elements that made us sound a little bit more epic. So we’ve got some strings, we’ve got a little bit of synthesizer in the background, we’ve got a couple of cool guest vocalists on the record and yeah, everything’s a little bit more melodic, a little bit faster and a little bit heavier.

Q: Good to hear. The album is due for release early next year – can you give us any further details than that?
A: Yeah, the release date’s slated; it’s actually going to be announced by Epitaph Records very soon. So we do have a date, I just can’t say it yet, I’ve been told (laughs).

Q: You had two members leave the band this year – how has that shifted the inner-band dynamic during the writing and recording processes?
A: I think the new guys that have joined the band in the last few months – Ben (Coyte) on bass and Shane (O’Brien) on drums – have been almost more involved in the writing process than everybody in the past. Just because we did a lot of individual writing on this record, and then brought it all together and just sort of pieced it all together as a band. Whereas in the past, we’d kind of like, try and make up stuff on the spot… Jamie (Hope), who joined the band a couple of years ago on vocals, he used to be a bass player in The Red Shore before he began singing for them, so even he’s written quite a lot of the music and most of the lyrics. Everyone’s kind of had a hand in different parts. Ben, who used to be in Day of Contempt and sings for In Trenches, he’s on bass for us now, but he actually wrote some lyrics on this record as well. So everyone’s done their part, everyone’s put in little bits and pieces here and there. Even if it’s not the kind of traditional background that they’re from, they’ve tried to extend themselves and come to the party with something different.

Q: You’ve been friends with JJ since high school. Did his departure merely make you more determined to ensure this record was the best it could possibly be?
A: When he decided to leave the band, it wasn’t a surprise, it’s not anything that we didn’t see coming. And it’s very sad for me personally, because as you said, we went to high school together. We’ve been playing in bands together since we were in high school, two or three different bands. We started this band together in 2000 when we were 17 years old. So it’s been a long journey, but a lot of people have asked me in interviews and just in general conversation why we didn’t change the band name and decide to start it fresh as a new band, since I’m essentially the only real original member from the very first line-up. And I guess my answer to that has always been that, I was there from the beginning and I’ve worked really hard personally, along with every member of this band throughout its existence to build up a name for Prom Queen, and get us to where we are now. So I didn’t just want to throw all of that away because we’d had some more line-up changes, which we’ve always been through, whether it was 2000, 2001 or in the past two years. Line-up changes are just one of those things that happen, and I think it would take for me to not be in the band anymore for the band to have to change their name and start fresh. I didn’t want to start again all over from square one, with a band I’ve been working towards for the past 13, 14 years.

Q: Following the release of the album, what touring plans does the band have scheduled?
A: We’ve just confirmed a US tour and a European/UK tour early on in the year. We’re still working on some of the Aussie stuff; we want to get out on the road as soon as the record is dropped early in the year. But that’s still kind of being worked on at the moment. We’re also planning something pretty special for a bit more of an extensive CD release tour. Lots of dates, a lot more regional dates, and hopefully a couple of international support bands; we’re trying to put together quite a big, awesome package to really do another big Aussie tour. Not just another capital city, week-long tour that most people seem to… That’s all most bands seem to do these days.

Q: You’re signed to Epitaph for the worldwide release too, which is an added bonus.
A: Yeah, it’s definitely opened doors for us to be able to jump straight into some overseas touring. With the last record, we had some overseas labels, but it was like a license deal, and so it just didn’t feel like the labels were 100 per cent behind the band and the fact that we wanted to tour overseas. Now that we’ve got Epitaph as one big family for the whole world, they want to push us everywhere, not just Australia because this is where we’re from, and not just America because that’s where Epitaph is from. They want to push us all over the world, all the different territories and we want to get touring to some other places we’ve never been before, like South-East Asia, South America and wherever we can.

Q: You mentioned the band’s history earlier, and while Prom Queen had a rather rabid following in Australia, you always seemed to be struggling for acceptance among more purist metal fans. I can recall seeing the band open for The Haunted and Exodus and it was the most hostile reaction I’ve witnessed for a support act. Why do you feel metal audiences didn’t take to you immediately?
A: To be honest, I think that was a lot to do with the fact that the genre we were playing was pretty new in Australia. It seemed very… Metal and hardcore were seen as two completely different things, and if you were into one, it wasn’t that cool to like the other, and vice-versa. And we were one of the first bands in Australia to kind of amalgamate the two genres. That coupled with the fact that we were just aesthetically really different looking to any traditional metal band. You know, all the long-hair metal-heads wearing their extra large Pantera shirts hadn’t seen a band playing metal, but wearing tight jeans, small T-Shirts and fringes before. We were all young kids as well; I think our age was another thing that we had against us when there these 25-40 year-old metal-heads that came to see Exodus and The Haunted, and some 17, 18 and 19-year-old’s get up on-stage playing metal… They just didn’t seem to accept it. But I think nowadays, the genre’s a lot more widespread and known, and there’s obviously a lot of bands doing what we’re doing, but over a varying age range, and doing really well all over the world. I think it’s always hard being one of the earlier bands trying to pioneer a sound and a style in a new place, and that’s just what we were trying to do.

Q: Interesting. I wanted to touch on two of your former bands. What was your reaction upon learning that Bleeding Through was calling it a day?
A: I wasn’t too surprised, just because I’ve known those guys for a while and it seemed like towards the end of my time in the band, it seemed like they were a little bit older than me in general, and looking like trying to wind things down. And that was one of the reasons why I ended up departing the band. I just wanted to keep touring full-time and playing awesome shows, whereas they were starting to talk about their careers and future, and I know the drummer had just had a baby when I was still in the band and he’s now got two children. I guess that was their reason for slowing things down and eventually putting an end to it. Like I said, I just want to keep touring and having a great time. I’m not ready for kids and a real job yet (laughs).

Q: (Laughs) Do you ever envision a time when that’s something you’ll want in life?
A: Oh, I think about it occasionally, but I think that whole train of thought I guess goes along with lifestyle, and right now I’m just so accustomed to touring, travelling, hanging out with my friends. Maybe things would be different if I had a serious relationship and was starting to think about kids and that kind of thing. But until then, I’m still young at heart and I’m still happy to keep doing what I’m doing now.

Q: Regarding Bring me the Horizon now, were you surprised or disappointed about some of the things they were saying about you in the press after leaving the band?
A: That whole thing was very blown out of proportion, between myself and Horizon. At the end of the day I was fired from the band. They gave me a bunch of reasons why; I accepted some of them and there was a bit of miscommunication between myself and some of the members in the following months after that. Since then it’s all been sorted out and in hindsight we can all see that it’s just the best decision for everybody.

Q: It would seem that a welcome by-product of that decision was it enabled you to really focus your energies on this new Prom Queen album.
A: Yeah, that’s it, that’s what I’m taking away from it. What was happening with Prom Queen back then was a lot more uncertain, and I was trying to do the band as a side project, and we really wanted to release another record. But it was proving really, really difficult with Bring me the Horizon’s full-time touring schedule and everything they’ve got going on. So on one hand, it was sad that I’m no longer a part of Horizon, but on the other hand it’s a blessing because we’ve had all of this year to focus solely on Prom Queen. We’ve built up quite an awesome team over here. Like you said, we’re signed to Epitaph Records, we signed with a management company called Fly South who look after some awesome bands. And we’ve got really great booking agents… So things are looking great.

Q: Any famous last words?
A: (Laughs) Probably not that famous, but I just wanted to say thanks to all the fans who have been waiting a long time for us to finally get our act together and do this record. Whether you liked Prom Queen back in the day, or you’re a brand new fan, I just want to say, give the new record a chance and hopefully it’s got something on there for everybody.

You can catch I Killed The Prom Queen at Soundwave:
22/2: RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD
23/2: Olympic Park, Sydney NSW
28/2: Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne VIC
1/3: Boynthon Park, Adelaide SA
3/3: Claremont Showground, Perth WA