Having established themselves as one of the leading bands in the Australian metal/hardcore scene over the years, I Killed The Prom Queen are back in full-time mode with an upcoming tour and album due out next year. With plans to again re-assert themselves in 2014, Killyourstereo.com spoke with guitarist and clean singer, Jona Weinhofen about the full-length, touring and their move to Epitaph.
It has been busy. We haven’t done a great deal of touring this year because we’ve been busy writing and recording. We did do a US tour back in May with Asking Alexandria and then we wrote and recorded the album over in Sweden around September and then did some European festivals and a European tour [too].
How have those international dates been?
They’ve been great. We did the Never Say Die Tour over in Europe, which is a pretty massive tour normally. I think there were seven bands including us so everyone was sharing a few buses. It was a good time, the shows were great.
Very good to hear but glad to see you guys back on our shores. Speaking of, Prom Queen have got a pretty big stint of dates coming up. Playing some intimate venues and the like, are you keen to play back here again?
Yeah definitely. It actually didn’t even start as a plan to do a tour. We had some free dates and we knew the album wouldn’t be out so we started wondering what we would do and we got offered some shows. Then the more shows we confirmed the more offers that came in and we were free so we said, “hell yeah.” But it should be a lot of fun.
Moving on to the album, what was it like working with Fred Nörström again?
I’ve been a fan of his work since when I was a kid, and we recorded our last record with him, ‘Music For The Recently Deceased’. We’re all big fans of bands like Soilwork and In Flames all of which he’s worked with. We came up with this crazy notion to save up some money and head over and work with him. That was on the last record but I also went on to record with him for Bring Me the Horizon for one record so he’s now a good friend of mine. We hang out every time I pass by Gothenburg, which was quite often seeing as I lived in Oslo for a few years. So yeah, we sat down and nutted it all out and decided that we were happy with the sound we thought Fred could get with us. And we’re happy working with him so yeah, it all turned out great.
What does the album itself sound like? Is it going to be more melodic, is it going to be really heavy? Can you give us a general gist of the album?
I wouldn’t say it’s anymore melodic than the last record. We’ve got a lot of the same influences as we had back then and we all loved that really melodic, Swedish-metal sound so that’s still heavy with us. We’ve got a couple new members like Jamie from The Red Shore. He used to play bass for them and had actually written quite a lot of music for them in the past. So he’s written some stuff for us here.
That all being said, there’s going to be songs where people will say, “okay, this is one-hundred percent heavier than ‘Music For The Recently Deceased’ but at the same time we haven’t lost any of the melody and catchiness we know people love. We’ve added some new elements too; there’s some live strings on there which is something I myself have always wanted to do. A little synth here and there but nothing too overboard.
Can fans expect to see any guest vocalists on the record and if so, can you spill the beans on who?
Yes, we have two guest vocals on there. Well, I can spill the beans on one of them. We had our friend Bjorn, who sings for a Swedish band called Soilwork do some guest vocals for us. He was producing vocals with us on the last two or so weeks we were in the studio and worked a lot with us on my melodies and some different ideas as well. He did some phrasing with Jaimie and at the end we were lucky enough to get him to lay down a chorus on a track, which is a big deal for us because we’re all huge Soilwork fans from years and years ago.
The album’s going to be released by Epitaph. What brought on the move to join there?
Well, the last record deal we had was for only one record and we were quite lucky in that respect because a lot of bands managed to get themselves trapped into five or six album deals that last for years and years. And some bands don’t even make it that long. Somehow we managed to wrangle the deal for only one and then the label for ‘Music For The Recently Deceased’, called Stomp, went bankrupt. And that reverted the rights back to us, so we owned that record again which made us free agents to the rest of the world. I had worked with Epitaph previously in Bring Me the Horizon so I had a working relationship with Brett Gruewitz and the Australian rep’ for them who has been in some local hardcore bands. After some discussions late last year and early this year about Epitaph and Prom Queen working together they offered us a deal, which was perfect for us. Everything they wanted to do with the album sounded exactly like where we wanted to take it so it was a no-brainer really.
It sounds like it’s all fitting into place.
Yeah, it is which is really encouraging. (laughs)
While we’re on the topic of members and bands, I just wanted to ask about your new drummer Shane who came from Buried In Verona. How’s he fitting into the band?
He is awesome! (laughs) We’ve known him for a few years now, he used to be in Confession before BIV and both Jaimie and Kevin [Cameron] did some session touring in Confession, filling in for other members and what not so they met Shane back then. Shane and I have known each other for a while now and as soon as JJ decided to depart the band he was our first and only choice really. It was a shame we had to poach him from BIV but he was the guy we wanted and we were lucky enough for him to say yes. So it’s all worked out fantastically.
What plans do you guys have for 2014?
I would say we’re going to be on tour almost non-stop. The very start of the year is always kind of slow; everyone’s winding down from Christmas and New Year. Then we’ll do an Aussie tour early next year before embarking on some American dates; we’re getting all that sorted now . A European and UK tour all in one go and for the summer in America hopefully do some more stuff like Warped Tour maybe? But that’s all up in the air at the moment. Then once their summer is done we’ll come back and smash the fuck out of another Aussie tour! (laughs)
I can tell you a lot of fans are looking forward to that. But, I’ve got a question about The Carly Ryan Foundation. You’re the music ambassador for that and it’s such a big, passionate and inspiring movement, how does it feel to be a part of that?
It’s such a worthy cause to take part in and the fact that I’ve known Sonya [Ryan] personally for a number of years and that her story makes me that much more passionate about working with them, and what they’re fighting for. So whenever they hit me up, whether to get an email address of someone they’d want to get in contact with or to do a signing or a meet and greet, or do the bigger things like bridge the gap between music and musicians and the young people of our generation, as well as promote the message that we want to get across, which is the online safety and awareness, . So yeah, they call me their ambassador and I just do what I can to help out.
You’re quite an energetic performer, do you have any before stage habits that get you in the mood to play?
You know what, a lot of bands have their warm up on vocals and guitars and they have that getting ready ritual but I’ve tried it and it’s never been my thing. I’ll definitely warm up if it’s a special show or a large one but normally I don’t do anything. Sometimes overseas I get really sleepy before we play so I’ll go have a twenty minute nap beforehand which some people find impossible to do. I can set my alarm and when I wake up it’s like “batteries are charged, I’m ready to rage!” That’s about as close as I get.
Now, not trying to kiss asses here or anything but you’ve become almost an icon within the Australian heavy-music scene. You’ve played with some great bands like Bring Me the Horizon and Bleeding Through and of course I Killed the Prom Queen and have seen a large amount of success some people only dream of. Do you have any nuggets of wisdom or advice for up and coming local artists striving to reach the top?
It’s always hard to find out why you yourself have had such a successful career and what not. I mean, people call me talented but I don’t see myself any more talented than a lot of people out there. I see people doing covers on YouTube and our Facebook page and they’re just so much better musically at their instrument than me. (laughs) I think a big part of it is down to luck and determination and hard work and persistence. I would say to younger bands starting out that you just have to be willing to make contact, speak and make friends with the all the right people and make friends with other bands. Some of the first tours Prom Queen ever did were where we teamed up with a local band we were friends with and we had a friend book us some shows around Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and we said “Who cares if no one shows up, we’ve saved up our doll money for a few months, let’s take a hire van and have some fun”. And for some reason people showed up! (laughs) So we kept doing that and the shows got bigger and bigger and I guess it’s a mixture of luck and talent and hard work. That’s pretty much my two cents.
Talking about shows this leads to my last question about your shows. Last year with Parkway Drive in December, I couldn’t help but notice just how crazy and energetic the crowd was. I mean, I got knocked out during ‘Say Goodbye’.
Oh damn, man! (laughs)
(laughs) I missed most of the set but I know it was just mental. What do you think makes your shows like that and gives it that raw energy that is being lost on some of the bigger bands of today?
I don’t know but I guess it’s kind of enigmatic with this kind of music. You’ve definitely got energy in other genres but you never see the same kind of energy at a dance music festival then when a a hardcore or metal band play. It’s so cool that we have this ability to command crowds and get them to do what you want them to do. You say stage dive; they stage dive. You say circle pit and they do. I don’t try and question that at the end of the day. I’m just glad we have the dedicated fans that we do. When we play with other bands too we try and match their energy, you jump off stuff and throw your guitars around whilst trying to play as tight as you can.
I can definitely say that it works. Any last statement to the readers and the fans?
Thank you. Prom Queen has been a band for a long, long time now; we took our break and we’re very thankful to any fans that have stuck with us over the years. Whether it be with our other and new bands or with just listening to Prom Queen in the time that we’ve been inactive. But we just finished the new record and it’s gonna be released early next year, just released some teaser videos for that. We’ll be playing a new song on the upcoming tour and then more new songs next year. So keep your eyes peeled, we’ve got some cool stuff coming soon.
‘Beloved’ is due out on February 14 via Epitaph.