This year, Australian metalcore giants I Killed The Prom Queen are shining in the spotlight once again. Since their 2011 reunion, the band has been relentlessly hard at work, crafting together new material for a follow-up to their 2006 sophomore LP, Music For The Recently Deceased. After several headlining and supporting tours since their comeback, the band recently recruited drummer Shane O’Brien and bassist Benjamin Coyte, who both delivered stimulating contributions to the writing process for their latest effort, Beloved.
I talked with guitarist Jona Weinhofen, one of the remaining original members of I Killed The Prom Queen, about the influence of the band’s recent lineup changes, as well as the satisfying reception of Beloved, as they prepared to conquer the United States alongside Chiodos and Blessthefall on the Crowd Surf America tour.
Right when you first got back together, was the idea of releasing a new full-length a main priority? Or was there a lot of immediate inspiration that came from playing together again?
The goal was write and record a brand new album and have that give us the opportunity to tour full-time again. There were a few tours leading up to the album’s release and a couple of setbacks as well, but we got there eventually. We’re all now much more used to the band moving forward again as a full-time unit.
Musically and personally, what were some of the defining qualities of Beloved that made this record uniquely stand out in comparison to your first two studio albums?
The most obvious differences are probably due to our recent lineup changes. Although [guitarist] Kevin Cameron and I always wrote the majority of the music, losing both [drummer] JJ Peters and [bassist] Sean Kennedy along with gaining [drummer] Shane O’Brien and [bassist] Ben Coyte had an impact on both the writing and musical style of Beloved.
We also had a bigger budget than we’ve ever had in the past to make the record, which allowed us to bring in [Soilwork vocalist] Björn Strid to produce vocals and record a guest part, as well as adding different instrumental elements we’ve never really had before. The other members of I Killed The Prom Queen were all returning from being involved in different projects too, so we all brought a lot of new influences to the table.
Since you are one of last original members of the band, did that make a significant influence on the writing and recording process of Beloved?
Kevin and I have always written the music for I Killed The Prom Queen since our split EP with Parkway Drive we did back in early 2003. I feel that because of this, we will always be able to maintain the core sound and musical style of the band, despite having new members.
With these recent lineup changes in mind, were there a lot of opportunities in the writing process for everyone in the band to incorporate different ideas and equally bring something exciting to the table for this record?
Yes, definitely. Although Kevin and I began stockpiling ideas when the band decided to reunite, we allowed ourselves approximately three months to collaborate together and write Beloved.
Having Coyte join our band was great because he was a former vocalist from one of our favorite bands, Day Of Contempt. His experience with lyrics, song structures and general riff writing was a much-welcomed addition to the band. Also, O’Brien is a more technically-proficient drummer than Peters, and that allowed us to explore some ideas relating to writing the drum parts, which perhaps we never thought to try in the past.
Leading up the official release date of Beloved, was there a lot of overwhelming pressure you’ve dealt with along the way since this was the band’s first full-length release in over six years?
There is always going to be some pressure with releasing a new album after so long. “Would it be as good as the older albums? Will our music still be relevant after so long? Will our fanbase still exist?” were all questions we asked ourselves.
We tried to not let the pressure get to us in a negative way and we used it as a tool to motivate us during the writing process. As a band, we also decided to keep our expectations low since there were so many factors with this record.
Was everyone else ultimately satisfied with the feedback you have received from the record so far? Also, what has been the general reaction of your newer material been like compared to your older songs in a live setting?
The entire band is happy with how Beloved is proceeding. It has allowed us to jump straight back into full-time touring again, along with focusing a lot on the overseas markets including Europe, United Kingdom and the United States.
We’ve still been including a couple of songs from our last album, Music For The Recently Deceased, in the repertoire, however, the reaction to the newer songs has been amazing. From touring so consistently, we’ve learned which songs translate well in the live setting.
Throughout the month, you’re on the road in support of the Crowd Surf America tour. What are you looking forward to the most about returning to the United States again?
We’re playing a couple of places in the United States that we’ve never been to before, so it’s exciting for us to visit these cities, to see what our fanbase is like over there and if there are any old fans who have been waiting a long time to see us. The other bands are super friendly and we’re very lucky to be included on this tour.
Since this will be your first set of American dates since March, what are some expectations you guys have for this upcoming tour?
Again, we try not to have crazy expectations. We find that if we keep them low, then we manage to have a great time no matter what. All we want is to promote Beloved and build a fanbase in North America, which will allow us to continue to come back and tour here and do what we love.
In comparison to playing at home in Australia or in Europe, have you always received better crowd reactions from American fans? Or would you say that your turnouts have varied over the years depending on wherever you play?
The response can really vary from city to city and country to country. We have noticed a better reaction from some of the places we didn’t get to tour to so often. Playing somewhere new for the first time is always special, especially when you know you already have fans in different cities who have been waiting forever to see your band play.
After the Crowd Surf America tour, you’ll be returning home to play several headlining dates with The Ghost Inside for the Rise Of Brotality tour. What will you be looking forward to about that particular tour the most?
Australia is still one of our favorite places to tour. Being an Aussie band ourselves, it gives us the luxury to be able to play some more unique places that many bands won’t ever get to visit. To be able to bring international bands with us and play smaller towns around Australia gives those fans a special experience also.
Will the Rise Of Brotality tour be your first opportunity to play the new material off of Beloved to your home fanbase?
We managed to showcase a couple of the songs off of Beloved on this year’s Soundwave Festival in Australia. However, the Rise Of Brotality tour will give us an opportunity to play longer sets with more new material involved.
What are some future plans do you have guys have in the works after tour in the fall?
After the Australia/New Zealand tour, it looks as though we may be returning to the United States yet again to finish out the year, so keep your eyes peeled for a massive tour announcement coming soon.
I Killed The Prom Queen will be playing at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on Aug. 17, The Chance in Poughkeepsie, NY on Aug. 19, and the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, PA on Aug. 23. Beloved is available now on Epitaph Records. For more information, go to ikilledthepromqueen.com.