Metalcore and Yoga are a match made in heaven. Well, at least for the Weinhofen's. Besides being vegan activists, Jona is a musician, social influencer and digital marketer. He shares the journey of discovering veganism 18 years ago and growing up in Austrailia. Michelle left the entertainment industry for a career in yoga and wellness. We caught up with them to learn more about Aussie slang and spiritual connection.
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Can you tell readers a little bit about your background and how you grew up?
J: I was born in Adelaide, South Australia and spent the first two years of my infancy living on a prawn fishing vessel with my parents. My father was the captain and my mother was a deck-hand. After that I moved around a lot as a child, I lived in Perth, Western Australia, Ulladulla, New South Wales (south of Sydney), rural South Australia in a small town called Port Victoria and Urania and then finally moved south of Adelaide to a town called Aldinga Beach. Once I left high school and began touring I lived in Adelaide, then moved to Orange County, California in 2007, then Oslo, Norway in 2009 and then back to Orange County where we now reside.
How did you meet?
J: Michelle and I initially connected through a mutual friend and when I returned home to Australia we kept in touch initially through instagram. I was planning to return to the US for some tours a few months later so we continued to get to know each other through phone calls and FaceTime. It was really nice to feel like we already knew each other so well when we actually began dating.
What do you love about being married to a partner who is vegan?
J: It's really nice to have a partner or wife who does agree with you on something that is so important and is really at the core of who you are as a person. Just as I wouldn't want to be with a person who physically harms people for no reason, I would not like to be with someone who causes harm to animals (directly or indirectly) for no reason. Michelle and I love going to vegan events together, eating out at restaurants, trying to cook new foods at home a lot. It definitely means a more harmonious living situation as well.
I've previously been in relationships with a people who weren't vegan and it would definitely be difficult at times. I think it's hard to make a relationship work when you disagree on something that is such a big thing for both people. I try not to be a judgemental person but often my emotional reaction to certain situations would be mistaken for judgement and it caused arguments. It's not as simple as a 'you eat meat and I don't' attitude. It's much deeper, more like '(for whatever reason) you choose to live in a way which causes unnecessary suffering, and you see certain things as food or commodities. I don't want to cause unnecessary suffering and I see those things as products of suffering that also aren't good for us or the environment.
Who went vegan first in the relationship or were you both already vegan when you met?
J: Michelle had actually been vegan for a few months when we first began dating which was really nice.
How long have you been vegan and what made you go vegan?
M: I’ve been vegan coming up on 4 years in November. I started not wanting to eat meat somewhat naturally as I became more in sync and connected with my body through yoga. I was always very sensitive to seeing cruelty footage/images (as I would assume most people are…) and I wouldn’t watch Earthlings or any documentary I knew had footage of that… but one day I was scrolling through Netflix and decided to watch Vegucated. Upon watching that, I decided to dedicate my life to a veganism. A couple days later I watched Gary Yourofsky’s “Greatest Speech Ever” on youtube which continued to drive home why I wanted to be vegan.
J: I've been vegan coming up 18 years now. I initially was introduced to the vegan lifestyle through hardcore and punk music and going to local shows in my hometown of Adelaide. There was a very strong vegan movement for such a small city with a small music scene. I made friends with a lot of bands who were vegan or had vegan members and once I began learning the truths of the meat and dairy industries I immediately did more research on my own and decided that I could only align myself with the vegan lifestyle.
What has veganism taught you?
J: I was always quite a compassionate person, caring about being kind and respectful to others has always been in my DNA. In recent years I have become much more environmentally aware. As a vegan I am constantly learning new things, and learning how dramatic our impact on the environment is just by existing has really made me want to take extra steps to try to reduce that negative impact. I've got avoiding animal products down to a fine art, that part is easy, now I'm really learning how to shop in a way that reduces waste, learning about new ways to recycle - and I don't just mean throwing plastic bottles and aluminium in the recycling bin and waiting for it to be collected - I mean reusing glass products around the home, reusing bread bags to wrap sandwiches and lunches in. Using reusable containers and bags when shopping, especially buying from bulk bins. I even discovered a beautiful shop in Ventura, CA called the refill shop where you can buy everything from shampoo to cleaning liquids. It's all made in-house and they add custom scents in the form of different essential oil combinations based on certain needs you might have (allergies, difficulty sleeping etc).
What do your families think of you being vegan? Are there any other vegans in your family?
J: Initially my parents were somewhat resistant to me going vegan many years ago. I was much younger and living at home and they didn't like the idea of cooking separate meals for me so I took on a lot of cooking myself from a fairly young age. Now they're both very supportive as they have been able to see how dedicated I am to the lifestyle and how important it is to me.
My younger brother has been vegan for around 4 years now and was vegetarian for many years before that, and a few of my cousins and one of my aunts in Australia are vegetarian.
M: My direct family eats vegan most of the time and we often cook really interesting meals together at home. I think Jona and I have been a good influence on them. My dad, mom and brother are all very health conscious anyway so eating vegan together is usually a no-brainer.
How do you feel about vegan companies that are being bought or invested in by large corporations? For example brands like Beyond Meat and Daiya.
J: I'm not sure that my opinion would be shared by the rest of the vegan community, especially when it comes to these corporations being involved in animal cruelty (animal testing, or meat production etc). I personally feel that any effort to propel veganism into the mainstream spotlight is a positive one. These corporations only care about money, they're buying up the vegan companies because they're some of the fastest growing and successful companies. I think this shows that big corporations follow trends with their money and it's proof that the trends are shifting rapidly towards a plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle.
I love 100% vegan companies and vegan products, but I think it's important to make veganism as accessible to the average person as possible or else people will be less inclined to making the change (as they will see it as an inconvenience). If that means corporation that funds the exploitation animals begins pulling some of those funds and transferring them to cruelty free products thus making those products widely available and mainstream (Target, Wholefoods, Walmart etc), I see this as a positive step for all.
What is one of your favorite vegan things to eat?
J: I mean that's way too difficult of a question! Michelle and I eat Veggie Grill a lot, and spicy thai noodles is one of our go to meals at least once a week, we love it from Irvine's Wheel Of Life restaurant. I eat crumpets with vegemite for breakfast every morning, for people unfamiliar with these things, they're UK/Australian and you need them in your life. I also have a massive sweet tooth, I adore Go Max bars (Jokerz, Cleo's peanut butter cups etc) and I finally just got my hands on some vegan creme eggs and caramel choc bears from Sydney's Treat Dreams!
Why is being vegan important to you?
J: Being vegan is probably the most important thing to me at this stage of my life. It is a lifestyle based on the principle that I don't need to cause suffering to live an enjoyable and healthy life and that humanity has a responsibility to care for those who can't care for themselves and to live harmoniously with the planet we share with so much other life. Right now humanity isn't doing its job and I think it's important to be vocal and continue to educate others on how they can live in a way which reduces suffering caused to others.
What advice would you give someone thinking of going vegan?
Jona: The first thing I would say is how jealous I am that they're going vegan in 2017 and not 2000 like me! We have access to so many amazing foods, restaurants and resources almost everywhere in the world these days. I would reiterate that they should not be discouraged by the 'adjustment period' or feel like they will miss out on anything and I would teach them about all the amazing products available in most grocery stores these days (vegan cheese, mock meat/protein supplements, plant milks etc) that can be used to substitute animal products in their favourite meals. Making everything and anything vegan these days is simple.
Do you guys practice yoga together?
J: I love taking Michelle's classes but I don't do it as often as I should. Yoga is such a great way to stay in shape and cater to your body's needs. We've messed around with some Acro (partner yoga) before as well but my hamstrings are so tight! I'd love to work on it more and get better at it.
Michelle, what is your favorite yoga pose and what is your favorite yoga style to practice?
My favorite yoga poses to practice are any inversion because they flip perspective, are challenging, fun, and help me learn a little bit more about myself each time. My favorite style to practice is under the “vinyasa flow” category but I’ve studied and trained under a studio that blends Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga together. I also really love yin yoga.
What has yoga taught you?
M: I could be here for hours if I listed everything it has taught me! The practice brings forth infinite wisdom that creates a life long yoga practice since there is no such thing as “yoga perfect”. It has taught me how to be more compassionate, loving, observant, acknowledging, and peaceful so that I can in turn reflect that in my interaction with others. It has taught me how to watch my emotions come up before I react. It has taught me how to sit through discomfort and work through tough times on and off my mat just by focusing on my breath and finding stillness.
It has opened me up to a whole new world in regards of how to get to know my real self. It has shown me how we are all part of one collective - humans, animals, plants… the living beings that share this planet are all here together in harmony to help each other and live in unison. Ahimsa, or “non-violence”/“non-harming”, is one of yoga’s teachings from the Yamas (a code of ethics that creates one of the eight limbs of the yoga practice). I extend this to all living beings, including myself, which is a reason why veganism and yoga go together so well.
Michelle, you chose yoga over the entertainment industry. Looking back, do you feel that was the right choice for you? Why?
It kind of happened naturally as I continued to practice, but I found yoga to be so beneficial not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. I started morphing into who I felt I truly was meant to be. I loved the time I spent working in Los Angeles and everything I learned and the people I met, but I’m a firm believer that one’s greatest path unfolds when there is no resistance and one can somewhat surrender to the journey. As yoga continued to help me grow and uncover these deeper layers of myself, everything about working in the entertainment industry felt forced and hard to drag with me as I continued to change.
How do you guys balance social media vs being present in certain moments?
J: This is something we both struggle with at times, especially since I've began working with social media as a profession for another company, my personal channels have taken a bit of a back seat. I only really post to instagram once per week on average, I stay on twitter a lot and love engaging in conversation about veganism and sharing information and ideas. I'm not big on Facebook right now, I only really use it to keep in contact with friends and relatives back in Australia. Michelle and I are pretty good about putting our phones away and enjoying the moment, we did this a lot on our recent trip to Europe. Sometimes it's nice to break it out and take photos of our delicious meals while we're traveling to share with others though.
M: I recently decided to do a 30 day Instagram detox. I deleted the app off my phone and I’m on day 25 right now… I haven’t felt this present in a long while. I think taking the time to leave the phone completely behind is important to reconnect back to the self properly and feel rejuvenated energetically.
Name something you couldn’t live without on a
J: Most people would say their phones, and these are great for a lot of things, especially where veganism is concerned. We use the Happy Cow app all the time when traveling to new places, or when I'm touring. Aside from this there are a few things I take with me everywhere I go, these include my Klean Kanteen steel coffee mug and plastic tumbler, and my metal straws. Lately I've been really trying to live more sustainably and that includes creating less waste and recycling. I'm not a huge coffee drinker but when I travel for work or with the band I really dislike using single use coffee cups and straws for drinks so it's nice to always have these on hand and use them time and time again.
Jona, say sentence with a lot of Aussie slang and then translate it for us.
It's always funny being put on the spot and not being able to think of something funny to say. Us Aussie's are notorious for shortening and abbreviating as much as we possibly can, I guess we're very lazy and don't like using long words. Some older generations also use a lot of rhyming slang which was more of a British thing originally. So grab ya sunnies, boardies and thongs and give Jonno Baz and Gazza a buzz on the dog 'n' bone, we gotta go to the servo first and get some petty, then grab brekkie from maccas.
Grab your sunglasses, board shorts (swimmers) and flip flops, give John, Barry and Gary a call on the phone, we have to go to the gas station first and get some petrol (gas) and then grab breakfast from McDonalds (which I'd obviously never do lol).
What are some bands/groups/djs you are currently into?
J: My spotify playlist is so varied, I love it. Some of the artists getting regular spins lately are Phoria, Immanu El, Daughter, Lights & Motion, This Will Destroy You, Architects, Northlane, As a guitarist from a few metal/hardcore band's, many people expect me to primarily listen to metal but my taste in music is really broad. Sure I love me some In Flames and Amon Amarth but I'm just as often listening to Enya and INXS. My go to DJ/EDM artist is Seven Lions but I also have some great Diplo mix tapes and have been digging UK garage DJ Sorrow lately.
Jona, How did you get the nickname, “The Shred”?
Haha, this was a self-appointed nickname when I was about 21. I really wanted to shred at lead guitar so I practiced every day for a few years, even went back to lessons. Turns out I'm really not that great at it. But I can riff like nobody's business
Jona, is your band still active? What are you up to these days and what are you passionate about doing?
I would say both yes and no. We haven't toured since August last year but we have the intention of creating new music together and perhaps scheduling some tours for next year. Music has always been one of my biggest passions in life and I don't think i'll ever truly give it up completely. We're all just at an age where other aspects of life become very important too. Almost all of the members of the band are married and our vocalist Jamie just had his first child. It's important for us to focus on family and future but it's lovely to be able to collaborate on music and head out on the occasional tour from time to time. The band is more about friendship and creativity these days than anything else, whereas it used to be our main form of income and career.
Tell readers one thing about you that they wouldn’t already know.
J: Since I lived in Norway for a few years, I speak a little Norwegian and a tiny amount of Swedish. I'm definitely not fluent by any means but I can speak enough to get me by in certain social situations.
Do you like living in Australia or LA better?
J: Both places have their pros and cons I would say. I really love living in California. Everything is so accessible, its a beautiful state, I'm close to beaches, amazing food and a stones throw from some of the worlds most famous nature. I often times miss certain aspects of Australia, obviously my family and friends first and foremost. I could see us moving back to Australia some day. I love Adelaide but we also adore Melbourne and I could easily see us living somewhere smaller and more secluded some day like Byron Bay.
What is one of your favorite places you have traveled to so far?
J: We both recently went on our honeymoon and travelled to various parts of Scandinavia. It was Michelle's first time there, and while I have been to Norway and Sweden before, we decided to travel to Bergen, Norway and explore some of the fjords. It was some of the most breathtaking scenery and there were so many parts that seemed untouched. I think we will definitely be visiting again and spending more time there.
Jona, how may tattoos do you have and which one is your favorite? Can you tell us your favorite tattoo artist?
At this point I have so many I just joke with people that they're all one big tattoo. I think I have around 20 but some of my pieces were fully planned out large pieces like both of my sleeves, my back and my head piece. I have a lot of favourite artists. The majority of my work has been done by Seattle based artist Derek Noble at Dark Age Tattoo, and Brisbane Australia's Rachi Park at Black Throne tattoo. One of my favourite pieces is my head tattoo which is made up of 4 mandalas including an all seeing eye and a double vajra or crossed vajra, a buddhist mythical weapon which represents indestructibility and irresistible force. It was done by Spanish tattooer Alvaro Flores.
Do you have any exciting projects you are currently working on?
J: Michelle and I have a musical venture we're about to embark on. It is still very much evolving so I don't want to give too much away but we're both very excited about it. We're also discussing a YouTube channel which will heavily focus on veganism.
What do you love about BEETxBEET?
J: It's so refreshing to see a clothing brand incorporating a strong message of compassion and integrity, yet doing it in a fun way with a lot of style and obvious roots in fashion and design. It's been difficult to find edgy and cool vegan slogans on well fitting garments that I would actually want to wear. Usually it's one or the other.