Winston McCall On New Parkway Drive Music & The Band’s Long-Awaited Return To Stage

After spending the majority of their adult lives conquering the globe, one show at a time, Aussie metal monoliths Parkway Drive have been forced to spend the best part of the last two years at home. During that time the band has endured several setbacks, with their gargantuan Aussie arena package tour with Hatebreed and Every Time I Die, Viva The Underdogs, rescheduled and then cancelled and any and all attempts at an end-of-album cycle victory lap for both their ARIA #1 album Reverence and their theatrically released documentary Viva The Underdogs thwarted by COVID-19.

With touring completely taken off of the table, Parkway Drive has carried on doing what they’ve always done, finding ways to adapt and persevere, by writing a new album during the downtime and putting together extensive plans for the next era of their incredible career. Before that era arrives though, a celebratory victory lap is still in order.

That long-overdue celebration will take place on New Year’s Eve when the Byron Bay boys finally make their return to the stage when they headline the brand new Knight and Day Festival at Victoria’s Kryal Castle. Following the festival’s announcement, we were lucky enough to hop on ZOOM for a chat with vocalist Winston McCall for a chat about the last two years, the burgeoning new era of Parkway Drive and of course the prospect of playing in a fucking castle!

Music Feeds (MF): Winston McCall of Parkway Drive, how are you doing buddy?

Winston McCall (WM): I’m good, how are you doin’?

MF: I’m good, but I have to say that I did not expect to be talking to you about playing shows in 2021, but technically, you’re going to make it by a day!

WM: It’s a shock. Isn’t it? I’m even shocked, to be honest, considering like, we didn’t play in 2020 at all. Man, I’m really fucking pumped to think that there is some kind of shining beacon ahead that might signify a road out of this shithole, is really exciting!

MF: I agree, now ‘A shining beacon out of this shithole’ sounds like the name of a new Parkway Drive song to my ears. Did you have that one ready to go?

WM: Yeah, pretty much, to be honest, but then again, you’re talking to a guy that has been sitting at home in Byron Bay for two years, so I can’t really whinge!

MF: I mean, you could whinge about the way Byron Bay has been portrayed over those two years, I guess?

WM: I could, but to be honest the reality is the people portraying it that way probably aren’t the people making the documentaries in the first place, it’s more likely to be the people having a whinge!

MF: So what is your headspace like at the moment heading into this Knight and Day Festival? I mean you’ve spent the better part of two years at home, so you’re now probably pretty accustomed to not being on the road. Does this announcement come as a bit of a jolt to the system?

WM: Yes! Big time! Like when this first got proposed as well, it was several months ago and I was like, “whoa, whoa, do you mean we’re planning for a gig in several months time? That’s pretty close, I don’t know if I can be ready in that time!” So I had to fully reality check myself and say “yo, you haven’t worked for two years!”.

It’s really strange, not only am I not accustomed to touring anymore, the emotional connections that I have with standing on stage and gigging and travelling and all of that stuff have actually left the body. It’s all become so distant that it no longer feels tangible, but this is going to happen and I know that I’m going to love it, but fuck, two years is a long time, it’s so strange.

MF: It is a very long time. It must feel especially long for a band that has made being on the road your lifestyle?

WM: Literally half my life was spent doing this relentlessly, and then all of a sudden, it was a complete disconnect. We had to sink into that disconnect too, otherwise, you just got kind of depressed that you were missing out on the life that you’re used to, or because you had to rebook a tour that again that you’ve rebooked three times already.

But on the other side of it, I’m so pumped for this gig. I’m pumped for it to be the first show back, in Australia, with an insanely good lineup. I’m pumped that we get to share that first show back experience with a lot of the other bands and most of the audience as well. When you put all of that together, whack it on New Year’s Eve AND put it in a castle, the potential for what the vibe is going to be is, seriously it could be an event, it could be one of those events where you don’t get a second shot at this kind of feeling, ever. When is anyone ever going to have their first show back, after a pandemic in a castle?

MF: I can feel the excitement coming through ZOOM. Now obviously, this is sort of a slight make-up for Victorians for the fact that you had to cancel an Australian tour, which was a pretty incredible package with Hatebreed and one of my all-time favourite bands, Every Time I Die. Is there any chance that you might look to stage something like that tour again next year?

WM: I’m not sure at this point in time, but hopefully! It’s a really weird position to be in, to be honest, because we’re kind of at a point where, basically, by the time we come back, it’ll be a new album cycle for us. Not only is it going to be a new album cycle, but it’s going to be two years of not seeing Parkway Drive live and two years of us writing music, so it basically feels like we’re entering a new era. So we don’t really know how we are going to approach the next step of the band just yet, but we’re in the planning stage for it now, which is really exciting. It’s a really unique situation and it honestly feels like we are going to be starting with a clean slate. It feels personally like a clean slate, it’s a real reevaluation of everything that you want to do.

It is such a shame that that tour didn’t get to go ahead though because we had Hatebreed on every show around the world, we had Every Time I Die here and Knocked Loose in Europe and it was going to be one of those ‘holy shit’ moments that you dream of since childhood, where you think “holy shit, we’re at the point where we get to curate this lineup” and then it all got pulled out from underneath us, which sucked.

MF: It did suck! It absolutely sucked! Now one positive side of that response though is that if you’re entering a new era of Parkway, that means that we can’t be far away from hearing some new Parkway Drive?

WM: Sorry to say this but it means we haven’t even started recording the album! Nah, I’ll tell you what it means, by the time we start playing this festival, we’ll be into the recording process. We’ve written the majority of it and the recording of it starts in the next couple of weeks and lasts for several months. So the next Parkway Drive record exists, conceptually, but it’s time to actually make it real and record it and that process takes some time.

So there’ll be no new song for the festival because we don’t want the first time someone hears a new song to be on some shitty YouTube video of a live performance. We don’t roll like that anymore as a band, but also for the first show back and with it being on new year’s, you just want it to be a set of bangers to blow your fucking mind to.

MF: Let’s be honest the fans are going to be way more stoked if you get on stage and play ‘Gimme A D’ than they are ‘Unnamed New Song 7’ aren’t they?

WM: Yeah, imagine us being like “here’s this ten-minute progressive epic that you guys have never heard and it’s going to take up a quarter of our set, but enjoy”. I mean it’s New Year’s Eve, don’t overcomplicate it!

MF: Did you keep many of the production tricks you had in store for the arena tour and are you bringing those to the castle with you?

WM: Oh yeah, of course. We have a warehouse full of shit that we use to build our staging that we own, so we just roll it out and then in the last phase we will be using a fair bit of stuff. We’re still giving it a show and it is in a castle, so we’re looking into how we can use the environment itself to really put on a show.

MF: I’ve actually been to Kryal Castle before and I can just see it being a perfect match for your show, I’m so keen to see what you come up with!

WM: Okay, sick because we’ve seen the photos and we’ve just been told like you have to see this, shit is gonna be nuts. But when someone’s like “it’s gonna be set up in the jousting arena”, you’re like, what the fuck am I supposed to make of that? So yeah, it’s going to be wild, it’s going to be a wild New Year’s Eve let’s put it that way.

MF: Let’s have a bit of a chat about the state of Parkway Drive. In terms of a career retrospective here. You’ve had two years to sit around and think about how much cool shit you did. Some of that has been highlighted in Viva The Underdogs. But I’m curious is there anything in particular that you’ve sat back and thought, “I’m proud of that” or an era you’ve been feeling super nostalgic for?

WM: I’m proud of the entire thing, to be honest. But the weird trip for me was when Viva The Underdogs came out in the cinemas, shortly after that, the pandemic locked everyone down. This meant that the whole other cycle of touring, and people being able to see where we were at and join in the celebration of what we made together, that was all taken away, and that moment didn’t really get to eventuate.

So then when Netflix picked up the film a year later, I watched the movie for the first time since I saw the final edit at the premiere in Berlin and I realized that was the last real interaction I had with our band. So watching it back on Netflix I was like, “oh fuck, that’s what we used to do! Wow!” That’s when it really struck me, that once I was removed from this constant feeling of growth, from this perspective of incremental growth that we have, I actually looked at where we actually got to I was like, “fuck, okay, that’s really intense that we’ve got this band, to this point”. It was the visuals that got me, particularly when you’re in a pandemic and people are telling you “don’t talk to anyone or you’re going to die”, seeing footage of 80,000 people singing along to your band is a real trip. It’s a real trip man.

You don’t realize it until you have someone cut the cord and you have to walk away and that’s honestly the first time I’ve ever had that perspective. It was a real eye-opening ‘holy shit’ moment for me. This band has been literally my entire adult life, it’s a part of me, and watching that back made me very proud that we’ve built something that means a lot to a lot of people and that I’m happy to stand behind. That’s a pretty neat feeling to have.

MF: Outside of your bandmates, the rest of the world can only imagine what that feels like, you’re very much a one of one when it comes to what you’ve done in this scene and for it.

WM: That’s a trip. That’s a really big trip to even think that’s the thing. There’s been a couple of things like there was that and then there was like the Rolling Stone’s like most influential bands in Australia or something and we didn’t even know that this was coming out we’re like number 35 or something like that. But just the fact that this band means that to people in this country to be on a list like that, it just makes you go “wait, wait, wait, wait, hang on, what does that actually fucking mean?” I would never have conceived that would be the reality of my experience on this planet, that my mates and I would or could ever be put in that sphere or seen in that context. It’s a really weird reality check. So hearing you say something like we’re a one of one, those are the kind of statements that make me go “fuck okay, we’ve done something with our lives”.

MF: It’s not just blowing smoke up your ass either, it is how a lot of people in this country genuinely feel about Parkway Drive. I think personally one of the reasons that is the case, is that everything that has happened with your career has felt genuine and authentic and that despite what some people might think of some of the stylistic changes you’ve made, they’ve always felt like your own choices that were right for the band’s continued growth. Do you think that ability to trust and back your own instincts is what makes you so influential to other bands?

WM: Yeah. I appreciate that, thanks for saying that. It’s a very interesting position to be in where you’re told that stagnation or staying in a safe space is what will bring you happiness and success. And to have other people telling you that that’s what they want from you, to give them happiness. So, it’s been a really neat thing to not have to second guess anything. All of the progression and pushing of the boundaries that we’ve done with this band has really come from this basic place of us having faith in knowing what we enjoy listening to. At the end of the day, that is literally the test process for quality for Parkway Drive for anything and everything that we put out. We simply ask, do we enjoy listening to this? Do we enjoy playing it? If it doesn’t work for us, at that moment, then it doesn’t work. There’s been plenty of stuff that we’ve tried where we decided that this just ain’t it, then there’s plenty of stuff we’ve tried that doesn’t sound anything like what we’ve done before and yet it feels right, so we just roll with it. And the amount of times we’ve got to just roll with it continues to increase and that’s where it gets really exciting for us.

It’s not like there’s a there’s ever been a point where we’ve been like, “you know what? It’s all too spiky, let’s smooth it out to make it more digestible or sand everything down and make it smooth so more people can swallow the pill.” It’s more been just like weird shit is good. I feel like making more weird shit, and now there are more avenues for the way that things hit you. It is just expanding the canvas over and over again. What people are about to hear on the next record is that concept magnified. We’ve had two years to work on it, so the horizons are at the door.

Parkway Drive, Alex Lahey, Polaris, Trophy Eyes, The Chats and more will descend upon Ballarat’s legendary land of myth, Kryal Castle, on the final two days of the year for the newly-announced alternative music festival, Knight and Day.

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