“Australia Still Hasn’t Seen What We Can Do”: Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall On Headlining Good Things Festival & Taking Ownership Of SuccessWritten by Brenton Harris on December 3, 2019
The last time we saw Parkway Drive in Australia, they were literally setting stages afire as they laid waste to arenas on the Reverence tour. As the band tore through sets in their trademark unrelenting fashion, they were backdropped by an inferno, with the revolving flaming drum kit centrepiece providing the perfect accompaniment to the sheer carnage that was taking place in the pit below.
For band and fans alike, the Reverence tour felt like a victory lap, the moment when an underground phenomenon finally reached their mainstream zenith. They were shows that will never be forgotten, but truth be told, they were only the tip of the iceberg of Parkway Drive’s ambitions.
This week, as Parkway Drive take pride of place as headliners of the Good Things Festival, Australian audiences will get their first glimpse at what comes next for a band that has blast beaten a path from a house in Byron Bay to international acclaim and made a habit out of breaking down walls and exceeding expectations, one mosh call at a time.
Ahead of the Good Things Festival shows, vocalist Winston McCall was kind enough to share his thoughts with Music Feeds, going in-depth about Good Things, Parkway Drive’s place in the heavy music industry, the seemingly endless scope of their ambitions, their upcoming cinematic debut and of course, the difficulty of shipping hundreds of flamethrowers to Australia.
MF: Parkway Drive are about to headline a major Aussie festival for the first time next week in the form of Good Things, how’s the vibe heading into these shows?
Winston McCall: Stressed! Hahaha. But otherwise man, really, really good, we are super pumped for the shows, we dusted off the instruments yesterday and played through the whole set and everything is sounding awesome. The stress on our end though is that every single thing that could possibly have gone wrong with pulling this live show together, has gone wrong, and it’s also intersecting with a lot of the other irons we have in the fire at the moment, so it’s a busy time. The upside is that right now I’m literally looking forward to standing on stage and just gigging. That feels really exciting to me right now.
MF: Parkway Drive have been rocking arenas and festivals around the world for quite a while now, so this headline run arguably feels long overdue. What made 2019 the right time for Parkway Drive to headline an Aussie festival?
WM: Someone gave us a slot. It’s as simple as that. I think it’s long overdue too.
We’ve been offered slots on festivals before, but they wanted us to play underneath five American bands that were literally a quarter of the size of Parkway Drive in Australia, but for some reason, because they were from overseas, it made them somehow more important. That mindset is something that if I’m being honest had annoyed me for quite a while. So we just didn’t play the game.
We believe that Australian bands deserve the slot that Australian bands are worth in this country. So when Good Things asked us to headline, we said yes, we’ll do it and we’ll do it right for you, and we’ll prove that an Australian band is worthy of headlining a festival slot in Australia.
MF: It’s an excellent point that you’re making and one that I think absolutely deserves to be called out and it’s nice to see that it’s Parkway Drive making that statement, because it really fits with the overall ethos of the band, that you do things on your own terms, in line with your own ambitions.
WM: Thanks, I appreciate you saying that. We always saw it that way, we always thought there was no winning outcome from that mindset, because if the Australian music industry doesn’t thrive and doesn’t support itself, then we leave ourselves in a position where we are always depending on overseas bands to tour.
What message would that send to local artists? That what they do isn’t worthy. So we’ve always stuck to that mentality as we’ve built the band, and we are thankful that everyone has continued to support us along the way. It does feel like now is the right time for us to put on this headlining festival show, so we can truly leave people walking away inspired by what they’ve seen and thinking, “Damn, that is what’s coming out of Australia!”.
MF: I’ve been seeing you guys since 2004, and every single time I see you, you raise the bar a notch further in terms of your performance and your stage show, have you got any extra special Good Things in store for us all?
WM: Well yeah, of course we do! Australia has only seen the indoor version of what we can do so far, so now it’s time for you all to see the outdoor version! We always plan out our shows and then retrofit it for the venue that we are playing. The biggest version of the show is always the outdoor festival because the space that you have is almost unlimited. So in that sense, Australia still hasn’t seen what we can do.
I’m really stoked that we finally have been able to get over this gap and really get to show you all what we’ve been honing over the last few years. Personally, I watch the show and I think, “that’s cool” and I feel like it really elevates the sonics. It’s a really key thing for us, so to be able to execute our full vision, for Australian’s for the first time is really exciting.
MF: Well it blew my mind on the Reverence arena tour, so I can’t even fathom what a level above that might be!
WM: Yeah, we’ll see how we go! It’s going to be interesting because getting our gear here has been a challenge! Basically we had to load all of our gear into a shipping container and then the ship broke down off the coast of Africa, then had to be towed across the Indian Ocean to Singapore, then the container was meant to get transported onto a second boat boat, but it never happened, so our production manager had to fly to Singapore, and then manually get the container off of that broken boat and repack all of our gear down onto little pallets and load it onto a 747 and right now it’s sitting in customs in Melbourne. So I’m not sure if Australian customs are going to look at these boxes of hundreds of flamethrowers and go “yeah, this is cool to come in”, so I guess we’ll wait and see what happens next!
MF: That’s an epic story, worthy of its own mini-documentary series!
WM: I know! I hope someone was filming it, because it would make excellent footage for the movie, maybe some extras or bloopers. I’ll be psyched once we are on that stage and I know everything is where it should be and we’re ready to blow the roof off the place.
MF: Maybe you’ll make it onto Border Patrol? I can just hear the voice over in my head now “This man is bringing hundreds of flamethrowers and explosives into the country, what is he planning on doing in Australia, should we be concerned? Find out after the break”
WM: Probably! Hahaha.
MF: As a band, you’ve never been ones to do anything by halves, and so having already conquered the realms of recorded music, live performance, merchandise, DVDs, cafe ownership and of course surfing, now you’ve got your eyes set on cinema with the release of Viva The Underdogs! How did that all come about and will we see you on the box office charts?
WM: I’m not sure how the box office works, to be honest, but that’d be cool! The idea of putting it out in the cinema came from our director, Allan Hardy, and he knew how to make it happen. We were all into it because for us it’s a chance to show that heavy music deserves to be seen on the same level as other artforms and given an equal pedestal.
There’s a reason why the poster looks like an action movie, we wanted it to be able to sit next to Frozen 2 and the new Terminator and have people be able to see that it isn’t ‘less than’ those other art forms, it’s on an equal level. There’s something cool about the fact that right now when you go to the cinemas, in-between all of the trailers for Christmas movies or whatever is coming out on Boxing Day, you’re going to get a Parkway Drive trailer. That is a big deal. That is a big stage for this artform. For us, as always, it was a chance to really use our platform and flex our muscle to get the message out about the power that this music has and reach as far as we possibly can.
MF: I really look forward to going to the cinemas to see the new Star Wars and seeing that trailer! I might chuck an in-seat mosh in reverence to the moment.
WM: We’ve already had friends telling us that they’ve seen it, and honestly that is odd! I really look forward to driving down the road and seeing the posters too! Why not, hey? I mean there are so many people in this country that listen to this type of music and go to the shows and yet it is still seen as being beneath, a lesser form of expression or artform. This is the chance to represent this music scene and counteract that point of view – show that we belong.
MF: I think it’s the perfect representation of the limitless ambition of Parkway Drive as a band as well. That same ambition that will see you play a headlining show at Wembley Arena!
WM: Yes! Five years ago if you had told me “you’re going to headline at Wembley Arena” I would’ve felt a little odd about it, but now that we’ve all universally agreed that none of this is happening by accident, that it’s not out of pure luck, it’s happening because we actually do know what we are doing, and because we 100% stand by the quality of every single thing that we do. We know that translates to our audience as well. There’s never been a backward step with this band either, even when you look at the data for our tours, it correlates that essentially every time we play a city, everyone who goes to the show, enjoys it and then the next time we play that city, they bring a friend along, and that’s the scale of growth that this band has had.
The fact that we are playing Wembley right now doesn’t surprise me, nor does it scare me, it’s going to be great! It has taken us a while to get to that mentality though because you spend so much time getting told that this is a “phase”.
We are Australians, and our culture tells us that no one ever wants to put their hand up and say “we know what we’re doing” and take ownership of your success, because the moment that you do, you get slapped back down. Today though I’m happy to say that we know what we are doing, and if someone wants to take issue with that, let them, because I’ve spent 15 years of my life dedicated to this artform and I’d say I know the ins and out of it better than most people!
MF: I’d say you’re more than qualified to make that call!
WM: I don’t have any formal qualifications, this is my University!
MF: The University of Parkway Drive, Byron Bay, I like the sound of that man.
WM: As long as it’s not like Trump University, then let’s do it!
MF: I’m thinking more “this is how you plan a tour around surfing 101”.
WM: Hahahaha yes! “This is how you make a pillow out of a brick”.
MF: On the musical front, we last heard from Parkway Drive on Reverence in 2018, has there been any thought given to what the next record might sound like? Have you started writing it yet?
WM: Yes. There’s been a hell of a lot of thought put towards it, but no action taken yet.
Basically, after we record anything, we hope that we still have the drive and excitement to try and create something new. I’m happy to say that we absolutely do, the band is just as excited and as ambitious as ever, I’ve got books full of ideas and heaps of recordings, and I know the other guys do as well. We think we are yet to release our defining piece of work. All of our previous records have to an extent been dictated by time and place and we’ve never really been able to fully flex our imagination and back it up with our abilities. This is the first time where we actually have the time to really sit down and create the next thing for us. We’ve looked at the calendar and identified a gap where we’ll leave ourselves a hell of a gap, so please be patient, but it’ll be worth the wait.
MF: I’m sure there are people all around the world getting hyped on the idea of listening to a fully realised Parkway Drive, and I think you’ve earned the trust of your fans, and their patience, and I’ve no doubt you’ll deliver again.
WM: Thanks man!
MF: BUT…if I were to ask you to do one thing, it would be to at Byron Bay High again! Can we make that happen?
WM: Fuck. We’d love to, but it’s not really possible for us to do it anymore, because there’s just too many casualties. We had so many injuries at the second last show there, that we had to put in a barrier and then there were still ambulances, the school was like “we can’t do that anymore”.
Did you ever go to any of those shows?
MF: I was at ambulance gate actually! It was pretty gnarly.
WM: As much as we’d love to play those smaller shows, it’s just too dangerous now. That being said, sometimes we find a way to make it work in different areas, so you never know, but as for the high school, they understandably just can’t let that happen anymore.
MF: Killing with a Smile turns 15 next year, is there even the slightest chance that’s the opening for you to give it another try?
WM: We’ll see how we go, I mean Parkway Drive turns 20 in a couple of years, that’s the crazy thing!
Parkway Drive will headline Good Things festival this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Head here for set times.