These guys really don’t need any introduction. Having released four studio albums and two DVD’s, multiple Australian top 10 chart debuts, and having toured the world who knows how many times by now, Parkway Drive are arguably the biggest active band in metalcore. With the band approaching their 10th anniversary, front man and all around good guy Winston McCall took time out to chat with Killyourstereo.com about the milestone.
How are you doing this morning, Winston?
Yeah, I’m all right. Still haven’t had brekky yet, which sucks. But if that’s the most of my complaints then I guess I’m doing pretty well. (laughs)
Thanks for taking the time out to chat to Killyourstereo this morning. So, first up, 10 years as a band is a pretty impressive milestone. How are you guys feeling about having managed to reach it?
It’s pretty weird, to be honest. Just because it crept up heaps quickly. It’s one of those things that’s like, we played Mindsnare’s 10 year anniversary tour the first year we started, and we were all like ‘wow, Mindsnare’s 10 years old. Imagine being in a band for 10 whole years,’ and now that’s happened to us. (laughs) So I don’t know, it’s just one of those strange things that rolled along and popped it’s head up and we don’t really know how to deal with it (laughs), because in a sense we still fell new and young, I guess.
When you guys started practicing in a basement on Parkway Drive, did you ever expect that you would make it this far, or did you think that in 10 years time no one would even remember who you were?
I think we thought people would definitely have forgotten about us. When we started practicing, it was a time when a lot of bands around us were only lasting like, a year maximum, really. It was kind of like, you play in a band, it’s fun, and then you get sick of it so you start another band. I think the longest we thought we would’ve lasted was 5 years, and then we’d be done, but to double that expectation is kind of bizzare (laughs)
Did you guys have any particular goals that you wanted to achieve when you started out?
Not really, hey. It’s more been one of those things where we’ve just taken the chances we’ve got. It didn’t start out as anything more than us wanting to play a gig really. Once we started doing that it became this whole shift to playing a gig somewhere else, and then even recording a record, and stuff like that. So really, we’ve just kind of rolled along with it, and I guess it’s gotten to this point where we have to book things like, a year in advance and we’re just like “this is ridiculous.” But I guess that’s just us rolling along with things now (laughs). We’ve never said “let’s reach x amount of records” or “let’s sell x amount of things” or “let’s play x amount of shows”. We just kind of went and did what we were able to do, and that’s it
You’ve done a whole lot of massive things in this time, what do you reckon are your biggest stories from the past decade?
Oh man, that’s a tough one. Almost getting flattened by a tornado. I keep forgetting all this other stuff, but that’s probably the craziest one. We set up camp one night in the town, and there were tornado warnings going out through the entire show, and then when we came out there were sirens blaring and stuff, and we’re on the roof trying to find this tornado, because we’ve always wanted to see one. It was all creepy, and everyone was inside and there’s just sirens going.
We ended up going to sleep in the car park, and then the sirens went off again, and we’re like “S**t, the tornado’s somewhere near here!” So we turned the radio on to see where it is, and we traced where it was and it was like, three blocks away and coming straight for us, so we fanged it out of the car park, and started looking for it, and ended up stopping like a block away from the carpark and didn’t see a single thing! Nothing! You know there’s rubbish flying around everywhere, and the sky’s electric blue, and we’re all holding onto walls screaming “this is amazing!” and then nothing happened.
We drove back to the car park the next day, and the whole thing was gone. Flattened, nothing left. The whole thing was just gone, cars flipped over, warehouse’s gone, and we’re just like “Right, I guess we’re pretty lucky we bothered to check where the tornado was gonna hit, hey.”
That’s probably the craziest one I’ve got.
Whereabouts was this?
That was in Springfield…..ah, I can’t remember the state. They pretty much have a Springfield in every state, so it was one of them (laughs).
How has the dynamic changed in Parkway Drive over the past 10 years?
I think we’ve just grown up a fair bit. Like, when we started, it was like, the oldest one of us was 21, and 15 on the other end. So the dynamic you have between those age groups is pretty different to that between a bunch of 30 and 25 year olds, you know? I guess we’ve grown up in that regard, but we’ve also grown up together, so I think we’re a lot more respectful of each other’s personal space and privacy, but we’re all mates. It’s like a second family really.
When you guys started out, who were some of the major influences? Were there any bands that inspired you to the point of getting you to start your own?
Yes, definitely! I think Falling Cycle were a big one, and Bleeding Through, and then bands like Hatebreed, and then especially bands like Metallica and all that. There was a mix of all that type of stuff there. It was like, heavier music than the hardcore being played at the time, and it was like hardcore music with a metal sound. The idea of having notes and riffs instead of just power chords and then tieing that together with breakdowns and all that was pretty much the whole idea of the band.
Do you guys ever stop to consider the fact that there are bands the whole world over now who would list you as a band that inspired them like that?
Yeah, it’s a really weird thing. It’s not that we stop and think about it, it’s just weird that you have a kid come up to you and they’ll say something like “you guys are nuts, we cover your songs at our shows’ and stuff like that. Like, I remember covering certain songs and wanting to do that because it really meant something to us, and so for people to say stuff like that to us today is really, really…odd. (laughs) I don’t know, it’s strange. In your mind you think that for a band to do something for someone they have to have done something massive, and in our mind we haven’t really done anything that lined up with some huge revelational shift where all of a sudden we were amazing musicians or something. I guess as weird as it is, it’s actually pretty cool.
How does playing a show at a youth centre in Engadine to 20 or 30 people compare to selling out the Hordern Pavilion?
It’s still sick (laughs). It’s weird, because we still play both. We played a show in like, Cyprus last tour to what I think was about 80 people, so we’re still doing both at the same point in our career which is pretty incredible, and I still love it. We never really started doing this to be able to play crazy big shows. In fact, I think the weirdest ones for me are the big ones because they just take on a completely different dynamic, and you really have to adjust to it in that sense. A normal show for me is definitely playing to people who feel awkward cause the room’s not even half full (laughs). At sold out shows, you definitely need to step up in terms of persona and I guess ‘become something’ that will fill that space.
Were there many points in your career where you guys just thought "This is it, there’s no way we could ever possibly be bigger than this?"
Yeah, there’s been so many of them it’s insane. I think the one I remember the most, just because Jeff actually vocalised it was playing Big Day Out in 2007 on a side stage, and there was a stack of people, and we just kind of thought “we’re opening Big Day Out. This is insane.” and then just before we went on the stage, Jeff literally said “take it in boys, this is as big as it’s ever gonna get. Let’s remember this set.” But that’s happened so many times in our existence. It’s a bit weird, cause every time we do an interview we’re all like “It’s heaps shocking and stuff,” but for us it actualy is. None of us could’ve predicted this, and the fact that it keeps rising is just insane.
You guys have your tenth anniversary tour coming up next month. Being such an important milestone of a tour, is there anything that was really important to you guys when you were booking it?
There’s been a whole bunch of stuff. We wanted to get smaller venues but it’s hard for us to book venues that meeted the requirements of what we wanted. We want to make it as small as possible without having to play like, 8 nights in a row at a 300 capacity venue, but we stall wanted it to be small enough to have a kind of intimate connection with the crowd, so we also wanted to tie that in with venues we’ve enjoyed playing in the past.
The set themselves as well. Like, we’ve got two sets that we’ll be playing, which include literally the first songs we ever wrote all the way through to the new songs, and we’re just trying to do a retrospective of everything we’ve done. We’ve got like 28 songs cut into two sets, so if we’re having two shows in the same place then we’ll be playing two different sets two nights in a row, it’s gonne be….interesting (laughs)
I’ve noticed that a lot of the support acts are bands that you’ve toured with a bit in the past. Did you guys have that in mind at all when you were choosing them?
Yeah, definitely. We wanted to be able to keep it all Australian, and then the little things that tie us together with all those bands are cool. I love the fact that, the bands are f***ing incredible in Australia at the moment. The guys we’ve got on these shows are bands that when we’ve just toured Europe, we’ve had people come up to saying stuff like “When’s Confession coming back?” or “You guys need to bring Northlane over!” and then Thy Art are killing it, and it’s just awesome. I love the fact that there are links between the bands and then it’s just another show of Australian music, and that’s always a good thing.
What should fans expect if they go to these shows as opposed to your previous tours?
Definitely songs they either haven’t heard ever since they weren’t around, or not in a long time. We’re playing over the course of the night 50% of the split, 50% of Don’t Close Your Eyes, 50% of Killing With A Smile, and there’s gonna be a hell of a lot of songs for people. It’s one of those things where we’ll be halfway through a song, and some fan will yell out “play this obscure song!” and I’m just like “f**k man, we haven’t played that in 5 years. We can’t even remember how!” So we’re like, all those songs that that people wanna hear, we’re gonna re-learn it, and we’re gonna play that s**t. So that’s something that people can expect.
Are there any of those songs that you’re heaps excited to play for the first time in ages?
It’s really weird. It’s not like, any specific songs, but it’s the fact that we get to rediscover it as a whole. And you know, when we sat down and listened to it all, it was the first time we’d heard it in ages, and there some songs where we were like “wow, this is actually really good”, and then there’s others that we’ve listened to and thought “wow, what the f**k were we thinking when we wrote this piece of s**t!” (laughs). But I’m psyched to play ‘I Watched’ again. We jammed that the other day, and it’s just so f**king heavy! I’m so stoked that that’s the first song we ever wrote, and that we managed to write something so heavy and I’m just gonna say that I’m stoked to play that straight off.
What about the songs that you do still play regularly. Are there any favourites there?
S**t, that’s a hard one. Not particularly. But only because I really love every song that we have on the set lately. It’s weird, cause we’re one of those bands where so many people like to say “I love the old stuff better!” but the new stuff always goes down so much better live. I think that with writing music it’s always been a snapshot of that point in our lives, and it’s always been more fun to us to play the new stuff, because it’s more representative of who we are, and for people to react to it in such a positive way has been fantastic. It’s been really cool to play a set where we’re so stoked on every single song, and there’s no points where we’re struggling to get through it really.
I think this next set is going to be the most interesting and confronting set we’ve done in a hell of a long time cause we can’t remember how to move or play or feel these songs that we wrote so long ago.
You guys are also one of the headliners for this first Australian leg of the Warped tour in over a decade. Are you guys stoked about that?
Yeah, it’s pretty nuts. I’m stoked that it’s coming back. I’m stoked that The Offspring are playing, and for us as a band, the oringinal Warped Tours were pretty much the first shows the we ever went to, so it’s pretty nuts for us to be able to be a part of it. The lineup’s pretty damn interesting, and I’m heaps interested to see how they do it, and I really hope it’s a unique event, cause there’s so many festivals going on in Australia and I definitely think there’s a chance for there to be something really special.
You just mentioned The Offspring, but are there any other bands on the lineup that you’re particularly excited to see or to play alongside?
Hatebreed! I’m bummed that H2O aren’t still on it, but Hatebreed. I love The Offspring and Hatebreed. I think 3 people in the band are stoked to see Simple Plan, but we’ll see how we go with that (laughs). I’m stoked for Hatebreed because we just did a bunch of European festivals with them and I missed every single set, and I haven’t seen them in like 6 years.
Having played a couple of Warped Tours before overseas, how do you feel it compares to other festivals? Are there any major differences?
I think it’s definitely unique, and I’m excited to see if it has the same vibe in Australia. It’s strange in the fact that there’s less people attending, but the scope of it is still quite large, and the way things come across is definitely a festival vibe, but it’s not at all disconnected. Like, if you go to Big Day Out or something like that, it’s just enormous and there’s giant stages and bands playing off in the distance. Warped Tour has always seemed a lot more personal. The bands don’t seem like they’re on the other side of the world, and you feel a whole lot more connected to what’s going on, and I really hope that comes through. It definitely connects more with the culture of the music.
Does Parkway Drive have any plans to release a follow up to Atlas any time in the near future?
Hopefully. there’s nothing concrete but we do have plans. We’ve literally just started talking about what we wanna do next, but we’re all psyched on music and we’re all psyched on seeing this band continuing, so I guess that’s where we’re starting. We’ve just started piecing together music, but I think we may take some more time and put more into it again. I dunno, I’m interested to see what type of music we come up with this time!
What’s in the pipeline for the band for the rest of 2013 and beyond?
We’ve got a new release coming out for the tour, which is something we haven’t done before, so that should be interesting. Then there’s Warped Tour in Australia and in Europe, and then we’ll just keep writing and keep touring. I guess life as usual for us. Keep playing music, keep going to places that people want to hear the music. Doesn’t really change much (laughs)
Any final words for your fans before we finish up?
Thanks. (laughs) I know I say it a lot, but if there’s ever a time to say thank you, it’s now after this band has lasted for a whole 10 years. It comes down solely to the fact that people have supported us, and if you didn’t want us to keep playing, we wouldn’t have lasted 10 years and it’s great! I’m 30 years old and I still get to scream at people.