Who is one of the biggest players in the global heavy music scene? It’s a band from Byron Bay. Parkway Drive have gained a huge worldwide following in twelve years of their amazing career and they just returned from touring some of the biggest summer festivals in Europe – including (not surprisingly) – headline slots. They have been working hard and it’s been paying off.
Already holding legendary status the Byron Bay boys have just released their fifth album. On it they venture to brand new musicscapes challenging both themselves and their dedicated fan base.
Janek Hrana spoke to vocalist Winston McCall just before the band embarks on their first Australian tour in two years. Touring, new album, crazy new video for single Vice Grip (where they all skydive), hailing from a hippie capital of Australia and the recent shark hype around Byron. Janek covered it all with Winston.
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How was the summer in Europe?
Fantastic. Summer in Europe. It’s always awesome. The shows were really good and it was pretty much like the craziest tour we’ve done. Some of the festivals were insane. They’re like nothing else we’d played before.
How good is it to be back home for a while?
It’s really nice and at the same time it’s this strange time between touring and releasing an album, it’s kind of a time when you’re in limbo a little bit, it’s hard to relax.
When was the last time you played home in Byron Bay?
Oh man I think it was the ten years anniversary tour we did which was two years ago. That was actually the last time we toured Australia. It’s been a long time.
You’re have a new album coming out and there’s been lots of hype around it already since you released Vice Grip single and video. How does it happen that a band decides to record an album that’s clearly intentionally gonna test the limits of fans dedication?
It’s one of those thing where I guess at any point in time when a band does something different it’s always gonna cause people to question it and you’re left with the option to continue doing the same thing and end up with no questions being asked. But at the same time you end up with the sense of doing something people totally expect and there’s not much anticipation and the interest slowly declines a little bit. Personally we weren’t interested in continuing the same thing. We did it so many times, we wanted to do something different … trying to get different sounds working into what we already have and continue the aggressiveness and the melodiousness in different forms. And that way you definitely know you’re gonna be challenging people but at the same time it’s not a completely different band. It’s a very fine line to walk.
You’ve been around for twelve years now. Does it really feel like that?
No no, it’s gone very quickly and it’s our fifth album. Counting the first EP it’s actually the sixth. It’s one of those things where after that amount of time when you wanna make a change you’ve gotta change and it all went so quickly because we grew and kept growing. The records have gone better and better and the shows have gone better and better but at the same point in time it’s that feeling of personal change and the feeling that we’d like to experiment more and push ourselves to a new formula. But we still love the old stuff that we made.
Change is a recurrent theme in the lyrics of the new album IRE, right?
Yeah there’s definitely a strong theme of change. The album is called IRE and it’s obviously very angry and it’s over a couple of songs that we base around an outlet for that. At the same point in time the message is simply the idea that we’re falling into rhythms and patterns of society that are leading to displacing a large number of people on the planet. They’re definitely songs that call for change. People need to actually stand up and say “the shit’s broken we need to change it” and the only way that’ll happen is that people actually acknowledge it and choose to act.
You’ve just said that the new album is angry and its title refers to that as well. There are times when I’ll play PWD and friends will say it’s angry in a negative way. How do you connect “angry” with positive?
It’s an outlet. I think one doesn’t exist without the other. No matter who you are in life and where you go you’re always gonna have something that makes you happy and something that makes you angry or sad. And what’s amazing about this band is that it’s been the outlet for negativity. There’s two different aspects to Parkway – listening to our music and going to a live show and I think these two experience are different. When you take the same sound and put it in a new environment – standing on stage smiling, and everyone sings along and everyone’s looking after themselves and seemingly singing these incredibly negative songs but for a positive reason… and seeing that you’re not the only one who feels that. It’s not a bad thing to acknowledge that life isn’t just sunshine and happiness and that there’s a dark aspect which everyone gets dragged through. The music is where you put those feelings out instead of bundling them inside until something horrible happens.
Can we talk about the Vice Grip video? I read you’re afraid of heights and that you guys wanted to do this stunt to prove you’re not just talkers and you actually do what you believe in and what you mean. How did you feel just before jumping out of a plane for the first time?
Terrified, absolutely terrified. There were a lots of jumps and we had to get qualified to actually do it. First time you do it you’re strapped to someone’s back and it’s still really really scary. But after that you do it all yourself and jump out and you still have people around you in the air and you have your own parachute and you’re in charge of everything so if you fuck up you die. And I do, actually did, have a really strong fear of heights – like I’d be at a two storey balcony and I can’t go near the edge because I start to get dizzy and have this really crazy feeling that you’re doing a completely stupid thing and it’s completely rational. Yeah doing this was kind of terrifying…
Winston what’s it like being country’s biggest export in heavy music and hailing from a hippie capital of Australia at the same time? Do you have any funny stories following this obvious juxtaposition?
It’s very strange. It’s very very strange. It is such a juxtaposition and it’s still is because we’re at home in Byron and people know that Parkway exist and I think they’re proud of it but at the same point in time it’s not like I have people stopping me in the street. The only time people stop me in the street is when someone comes to Byron on a holiday “oh fuck you’re from Parkway”. It’s a very big disconnection. I feel like the biggest export much more when I come to Brisbane or Sydney or a city on the other side of the planet. When you’re at home you kind of forget about everything that surrounds you and then all of a sudden you go back to that band and touring environment and it’s like two different worlds. It’s very nice though being in Parkway, the shows that we play are fantastic and the fact that somehow we have been able to succeed on a worldwide stage is just completely mind blowing. Yeah, I’m not complaining.
Have you been surfing or bodyboarding much now that you’re at home?
I actually just got back from a trip. There’s been so many sharks and the ocean is very alive at the moment and surf’s been kind of crappy at home so I didn’t wanna push my luck too much. There was a good forecast down the coast so I went down and surfed for four days until my skin was quite sunburnt.
I just can’t help asking you this. What’s your take on the recent sharks hype and locals voting for culling around Byron Bay.
Ah..fucking hell. I don’t understand it to be honest. We do what we do because we enjoy it and we’re lucky to be in the ocean full stop. It’s been a few months of crazy things happening and if you wanna be safe it’s quite simple – you don’t get out or you go somewhere else. It’s a simple thing. The last thing I wanna do is to take an animal’s life simply because I wanna do a sport. It’s quite strange. That’s really cut and dry to me. One of my friends is a person who got attacked in Ballina several months ago and it’s a horrific situation but at the same point in time having someone use the justification of ‘we can’t go surfing because there’s sharks and something needs to be done about it’ is almost selfish in a sense, I mean it’s literally a sport.
Can you introduce Parkway in a nutshell, for our readers who aren’t familiar with your music yet?
In a nutshell? Ah god. We’re a heavy band of people making music for an outlet of the negative, and if you wanna see smiles and happiness at the same time come along to our show.
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Parkway Drive play a rare home show in Byron on 3 and 4 October. These guys very firmly rule the world of heavy music and that’s something to be mighty proud of.