Interview: Parkway Drive

Published on the | 24.09.13



Listening back to Parkway Drive’s debut record in preparation for the band’s ten-year anniversary tour, frontman Winston McCall cringes like he’s developing a violent twitch. The vocalist gets nostalgic withDaniel Cribb.

It was August 2005 when Parkway Drive dropped their debut record, Killing With A Smile, and no one, not even the band, expected in the years to follow they would blow up as much as they did, with vocalist Winston McCall admitting he envisioned they’d maybe be kicking around for five years tops. But, as they approach their ten-year anniversary, they’re one of the biggest metalcore bands in the world.

“The idea is to play a complete span of Parkway’s history,” McCall says of the upcoming tour. “We’re going to play songs from the beginning, all the way to current things, and we’re going to play two different sets of songs over two different nights, so we’re literally learning 26 songs. It’s a bit of a mission.”

As much fun as the band have been having going down memory lane, he’s quick to add the experience has left him with conflicted views of their first releases. “There’s a bunch of songs where we’re like, ‘Wow, what were we thinkin?’,” he laughs. “There are some songs that have literally 30 riffs in them and we’re like, ‘Oh my god, another riff? This song is still going? Jesus Christ, what are we doing here’. It’s been a challenge.”

Such a chaotic approach to songwriting is especially evident on band’s first two EPs – a time when they were still finding their bearings. It’s not that they weren’t familiar with their instruments or how to write music, more they were adjusting to the transition from hardcore to a heavier platform. It might seem odd – four laid-back surfers from Byron Bay producing such heavy music, but it was fast and aggressive punk music that featured on surfing videos that first encouraged them to start playing.

Although they may sound completely different now to their punk roots, their presence at the Australian Warped Tour couldn’t be more fitting. “For us, it’s really cool to be part of it in Australia, because for half the band, the first gig we went to was when Warped came the first time,” he says.

“I think a lot of people are like, “Argh, it’s not Warped Tour. Bring back Pennywise!’, and it’s like, ‘Yeah, but you’ve got to understand that things have changed a lot since the last time Warped Tour came to Australia, and kids’ music has changed’. I think there’s a really good mix of everything. The fact that Offspring are on it is rad, because I still haven’t seen them,” he enthuses.

Topping the charts and winning numerous awards is a pretty good sign that Parkway’s ever-evolving sound is change for the better. But, much like the Warped haters, they have stumbled across their fair share of skeptics; fans that may only crawl out of the woodwork for this upcoming tour with the knowledge they’ll be graced with older hits.

“We’ve come across people that go, ‘This is a step back, they’re not as technical’, and this and that, and we’re like, ‘Fuck, these songs are harder to write than just writing 30 riffs and putting them in a row’. For us, it’s always going to be a step forward. There’s so many things we’ve taken into account over the years, so it’s one of those things of trying to marry every interest we have and over the years we’ve found the interest we have in music has become different to just playing as fast and as heavy as you can.

“We like the idea of melody, and we like the idea of accentuating what we have and experimenting with different sounds. The idea we have for the new record will be different, but at the same time, with everything, it always sounds like Parkway. We can only do what we do.”

Their sound isn’t the only thing to have become better with age. On their upcoming tour they’re playing numerous nights in every city, most of which will sell out. This is nothing new or surprising; it’s just funny to compare it to earlier tours. “Our first ever Australian tour started out with Michael Crafter from I Killed The Prom Queen booking it and it was like seven dates, and when it came around to actually tour, three or four of those dates had fallen through. But at that time we were like, ‘Oh my god, we’re playing three nights in a row, that’s insane!’. It’s pretty crazy how far things have come… I still remember playing and being stoked when 50 kids turned up.”

As the band looks back on and celebrates and impressive ten years, fans can take solace in the fact that Parkway Drive are only just getting started. There are no plans for a new album anytime soon, but McCall ensures there are plenty of other surprises in the works.

“It’s cool because looking back we go, ‘Wow, there is a fair bit of stuff’, and especially going over the old songs we’re realising how much we’ve actually done, but at the same time we still feel quite fresh, which is the added bonus. We don’t feel like grandparents of the music industry in any way, shape or form. I remember when I went to band’s ten-year anniversaries, it seemed like they’d been around forever, so for us to not feel like we’ve been around forever and we’ve still got places to go is kind of cool.

“I think in another ten years, I’ll probably have grey hair, and Jeff [Ling, guitar] will have a walking stick,” he laughs. “It’s always been something funny to us, the fact that if this band continues on to the point where we start to become aged men, is it going to just be comedic? The fact that we’re still up onstage doing what we do, and I’m still screaming and jumping around, and we’re slightly balding and our limbs are going. I wonder if I’ll still have stuff to be pissed off at when I’m 50, or maybe I’ll just be singing about the pension.”

Daniel Cribb