Parkway Drive are the underdogs of the Australian music scene. For the past fifteen years, the Byron Bay five-piece have been the definition of heavy music in this country; sold out tours around Australia, a staple on the European festival market, and their last five albums have hit the ARIA Top Ten.
These are the sorts of accolades that define our country’s most beloved rock acts. But Parkway are rarely spoken about in the same sentences as Silverchair or The Angels. Speaking to singer Winston McCall, I asked if there is still the stigma of metal music being a ‘niche genre’.
“A hundred percent. I’m sure there’s an amount of people that sneer at what we do and what this is. It’s really strange” McCall explains. “It’s a massive market in Australia; look at what Soundwave was, and now you’ve got Download absolutely crushing it in the first year.”
“It’s not like it’s something where bands are pulling five people to a gig…the majority of the massive touring bands from Australia are heavy bands; The Amity Affliction, Northlane, In Hearts Wake, Polaris – find me another straight-up genre of music that isn’t a hype bubble, that consistently sells out tours, and does those numbers, and sells those amount of records, and it’s still seen as some kind of niche.”
“It’s a weird one to be part of, but whatever, it hasn’t stopped anyone from coming to a gig and having a good time.”
The good times come thick and fast for fans of Parkway Drive. The band built their name off extensive touring; and as the band’s overseas commitments increase, Australia never gets forgotten. Back in January, the band did a lap around the country; 12 sold out shows celebrating their seminal album Horizons.
Now, Parkway Drive are back in Newcastle on the Reverence album tour; playing at NEX on Saturday, October 27th. Just this week, Parkway announced that the Newcastle show is sold out; the 2nd on the tour so far.
They’re bringing along American metalcore giants Killswitch Engage, and old friends Thy Art Is Murder as well as their full production rig. The past few years have seen their European shows feature a mesmerizing stage show, and now it’s time to bring that to Australia. This comes with its own set of challenges: how do you take a 50 foot high burst of fire and put it inside?
McCall explains that Australian venues were something that was considered even in the earliest planning stages, “The whole idea of any production we do is that it’s scaleable.”
“You end up using a 50ft flame because there are people standing at the end of a football field. Like, when they can’t see you on stage, and you have to have a screen on the side so they can see what’s going on, you still want them to feel the heat of that flame” McCall explains. “But when you’re in an indoor venue, it turns into a thing where it’s literally just intensity.”
“I pretty much guarantee that anyone who walks away from this show will go ‘that was fucking intense!’ and that’s what we want.”
I ask McCall what the biggest challenge has been in scaling the production to Australian rooms. The answer is as unexpected as it is mundane; it’s the loading docks of the venues they’re playing.
“We tried to book the biggest venues we could because it takes a door of certain dimensions to be able to wheel some of these things onto the stage, and a ceiling of a certain height so you can run some of the effects” McCall explains.
“Newy has a question mark on whether the drums can make it in [Laughs]. But we will see how we go”
Newcastle has been a regular stop on Parkway Drive’s Australian touring cycles. Last in town as part of the IRE album tour, the band have been tearing up the stages at NEX and The Cambridge Hotel for well over a decade.
Coming from Byron Bay; Winston McCall and the other members of Parkway Drive are know the feeling of growing up in a regional town; missing out on big tours, travelling overnight to catch your favourite band. In the early days of the band, they were regularly playing All Ages shows in regional centres; bringing heavy music to places that didn’t see bands every weekend.
But for Parkway Drive, visiting Newcastle doesn’t just come from that desire to reach regional towns; it’s also thanks to Newcastle’s long history in the Australian hardcore scene. McCall says hearing bands like Pitfall and Arms Reach were his first introduction to Newcastle.
“Life.Love.Regret were, I think, the first band to play the youth centre in Byron” McCall recalls. “The whole idea of [Parkway Drive] was to play something that we hadn’t heard at that point in time. And around that time, Life.Love.Regret were the first band that was taking notes from that Buried Alive and Hatebreed sound…people called it Metallic Hardcore…that kind of sparked us onto drawing more from a metal sound in general.”
Both Life.Love.Regret and Parkway Drive are part of the Resist Records family, now in their 20th year. What started as a Sydney Hardcore label has now become an institution of independent Australian music. All six studio albums from Parkway have been released through the label.
“When we originally signed with Epitaph [Records] in the states, part of the deal was staying with Resist in Australia” McCall explains. “They’re like family. There has been no talk us ever wanting to do anything else.”
“When we were kids, and there were records coming out. Anything that came out through Resist was something you listened to. Before filesharing and the internet and all that, we would literally drive to Sydney, go to the record store, and grab like twenty records. You would pick something out of this vast amount of music that we had no access to in our hometown.”
Resist Records recently announced a show celebrating their 20th Anniversary; a huge show featuring the alumni of the label. McCall said he would love to make the celebration, but still needs to see if it clashes with the bands touring schedule.
“I never got to see Found My Direction, and they were a massive influence growing up for me, so that’s the main thing for me.”