For someone in the midst of an intense 18-date tour throughout Australia, Winston McCall answers the phone at 11am in a remarkably chipper manner. When the front man of rapidly rising metalcore act Parkway Drive is asked if he was part of a late one the evening before, he quickly dispels that notion. Instead, he admits that the band’s Sick Summer tour, which largely focused on oft-neglected small towns, has fallen victim to recent flooding in New South Wales.
"It was going to be a late one, but floods cancelled our show,” says McCall. “Normally we’d like to push through something like that, but the actual evacuation point for the town was the venue.”
The venue, Ex-Services Club in the town of Cooma is just one of the many venues that normally wouldn’t play host to a band of Parkway Drive’s fame. Yet on this tour, the Byron Bay five-piece is getting regional, bringing their all-out sonic assault to small towns off the beaten track.
Parkway Drive have always been at home on the road. Since the band’s inception in 2002, the Byron Bay five-piece has spent long stretches of time touring and promoting their three full-lengths and two EPs.
“We’ve toured 47 different countries now,” says McCall. “Other than South Africa and Antarctica, there’s not much we haven’t done yet.”
It’s not so much part of the job as it is a genuine love of the road that keeps fuel in Parkway Drive’s tank.
“It comes from our background,” he says of Parkway Drive’s consistent touring. “We’re all big fans of travel and being in this band allowed us the opportunity to go and see places we never would have seen otherwise. We’re all surfer guys and we normally just stick to coasts. We found ourselves touring worldwide and it’s taken us to all these amazing places. At the same time, we realize you can put on a show almost anywhere so we’ve made an effort to play wherever we can.”
With their propulsive sound, Parkway Drive have found a natural home on festival stages around the world, including Warped Tour and Big Day Out. Push Over, the all-ages festival which the band will headline will be another highlight in the band’s career, and it’s one McCall doesn’t take for granted.
When asked in his opinion what makes a great festival, McCall speaks bluntly and from experience.
“People coming to [a festival] and the organization. That’s pretty much it. I think Push Over is absolutely amazing; it’s our third time doing it and our first two times we played it were incredible. The venue is great; we’ve played some of the most bizarre venues, where you’ve walked up and said, ‘There’s no way we can do this.’ And it’s organized in a way that people can still access the music they want, and that’s all that matters. Once the people are happy, then the bands are happy and then that’s it: it’s a chain reaction.”
With the continued success and sense of comfort Parkway Drive has enjoyed on stage, McCall confesses that they’re beginning to take certain liberties in their song-writing approach as well. Currently in the writing stages for their follow-up to Deep Blue, Parkway Drive doesn’t feel nearly as confined to stick to a certain formula this time around.
“We’re writing a new album at the moment and [become experimental] is the idea. We hold onto the idea which has been around since we started: namely, just make heavy, melodic music. And I think Deep Blue was just dipping the toe in the water in terms of new ideas, new song structures and things like that. We liked doing it, and it all came across great. We’re very open to different things this time around and ready to see where the album takes us. This new album is a lot less held back in any way. There’s more experimentation within the song writing.”
McCall continues, shedding some light on how the band normally arrives at their songs.
“It’s changed more in the last couple of years than it ever has. Everyone realizes what their role in the band is as far as writing songs, and what works best. When we used to write songs, we weren’t as influenced by Pro Tools and other forms of technology. One guitarist would do one part and that’d be the end of it. But now, we can all weigh in and decide what works best. Things are a little more flexible.”
The band has also stated that their upcoming release could be written with larger audiences in mind. Whether or not Parkway Drive take their sound in a more accessible, pop-leaning direction remains to be seen.
McCall admits that though the band is gaining experience, songwriting and writing specifically for larger audiences is still a matter of trial and error.
“It’s hard not to take it into account. We spent last year playing these massive festivals in Europe, and while our fan base has grown, you also realize what works live and what doesn’t. At the same time, it’s always surprising what songs take off and which ones don’t. We’ve written songs in the past that we were happy with, but they didn’t work live so you never hear from them again. We’ll see what happens.”
It’s the “Wait and see” philosophy which likely keeps the boys from Byron Bay grounded, despite their success. When asked if he could have ever foreseen his band headlining Push Over, he takes it one further. Still battling with the unpredictability of having their show cancelled the previous night, Parkway Drive is learning to take things one day at a time.
“We’re not really prepared for any response, when we do anything,” he laughs. “It’s more of a surprise. You know, responses are always wonderful considering how far we’ve come with everything in this band. We’re always waiting for that time when we’ll release something and everyone will look at us and say, ‘No, we don’t like it.’ And that’s what should have happened ten years ago! But instead, things keep going up and up. And we all look at each other and go, ‘OK, that’s pretty insane.’ We’ve given up trying to anticipate things.”
BY JOSHUA KLOKE
PARKWAY DRIVE play the all ages Push Over Festival at Abbostford Convent on Monday March 12.