Very few heavy Australian bands have reached the heights that Parkway Drive have. It is hard to believe that this all started when a young band from Byron Bay decided to release a split album (with another up and coming band called I Killed The Prom Queen) way back in 2003.
Since then Parkway Drive have really reached a pinnacle. Their last four albums have all reached the Top Ten on the Australian music charts while they also regularly make the main stage of major overseas festivals and can boast touring alongside bands such as Killswitch Engage, Bad Religion, The Dillinger Escape Plan and Bring Me The Horizon. Despite all those achievements it becomes very obvious when HEAVY Mag sits down to chat to Parkway Drive frontman Winston McCall that one of their proudest moments came just recently when they were announced as the headliner at the Good Things Festival.
“We are pumped because Parkway appearances at Australian festivals are as rare as blue moons,” says McCall with the excitement plain to hear in his voice. “I was stoked to see how well it (Good Things) went last year because I was stoked to see heavy music festivals back like that because there was a bit of a void there after Soundwave I think. There is such a huge community there so it is good to see a festival coming back around because it is such an integral part of the music platform. For for us to be able to play it is awesome but for them to give us the headline slot is fucking great because I don’t know if anyone else has worked out yet but this is a first for an Australian band to get that slot.”
As a discussion goes on McCall shares his feelings on something that has been occurring in the Australian music scene for a long time now. “In the past there always seemed to be the theme of Australian bands are awesome but no matter what an American band will take preference over an Australian band,” he says. “It seemed no matter how well an Australian band was doing they would never play over the top of an American band, which is really shitty. It was literally a reason that we didn’t play festivals in the past because we were not going to condone this behaviour – this mistreatment of Australian bands who were crushing it so hard. So for Good Things to give us that slot is a massive fucking deal…. we want to do it right.”
It draws comparison to what happens in the cinema world when an American blockbuster will always get precedence over a local film and I ask McCall why he thinks this practice seems so rife in both the cinema and music industries. “You’ve got the way the industry works in the first place,” he explains. “When you are booking a band at a festival in Australia you needs bands to play, the way booking works is you book a band and someone will be like ‘I will give you this band but I want you to book these as well’… that is just the way the industry works. On a deeper level though Australia loves American culture and I understand that people want to go and see an American band because they comes from overseas and they don’t get to see them all that often, but also Australia has a slightly skewed perspective on how popular bands are overseas. We tend to see everybody as huge it’s like ‘they are from overseas they must be fucking massive.’ and it was a big shock to us to go overseas and see bands that we thought were absolutely enormous playing for two hundred people. Then you see them playing an Australian festival and they are co-headlining and you like ‘how the hell are you in that spot? Why we were told we had to play three bands under you if we wanted to be on the bill… it is bonkers.’”
Now that Parkway Drive finally do have that headline spot at a festival on their home soil you could forgive them for feeling a little bit of pressure and McCall admits that it certainly is there. “We feel stoked but we have always felt pressure,” he says with slight laughter. “You see us get announced as the headliner and you hear people say ‘Parkway isn’t a headliner’ and we are like ‘yeah well we just headlined for 80,000 people a couple of months ago so I think we can do this.’ It seems no matter what there has always been people who have wanted to see us however they wanted to see us as which I guess is…let’s just say it Australia has Tall Poppy Syndrome… which is fine, no actually it’s not fine, but Australia also has fucking awesome people who have grown this band into what we have and we have a hell of a lot of fans who have been amazing and have pushed this band and got us to the point where we are now and I have a feeling that we wouldn’t be here if we were doing something that people didn’t like. So the idea of pressure for me doesn’t come from ‘can we do this?’ he pressure is more about that I want to bring what is above expectation and I one hundred per cent know that will happen.”
That answer makes me wonder though how does McCall feel when he is about to step out onto the stage at a large festival – does he feel nervous or does he feel exicted? “A little bit of both,” he says laughing after I pose the question to him. “It is a weird one because I find it hard to tell the difference between nerves and excitement to be honest. But when you start both of those things just disappear and it becomes a shared moment of enjoyment. Whatever that feeling is you have on stage you become focussed. But leading up to it it is weird, you find yourself getting that elevated heart rate, that butterflies feelings and all of those things… I don’t know how to describe it.”
“I definitely do remember that a couple of times during this last European festival season though I found myself having to tell myself ‘now just calm the fuck down, slow your breathing down, it is not the end of the world’,” he continues. “But I can’t remember how I got myself into that state. It is exciting though, it is an exciting thing. The mass of humans that you get to play to is something that only a handful of bands on this planet get to play to. A festival is always going to be the biggest crowd you get to play to, no matter what. The energy that comes back at you and gets harnessed is pretty intoxicating.”
We all know that he is right, getting to experience a band live at a festival is something that you only get to experience a handful of times in your life, so seeing Parkway Drive play at Good Things is a must see for all music fans this summer.