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The last time we spoke to Winston McCall it was a sobering affair.
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Pre the release of Reverence by mere days, with death of family, friends and pets overshadowing every accomplishment they tried to celebrate, McCall was quiet, pensive, and finding it hard to explain just where the band where at. Unsure of whether the fans would reject them entirely for delving so deep into the trauma they’d just experienced, things were up in the air for Parkway Drive.
Two years later (almost to the day) and with the release of their third documentary Viva The Underdogs set for release on 24 April, the singer is in a completely different mindset. “It’s fucking crazy considering that hey?” he exclaims. “It seems like such a long time ago but it also seems like it was just yesterday. This album cycle has been a whirlwind in terms of the explosion of this band. The previous one was too, but this one has been mental. I look back at so many crazy moments and think this is so much bigger than we had hoped for. That was all on this record. It all started with … what it started with. It’s been a very strange cycle to exist in but a very good one to be able to come through and have the album connect in the way it did. I think it gave the band dimension and depth, and people have an understanding of the humanity behind it which they haven’t in the past.”
Sure, there have been the previous two documentaries (Parkway Drive: The DVD and Home Is For The Heartless) that are entirely open and honest about how the band live, work, and play. But in a way, they’re an idyllic version of touring that Parkway used to experience. “It’s the happy fun time Parkway Adventure: because that’s what it was” as Winston puts it. Nowadays, they still love every moment of what they do, but the stakes are so much bigger. Seeing the band prepare to headline Wacken in Viva with 75,000 people in attendance with pyrotechnics, a spinning drum kit and flames that could reach the stratosphere is a whole other beast. As Winston says of the contrast between the image and the reality: “The whole idea of this movie was to bring people up to speed. Because a lot of the time there’d be plenty of people coming up and be like ‘Oh I love Home Is For The Heartless, do you still sleep on floors?’ I love that people enjoy that but to think I’m the same person as I was when that movie came out just leaves a reference point that isn’t correct. We felt we had just as much validity and a story where we are now that people would find it interesting. To be able to have another movie where we open up that window and see inside, see those characters in a very different light was the goal of it. We just didn’t know if it would work.”
It’s interesting to exist in this world where we’re acknowledged as being very successful in what we do. We have friends who think we fly first class, private jets, we get a bus each and this is an easy job. I’ve had friends who say ‘oh you just get on stage, yell at ‘em for an hour and you’re done hey?’ No that’s not even fucking close to what we do!
[ Winston McCall ]
As Winston continues, we laugh at the idea that the band had no idea coming into the documentary whether there would be drama or not. It’s easy for us to see them living life on film, performing for a short time and only viewing the positives. We only get the headlining sets posted on Facebook, the tour announcements, the crowd shots and excited faces. When you’re living it, there’s a whole different story. “It was the idea of showing the risk,” says Winston of Viva “It’s interesting to exist in this world where we’re acknowledged as being very successful in what we do. We have friends who think we fly first class, private jets, we get a bus each and this is an easy job. I’ve had friends who say ‘oh you just get on stage, yell at ‘em for an hour and you’re done hey?’ No that’s not even fucking close to what we do! That’s frustrating but I find that is the commonly accepted creed of what we being a big rockstar is. You still have it reflected in the media in movies and biopics. It refers back to an era that did exist, but it doesn’t anymore. We don’t just rock up, your record label gives you three million dollars, you buy a bunch of flamethrowers. Set it up, do some shit, get off stage and party, go to a hotel, rock up three days later do the same. To do what we do, you take what you can, invest it in yourselves and do justice to your imagination. You have to have the guts to take the profits from the last festival and put it into the next one. That’s it. We wanted to give people that because there have been so many times we’ve seen people say ‘oh Parkway are just fucking rockstars now, they don’t give a shit.’ We give more of a shit now then we ever have. We do more to make that crazy show happen than we ever did to make a crazy show happen in a small venue.”
To put that in perspective, the first scene of Viva sees Parkway discussing the fact they’re funnelling every profit–and losing money along the way–into their upcoming shows. Hardly anyone shows up to work knowing that essentially they’re not getting paid, but they’re actually paying to keep that work going. You can see the sheer pain and disappointment mixed up on Winston’s face approximately halfway through when a certain element of the show at Resurrection Fest doesn’t go to plan. “It’s interesting to say we’re happy there’s failure,” Winston surmises. “Those things happen and that’s the risk. Documenting those things is very hard to do. I did not want that to happen [laughs]. When it came to us saying we’re making a movie, we’re not going to manufacture drama as we mentioned earlier. We are all aware that everything you see in the movie is a point where that could happen. But the fact that it did during this filming … It wasn’t like we had a film crew the entire time either. Allan [Hardy, Director/Cinematographer] picked specific shots for shows he came to for film. Maybe he was sabotaging us the whole time [laughs].”
In terms of what we’re aiming to write next, we’re at a place we’re more confident in our abilities, more confident about our imagination and we can recognise the growth we’ve had as musicians and as people and we know how to harness it.
[ Winston McCall ]
It’s a testament to Parkway’s legacy that we don’t feel like we see a rockstar being petulant, we don’t feel like it’s a tantrum. We are gutted that something they’ve cooked up to please the fans doesn’t go right and we’re right there with them throughout the peaks and the troughs. Winston says of the moment: “The perspective I have is nuts because people see it and go ‘oh that sucks’ but what I have is not only the trough, but we got Allan to fly to those shows and film because they were supposed to be a MASSIVE highlight. Resurrection was supposed to be–well it still was fucking incredible, I won’t take anything away from it as an amazing festival–but Spain is a place where we do a European tour and we can’t get the production to it. We have a few cabs, half of our lighting people and they beg us for this show. It never lined up for eight years and we made it. Then that happens and he got in position to capture the elation on my face when everything worked. That’s what it was supposed to be: a huge triumphant moment. Thankfully we got the shot at Wacken which looks fucking amazing.”
So all in all, they’re on top of the game. The film is set to be a massive success, and [spoiler alert], the Wacken show is one for the ages. The Underdogs have reached a pinnacle, and it’s all eyes on what’s next. We slip up and ask Winston how he tops the show and immediately he’s prepared with a knowing “oh” with a knowing grin we can hear down the phone. “Australia is playing catch up in a sense. You have the first two generations of Parkway’s big wild show. The Reverence set and our Good Things Festival set. [But] we don’t want this to be an arms race. We don’t want it to be ‘oh my god what are Parkway doing next?! I want to rock up and see them set Southbank on fire’ [laughs]. We are very aware of what we’re trying to create. The original idea was scorched fucking Earth. The biggest statement you can make and we wanted it to say ‘you don’t know what we’re capable of’. But we’ve showed you now. The next one is a similar track: instead of going up, it’s sideways. The idea is that we don’t establish ourselves as a shock rock band. There’s integrity behind what we do and it’s not just to be extreme. It’s to create an environment to put the sound we’re making into context. It’s very exciting … We started with ‘more is more’ and changed the way we used it by using the same idea but in a more intense way. It tricks the mind. You’ve probably seen it on YouTube before but when you’re stuck in the set and there’s so many things happening, by the time the [flames go off] you’ve forgotten and it scares the fuck out of you! We still forget what we’ve set up sometimes [laughs].”
Of course, that directs us to asking when we’ll see a glimpse of the next era. Winston is coy, as expected, but considering all doubt about how Reverence would play has been removed, the band is set to run wild. “In terms of what we’re aiming to write next, we’re at a place we’re more confident in our abilities, more confident about our imagination and we can recognise the growth we’ve had as musicians and as people and we know how to harness it,” says Winston. “Not only that, we’re in a position we don’t have to churn out an album to get back on the road. We’re in a position where people will understand it takes time to create something on the level we want to do. They’ll see that for what it is and it’s not just us being lazy and unmotivated … The next thing we do, people will be able to go ‘I should know not to expect anything. I should expect the unexpected, but I should have faith in knowing that Parkway are a heavy band and they have no desire to be anything other than that.’”
“The rest of it? Strap yourself in.”
Parkway Drive’s film Viva The Underdogs, will be available for rent and purchase via Amazon, iTunes, Google or Vimeo from April 24.