Let’s not beat around the bush here: Byron Bay’s Parkway Drive are easily one of the most successful metalcore bands of our generation.
They put heavy music on the radar in Australia, changing the perception of many musicians who thought they could never ‘make it’ playing that style of music. In 2015, Parkway Drive shook things up with new LP Ire, whichsaw them leave their metalcore roots behind and trek into uncharted territory.
This month, the lads are back on home soil, and will be touring around regional Australia on the fan-named All Aussie Adventure Tour. Parkway Drive frontman Winston McCall sits down with the BRAG to talk about taking vocal lessons, the wonderful world of social media, and the possibility of retirement.
In many ways, Ire was a leap of faith,and it saw fans divided over the band’s sudden departure from metalcore. However, McCall says the response to the album has been overwhelmingly positive, only reassuring the group’s belief that it was the right direction to take.
“[Ire] has done everything we had hoped for and a lot more, which is really nice for something that we had no idea what to expect for,” McCall says. “We have been able to play a bunch of new songs that have different characteristics to anything we have played before. It has really opened up so many more opportunities for us. We have been able to play different types of shows, stepping it up to a whole different level. 13 years in and still being able to do that, it’s pretty mental.”
McCall’s ferocious growl has been the centrepoint of Parkway Drive’s music for over a decade, yet the seasoned veteran had never received vocal training until it came to writing Ire. That might be hard to believe for a band that is constantly on the road, sometimes playing over 300 shows in a year, but McCall says the transformation of his voice from Atlas to Ire was definitely a challenging one – and by taking lessons, he has discovered a whole new way to express himself.
“Basically up until writing this record, [my voice] had progressed from nothing to nothing,” he laughs. “I was literally doing the exact same things to when I first started, simply because I never got any training until we worked on Ire. I actually went and got vocal lessons, and then I started understanding how my voice box works, and I have been working on my technique ever since.
“It has been a massive journey for me, simply because I have only ever had one voice, which was screaming. I may have been able to screech like a pterodactyl as well, but it was all the same thing. The emotional connection and the character that I could put into songs were very limited. Now that I have found that I can do all of this other stuff, it has literally given me a whole new palate of colour to work with other than being stuck with one lead pencil.”
Social media has allowed fans to connect and interact with bands like never before, and Parkway Drive took the opportunity to give their loyal following the chance to name their upcoming tour, with ‘All Aussie Adventure’ eventually winning the vote. There were times, however, when McCall and co. thought that the competition might be hijacked.
“Oh boy, there were so many ‘Toury McTour Face’ submissions,” he laughs. “That’s the thing though, we literally couldn’t think of a name for the tour. I don’t know, we just figured that kids could come up with something pretty funny, so why not give them a crack? There were literally thousands of entries – it was absolutely mental. There were some outrageous entries that made us laugh, but at the end of the day we had to remember that this has to go up on a tour poster, so we played it safe and went with a Russell Coight reference.”
With so much already achieved, Parkway Drive would be forgiven if they were thinking of retirement – but this won’t be the case for the foreseeable future. Ire saw the band reach even greater heights, topping the Australian charts for the first time. McCall says that as long as he and his bandmates are healthy, nothing will slow them down.
“There’s definitely still more to achieve. We wrote this record with the intention of not so much retiring, but we put so much into it that we planned to finish it and then take a little bit of time off. We thought there would be so much music in this that we could give people some time to digest it and we wanted to be able to enjoy a little bit of a break.
“When the record came out, though, it was received way better than what we could ever have hoped for, especially overseas, that all of a sudden these new doors opened up. And we have done the same thing as we always have when people give us an opportunity – we take it rather than saying no. So we kind of just adapted and tried to take this to the next level. We still love doing it, and we aren’t physically broken just yet.”