Parkway Drive's Winston McCall: "We need this generation of bands not just to reach the glass ceiling, but to smash through it"

As Byron Bay bruisers Parkway Drive announce their long-overdue EU/UK return for autumn 2022, frontman Winston McCall reflects on a refreshed love for the live experience, explosive expectations for their imminent return, and the game-changing promise of new music on the horizon…

Parkway Drive's Winston McCall: "We need this generation of bands not just to reach the glass ceiling, but to smash through it"
Sam Law
Header photo:
Tom Martin

Winston McCall hasn’t yet been caught up in the chaos of the rest of the world’s return to touring. With Australia still in the process of loosening the shackles as they head into their scorching summer season, the Parkway Drive frontman’s Tuesday evening looks like so many millions of others’ over the past 20 months: digesting dinner as he watches Drag Race in his bedroom. With the band’s onstage return finally confirmed for New Year’s Eve, however, it won’t be long until he’s back in a bus bunk rolling away from another venue duly levelled.

Frankly, he can’t wait.

On the face of it, lockdown was crueller to Parkway than most. Having seen their momentum accelerate almost unprecedentedly with a series of breathtaking festival headlines at the likes of Bloodstock and Wacken, they were ready to springboard straight back into arenas off the back off their Viva The Underdogs live album and tour documentary of the same name. Having lost virtually that entire cycle would have been enough to break a lesser outfit but, true to form, these lads took their first meaningful time off in 17 years as an opportunity to reset, reload and ready themselves for a return with enough firepower to shatter glass ceilings for the whole metalcore genre...

So, how does it feel to be able to announce European dates again with a real level of certainty, Winston?
“Relief is the first feeling that comes to mind. But, considering the package that we’ve been able to put together for these shows, I’m also fucking psyched. We’ve been sitting on this line-up, planning [these shows] for a little while, thinking, ‘People are going to lose their fucking shit when they find out.’ So to be finally unleashing the announcement feels very, very nice. It’s going to be a fucking rebirth – Parkway Phase Two kicking off in the biggest way possible!”

There are more bands still to be announced, then?
“There are plenty of surprises coming down the line, trust me…”

Is there a frustration that these shows are still 10 months away?
“I’m just stoked because I honestly feel like it’s something I can look forward to without [the fear of] it being snatched away. It’s sort of like when you’re a kid at Christmas, and two months later you start looking forward to next Christmas again despite there being a full 10 months to go. There’s a lot of anticipation. We’ve got a lot of planning still to do. And, as I say, there are still a lot of surprises to come. Hopefully people are as excited as we are!”

What have you missed most about touring?
“The entire life! It’s not just like, ‘Oh, damn, I didn’t get to play some gigs….’ Once it’s ripped away, you realise it’s everything. It was who I was, and who the other guys were, right down to the cores of our bones. Then, suddenly, it’s not anymore. I miss every single part of it. I miss being able to play our songs and connect with the audience. I miss being able to come offstage feeling like I’ve left every bit of energy out there, having accomplished something. I miss smelling like crap for a month straight out on the road and being able to finally have a good shower when I get home. I miss the feeling of not being able to sleep properly because the bus is rocking as it’s going down the road. I miss shitty catering. I miss all of it!”

You effectively lost the whole touring cycle for Viva The Underdogs. Did that feel like a derailment or more like a chance to recharge and gain perspective on those little things you love?
“It’s both. It was a blessing and a harsh reality-check. It’s not like we ever really took this life for granted, but now we never could. It was a good circuit-breaker. It made me question how much gas we really had left in the tank, and whether that relentless drive we’ve had going for 17 years straight could have led us to a burnout. I didn’t watch the Viva The Underdogs movie for like a year after it came out, but I did again when it came on Netflix over here a couple of months ago. It made us say, ‘Holy shit! Look how much we have on our shoulders!’ So I think it was good to have this reset period. Even if it has cost us a touring cycle, it’s better for the longevity of this band, and it fuels the hunger to come back.”

What have you been up to during the time away?
“At first it felt like we were just surrendering to the fact that this ain’t ending soon. Sinking into a different reality. We’ve always said that, at some point, the end goal is to get out of this grind to be able to spend more time with our families and appreciate where we’re from. This was that being forced upon you. We’ve spent so long away from our loved ones, it was just great to be there and be 100 per cent present. Two of the guys in the band have had second kids, so their families have grown. It was actually nice to disconnect for a little bit and feel it flow away from you – because you couldn’t really fight it, to be honest.”

And then?
“Then we just started up with what we’re passionate about: writing some new songs, planning for the future, doing what it is that we do, but without the pressure of knowing that in a month’s time you need to be back on the road, and then you need to be in the studio. That [traditional timetable] is a very exhilarating cycle to be in, but once you’re in it, you’re never released from it. It felt like since we’d first created a set’s worth of songs, we just hadn’t stopped. To be in a situation where you can start creating again without an end-date is just an incredibly liberating feeling. It cuts it back down to the fact that you’re putting together a concept that resonates with you, and writing music that you enjoy listening to. It was just about the simple joy of being in a band.”

You guys are pretty chilled out even at the worst of times. What did total freedom look like?
“We’ve always had a reputation as the band that rocks up in surf shorts and flip-flops into every single venue, and [it’s basically that taken to the max]. We surfed and went to the gym a lot. We’re getting old now, so it was about making sure that when this kicked off again we’re fit and healthy to actually do it. I want this to continue, and I want my body to be better than it’s ever been, so I’ve been training my arse off! I’ve got a shipping container at Luke [Kilpatrick, guitar]’s house so I can practice screaming my guts out without disturbing the neighbours!”

Your first show back is finally scheduled for Victoria’s Knight & Day festival on New Year’s Eve. How wild is that going to be after you’ve been locked down for two years?
“You only ever get one first show back after the pandemic – ever. It’s not like the end of a hiatus or anything, it’s the end of everything having been shut. Plus, it’s Parkway on New Year's Eve in Australia. There are so many elements that make me think it’s going to have ludicrous vibes. I can’t imagine it being anything but chaotic euphoria. We had our first band meeting yesterday to start jotting down setlist ideas and stuff. That was the first time I really thought, ‘Holy shit, this is happening. It’s coming back.’ I got goosebumps over my entire body just thinking about how we were going to start the set. I had stopped myself thinking about that because I didn’t want to get crushed every time a tour got cancelled. But this time the government has given us a guarantee it’s going ahead. Can you imagine the bangover we’re going to have on New Year’s Day?!”

The festival is being held at the Kryal Castle medieval theme park. You guys are famously fans of pursuits of surfing and skydiving, but have you ever thought about giving jousting a shot?
“Apparently the festival is in the jousting arena, so people have been asking, like, ‘Are you gonna rock up on a horse, in shining armour?!’ I’d have a crack at a joust – maybe. I’d probably rather be swinging a mace around or actually trying to smack someone with a sword than riding a horse, to be honest.”

You’ve mentioned new music. How is that sounding?
Goood… (laughs) I don’t really know where to start with it. It’s the most expansive thing we’ve ever done. It’s heavy as hell. It’s basically everything you could wish and hope for from Parkway, and a whole bunch of stuff that you never thought would be possible. The reaction we want is for people to say, ‘This is the Parkway that I love, but I never thought they could go this far!’”

Has the last year and a half thrown up plenty of emotion and experience to draw upon?
“In terms of everything that’s been thrown at us – and me, as a lyricist – it’s been sort of a shock to the system. It’s something we’ve never experienced before. It shakes everything up: the way that you see the world; your relationship with other people; how they see you. Some of those things are for the better, some for the worse. They’ve all been poured in. If there’s anything that’s been proven, it’s that you should never take anything for granted. So write the record you never thought you could write!”

Is it likely that you’ll have a new record out before you head out on tour?
“We will see. Like I keep saying, surprises are coming…”

Over your last few visits to the UK, it’s felt like the production has kept getting bigger and more explosive. Can we expect you to continue in that direction?
“Our mantra with this entire thing is about creating environments that compliment what we’re creating sonically, while giving people something unique that they’re going to remember. It’s less about one-upping ourselves than it is about heading down different avenues and tapping into different vibes. We don’t ever want to step back from putting on a wild show. Everything about it heightens what we do musically. It’s part of our nature. But we never want it just to be, ‘Come and see Parkway and the fireworks!’ It’s about the connection and how you present your music in a different way the next time you come around. It’s a challenge, but it’s fuckin’ fun!”

Your history with While She Sleeps goes way back. How excited are you about taking them out on this tour?
“When bands are coming up together in the same kind of time-span, you find yourself looking to them for inspiration, but you rarely actually cross paths because everyone is on their same kinda cycle doing the same kinda thing. I feel that both of our bands are currently at the peak of their game. Sleeps Society is a fucking incredible record. The way that they’ve charted their path to get where they are is fucking awesome. It takes so much work to break through barrier after barrier. For us to be able to bring them out on tour feels like it could be world-destroying. There will be so many pit-annihilating anthems on the night!”

Is there an element of competition in that, or is it a united front?
“It’s always a united front. There’s always this perception of competition where people naturally compare bands as more or less popular. But when you’re in a band, it’s actually the opposite. You have a respect for other people’s art, and an understanding that when the ocean rises, it lifts all the boats at once. It pushes everyone artistically and it fuels the audience base, expanding and strengthening everything. This doesn’t grow via one band getting hyped and trying to hold everyone else back. It grows when a band gets big and drags everyone else up with them. Together, we continue coming. We need this generation of bands not just to reach the glass ceiling, but to smash right through it. That’s what this tour is going to do.”

Your enthusiasm is infectious. Any more reasons why fans who’re sitting on the fence should get off it and grab tickets for these shows?
“Because you’re mad if you don’t. Straight-up fucking mad. It’s our first time back in Europe and the UK in two years. It’s our first time after a pandemic. The line-up is fucking insane. You’re gonna see one of the best shows you’ll see all year. And who the fuck sits on a fence these days, anyway?! If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s not to take things for granted. If you are thinking about going to a gig, fucking go to it, because it could be your last!”

Parkway Drive's UK tour kicks off in September 2022. Get your tickets now.

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