Australian metallers Parkway Drive have been going strong for 15-plus years, going from from young surf rats to a major headlining act. They’ve captured their unique journey in the new documentary film Viva the Underdogs.
The movie combines behind-the-scenes footage from throughout the band’s career with concert clips to give fans a candid look at Parkway Drive. Along with the film is a recently released accompanying soundtrack, featuring 11 live songs recorded during the band’s headlining set at 2019’s Wacken Open Air festival.
We caught up with Parkway Drive singer Winston McCall to discuss the documentary, the meaning behind the title Viva the Underdogs, and the band’s decision to self-manage themselves, among other topics.
The band is premiering the full documentary for free via YouTube beginning Saturday (April 4th) at 5;00 p.m. ET (Sunday morning, Australian time) in the video embed at the bottom of this post. In the meantime, read our interview with Winston McCall below and pick up the soundtrack here.
On the title Viva the Underdogs and how it ties into the band’s mentality
It ties into where we come from. We come from a surfing background. We grew up in a town which was, literally, it was founded by people who came to a little hick town in Australia because that was really good surf and they wanted to escape everything. And our parents all were from that generation. So we all grew up in the ocean. We got into punk rock and metal and fast heavy music because of soundtracks on surfing movies. And that was the adrenaline-charged stuff. And then from being interested in it, we started playing it and, or attempting to play it. From that, like two or three bands in, we started Parkway Drive. And that was never meant to be anything more than just like, “Hey, we’re going to play some gigs at like the local youth center for our friends because we have nothing to do at night because you can’t go to a pub.”
And our town is tiny. There’s no nightlife. So you put on gigs and you stage dive and stuff like that. Basically, we played, and we got the opportunity to release a couple of songs on a split record with an already popular band and then we got a chance to tour for a couple of shows and from there it kind of rolled like, “Oh you played those shows, you want to play this show?” And we started touring Australia and momentum started growing and more people started hearing us and it just kind of snowballed and never stopped, which was not what we were expecting. You see it in the [documentary] trailer — the whole thing started with this movie was we found that old footage of us interviewing each other going where are you going to be like in the next five years?
And that was on one of our first tours. We all thought this was going to be done. Because no one ever thought what we were making — metal and punk — had a future. Who the hell tells you that you can do that and within a couple of years and make it job or living out of it? We come from a town with the highest unemployment rate in our country, and all we ever wanted to do it with surf. So we just thought we’ll do this because it’s fun and we’ll get to play some shows and see part of the world would you never see because it’s nowhere near the coast. And it just kept going in a sense. We’re from Australia, no record label wanted to sign us, no one wanted to take the chance on a band that they’d never seen from the other side of the world.
But to get to the other side of the world, you had to have a label that was able to book you shows. So basically we just funded ourselves to get to the other side of the world, slept on the ground, had no money, were dead-broke. And Epitaph were the only label that said. “We’ll take a chance on these guys.” No metal label wanted us, but the punk rock label came through, and we’ve been with them ever since. And at every single turn we’ve been that band that has continued to grow, but was the last band that anyone saw coming to this level. We’re in year 16 now of just working hard and doing what we do and connecting with fans and wanting to take that passion that we’ve always had, which has never gotten less as it’s grown.
The bigger the opportunities, the more we want to make from it, the greater the experience we want to create on a record and the bigger we want it to be onstage. And we’re still like that band that everyone kind of discounts, until you get to that point where you watch us live and you see the connection with the audience. And you see how many people come to the shows and you can’t just go, “That’ll be gone.” The reviews that we used to get the first time we came overseas was like, “This is a flash in the pan, this is just a trend and it will be gone in a month’s time.” And [the documentary] is called Viva the Underdogs because I feel like we’ve been the underdogs the entire time existed and we still are. I guess this has been something driven by a band and fan connection 100% the entire way. And it’s pretty cool that we’ve been able to take it to this point without having someone turning the gears and pulling the strings behind the scene. There’s no manipulation to create some rock-star story. All there is just hard work and passion.
On what it’s like for the band members seeing their younger selves in the documentary
Man, we were young. I mean we’ve really grown as people in this band. Some of the members of his band have been doing this for over half their life, which is a long time. I was 21 when we started this, and you think you know everything and you have such hard stances on everything — “I love this. I hate that. This is the best thing in the world. I’m never going to change.” And we looked back on all of that and we just laughed. You still think you know everything and you still think you’ve seen everything and you don’t realize that the journey that life is actually is and it doesn’t just stop and start. It surprises me that we’ve been able to do what we’ve done, but it also makes me happy to know what the band has given us, and how it’s enabled us to grow and see this world because it’s a really unique situation to be in.
And I’m really glad that we had the mentality to stick with it and truly take that passion. And every time there was a chance, we took that chance and we didn’t shy away from it. And at the same point in time, we never compromised. So it’s cool to know that I can look back and I see those traits in their early form, but know that we’ve been able to grow from it because I’d really hate to look at something from 15 years ago and go, “Oh, I was the same person then,” because that’s a pretty dumb person.
On whether there was hesitation making the film after seeing other documentaries like Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster
I know exactly what you’re talking about. But, to be honest, no. And there are several times in this movie, I sat in watch like the editing going on, and they were like, “You’re okay with that going in? Because you kind of sound like a dick. And I was like, “You know what? Yeah, because at that point in time, it’s honest.” The whole idea of putting this out is I want people to know what it’s actually like, because there’s a reason you act and react. And I honestly believe that whatever perceptions people have, they’ll have it for a real reason. There’s never been a point in time in this band where we’ve tried to manipulate people into thinking we’re something that we’re not. And that goes for this movie.
The whole idea of it is showing people how this entity that Parkway is now affects us and what we put into it and what it does to us. And sometimes it’s not fun and games all the time, it’s serious, and sometimes we f**king crack the shits and we say dumb things. But at the same point in time, it’s real and we’re not angels and I don’t think anyone is. I don’t think there’s anything on there where people will just go, “Wow, they’re real pieces of shit ,” because I don’t think we’re pieces of shit. It’s just we really care about what we do. And I think it’s interesting for people to be able to get that perspective of what’s going through our minds and in our lives to put that moment together that you’re experiencing with this other on a record or on a stage — because for what you see of us doing what we do, there’s a lot for us invested in that mentally, physically, and spiritually to be able to have that moment.
On the positives and negatives of the band being self-managed
You grow up hearing stories of bands being destroyed by managers. But the reality of it actually was never that. It was more like we grew up from the punk rock scene and everything was DIY. When it came time to do something bigger, we had people tell us, “I can do this … but it’s going to cost you this.” Which is fair enough. But at the same point in time we we’re like, “What if we just do that ourselves?” We’ll just book the flights or we’ll talk to a label. And it just evolved and kept evolving from that. Every time there was something to do, someone in the band stepped up.
The thing that your’e scared of is bringing in someone else who then will have a controlling stake in what you do. And we’ve never wanted to release the reins on that because this is our passion. So we always just stepped up into a bigger role and the positives of that has been a hell of a lot of experience within the music industry and knowing how things work and how to get done what you need to get done.
The downside has been a hell of a lot more work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because honestly we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in now if we had to compromise anything about what we do. And it’s kept our ethics very, very pure and our vision very, very pure, which is great. I can honestly stand behind everything we’ve done. There’s a reason we’ve done it because we wanted to do it. There’s no one with the screws on us, which is pretty cool.
It means a lot of work … but it feels like no matter what happens, we can’t kill what we do. And for us, the awesome thing has been like we’ve chosen to grow and listen to each other and figure out how everything works, and basically playing 15 years of emotional catch-up. And getting our mental health in the right place because it’s a really crazy lifestyle to live. It can be these massive highs in company with these massive lows. It’s insane to like walk onstage to tens of thousands of people feel that love and connection.
And then 40 minutes later you’re sitting in a like a little backstage room with a towel and you’re hearing about some tragedy at home or you’re just missing the closest person in your life because you’re separated by the entire planet, and there’s no one else that can understand what you’re going through. And even then, you’re at a point where you don’t relate to the other people in your band anymore because no one’s talking properly. Luckily, like we’ve had the drive to keep going with this and talk to each other and make sure we’re there for each other.
Watch the full documentary below via YouTube beginning April 4th at 5:00 p.m. ET.