Introducing Parkway Drive to the Blunt readership is a lot like retelling the synopsis of Die Hard to a film critic. There’s not much to be said that hasn’t been already.
That isn’t the only way in which the Byron Bay metal lords and the 80’s action franchise are comparable: Both are now certified entries into the annuls of The Big Screen.
On Friday, 24th April, Parkway Drive’s latest documentary, Viva The Underdogs will receive a global digital release. Underdogs is the third documentary from the group, however it’s the first to receive a roll-out through cinemas, an accolade enjoyed by very, very few musicians before them.
“I didn’t anticipate how well it would translate into cinema”, vocalist Winston McCall explains to Blunt Magazine ahead of the digital release. “It’s not that I doubted that people would walk up watch it, but it took a lot of twisting of arms to have Event Cinemas put it out in cinemas across the country.”
“It was just the one day because that’s all they could sacrifice, revenue wise. But the fact it did well enough for them to get another day added, we were like, ‘whoa.'”
Directed by Allan Hardy (‘The Void’), Viva The Underdogs substitutes Nakatomi Plaza for Germany’s Wacken Open Air Festival, and retraces the band’s path to headlining the iconic event from their humble origins.
As Winston explains, there were no initial plans for a cinematic release. “The concept of where this was going took time to emerge over the filming process until we had something to aim for,” he notes. “And by that point in time, the idea of releasing it in cinemas was definitely there.”
Aware of their limitations as artists, enlisting a director for the project was a logical move from the band. That said, Parkway’s famed and staunch creative control over their output remained in place. “We were watching the movie twice a day”, Winston says of the editing process.
“Over the period of Good Things Festival, we’d get an edit back first thing in the morning. We’d all watch the movie, go back to the hotel room, sit down for three hours and talk about, literally like, two seconds of change here and there.”
Parkway Drive fussed over Viva The Underdogs as they would one of their own albums. Winston describes a Ground Hog Day experience as they assured every scene, cut, fade, and transition earned its place in the final edit.
“We would order take-away, all sit down in the same hotel room and do the second edit that day and then wake up and do it again. Day after day, after day, after day.”
“It was fun. Well, it was fucking stressful, but yes, it was fun.”
In Viva The Underdogs, Parkway Drive found an opportunity beyond authentically telling their sustained and substantial rise to the top of the heavy music world; a chance to use traditional mainstream media structures to connect with a broader audience. “Hopefully we could bring more people into this culture”, Winston says. “We’ve always known that the band holds a lot of weight in terms of connection.”
Viva The Underdogs could have been another heavy metal documentary for heavy metal fans. “Or…”, Winston begins, “you could try and make it look like an action movie and hopefully tweak people’s interests who wouldn’t have an interest in this in the first place.”
“That’s genuinely what we are trying to do; create a portal to be able to understand and connect with people. The whole idea of this scene is the intensity of it. Understanding where the intensity comes from is when the connection begins and you can do that in a live situation.”
“Even to get people to that live situation in the first place is a hard thing. Dragging someone along to a metal or a punk gig or, fucking anything that has any abrasion to it is a hard thing to do when someone hasn’t done it before. People inside this world are used to it.”
An ambitious goal for sure, however 15-odd years into their career, high-concept, big picture goals have become part of the Parkway Drive DNA sequence. “It’s not a hard thing to do, it’s just more having the guts to continue following through on that because the bigger you get, the bigger the risks get. “
Such ambition, and the subsequent thunderous success that tends to follow Parkway Drive, could be a double edged sword. After all, a cinematic film release is a tough dragon to chase.
Winston explains that the band are in no rush to scratch their creative itch. “Well, we’ve started writing”, he reveals of their next album, indicating the follow up to 2018’s Reverence is now in utero.
“The idea is to take time. It’s not going to happen straight away. It seems like we spent a lot of time sharpening a lot of blades. I think it’s time to finally work with some precision.”
That is by no means an idle threat. Per Winston’s tone, all those who consider themselves peers of Parkway Drive should feel a chill of concern at their newfound sense of purpose.
“There’s been a lot which has influenced an outcome which has been great, but hasn’t been exactly where we wanted to end up,” Winston explains. “A lack of experience or lack of knowledge, a lack of time, a lack of funds; all of these things will slightly change the course of where you thought you’d want to go with something.”
“I feel at this point in time we are so sharp as a band that we have the time and the potential to do justice to our imagination.”
Whether it’s a new album, a new documentary or an official Parkway Drive biopic (for the record, Winston laughed at the idea, but posited Danny DeVito as an obvious fit for guitarist Jeff Ling), it’s clear that the best is yet to come with Parkway.
“I think the best of what we can do is still a long way down the track…it’s really fun because I think we’ll have the opportunity to do it.”
Viva The Underdogs will be available for rent and purchase via Amazon, iTunes, Google or Vimeo from April 24.