Thunder From Down Under

Published in Billboard Magazine

 

Amid pop-oriented fare by Miley Cyrus, Scissor Sisters and the cast of “Glee,” a recent top 10 entry in Australia’s album chart was distinctly harder—and faster and louder—than the rest.

Parkway Drive’s No. 2 debut on the July 4 ARIA chart with “Deep Blue” (Resist Records) confirmed Australia’s hardcore scene’s emergence as a commercial force to be reckoned with.The breakthrough by the band from the New South Wales beach town Byron Bay followed Brisbane six-piece Amity Affliction’s No. 6 entry in June with its sophomore effort, “Youngbloods” (Boomtown Records). Those are remarkable rankings for indie acts with national media support largely limited to hard-edged music monthly Blunt, whose publishers claim a circulation of 18,000, and state-owned radio network Triple J.

Their success comes from “hard work and constant touring over the years, not just of the [state] capital cities but well into the regional areas,” says Stu Harvey, host of Triple J’s weekly hardcore/punk show “Short Fast Loud.”

“There’s people all over the country listening to this music,” agrees Amity Affliction’s manager Luke Logemann from Staple Management. Emphasizing that point is the band’s upcoming regional tour through Sept. 8 that will take in such bywaters as Wollongong, Dandenong and Ballarat.

Australia’s hardcore scene has been building since pioneering acts Day of Contempt and Price of Silence emerged from Adelaide in the mid-1990s. Today, international outfits like Killswitch Engage (the United States) or Bring Me the Horizon (the United Kingdom) have mounted Australian tours playing 1,000- to 2,000-capacity venues. This fall, U.S. bands the Devil Wears Prada and the Ghost Inside will support Parkway Drive in theaters and arenas, including Brisbane’s 9,000-capacity Riverstage.

Indie labels Resist Records in Sydney and Boomtown’s parent Staple Group in Melbourne are hardcore’s main players, with both specializing in multiservice deals.

Resist handles Parkway Drive’s recordings, bookings and management. Such deals “were born through necessity,” founder Graham Nixon says. “When these bands were starting out, there weren’t really any agents who were interested.”

Amity Affliction has a similar deal with Staple, whose concert promotion arm Destroy All Lines has organized hardcore package tour Boys of Summer each January since 2006, headlined this year by U.S. act Every Time I Die.

Staple also runs regular hardcore club nights in cities and towns across the country. “All the scene kids go there,” notes Nick O’Byrne, GM of indie labels trade body AIR. “It’s the only place that caters specifically for them.”

According to Staple Group co-founder/promoter Jaddan Comerford, “the Internet and live is where it all happens for these bands,” with Amity Affliction particularly active online. Prior to the release of “Youngbloods,” its MySpace page hosted a nine-part video diary by the band members and offered an iPhone application that provided free streams of the album, news, photos and videos.

Now, even as a new wave of bands like Break Even, Deez Nuts and Confession emerges around the country, their immediate predecessors are looking further afield. Nixon says four Resist hardcore acts—Parkway Drive, 50 Lions, Miles Away and Carpathian—are touring Europe this year, whereas “just a few years ago, you’d have had just one band in that genre making the trip abroad.”

Parkway Drive, a regular U.S. visitor since 2007, plays the Vans Warped tour in the States through Aug. 15 before traveling around Europe, Australia and New Zealand for shows throughout the rest of 2010. And Amity Affliction has November European dates penciled in, followed by a North American push through 2011.

Already, there are encouraging signs in the United States, where “Deep Blue,” released on Epitaph, bowed at No. 39 on the Billboard 200 dated July 17.

Back home, hardcore is “bigger now than it’s ever been,” Nixon says, “and it’s not going to go away.”