And not every story turns out like Parkway Drive. Day Of Contempt were a hot commodity eight years ago when they befriended bands like Atreyu and Avenged Sevenfold. The Australians and New Zealanders (or “Kiwis”) relocated on the advice of Good Charlotte, who were interested in signing them to their record label, DC Flag. They slept on couches in Orange County, then lived in a practice space/warehouse while trying to make it, releasing an EP with Epitaph before shifting styles and changing their name to the Dear & Departed and signing to Science/Warner Bros., then Equal Vision, before eventually disbanding. But vocalist Dan Smith, or “Dan Under” as Davey Havok and Nick 13 like to call him, found fame (and 80,000 Twitter followers) another way: working as a tattoo artist at High Voltage Tattoo in Hollywood and appearing regularly on the TV show LA Ink.
But even with hard-luck stories like Day Of Contempt, after Parkway Drive blew up, newcomers like Thy Art Is Murder (signed to Nuclear Blast) and New Zealand's Saving Grace (on Christian label Facedown Records) are still willing to roll the dice with $100-a-night opening slots in North America. Deez Nuts, featuring a former member of IKTPQ, are successful enough in Australia to front all the costs to tour the U.S. as first of four for Hatebreed, as they did last year.
“Nowadays, the internet and social media are really helping to shine a light on new and younger Aussie bands,” says Weinhofen. “I've even had people from overseas tell me that they only like Australian bands now.”
I Killed The Prom Queen's first American tour was the result of a trade with Evergreen Terrace. They brought Evergreen Terrace to Australia, and in turn, Evergreen took them out in America, which led to Metal Blade seeing and liking the band. The American success of Prom Queen and Parkway certainly opened a lot of doors, which has turned a lot of eyes toward Oz.
Part of what makes touring so difficult for Australian bands in their native land are the distances. twelve-hour drives between major cities are common; bigger bands will fly, but many are trudging it out in vans. “Even 12 hours is nothing!” scoffs UNFD’s Comerford. “Bands often end tours in Adelaide and may have to drive 24 hours to Sydney or 30 hours to Brisbane. Perth is a 30-hour drive away from the closest city. When a band gets to a certain size, they will fly while their crew drives the gear.”
“In the early days, no bands flew anywhere because of the high costs,” says Resist’s Nixon. “Many local bands still do the drives, but flying is a lot more common than it was 10 years ago. For bigger bands it's affordable to fly to the capital cities.”
But a band can take a while to reach that point and “[t]hose long drives can be really dangerous,” warns Weinhofen. The Red Shore, who Weinhofen managed, were doing the overnight drive from Brisbane to Sydney in 2007 when their vehicle drifted off the highway, rolled several times and hit a tree. The band's merch guy/driver was killed as well as their vocalist, Damien Morris. (Bassist Jamie Hope took over on vocals and now sings for I Killed The Prom Queen).
In addition, most bands in Australia can't afford to own a van, as the types of vehicles they tour in are about $50,000. They will rent an eight-or-12-seater, sometimes through companies that specialize in music, like Stage And Screen or Show Group Travel. “Nightliner, sleeper-type busses don't really exist in Australia,” says Weinhofen. “I've heard there's one, and only Justin Bieber can afford it.”
“Sleeping in a van without a seatbelt is illegal, hence no bunks in the vans, either,” adds Perumalla. “It can be grueling, as there isn't much room to lay down or stretch out. The landscape in Australia is beautiful, but I'm sure bands get bored of it.”
It is possible to book B-market shows to break up the drives, but international acts rarely do those regional markets as it isn't financially feasible. “The major markets are still Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth,” says Perumalla. “The kids in rural towns are very supportive, though.” IKTPQ once did a 55-show tour by hitting multiple small towns.
“Sydney is a four million person city but it has relatively big markets like Newcastle, Central Coast and Wollongong all within two hours,” notes Comerford. “Bands like the Amity Affliction, Parkway Drive and Northlane will still do Sydney and Newcastle on a tour, but when a big overseas band wants to come through, they'll often just hit Sydney and rely on fans to travel.”
Everyone AP spoke with is increasingly optimistic about making it work where they live. “A touring band can live anywhere. Obviously it's easier to break a market that you live in, but once you're really touring, it doesn't matter where you start and finish,” says Comerford. “I do know, though, that being from Australia has its advantages. We live in an amazing country with amazing economics, so if you can make it work here, it can really fund the rest of the world.” ALT