In an era where an entire generation grew up with the world’s most famous rapper being white and the world’s best golfer being Black, you’d think some of the race-based stereotypes about who does what should be things of the past. Though these stereotypes sadly remain a current struggle, one band, Orlando pop-punk group Magnolia Park, is kicking down doors and making waves so the generation that comes after them don’t have to experience the racism, stereotyping, and hatred that they dealt with on their way up.
Magnolia Park are comprised primarily of people of color, brought together for the love of a genre that speaks to more than just Orange County skaters. They have a hardened edge about them that demands to be heard, but is backed by a refined, almost pop, sensibility. This makes their debut album on Epitaph, Baku’s Revenge, one of the year’s most unforgettable highlights.
Ahead of their stop at The Broadberry with Senses Fail, lead singer Josh Roberts and guitarist Tristan Torres chatted for a spell about the band’s rise.
You guys have had a pretty fast rise to fame, forming not even four years ago. When things were first coming together, there was a wall with the pandemic. How were you able to push through and still keep the momentum going while the world stood still?
Tristan: The pandemic definitely was a big shock to all of us. We were actually getting ready to play our big show at the time at the House of Blues in Orlando, and it just stopped it. We had all these plans lined up to be in studio, and luckily enough, we were able to pull that off with Andy Wade and Andy Karpovich of The Audio Compound. We just really focused in on locking in, finishing those songs, and getting better; at the same time focusing on social media, like TikTok, Instagram, and just producing content. I think that helped us really strive out of the pandemic and in the pandemic, because we caught a lot of momentum because of those platforms.
Baku’s Revenge, at least to me, sounds almost like a sample platter of 00s pop/punk. I hear elements of Blink 182, Sum 41, Taking Back Sunday and Sugarcult. Rock is famous for bands borrowing or taking an element of a band’s sound to improve upon a song, or pay homage. What parts of your music have you been unabashed in paying tribute to your influences?
Josh: I feel like instruments, the way we do instrumentals. We definitely take part in listening to a lot of old school music, because that’s what we grew up on. So, there would be times when we would write something normally, and it’s just like “oh, we didn’t even realize that this sounds like this!” We always listen to something, we end up writing something, and then this comes out to being something that pays homage to a song that we’ve loved at the time.
Tristan: Maybe a specific example would be our song “Addison Rae.” We really wanted to do something early Fall Out Boy inspired and it just came out perfect to me, from the production to the song. Hopefully one day Pete Wentz will hear that song. That’s definitely an homage for sure.
You’ve mentioned that your goal is to “make sure the next generation does not experience as much racial backlash for being in a rock band.” What type of backlash have you received, how have you fought it, and do you see your efforts making it easier for the next wave?
Josh: The way we normally respond with racist comments, or people putting us down because I’m a Black singer in a pop-punk band, we wrote a song: “Don’t Be Racist.” That song, we’re like, “Look guys, don’t just sit here and be racist towards me or towards anybody else, other people of color, just because they’re doing a style of music that they love, that they grew up on.” When we grew up, we didn’t have that person that we could look up to, other than Travie McCoy from Gym Class Heroes. So now, there’s more POC people in the pop-punk scene, and the rock scene in general. We’re trying to eliminate that process of being, “Oh, you can’t be quote-unquote Black or POC if you listen to pop/punk.”
You guys have a very diverse band. Typically speaking, you don’t see a whole lot of the pop-punk scene penetrating those cultures. How were you introduced to this brand of music, and what about it spoke to you?
Tristan: I think we were introduced just like everybody else. Coming together, skating with friends. Me and [guitarist] Freddie [Criales], that’s the whole reason why we started doing [Magnolia Park] — because we heard Blink-182, and we just got together naturally. We weren’t thinking “Hey, Josh, you’re Black, I’m Hispanic, let’s get together and start a POC band!” We were just friends and wanting to make music together, you know?
Is there a large contingent of POC pop-punk acts that aren’t getting their due? Who do you want to give a shoutout to and help break the mold?
Tristan: There’s Meet Me @ the Altar, Action Adventure, Nova Twins, Tom The Mailman is killing it, Nightlife. There’s a lot of POC guys that are coming up that are really good. I can’t wait to see what they do next. And I’m so glad it’s happening at the same time, where now POC people have a voice in this thing, and probably the loudest and most prevalent right now.
Does the moment ever take you over when you’re sharing the stage with your childhood heroes?
Josh: Oh yeah, for sure. There’s many bands that we’ve had the pleasure of just playing with, hanging out with and talking to, whoever. And they’re like “Hey, do you want to hop on stage?” Then it’s “Oh, I’m a fan again!” When we’re hanging out, we’re talking with peers, where we’re getting to know each other, we’re making sure we know each other is good. And sometimes they’re saying, “You want to do the song with me?” Or I ask them if they want to hop on one of our songs. I feel like I’m a fan again, all of a sudden; it’s surreal.
What’s the best one you’ve been brought on stage for?
Josh: I really can’t say which was the best, because they’ve all been special in their own way. It’s just the fact of being able to experience that and enjoy that moment. Each moment is completely different than the last; I can’t pinpoint which one’s the best.
What was your reaction the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio?
Tristan: Very surreal and very intense. Because you work so hard with your brothers for one common goal, dreaming as a kid just to hear your song on the radio.
I was with my sister and my mom calls me and said “I hear your song on the radio!” I’m like “what are you talking about?” She gives me the station, I think it was just an alternative station in Orlando, and they’re playing our song “10 for 10.” And it was awesome, because we’re from here and the city’s showing us love. It was a great moment.
Every young band has dreams of “making it,” but the definition of what that is has a sliding scale, from being signed to having your drinks paid for, or just anything, really. What’s the strangest thing that has happened where the six of you looked at each other and said, “We’ve made it”?
Tristan: I would definitely say social media, at least for me. It was a great scale, seeing we have all these thousands of people commenting on a music video of our song, and they’re all going crazy over the song and streaming it. Just showing love; that was a huge moment in our band’s career. I think it was a signal, that was our first blowing up moment.
Josh: The most recent, for me at least, was when we blew a tire and we went to get it fixed and the mechanic said, “Wait, you’re that guy!” So that was cool, to be out in the middle of nowhere and have people know who you are.
Magnolia Park’s debut album, Baku’s Revenge, comes out on Friday, November 4th (that’s today!) and they are touring in support of it now. Their next Richmond show is November 16th at The Broadberry, opening for Senses Fail. Tickets can be purchased online at The Broadberry’s website, or at Plan 9 Records.