Interview: Freddie Criales of Magnolia Park Talks About ‘Halloween Mixtape II’

Happy Halloween, everyone! Okay, I know what you’re thinking. By the time you’re reading this, Halloween will be long behind us, with the 12-foot inflatable skeleton collecting dust in the garage. But that shouldn’t stop you from celebrating Halloween all year long, and you have the perfect soundtrack to that celebration in the form of Halloween Mixtape II, the latest album from Orlando-based pop-punkers Magnolia Park, that’s out now on Epitaph Records.

Magnolia Park guitarist Freddie Criales took the time to answer a few questions for us about their latest album and the band’s rising popularity.

So Magnolia Park just dropped Halloween Mixtape II and, yesterday, as we’re talking right now, was Halloween. So why do the band have such a focus on Halloween?

The whole aesthetics was an idea dropped by Tristan. And the inspiration behind it (is that) we all like Halloween. Or most of the band like Halloween. And that’s the best way to make genuine connections (from) a marketing standpoint, is to find something that you love and find something that other people love and just make it a part of your brand.

Do you ever worry about the popularity falling off after Halloween?

No, because I just think with our aesthetic and our characters and the way we present ourselves, it’s more of a spooky thing than, like, a straight-up Halloween thing. I know it’s a Halloween Mixtape, but that’s just because that’s something we want to have. We wanted to have something special that maybe comes out every Halloween and then lead up to maybe doing a big Halloween show. And also the people that love seeing music and pop punk, there also seems to be a big love for Halloween. So I don’t think anyone would be tired of us having Halloween all year round. I think people would like that about us.

Yeah, I can see that. And then you also called both of these albums mixtapes, and to me, I always think of that in the hip-hop sense of the term where it’s not a proper album. But this does sound like a proper album. So where did the term “mixtape” come from?

The term mixtape came from the love of hip hop because we all like other music. And a big inspiration for us is rap. Either it’s hip-hop like Wu-Tang, or more the trap beat stuff, like the modern trap sound. We just took a lot of inspo from that way of existing in the music sphere, for example, like dropping music a lot like rappers do and not really rock bands. And then we also like to call it mixtape because, in our eyes, it’s more like a test. And the mixtapes allow us to explore different sounds and try different things without feeling the need to be cohesive, since a mixtape is generally not cohesive. And then we’re just trying stuff and having fun on them. Although, eventually things do start to sound kind of cohesive, like there’s a general sound on each one. But that’s why we call it a mixtape.

Another thing you do a lot that is more common in hip-hop than rock is having a lot of guest artists on your songs. How did those collaborations come about?

A good chunk of them is just through people that we know that we’ve become friends with because we’re a fan of the idea of, like, a rising tide raises all ships; I think that’s the saying. So we just like to bring our friends up with us. For example, the song “Haunted House” has our friend Johnny from Lost Trees, which is a local band from here. And then we have another song called “HeartStopper” on MoonEater that’s featured our friend Scott; he’s in a band called Grieve from here. And it’s also the desire to want to be different because I feel like, in a rock space, for some reason, collaborating with other artists is frowned upon. I’m not sure why. But I think it makes things more interesting. So we do a lot collaborations.

And what is the writing process look like that when you’re collaborating on a track? Because, in the case of some of these songs where you have full bands doing guest appearances, you have two guitars, two bases, two drummers. How do you pare that down and work together?

Yeah, so typically, the way a Magnolia Park collab goes is, we usually have the song already done, the instrumentals done, and sometimes we have a verse, too, already written. We just write the whole thing. Minus “Animal,” (on that one) we only did the chorus, and then we knew Ethan Ross was going to do his own part, and we also knew that PLVTINUM was going to do his own part. So it’s usually like, we write the song, and then we leave a space open, and then we tell them, Alright, here, just do whatever you want, and if you can’t come up with something; here’s a version that we wrote, and you could just sing that. And it’s really more just like someone singing on it, writing the lyrics, not instrumentation.

You made a bunch of videos for this album, and my favorite had to be the “Manic” video with the Blink-182 parody. Why did this band decide to do a tribute to that video?

We’re all pretty big Blink fans, especially me and Tristan. Blink-182 is probably still my favorite band and one of Tristan’s and favorite bands at the time. And the vibe just felt right. It had this classic pop punk sound and also has that little bit of homage to the “Damnit” riff at the very end of the song. So it just felt right. Fun pop punk song, we had a movie theater, it all just felt like the right thing to do.

You’ve been lucky enough to have all three of your albums on Epitaph Records, which is just an absolutely like legendary label. What’s your experience been with them?

Being with Epitaph is pretty sweet. The team there is very nice. And it’s also still independent. So it’s still very hands-on. When we first got signed, we were talking directly to Brett almost all the time. And Sue (Lucarelli), and then Sue got promoted (to president of Epitaph). So now we still talk to the head people; we still talk to Sue, mainly.

So when you’re in an environment like that, it’s easier to get things done. And everyone’s very willing and open minded to our ideas. Because a lot of labels, we tell them how we want to operate and what we do, they think it’s very strange that we want (to be) putting out music all the time. They think that’s weird. They don’t understand, like, TikTok. They know, like, Oh, you guys are just really big on TikTok, but it translates to way more than that. And Epitaph sees through that and sees that we are a serious band and not just a couple of people that know how to get viral or something.

That of brings me to something else I wanted to ask about because, at the beginning of of Baku’s Revenge, there’s the whole thing calling out everyone for saying that Magnolia Park are just a TikTok band and not a punk band. Do still deal with those kinds of criticisms?

Occasionally someone will be like, “TikTok band,” but that part is more just a little tongue-in-cheek; it’s kind of a funny joke. But not really, sometimes. Because everyone’s a TikTok artist; everyone’s a TikTok band. We just thought that was funny.

So what’s the next thing coming up for the band now that the album’s out?

We just finished touring the West Coast. And right now, we’re getting ready to go do Good Things (Festival) in Australia. We’re going to do some shows with PVRIS who’s going to be very sick. And then try to just get back in there making some more music.

All right, so that’s all I wanted to go over. Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?

We have a Discord. Everyone should be a part of it; it’s really fun. And the community there is very nice. A lot of people make friends. And every now and then, we might do a giveaway. We also do exclusive stuff, like, if you’re part of that Discord, we’ll post a snippet of a video early. So we do a lot of special things in there. Everyone should go join it.

Halloween Mixtape II is available now from Epitaph Records. Follow Magnolia Park on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok for future updates.

Photo courtesy of Rob McKenney

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