Written by Eric Sperrazza
Photos by Gabriel Lugo
When the words “Punk Music” are uttered, images of CBGBs in New York’s Bowery or Londoners with mohawks and Doc Martens flash through the minds of many. But, Punk’s ferocious beginnings truly spawned from an explosion of artists out of Detroit, Michigan. The world was introduced to The MC5 – supporters of The Black Panther Party who were blacklisted for cursing on a live record. Iggy & The Stooges, also emerged showcasing the dark & dangerous shadow selves of rock while Suzi Quatro came out of the gate breaking music barriers and inspiring female musicians for decades to come. All of these musicians were architects of the punk genre. A lesser-known band out of Motor City also weaponized the new pulse-pounding granular garage sound of Detroit to speak their truth against political issues. Made up of three brothers, Bobby, David & Dannis Hackey, the material released was limited due to an unwillingness to change their name to something more marketable. Yet what made it to print became so influential that there would seemingly be no bands like Rage Against The Machine, today, had they not existed. They also happened to be the first recognized punk band of color. That band was Death.
Many cultural paradigm breakers in punk music & heavy metal would follow like The Bad Brains, Fishbone and Living Colour; finding their way into relevancy and firmly embedding themselves into our pop culture. However, the pop-punk explosion that has taken over new the millennium has at times looked more like a Boy Band video and less like the anarchistic voice of the voiceless that came before them.
Recently, my oldest daughter wanted to show me a band on TikTok. Admittedly, as a Gen-X’er, I had visions of fast-dancing musicians in LED lights and I cringed before peering one eye over her phone. No truly raw musical talent is found on a social media app with silly flash mobs and ironic mirror image joke clips. The joke however was on me. The video clip she proceeded to play was for a song called 10 For 10 by the band, Magnolia Park. The band consists of Joshua Roberts (Lead Vocals), Tristan Torres & Freddie Criales (Guitar), Jared Kay (Bass), Joe Horsham (Drums), and Vincent Ernst (Keyboard), which shook me out of my seat. In one song I felt so much emotion, soul, irony, and self-awareness from these young musicians and I needed more. After many apologies to my daughter for ever doubting her musical finds, the two of us went through their current discography and dug deep to find out just who these guys are.
Hailing from Orlando, FL Magnolia Park was formed in just 2019. A diverse band, themselves, they have single-handedly taken on the weight of all of the groundbreakers before them to showcase inclusivity in Pop & Emo Punk and are dedicated to making sure that anyone can find representation at a live show, regardless of their background. Their viral message on Social Media? #PopPunkInColor
In March of this year, Magnolia Park came through Philadelphia with the band Mayday Parade. I scooped up my daughter and we headed off to the Union Transfer to finally see this band live!.
To the surprise of neither of us, Magnolia Park was amazing. Joshua Robert’s energy was so potent, if you could bottle it, you’d cure the energy crisis. I mean it, the physicality of his performance was the iteration of every powerful moment he was captured with his voice. Joe Horsham was a force behind his drum kit that poured a blood-pumping foundation into every song they performed. When their set came to a close Magnolia Park was met with a chorus of sighs and looks of disappointment. A hallmark of a great show: Always leave them wanting more! Shortly after the lights came up, I went on a hunt to see if I could get the band to give me their story from their mouths. It turned out that I didn’t have to look farther than their merchant table, as Tristan Torres was already there, thanking fans and signing autographs.
Earlier in the show, Roberts mentioned to the audience that it was the band’s first time in Philadelphia. I had asked Torres what that was like from his vantage point, onstage. “It was amazing!” He said. “The crowd was insane! Just the whole energy and vibe! Food is amazing here, too.” As I glanced over at my daughter, now beaming with excitement that we are mere inches from this band she has been sharing virally with the world, I was compelled to show her that her Dad knows a thing or two about the music industry. So, looking Torres in the eye I asked him how they had found themselves on tour with Mayday Parade…where were they really discovered? Torres served me 2 whole scoops of my foot in my mouth, replying “Mayday Parade? Yeah, they actually found us on Tiktok. Jake, the drummer, saw us and said ‘We gotta get these guys on tour with us!’ and have been super-kind to us. Super friendly.”
Torres was joined shortly thereafter by the rest of the band and, aside from praising their producers, Andrew Wade & Andy Karpovck, they collectively praised the support they have from Epitaph Records, as well. Moreover, aside from joining the second leg of the Blame Canada Tour with Simple Plan and Sum 41 and performing at the Journeys’ Sad Summer Fest, there is new music on the horizon from the band.
Adding to their first LP, Halloween MixTape, a new EP was recently released called Heart Eater. Adding new layers to an already explosive sound, Heart Eater is truly the sample serving of the next evolution of the band. Magnolia Park capped off our conversation by looking into the horizon line, as a whole album showcasing this growth may see the light of day by November of this year.
Magnolia Park presses forward tackling dealing with everyday issues, mental health, love, love loss, and traversing through the mundane idiosyncratic routine with light-heartedness, and passion. All of this, while preaching inclusivity in a landscape void of a wealth of diversity. It is not an easy road, filled with pundits and a heavy undertaking for such a young talented group of artists. But, if Robert’s response to haters in the past is any indication of their conviction, it is safe to say they are proudly not going anywhere, soon.
The spirit of punk rock lives on and the future of pop-punk is most certainly Magnolia Park.