GDA's (In)glorious Exclusive Interview with Panicland

Last year, a random studio video leaked online with snippets from what was supposed to be Green Day’s new album causing a stir among fans. The fervor only grew as videos, pictures, and snippets from Magnum Opus of the Inglorious Kind followed convincing the masses this was indeed Green Day’s next record. But when the band announced Father of All Motherfuckers months later, the mystery behind Magnum Opus grew. If it wasn’t Green Day, who was responsible? Enter Panicland.

What started as a love letter to Panicland’s favorite band turned into an internet sensation. They convinced everyone with their fake album. Theories, debates, and rumors spread like wildfire on the forums with many convinced the band was actually behind the songs. Now, the truth is out and people are still captivated by Panicland’s story and their songs. So how did this all happen?

Panicland chats with Green Day Authority about the inspiration behind the project, watching it all blowup, and how they made it all happen.

Green Day Authority: So, tell me a bit about the band. When did you guys start? How did you form?

Braedon Horbacio: We've actually been together since we were 12 years old. [Bassist] Ian Willmer, the tall blond one, and I met when we were 12 and went to junior high together. The other member, Riley [Horbacio] is my little brother, so we've always been a tight little group. The name has stuck so it's always felt kind of like the same band. That's how we started. There was never an aha moment of let's form a band. We just always been a band for most of our lives.

GDA: Being together at such a young age, did you all grow up with music in the house that inspired you to form a band?

BH: Yeah! We all kind of have the same tastes. We like lots of old music, lots of 60s stuff like The Beatles- we love The Beatles. The Beatles and Green Day are our top bands of all time. We dig stuff like Beach Boys, Weezer –
Riley Horbacio: Yeah, we all tend to have the same top bands.

GDA: Aside from Magnum Opus of the Inglorious Kind, what other music do you guys have out there?

BH: We have a few singles on Spotify. We actually released a ton of music when we were younger, but once we started working with other professionals, they encouraged us to take it all down when we were in our late teens, which is kind of dumb. What we're gonna do at some point in the near future, is re-record this album we made when we were 14. When we were listening to it, we thought it was pretty good 14-year-old angry-sounding stuff but it’s not necessarily bad or anything. I think it would be cool for other teens to hear.

Then we’d dress up our social media for a whole month using footage of us recording when we were 14 because we saved everything. We're just suddenly gonna go from being in our 20s to being 14 out of the blue and it's gonna look like we actually changed ages. It would be this weird social experiment. It could either bomb and be weird or be kind of cool. So, we have some albums but they’re not online right now. We're gonna get them back up in an interesting way at some point.

GDA: Sounds like a great idea! So, the whole Magnum Opus project started when someone posted a fake tracklist from Green Day’s next album. Rather than scroll past it, what inspired you guys to record songs for this LP?

BH: Well, it always seemed like it would be a really fun thing to write in the style of Green Day and to write a lost album of sorts. Because when you listen to enough of a band you can start to tell what they're exact writing style is album to album. When those albums become a part of your life, you start to see certain patterns. Not just with songwriting but with how the band makes career decisions. What always intrigued me is imagining what could have been. If they would've done this one thing different then this album would've sounded like this.

GDA: A lost album like Green Day’s Cigarettes and Valentines?

BH: Yeah! For the longest time, I imagined what that album would have sounded like because that's a lost era of Green Day. You could almost perfectly picture the kind of music that would've bridged the gap between Warning and American Idiot, but it doesn't really exist. You can imagine an album with a bunch of [songs like] “Too Much Too Soon” and it would've been awesome.

So, for the longest time, I thought it would be cool to make a Cigarettes and Valentines fan fiction. When the tracklisting leaked I thought ‘I have some time to kill. I'm gonna try writing “Rome Falls.”’ Then I wrote the whole thing and demoed it in a hotel room. When I demoed it, I pitched everything up quite a bit to a chipmunk kind of key, so I wouldn’t hear my own voice. It doesn't sound like anyone's voice; it just sounds like chipmunks and it helps you imagine that it's Green Day more. And it helps you recreate all those kinds of patterns you see in their songwriting.

GDA: Those patterns that you started to pick up in their songwriting, is that what you used to write the lyrics? A song title alone doesn’t seem like a lot to go off of.

BH: Right, yeah. It was kind of hard at first because the song titles looked like parodies of Green Day songs; that's how a lot of people knew it was fake. There's not a lot to go off of, but “Rome Falls” kind of started it. I was thinking of Roman ruins and all that imagery and I thought it would almost be like 21st Century Breakdown. Not that I don’t like Green Day’s new stuff, but if I got to decide how their next album would sound, I would want that raw energy and spirit of American Idiot with the grandness of 21st Century Breakdown. It's just so rich and colorful sounding. With that album, you can tell they were following up this epic masterpiece and it would be cool for them to make one with no expectations, no nothing. That's what I was picturing. This fake album had a lot of Beatles influences and it almost sounded like a more mature version of 21st Century Breakdown. That's my ideal next Green Day album so that's what we with.

GDA: Looking at the video you released explaining the story of Magnum Opus, a lot of work went into it. It really does feel like you did everything you could to convince everyone it was really Green Day. When you set out to make this album, did you always intend to take it as far you did or did that come about as you guys kept going?

BH: Yeah those came along [naturally]. The first thing was just writing the songs. Originally, we were planning on keeping them for ourselves, to listen to as our own secret Green Day album. But then we thought let's see how legit these songs sound and leak little snippets. It was mostly a way to gauge how realistic it was, so we could get into the album more as a band for ourselves. And then it kind of took off from there. We wanted it to be realistic. We didn't want the fakeness of the studio video to make the music sound fake. If everyone thought it was fake then it's because of the video and not the music and we won't be able to tell which one made it less realistic. So, we had to make the video as realistic as possible to be able to see if the music was realistic. Then, as you probably saw, it started to spiral with all the theories and stuff like that.

GDA: Revisiting that studio video, it’s crazy to think about the amount of detail that went into that to make it so convincing.

BH: When you see the video, it seems like it’s really thought out, but the little things seemed obvious for us. If we're gonna post a video holding the album they know [Billie’s] got a tattoo, so we gotta cover up where the tattoo would be. Or if we're gonna leak the cover and they see it in high quality, they might find some imperfections in it or they might be able to properly trace the faces that we used with some sort of weird Google search. So, we'll post a picture of the picture. Then we thought anyone can fake a record, but a stack of records would be harder to fake. How do we do that? Let's just glue on the edges, you know what I mean? One thing led to another and it ended up being this fun experience.

What was surprising about the whole thing is it got everyone talking about their ideal album, which was cool to see. But the reason I think people really connected with the idea of this leak because everybody seemed to think they had an idea of what the album sounded like and what they wanted. But in reality, the clips were vague enough for them to fill in what they weren’t hearing with their own versions of the album. Everyone seemed to think they had the same vision for it and I think that's what started the snowballing of the leaks; all this collective wishful thinking about this perceived shared vision of what the album would be.

GDA: Yeah, the video and the pictures really got everyone talking. It was a hot topic for weeks! The moment that really got me was the stack of albums. I thought if it’s fake, how could they have a whole stack of them? So, seeing how you did it in the follow-up video was mindblowing.

BH: Yeah, it's kind of like seeing how a magic trick is done. When people made the connection between the album cover leak and the album cover sitting on the desk of the studio video, I think that’s the moment where a lot of skeptics turned into Magnum Opus believers.

GDA: The whole thing spread so fast and was covered by multiple websites. What was it like seeing this thing blow up like that?

BH: It was pretty interesting. I knew they would realize it was us because they speculated it was us for a while. It was a matter of time before someone dug deep enough to find something out. We actually didn't want to reveal ourselves. We wanted to be found out if it happened. Actually, it would've been cooler if we never got found out. Even though we're getting the attention right now, it would've been cooler to never have been found out because Green Day never would've put out Magnum Opus. They would've just released Father of All and then another album and they probably never would've mentioned it again. It would've just been this weird unsolved mystery.

GDA: If the album just quietly disappeared like that it would’ve taken on this weird, musical urban legend.

BH: Yeah because Green Day is this band with a unique story where they have weird legends that are misunderstood. You don’t know if they’re true or not like with Cigarettes and Valentines and The Network. They've got all those stories so it would be cool for there to be other similar things that aren't even seriously Green Day related. They're almost stuck in the story created by Green Day fans. It would've been cool if it took that direction, but that’s not how it ended up.

GDA: Was there any point where you worried you went too far or that it would upset the band in any way?

BH: Not really, to be honest. There were people who had theories on how it would upset fans, but I would be more worried that fans would think it could upset the band, you know what I mean? A band like Green Day has legendary status. They're untouchable. Something like this couldn't do anything to knock what they have in the slightest.

GDA: What was it like dealing with the aftermath once it came out that Green Day had nothing to do with the album? Were you nervous about any backlash?

BH: I wasn't really nervous about it. I just thought there would be [backlash], but I didn't think it would be serious. I thought it would mostly be the really aggressive hardcore fans, but luckily there wasn't a lot of backlash. I think it was because it was such a social thing. We almost had nothing to do with it. We curated an experience and it created a discussion. Maybe it's such a weird, out-there thing that people don't know if they're supposed to be mad or think it's cool or both.

GDA: People are still talking about Magnum Opus. You have your own little group of fans here! The whole thing is amazing because you’d think with social media, it would be harder to get everyone on board. You’d think with more eyes on it, many people would loudly point out how it’s fake.

BH: Yeah, it's really cool. That was my favorite part of the whole thing; just seeing the conversations that were had because it got wild with so many different points of view and so many different opinions. There was a day where it was posted on the general Reddit area, not specifically the Green Day one, and that would mostly be full of people who aren't hardcore Green Day fans. So, it was cool seeing the different perspectives from GDC and Reddit.

GDA: How does it feel to see people loving Magnum Opuss so much that they want to hear more?

BH: It feels pretty cool. It’s unexpected, but we still took the songs seriously. We put the same amount of passion into them as we would put into our own songs. It doesn't really matter the context of the song, so it’s cool that given the situation they're still seen as legitimate songs. It was a very pleasant surprise. But now that people are asking for the full album I feel the responsibility to deliver. After we pulled this whole thing the least we can do is do that, so we're gonna have to get it all out there. Right now we're talking about how to properly release it. We have “Burn It All” coming out and we have some more songs that nobody's heard at all that were started before Magnum Opus. There’s about eight or nine total that could make up the full album.

GDA: I know myself and other people would be very excited to see a full release, but I'm happy to hear “Burn It All” is getting a proper release.

BH: “Burn It All” is gonna be fun. I'm very curious how people are gonna react to it because it's sort of opposite from “Rome Falls.” “Rome Falls” is like a ballad, it's pretty lyrical. “Burn It All” is more like a rocker. When I was recording it, I was thinking it should be like Green Day being influenced by AC/DC. So that's what it kind of is.

GDA: I think you succeeded. It's a boot-stomping rock song. I couldn't believe how much work you guys put into the song because it does sound really similar to Green Day. Your Billie Joe impression is pretty damn good!

BH: Thank you! It's a pretty hard impression to get because his singing in this era is quite different. I'm in my 20’s so my voice doesn't have that sort of roughness that you get in your 40’s. That was probably the hardest part, trying to imitate that roughness. I find it way easier to imitate Dookie era vocals. His modern way of singing is easy too. His 21st Century Breakdown era is the hardest. His voice has gotten a little bit higher and more like John Lennon-y recently, so that's a little bit easier too, but the problem with trying to embrace that voice is it's not as recognizable Billie Joe for some people.

GDA: Yeah, the falsetto vocals really threw everyone off, but it’s cool that Billie’s trying something new this far into his career. In other interviews, you mentioned you not only took on the project as a love letter to Green Day but also as a songwriting exercise. So what have you learned from this whole experience?

BH: It made certain Green Day writing patterns more obvious and it helps you get into the psychology of their music more. You can't help but see certain patterns. For example, every album that was maybe not embraced very well by fans at first, like Warning, lacks that classic Green Day beat on track one. The pattern I saw is most of their albums like Kerplunk and Dookie have that classic Green Day beat always on track one. You hear it on “Burnout” (vocalizes opening rhythm), and “2000 Light Years Away” (vocalizes opening rhythm), but Warning doesn’t have the classic beat on the first song. Then they go to American Idiot, which has that classic beat. It's got the exact same rhythm on the drums and in the vocals on the chorus. Almost every Green Day album has the exact same rhythm in the chorus vocals and on the drums.

And that’s not a bad thing. In a way, it shows where their heads are at. They're in classic Green Day mode and they're going a step above and beyond. With the albums that don't have that classic sound, you can tell they’re trying to branch out. Those are usually the albums the fans don't feel as much at first. Father of All Motherfuckers happens to be one of those albums where track one doesn't follow that classic Green Day pattern. Now, when I listen to other bands, like The Beatles, I start to look for those same patterns and you start to see parallels. As far as this whole thing being an exercise that was one of the most useful things to realize all these patterns between all these albums, songs, and bands.

GDA: It sounds like something you subconsciously hear, but don’t really look for at first, so that’s pretty cool. Finally, what’s next for Panicland?

BH: For us, the next thing is just to get all the Magnum Opus songs out. We have a follow-up album started as well; we're recording both at the same time and it sounds very similar. We’re sort of jumping back and forth between the two. But the next step is to put everything into making sure that Magnum Opus is everything it should be, get that out, and follow it up with something that's hopefully good. That's the plan so far.

Thank you, Panicland for the awesome interview! Make sure to check out their new single “Average Working Man.” Listen to that and the previously released “Rome Falls” and “Burn It All” here. They’re currently finishing work on Magnum Opus of the Inglorious Kind. Make sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates.