Since her debut album Cry Baby released in 2015, Melanie Martinez has never stopped short of being a visionary.
Combining breathtaking visuals with beautiful songs, she creates unique and incredible music experiences for viewers and listeners worldwide. Debuting her first full-length feature film K-12 last year, this year she recently unveiled a brand new deluxe version of the project, as well as a new EP, and fans couldn’t be happier. We had the chance to sit down with Melanie to talk about her process, inspiration, and so much more within these projects. Check it out below!
The Knockturnal: I’m absolutely blown away by K-12. Can you walk me through your creative process for this project? Where did the inspiration come from?
Melanie Martinez: Thank you! I knew I wanted to make a film/album about school because that felt like the most natural progression after crybaby. School is an analogy for life on earth. We come here and many different people/experiences/challenges teach us and help us toward our evolution. I wanted to express that aspect of existence here in the film.
The Knockturnal: Do you have a favorite song from After School? Why is it your favorite?
Melanie Martinez: “Test Me” because it has a dichotomy of darkness and hope. Expressing challenges here as a pathway toward growth. Accepting that there will be hardships and tests in life. Then being comfortable enough with that fact by begging the universe to throw whatever your way that is most beneficial for your highest good and growth even if it is challenging.
The Knockturnal: Everyone on TikTok has heard “Playdate,” how did the success of the song on that platform make you feel?
Melanie Martinez: It felt like a lovely surprise from the goddesses that just magically appeared at my doorstep.
The Knockturnal: I could imagine. How would you describe K-12 in your own words? What does this film mean to you?
Melanie Martinez: This film is about life on earth. The challenges we face here. K-12 is representative of the structures and systems we find ourselves in as humans. Whether it be the schooling system, the medical system, the government, the different entertainment industries like the music industry etc. Every system has people at the top who are only focused on self-gain and self-interest and it’s always to the detriment of the people who are working their asses off at the bottom of that system.
The Knockturnal: The After School cover art is beautiful, can you tell us a little about it and how it relates to the songs?
Melanie Martinez: I wanted to be blowing a bubble out of gum as a symbolic ode to the end scene of K-12 the film where crybaby and Ben blow spit bubbles. I wanted to be sitting at a desk because I feel like After School is more so about the real-life lessons I’ve learned and been applying to my life. So I wanted it to feel like I was sitting at a desk absorbing what life had to teach me. My head cut off is symbolic for what it feels like when you are learning such challenging things in life. You feel like a chicken with your head cut off scrambling to find the solutions to the issues at hand.
The Knockturnal: Tell us about The Bakery music video! What were your process and inspirations like?
Melanie Martinez: I first started out with drawing a storyboard on my iPad of each individual shot of me being turned into a cookie etc. Then made a video treatment of more details along with that. I had a separate performance scene planned out as well in the cake canoe, and the in front of the meyercord animal cake mural. Over time the VFX team and I worked out the details of the performance room to get it closer to the vision in my head. They worked so hard to get the cake mural to look like real piped frosting, and each of the details to be right. I worked on costume designs on my iPad, searched for fabrics that were sturdy enough to hold the pleats/shapes needed for the costumes. Went on the hunt for the right trims and pearl details. I strung the pearls onto a chain then sewed those hanging pieces onto trim to then give the seamstress to apply on the costume. Worked out all the rest of the details with her as well to become what it is today. Everyone got tested for Covid and we had a socially distanced shoot with masks and shields etc. It was an incredibly fun and exciting shoot because all of us were so eager to be creating on set again after not being able to for a while.
The Knockturnal: What was writing K-12 like?
Melanie Martinez: Writing the album took a few years and writing the film was a tricky process because I had never written a film before. It took almost a year. I had to learn how to write a script off YouTube tutorials and then make a bunch of revisions to fit the budget.
The Knockturnal: What about After School are you most excited about?
Melanie Martinez: What excites me most is the fact that these songs are not tied to crybaby as much as they are tied to my own personal life. I’ve never put out music that is so personal.
The Knockturnal: What do you want the fans to take away from the EP? Are there any messages that you have for listeners?
Melanie Martinez: “Notebook” – If someone is willing to risk losing you, they don’t value you. So value yourself and get out of dodge.
“Test Me” – Life’s lessons will hit you like a sh*t ton of bricks, but those bricks are the foundational tools that you need in order to build and grow. So be more willing to complain less and ask the universe more for these teachings because they will help you in the long run.
“Brain and Heart” – Every decision in life isn’t balanced unless there’s an equal amount of effort from your head and your heart. When you only act from your head are you even really using logic? Because logic would tell you that you need your emotions to guide you as well. And when you’re only acting from your heart is it really that loving to yourself if you aren’t using your head at all? It’s more possible to be taken advantage of that way. Most people have one that they lean more toward and we tend to justify being one sided but in reality being aware of it should help us indicate where we need to grow and where we need to balance things out.
“Numbers” – The conditioning artists have under capitalism is to believe that we are only valuable when we are producing something to sell. We are treated like we are disposable and like we can just pull art and music out of our asses whenever we’re called to. By not just labels but consumers of our music as well. We are working around the clock creating relentlessly then once we are done creating we are then expected to work our ass off promoting that creation. It is a vicious cycle and that is depleting and the system needs to change. Artists should be able to have more help from labels promoting their work and should be able to breathe for a bit and enjoy life more instead of being treated like robots.
“Glued” – When you’re too attached you’re feeling the depth of love, but it leaves you with the potential of getting hurt, when you’re detached you’re protecting yourself from hurt but blocking yourself off from that depth of love.
“Field trip” – This song is more personal and about perceptions that people have of me and the sentiment that I will never be what people expect me to be. I will never fall into whatever box people put me in. Because no one will ever truly know me like I know myself.
“The Bakery” – If you have to work a job you hate to save up for your true path and purpose so be it. Sometimes in life you need that stepping stone of support to get to where it is you’re meant to be.
The Knockturnal: What inspires you in your music? What do you want it to inspire in others?
Melanie Martinez: Existence inspires me the most. Why we’re here, what we’re doing here and the challenges that all of us humans go through.
The Knockturnal: What are you working on next?! What can we expect in the future?
Melanie Martinez: I’m working on a movie and working on my next album. Very excited to see how it all develops over the next year or so.
The Knockturnal: Is there anything that you want to add or share with fans?
Melanie Martinez: My one bit of advice to people reading is, save your wishes for something valuable. Don’t wish for fame and fortune. If you wish for anything wish for growth. Wish for abundance, protection, safety for you and your loved ones and the world around you. Wish for humans across the globe to be enlightened and awakened. Wish for your talents to blossom and lead you to your correct path and purpose. And wish for your purpose to inspire others to find theirs.
“AFTER SCHOOL” EP
- Test Me
- Brain + Heart
- Field Trip
- The Bakery
“K-12 (AFTER SCHOOL – DELUXE EDITION)”
TRACKLISTING, DISC 1:
- Wheels on the Bus
- Class Fight
- The Principal
- Show & Tell
- Nurse’s Office
- Drama Club
- Strawberry Shortcake
- Lunchbox Friends
- Orange Juice
- Teacher’s Pet
- High School Sweethearts
- Test Me
- Brain + Heart
- Field Trip
- The Bakery
Photo Credit: Melanie Martinez & Jacqueline Molina