If you have any inclination towards rock music, Waterparks needs to be on your radar. Waterparks is quickly rising to the top of the underground alternative scene. They're on the cover of the newest issue of Alternative Press Magazine; they've toured with Good Charlotte, Sleeping with Sirens, and All Time Low. Within a year, the band has risen from opening band to must–see artist.
It would be unfair to try and place Waterparks in a genre, or to even try to categorize their sound. Their music pulls sonically from a multitude of genres, from pop to electronic to punk, and their high–energy, upbeat songs are paired with striking and honest lyrics. They’re also known for their eccentricity and humor offstage, onstage and online (check out frontman Awsten Knight’s Twitter).
The Houston–based band formed in 2011, but Knight single–handedly created the band’s first EP, 2012’s Airplane Conversations, before joining up with guitarist Geoff Wigington and drummer Otto Wood. The band still doesn’t have a bassist, so for the 2016 EP Cluster, they enlisted the help of My Chemical Romance bassist Mikey Way.
The band released their debut full–length album, the brilliant and bold Double Dare, just over a year ago and is already gearing up to release their next album, Entertainment, out on January 26. Waterparks is currently headlining the Made in America Tour with support from As It Is, Chapel, and Sleep On It. They'll be stopping at the Theater of Living Arts in Philadelphia on December 1.
I talked to Knight about Waterparks’ latest single, “Blonde,” pulling together different genres, pulling off a sophomore release so quickly, and the ins and outs of songwriting.
On new single “Blonde”:
"The song in general is just about the last 6 months or year or whatever of touring. Everything that everyone’s heard until now was written before we’d even started touring. Touring in general is not a light job for your mental health… It just seemed like an important one to come out especially because when the lyrics for 'Blonde' were written, there were like four other songs that were happening around that time that were pretty much all about the same thing so I just wanted to kind of make the best version of it possible. So I would pull little pieces from each one—since they were about the same thing—and then it just came together the way it did… Whenever I actually sat down to start demoing it at home I was like, 'Alright, well let’s pick the best parts of each one.' Just like slowly drive the point home."
On releasing “Blonde” as the lead single for Entertainment:
“'Blonde' is the closest thing to the last album. That was actually kind of the reason it came out first because there’s always going to be a progression with everything that we do but I still don’t want it to be a jarring transition. It basically has all the elements that people liked from Double Dare put into one song. So we just thought that would be a good first track to move into the next era."
On drawing from different genres on Entertainment:
"There’s full on hard rock, there’s stuff that’s like goth–y electronic with no real instruments. There’s a fair amount of stuff. The thing is, it’s not like we set out to be like, 'Ooh, let’s do something weird!' We just want to make the best songs. If the hook is there, it’s fucking there. Whatever instruments are around it, those are interchangeable. You can make these songs however you want to, you’re not just limited to what is necessarily in our band which is two guitars and drums."
On the quick turnaround between Double Dare and Entertainment:
"We had like a month off from touring, which is like the first month we’d had in a very long time. And I’m sort of a workaholic. And I was like, 'Yo, we could very much pull this off based on this schedule because these songs are done and there’s already a growth in the songwriting and it just sounds bigger and better.' I was like, 'I think it’s time,' and sent in the demos and everything. Everyone’s like, 'Fuck, okay it’s time.' It’s just like, if you can, why not?"
On writing songs:
"As far as lyrics go, it’s really just trying to be as honest as possible even if it’s weird. The kind of cop–out I always give myself is, this song doesn’t have to come out. I make enough to where it could easily be switched with something else. Like it doesn’t have to make the album. It’s not like, 'Oh shit, one song comes to me every two months!' I mean, I made two songs yesterday."
On using voice memos:
"As of yesterday, there are like maybe 10 new voice memos in my phone now. It’s just like a line or a melody or whatever, even if it’s like an idea."
On combining upbeat music with darker lyrics:
"I really like making happy–sounding songs with like sad lyrics or the other way around, like sad–sounding songs with happy lyrics. I like doing like a sort of like fucked–up emotional palette because I think it’s interesting and it’s also kind of fun to trick your brain like that. If you listen to the music of 'Gloom Boys,' it sounds so upbeat, or 'Royal,' but they’re not happy if you listen to the words."
On writing honest lyrics:
"There wasn’t really a time where I was like, 'Ah, that’s too honest,' but when we did the first album, stuff made it that I didn’t think was going to make it like '21 Questions' for example, or there are just a few other things like 'Little Violence,' but when they came out they were like really well–received, so I was like, 'Well, I guess I can say what I want and it’s actually a good thing.' Everything from the last album was so much better received than everything else we had done that it was like, well, I think honesty is the way to go even if it’s uncomfortable."
On writing songs about writing songs:
"It’s just something I think about too much and so naturally it just comes through. If I write every day, whatever I’m thinking about is going to come out in songs. I think the song 'TANTRUM' from the new album is probably the most open about that all of that kind of stuff. That’s pretty much like the ultimate venting song."
On referencing his own lyrics in songs:
"If I’m trying to refer back to a certain time or a certain era or whatever, it’s really easy to do it by what was already being felt at the time. It’s really easy to summarize something by just dropping a line from a song because… if I say something like, 'I used to crave a getaway now I don’t want to leave,' that’s not just saying I used to want that, it’s like I’m referring back to that entire time period, or everything that comes with it too. I like being able to bounce back to other times in a way that people would understand just based on the songs that were put out then."
On the current tour:
"I’m excited because it’s the first time we have cool production as far as lights and screen and stuff. So now the show has another element to it. It makes it look so much bigger."
On what they want audiences to take away from a show:
"I just want them to feel like it’s better live. We get that from people when we talk to them after shows and they’re like 'It was so cool, blah, blah, blah, like it was even better live!' And it’s like, 'Fuck yeah. Cool. We did it.'"
On touring in general:
"Touring’s not easy… it’s a hard thing but with every tour I feel like I think you grow from it just a little bit personally. You learn new shit, like what you can and can’t do. I like to think it gets easier."
"Tell everybody to save their money and invest in stock as soon as they can because retirement’s going to come up on you."