It feels like yesterday when Waterparks was still just the most promising band in the pop punk and alternative music scene.
With the release of their hotly anticipated 5th studio album, Intellectual Property, Waterparks is once again storming the scene and shapeshifting. Bolder, louder, but more intricate than ever, frontman Awsten Knight experiments with new grounds in songwriting as Waterparks once again creates its own sonic Frankenstein.
There are glittery, sing-songy moments with a Merry Go ‘Round facade and dark lyrical turns with songs like lead single “FUNERAL GREY” and “2 BEST FRIENDS.” But more than ever, Waterparks does not hesitate to spiral out of control with aggressively charged moments and masterfully distorted sounds with Intellectual Property. Whether it is “REAL SUPER DARK,” the perfect blend of punk and electronic, the anthemic, thrilling ascension of “END OF WATER (FEEL),” or the untamed sonic beast, “RITUAL,” Intellectual Property proves that there is truly no limits to what Waterparks can do as a three-piece.
What started as a simple Q&A turns into a deep dive as usual with the band’s magnetic frontman, Awsten Knight. 1883 Magazine time travels with Knight by revisiting the sound of Greatest Hits, comparing “A NIGHT OUT ON EARTH” to the compilation tracks of Entertainment and Double Dare, contemplating over the possibilities of Waterparks five years from now.
This album has the longest rollout you guys have done. “FUNERAL GREY” was released almost a year ago, so this album has been in the making/in the rollout process for so long. Do you ever feel like you’re kind of trapped in a certain Waterparks era that puts you in a different mental space in comparison to where you are at as a person? Do you ever feel like that’s a struggle?
I think, a long time ago, I had to start being able to reassign meanings to songs and meanings to things, because I can’t let myself get depressed every time I sang a song about somebody from my past, or about mental health, or just whatever potentially touchy thing it could be. I’m able to compartmentalize and readjust things and it’s not necessarily like mentally taxing. Because at the same time, I’m the number one Waterparks fan. I can kind of readjust and move certain things to the sides for myself, I’m able to just look at it as a fan.
That’s actually so good, putting some distance between you and the music.
Yeah, it’s like putting some distance between myself and potentially very touchy, emotional things. If a song is about a person, I can just be like, No, that song is about love! [laughs]
Got it. You’re one of my favorite songwriters and I feel like this is genuinely one of the first time when you’re really, really emotionally vulnerable in your songwriting.
It was. I always let myself get to a point where it’s very, very vulnerable, and every album has its peaks; but I think this time it was more. I let it be more about other people as well. There’s obviously a lot of emotionally deeper, touchy or, sensitive seeming things, but, I think it’s just maybe more well done this time around.
Yeah, it felt very intentional.
I try to make it funny and boil it all down to capture the album in one phrase. That phrase for me feels like a “Church trauma gone wrong, and now I’m emotionally unavailable” album. What would be like your one liner to talk about this album?
Oh, my God, that’s really hard. I mean, you summed it up pretty well honestly. That kind of hit the nail on the head. It’s also post-COVID, coming back into the world and into real life, relearning how to be around people, but also reinventing the way your person is able to handle things. Basically two years by yourself, and you just have a lot of time to reflect and time to learn about yourself, and a lot of therapy shit. I feel like the majority of the album is that, and like you said, all of that through the frame of trying to make those relationships and connections through the framing and lens of religious trauma.
I think we did talk about how Greatest Hits is kind of like an inside album the last time we spoke; but this one is definitely more outside. Most of Waterparks’ songs I enjoy them outside. I still think Greatest Hits stands out as an album from the discography because it does have that inside feeling to it.
It’s the most reclusive, introverted Waterparks album for sure.
But this one, I think a lot of INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY feels very outwardly projecting a lot of internal thoughts.
Yeah, well, let’s pull up the tracklist here.
I really like “RITUAL.”
Thank you. That one’s gonna be so crazy live. For “RITUAL,” everything just builds and spirals. That song is like the “lashing out.”
I thought “CLOSER” was really nice on the wordplay because it technically also a closer to the album–because “A NIGHT OUT ON EARTH” is a totally different beast–and you’re also talking about being closer to someone.
I like that. I like that look on it because I considered that too. It’s such a nice ending, [but] if it ended that way that would be devastating ending to an album. “A NIGHT OUT ON EARTH” feels like the encore.
It’s absolutely an encore! It feels like those seven minutes tracks you put together for Entertainment and Double Dare.
That’s exactly what I wanted to do. When we made those, I was like, It would be so fucking cool if we did one of these of all unreleased songs. Because people love those things before they were pulled down by “somebody.”I thought if we could actually make an original track, but like have it in that form, that would be the biggest accomplishment. At this point–I mean, I’ve always got shit to learn, it’s never good to feel like you know everything–But I know how to write a song. I know how to write a Waterparks song. So I’m like, Okay, what is the expansion of that? What is something we have not accomplished?
A lot of stuff that I grew up listening to in late teen, it was a lot of hardcore stuff or like metal or like random woodshed, whatever it was, and bands would always have these transition techniques that were just fucking cop outs, and every time Otto and I–Otto and I’ve been friends forever–we would just be like, hard happening and then stop, drum fill [mimicks drum and gestures]. The fact that we are able to do this four and a half minute, fucking colossal thing for us and make the transitions right, that was so important, because that’s what we did with Double Dare and Entertainment 2019. Where it’s like, Hey, how do we do these but not do any cop out transitions? Everything has to flow. It has to be well written. I feel like we did it.
No genuinely! I wasn’t looking at the tracklist [when I was listening], but I was just thinking, this has to be the last track.
Yeah, nothing could follow that.
Try having an encore after that! [shakes head] That’s it. I was going to ask, what’s each of your favourite songs?
It changes so often, but last time I checked. I know that Otto’s favourite… I believe was “REAL SUPER DARK.”
The drum is fun!
And live it’s just so crazy! When we were opening for My Chemical Romance, [which was] the first time we played it, afterwards, multiple people from our crew came up to me and was like, Dude, when you started playing that one, the room like, changed, that shit shifted. So that one’s so important for the live show. That one’s a mood changer. So Otto was immediately all about that.
I think Geoff was real crazy about… Last time we talked at least, it changes for everybody, which is good… I think he said “RITUAL.” Because the song’s hard. He likes Linkin Park and shit. So whenever he hears that, because those guitars–those are like the lowest tuning we’ve ever done in a Waterparks song. It was either B or like A sharp or something, tuned way down, it’s like, metal. So if you listen to the guitars in the chorus, you’ll be like, OH. My favourite right now? It’s hard. It changes every day.
He’s having a crisis over the tracklist haha.
Damn I’m just staring at all of them. I love them all… I’ll say “A NIGHT OUT ON EARTH” today.
Okay, okay, it’s a today answer. I’ll specify that. Do you think Waterparks is one of the pioneers for hyperpop?
I wouldn’t want to take this away from other hyperpop artists by saying that we pioneered anything, but what I will say is that from day one, when I started demoing everything back in 2012, incorporating as much electronic and glitchy and weird spacey things–hyperpop to me, I still have a very hard time defining it. We’ve always, you know, that’s always been the jam, you can hear it on any of the “Crave” EP, before we even had an album. It’s like, full on vocal manipulation cuts crazy with all the guitar fuzz and distortion on it. You can even hear on our very first EP, like the last song “Fantastic” throughout the entire hook. We were doing all the vocal cuts and stuff. Or “Dizzy.” That full bridge on the first album is super glitchy. I’ve always had these big distorted things.
I wouldn’t want to take away from anybody by saying we’re a pioneer, but I feel like we’ve had it in our system and DNA unknowingly for so long before it had a name that a lot of people recognize. I also don’t want to say the wrong thing here, but I think as far as bands go, I can’t think of another band that would have been incorporating it for as long as we have.
I think so, that’s why I asked that question.
I’m really thinking about it because I haven’t thought about that. But yeah, I can’t really think of another band. At least one in our realm. I’m sure there’s like some experimental EDM shit that I just don’t know about. But yeah. We always had elements of it. We just didn’t necessarily know how to identify it because it didn’t have a name. I was gonna say Anthony Fantana didn’t stick a name on it yet.
Oh my god. Fantano haha.
That’s how you know a genre!
What and who did you guys listen to when you were recording this album?
I’ve got a really bad habit of only listening to Waterparks. I’m always listening to mixes and critiquing–I am gonna give you real answers, I promise. But one thing that I noticed during this cycle, and especially getting semi towards the end, I wasn’t letting myself listen to music as passively. I realized that I just had it on all the time. Certain things that would normally emotionally hit me affect me more, weren’t doing it as much. I feel like I was almost desensitizing myself to it. When I get in the car, I would just put something on and zone out, so I put on a podcast or like a YouTube thing instead. Then, whenever it was time to listen to music, I would do it sparingly and consciously.
I really did try and limit the amount of input that I had. But at the same time, I tried to find influence from different things. I’ve been listening to a lot of video game music, like the Spyro soundtrack. I posted a thing whenever it came out, but in “REAL SUPER DARK”, for one of the ad libs, I literally just made the noise that it makes when you hit a bad guy in Spyro.
You’ve been doing that for multiple albums, and I just assume it’s an Awsten thing now.
It’s a little video game–I mean, it’s me. But it’s the sound of a little guy getting rammed. Let me actually go into my recently listened… I downloaded The Wipeouters because they did the Rocket Power soundtrack, and the main dude is actually a major video games scorer… Sia, just like, bangers. Gorillaz…
They do have a new album coming.
That’s amazing! Oh that’s very good news. Oh my god, yeah, genuinely so much fucking Waterparks, and I made so much different album arts for all of it [turns camera around to show different iterations of artwork for Intellectual Property].
When you’re editing your own artwork, you kind of only want to listen to the actual music because that just makes sense.
It’s like scoring a movie and you’re watching somebody else’s TV show on the side. Then here are 13 mixes of different Intellectual Property things. Alright, here’s four more. I got a Bad Sun remix on here.
Sometimes I genuinely forget how involved you are with the scene. Like yesterday with the High Def drop. I saw Blu DeTiger and I was like, Right! She was part of Kitten and they opened for Waterparks. I literally almost forgot about that because it was a long time ago, right before the pandemic.
Right! That’s how I met her. Then MAX, the other dude, we were neighbours actually so we’re just friends. We’re gone so much but right before we went to the UK last time, MAX and I went and got a Korean barbecue over at Ktown.
He’s so cool. What would your most ideal interview constitute? Because honestly, I’m enjoying this a lot.
Um, I don’t know. I mean, I like when people are familiar with it, and you are, so that’s really cool… Ooh, just got a flyer! I have been working on this flyer, but I asked Lucas to put frogs in our mouth…
I’m about to start a counter of how many times Awsten gets distracted.
It’s rough. I am working on it. I promise.
All good haha!
I was gonna say, It’s so loud we have to wear earplugs, or like in ear monitors. Or we’re sitting on top of either a roof or like a giant hill, on the beach, and we’re at the lifeguard thing. And we have megaphones, and you’re asking me questions loudly and I’m answering even louder. That would be crazy. Um, or me think maybe we’re at a studio kitchen. I’m cooking stuff while you ask questions…
Oh that would be so fun!
Or like maybe if I was good at making plant sculptures, like Edward Scissorhands vibe, I can make one while you ask me stuff. Or we can both be trimming our own projects.
I did use to have this project with my friends where I forced them to put a bouquet together while I ask questions!
I too did that last night! So I tried putting together, you know sometimes people get fake flowers, put a bunch together and they stick it in a clear glass thing? They just put it in a corner of their room? I have a real basic version of it. Like this kind of vibe [walks and turns camera around to a simple herbarium]
Oh that’s cool!
I tried to make one last night. I fucking failed. I went to–where’d I go? I went to Michael’s. I love crafts. I put one together, and that’s when I realized my ADHD was fucking screaming. I was making the worst thing ever. I looked at it. I was just like, This is so wrong. I’m gonna show you the fountain. Look at this. Oh, fuck, hang on. I promise it’ll be worth it. [walks to a different part of the apartment] You’re gonna be–oh, and I got a bunch of, they’re clear, not marbles because they’re flat, but that’s what I did the album board with this time [show-and-tell continues]. I built this bar cart the other day, and I put a bunch of the marbles in here.
Whoa. That’s actually so sick! I’m getting a full house tour haha.
We can talk Feng Shui!
Well, there are time limits to this interview, but I’m totally enjoying this! I do have one more question. This is technically the first album you put out after you’ve turned 30. Where do you see the band in five years? Where do you see yourself in five years?
I don’t know. It’s a weird thing, I’m not going to keep doing it if it no longer makes sense. But at the same time, I’ll have to still create because that’s just what I do. I think that it’ll still happen, if it makes sense. Sometimes you see bands of dudes that are really pushing it and it’s kind of a bummer after a while. You know what I mean? I never want to be looked at like that.
Besides interviewing, I started working with a band myself. It’s a lot of asking, Are we doing too much? Like, do we look bad in other people’s eyes? But, at the same time, there’s so much care and it’s like, you almost don’t want to play it cool because of how much you care about it.
The thing is, if you’re doing it, because it’s fun, and you love it, and all this shit, and it’s like, that’s great. Amazing. Do it, do it if you love it. But like, I get bummed when I see people and they’re doing this because they feel like they have to…?
What’s cool about Good Charlotte to me is they only come back and do shit when they want to. When it’s purposeful, when they’re like, We want to come back because this is what this means to alternative music, it would be so fucking fun to go play like a show. Or like three shows. They’re not like, grinding a fucking old album into people’s faces again, that’s not even to shit on anybody. You know, make your money of course. It’s a rare thing to get to survive on art. But from an artistic standpoint, I’m fucking all about progression. I get bummed when I see people trapped in the shit. So anyway, to get back to it, Waterparks will still be happening when I’m 35 if it makes sense, it has to really make sense and I have to want to do it. Because otherwise, I’m not gonna be fucking 35 and miserable on a bus. You kidding me? Like, sleeping in a bed? Yeah.
Because there’s no point at doing it at that point if you’re not having fun doing it.
It’s not too late to start something. But I don’t know man. You still have so much life left. If you’ve done that for fucking ever also, I guess I’m just talking out of my ass. I don’t know people’s situations, but if I was 35 and I was sick of being in a band and shit, start pursuing something else.
And you always have a lot of pursues anyway.
Yeah and like, dude, I can’t sit still and you see it! I have to be doing other shit. Everything leads to something. So I think there’s always an opportunity to do something that excites you.
Thank you so much for a deep dive. I did meet one of your friends at another event. His name is Zakk, he has a band called New Love?
Zakk! shout out Zakk! Yes! Can we put him in the interview?
I will. I will. Absolutely, because I love his band.
Yep. Shout out New Love.
Well, thank you so much! Have a great day.
You too. I’ll see you next time.
Intellectual Property, the 5th studio album of Waterparks, out now.
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