Buzz: Waterparks — Creativity in the Modern World

Recently, I had the chance to hop on the phone with the always personable and ever-sweet Awsten Knight from the Texas pop-punk band Waterparks. He was quick to start talking about how he was preparing for tour and how he was getting things together with his bandmates. He spoke to me kindly, with hints of hilarity mixed into the air of wisdom that surrounds him after working towards his musical dream over the last 10 years.

A year has passed since the release of Waterparks’ second album, Entertainment. Not only did Knight and I talk about the present, but we reflected on the journey it has been before and after that record.

It has been a year since your second album, Entertainment, hit shelves and streaming services, blessing your fans and music lovers alike. How has life been over the last year since Entertainment?

It’s so weird…. we have been busier than ever because of it. It’s really strange… I thought about it yesterday—’Oh my god, it’s almost been a full year.’ It’s weird because it feels like it’s been a few months, but at the same time, it also feels like it’s been two years. The songs will be done and will get written and demoed and then recorded, but then we have to wait for labels and everyone to process everything. It’s cool, but then we have to wait another two or three months, and then do pre-orders and stuff like that…. But, since then, we’ve really just been doing so much touring.

I would argue that a big part of this band finding its place in the music world was through opening up for other bands like All Time Low, Sleeping With Sirens, and One OK Rock. Now that you guys have been selling out your own tours, do you think back to what you learned from watching these bands put on great shows?

I think so. Even if it’s small things, you definitely do pick up little things here and there… after seeing how everything operates. The thing about those bands, specifically, is that they have extremely nice and accepting fans. There are definitely bands with more pretentious crowds, where I feel like if we opened for them, we wouldn’t be where we are right now…. We’re definitely where we are in big part from opening for all these bands that have very sweet and inclusive fans, you know?

Without a doubt. All of your music has a really distinct sound, and none of it really sounds similar because you intertwine so many aspects of music, and blend so many genres—so, how important to you is experimentation in the music you create?

It’s honestly more important than any other part of it…. In the past, there used to be a very specific kind of thing where a band had a very consistent sound on a lot of their albums. I’d say early-to-mid 2000s, like emo bands or pop punks… it was very consistent across the board and, granted, the songs were all different, like in different keys and stuff, but they were the same. I’m not saying this in a completely negative way—it was [just] a time for more one-dimensional projects. Now… music is consumed differently and it’s just a different world, so you can actually be everything. I like every kind of music, pretty much, so if I love everything, why would I just play rock music, for example? Why would I just make punk songs? Also, it’s just because it is what I am naturally drawn to and what I like now…. If I’m just listening to the same things [as I did in] fourth and fifth grade, I’m not going to progress very much as a musician…. You have to be open to new things.

It’s fulfilling, too, as a listener.

Yeah, I really do think so. Like, if people listen to everything now, since everything is consumed in a playlist where you can exist in so many different worlds, I think that’s the most exciting thing about music today.

Absolutely, but while Waterparks have been prominently on the scene for the last three years or so, you’re not necessarily a new band. What were the early years of making EPs at home back in Texas like?

That’s pretty much what it was back then. We’ve met all kinds of people that work in the industry and we’re in a very different place now, but before, we literally knew zero people. I’ve seen things online before, especially in the beginning, when there were people saying that we were, like, industry-planned, or something. It’s like, ‘No, dude, my mom’s a P.E. teacher and my dad’s a nurse. They only know like four people each, and none of them are music industry-involved at all. Otto (Wood, Waterparks drummer) worked in a shipping warehouse, and would work from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and then go home. He didn’t know anybody.

I’ve been in some [form of a] band since I was 13, and so I kind of understand what you have to do, how it works. When you’ve been doing it for so long, you truly learn the ins and outs of everything. When you’re local and nobody is looking out for you, you have to become your entire team….  I started booking our shows directly with the venue. I learned Photoshop to make our flyers and merch, and I would burn hundreds of CDs every week with whatever money I had…. I would just send anybody our music…. It was very much a hustle.

It goes to show that you always had a passion for music, and it wasn’t something that had to be forced. You said you’ve been in bands since you were 13, so did you always want to be in a band?

You see, as kid, I didn’t really know. People ask when I decided that I was going to be in a band, and it wasn’t really a decision about how this was what I was going to do forever. That was what I loved doing and I put all my time and energy into it, so when I got to that age… ‘Oh, what are you going to do for a living?’—it was like I just looked down at what I had and realized that this was what I liked to do, so I’m just going to do that. It was natural. It sort of just fell into place that way.

There was a year or so gap between Double Dare and Entertainment. Was there a difference in how you approached each album and the subsequent writing and recording process for each?

Double Dare was mostly written before we had even toured…. We were very inexperienced at that time. We were just making cool shit in my room. With Entertainment, that was when we had been touring for a while… about a year and a half at that point, straight.

About your fans—you guys are the absolute best with them. Do you make a conscious effort to keep that relationship close, even as you continue to grow as a band?

Definitely. It is kind of like a recipe of what we’ve become, and I think that definitely one of the ingredients of that is that we are so interactive…. We really want to talk to them. I think if we were to stop doing that, that would be taking away one of the ingredients. We can’t do that. Even if [it’s] just acknowledging [fans] online, it’ll definitely go through. Then, after shows, if it’s not zero degrees, or if I’m not feeling sick, or if my voice isn’t completely trashed, it’s always good to say, “What’s up?” to people. Or, even if my voice really is completely trashed, I’ll still do it. It’s just so important to keep that up.

Catch Waterparks at Terminal 5 in NYC on March 5!