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October 2021

Waterparks: "Oh man, we've learned nothing!"

New band on the block Waterparks have friends in all the right places - but their debut album ‘Double Dare’ is decidedly their own.
Published: 10:27 am, November 14, 2016
Waterparks: "Oh man, we've learned nothing!"
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Waterparks & Recreation

New band on the block Waterparks have friends in all the right places - but their debut album ‘Double Dare’ is decidedly their own.

Words: Danny Randon. Photos: Jonathan Weiner & Jawn Rocha

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="5/6" offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text]This time last year, Waterparks had barely played a show outside their home state of Texas. Fast forward to this summer, and they’re one of the hottest new names on Slam Dunk’s, Warped Tour’s and Reading & Leeds’ respective bills.

The trio’s success in making waves at the transatlantic trinity of festivals has set a promising precedent for their debut album, ‘Double Dare’. That was mainly down to their syrupy-sweet pop-rock anthems, but in the case of Reading & Leeds and their recent jaunt opening for Good Charlotte, it was also hard to ignore the presence of a certain former bassist of My Chemical Romance by their side.

“Having Mikey [Way] come and play bass on [Waterparks’ 2016 EP] ‘Cluster’ and then do those shows with us was great,” confesses the band’s bubblegum blue-haired singer, guitarist and programmer Awsten Knight. “We’ve always talked about different shows that he could come and do with us and we’ve both been like, ‘Yeah, that sounds sick!’, but we didn’t want to do it too soon.”

Having friends in high places is a benefit that Awsten, guitarist and vocalist Geoff Wigington and drummer Otto Wood have reaped with both enthusiasm and apprehension. Even as protégées of The Brothers Madden that have warmed up crowds for Aaron Carter, Never Shout Never and Sleeping With Sirens, Awsten stresses the importance of coming out on the band’s own merits with their first full-length record.

“We didn’t want it to seem like we were trying to use anyone’s popularity from other projects to forward ourselves,” says Awsten, speaking from the band’s rehearsal space back home in Houston. “That way the headlines, if there were ever to be one, would look like ‘Mikey Way plays with band’, as opposed to ‘Waterparks play with special guest Mikey Way’!

“We didn’t want to do anything where it would make it seem like we were trying to take advantage of cool people being into what we do.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row column_padding="false" css=".vc_custom_1452681180219{padding-top: 30px !important;padding-bottom: 30px !important;}"][vc_column][vc_video link=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="5/6" offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text]Much like its depiction of a hand grenade painted blue and camouflaged amidst a punnet of grapes on its cover, ‘Double Dare’ is a vibrant, juicy explosion of choruses that are borderline annoying in their catchiness.

The likes of ‘Take Her To The Moon’ and ‘Powerless’ blur the line between pop and rock beyond perceptibility, but at least there’s still more chutzpah in the hooks than some of Waterparks’ teenybopper-pleasing peers.

That said, ask avid pop fan Awsten whether he fronts a ‘pop band’ or a ‘rock band’, and you’ll find a usually-chatty man in a rare moment of head-scratching ambivalence.

“It’s a good question. Looking at it, I want to say we’re a rock band. Out of three people, two of us play guitars and the other plays on drums, but the songs are written with major pop influence. I usually try and think of poppier things when I write songs, but seeing as we actually use our instruments, it translates into what Waterparks’ songs are.

“If you moved the notes that Geoff and I play on guitar over to a keyboard, and you put Otto’s drum patterns onto a programming pad, they would sound like a legitimate pop song. It’s almost like as if Britney Spears had a band!”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=".vc_custom_1445370543092{padding-top: 30px !important;padding-bottom: 30px !important;}"][vc_column width="5/6" offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text]
“It’s almost like if Britney Spears had a band!”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="5/6" offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text]Awsten found himself able to appease his adorations for pop music even further with the personnel twiddling the knobs and faders for ‘Double Dare’’s inception: Courtney Ballard, who has recorded with the likes of State Champs, All Time Low and 5 Seconds Of Summer, alongside one half of the band’s management, Benji Madden. He may have spearheaded the early-00s wave of punk with Good Charlotte, but he also coaches on the Australian version of TV talent cesspool The Voice, manages Jessie J and has written for Hilary Duff and Sean Kingston.

For a three-piece who, much like any other band, recorded their early work in a friend’s garage, Waterparks couldn’t really have asked for a more esteemed duo to immortalise their kooky, cartoony imaginations.

“With the first EPs [2012’s ‘Airplane Conversations’ and 2014’s ‘Black Light’], we didn’t actually get to do any pre-production,” reflects Awsten, who formed the band when he was 19. “They were just written and then the parts were recorded almost on the spot. Now, we can actually listen to the record and hear ourselves being able to do something really fucking weird, as opposed to going, ‘Hey, guy in the garage! Let’s try to record these weird things that we can’t really explain!’”

Despite ‘Double Dare’’s showroom-sheen production, Awsten was intent on keeping some things as close to home as he could, and therefore maintaining some personality to the cutting-edge bleeps and bloops that make Waterparks that little bit more special.

“Pretty much all the sounds that I make are done in my room, and those things like vocal cuts and programming actually make the album from the home demos. That’s really cool for me, I think that adds another dimension.

“We always wanted to be one of those bands that throw in curveballs, but I think it took us until ‘Cluster’ to get good at them. You can throw weird twists in your music, but if it’s stupid or overdone or way too technical, it’s not going to be cool.

“With the album, we wanted to make it to where you couldn’t just be like ‘this is a rock band’ or ‘this is a pop-punk band’. We tried that with the last EP and I think we did a pretty good job with it, but we just wanted to show that you can actually do multiple shit and you don’t have to be like ‘we’re this pop-punk band, here you go, another one!”

“Everyone that’s already doing that out there is just fine, they don’t need our addition, or anyone’s addition really.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row column_padding="false" css=".vc_custom_1448964838386{padding-top: 30px !important;}"][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner css=".vc_custom_1448964800400{padding-bottom: 30px !important;}"][vc_single_image image="34285" img_size="full" full_width="true"][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="5/6" offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text]Speaking of curveballs, the first couple of teasers from ‘Double Dare’ (‘Stupid For You’ and ‘Hawaii (Stay Awake)’) are instantly gratifying and infectiously simple. However, the deeper cuts on the record are far less saccharine endeavours, and a far more exciting indication that Waterparks aren’t all sunshine and double rainbows.

Describing the album as Waterparks’ most personal work yet on a lyrical scale, Awsten finds himself confronting a post-adolescent crisis on ‘Dizzy’ (“I don’t hear from my friends anymore / Everything slows down by 24”), but it’s ‘Little Violence’ that stands out as the most memorable moment on the record: not for any “whoa-oh” chorus lines or sugary melodies, but for its frantic diatribe against the modern music industry and the Xerox-of-a-Xerox bands that are abundant within it.

With Awsten seething, “These copycats are getting feral now / We’re building sandcastles out from their ashes now,” are Waterparks more of a serious proposition than they’ve initially come across?

“I guess you can be like one of these one-dimensional things where you’re either an angry, pissed-off band or a happy, silly band, but I don’t think we could ever be like that,” says Awsten, his voice taking a more contemplative tone. “Everything we do or write or say online has got to be a multi-dimensional, human thing.

“If you’re one of those bands where you come across as tough guys all the time, then that’s you, you’re a tough-guy band and you’re stuck in that box. If we come out and say something like ‘Fuck DJ Khaled’ or we put on dog costumes in our music videos, I don’t think that means that we also can’t be tired of things sometimes or have any negative thoughts.

“It sucks if you’re pissed all the time, but if it’s not completely honest, and you’re either always pissed off or you make an overly 100% happy pop album, then that also sucks.”

The advent of ‘Double Dare’ marks a remarkable year for Waterparks, and a period of twelve months that anyone would consider a massive learning curve, unless you’ve got the same boisterous level of hubris as Awsten.

“Oh man, we’ve learned nothing!” he jokes. “Actually, I don’t want to say ‘nothing’ because we worked really really hard for all the years that we were a band before this year, but we had never toured, we had never been in a real studio… We hadn’t done any of this stuff until this year, everything’s been new and weird, and we still take pictures of all the new shit we’re doing.

“There’s always stuff that we’ve got hidden up our sleeves too. We wrote around 40 songs for this record, and some of them have styles and moods that we hadn’t even worked with before. There was tons of stuff that we didn’t get to do on the album that I eventually want to do but I think the album is probably great for now, especially seeing as there’s 13 fucking songs and that’s a lot for our first album!”

As for Waterparks’ eventual return to the UK? Awsten hints little more than “definitely being back before you know it”.

“Our fans in the UK should prepare for our shows by wearing a lot of socks, because it’s pretty cold over there. I miss dogs whenever I’m on tour, so they should also bring their dogs to the shows… as long as they’re wearing ear protection!” [icon type="fa-stop" size="icon-smallsize" ][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=".vc_custom_1445370422462{padding-bottom: 25px !important;}"][vc_column width="5/6" offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text css=".vc_custom_1479119018627{margin-top: 15px !important;border-top-width: 10px !important;padding-top: 15px !important;border-top-color: #0a0a0a !important;border-top-style: solid !important;}"]Taken from the November issue of Upset. Order a copy here. Waterparks’ debut album ‘Double Dare’ is out now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

© 2018 The Bunker Publishing