It might seem like Waterparks have been awfully quiet since they wrapped up the UK and European legs of their ‘Fandom’ tour — in support of their 2019 album of the same name — way back in February. But just because vocalist Awsten Knight hasn’t been on Twitter doesn’t mean that the band have been taking time off.
Not only have the Houston pop-punk band been working on Fandom: Live In The UK, their first-ever live concert film that was filmed in January at their Birmingham headline show, but there’s also a new hairstyle — which, as Waterparks fans know, means that a new chapter is on the horizon: welcome to the ‘Rainbow Sherbet’ era.
Alongside the new ‘do, Waterparks have also dropped the first taste of new music in the form of ‘Lowkey As Hell’, a beat-driven track that tackles depression, hope and community in a very 2020 way. Speaking to NME for the latest edition of our In Conversation series (which you can watch in full above), Knight promises that the song is the first of many: “That can be your headline: ‘Waterparks say new music soon’.”
Knight also spoke about taking a break from social media, crying on stage at O2 Academy Brixton and how he’s going to make his first million if touring doesn’t come back soon. Here’s five things we learned from Waterparks’ In Conversation interview.
Waterparks’ Fandom: Live In The UK is more ambitious than your average concert film
Awsten Knight loves concert films. Growing up he would watch My Chemical Romance’s Life On The Murder Scene, Panic! At The Disco’s Live In Denver, Blink-182’s The Mark, Tom and Travis Show and Taking Back Sunday’s Louder Now Part 2 religiously (“I thought they were all so cool and I wanted to know the bands so badly,” he says).
Knight wants Waterparks’ Fandom: Live In The UK to break new ground. “When I was thinking about ours, I knew it had to be different otherwise we’re just doing the same thing as everyone else. I wanted it to be a bigger experience than just someone filming a live set, because you can already see that on YouTube and who cares about that?
“I wanted it to be IMAX-huge, where every song was in its own world. It’s basically an hour and a half of back-to-back music videos.”
It’s been a struggle to keep the inspiration fresh during lockdown
Being stuck at home for most of this year has influenced the way Knight has been writing. While there’s been no shortage of new music (“there’s not really a scenario in which I’m like sitting here and not doing something), it has been a challenge to cover the breadth of subjects that Waterparks normally do. Before the release of ‘Fandom’ back in October 2019 the band scrapped ‘Friendly Reminder’, an album that dealt with the emotional fallout from Knight’s break-up. “The world’s so big: there’s so much more to be depressed over than that break-up,” he told us at the time.
Rather than being in the zone of making music to play in big venues, Knight has instead been messing around with “more chill stuff. The environment you’re in definitely dictates what you make.”
So he’s been trying to spice it up: “It’s like Groundhog Day. Last night I switched my pillows to the foot of my bed just to see what happened. I’m desperate for any drop of new stimulation because when you experience the same thing every day, it’s tough to diversify. There’s no way I’m going to use a bunch of songs that are all about the same thing. There have been a lot of creations during lockdown, but I’m not sure what’s going to come out from it.”
Awsten is sitting on a lot of new music — but we’re not getting a Waterparks album just yet
“There’s definitely some stuff that I want out there sooner [rather] than later,” promises Knight. With a UK headline tour pencilled in for June 2021, the band are going to have new music out by then — but plans for a full-length record are still up in the air.
“You have to be a little competitive with music,” he says. “I want to make the most unique thing, so you have to decide what you want to say and how you want to push the genre forward as a whole. Theoretically we could drop seven, eight albums’ worth of music today, but an album won’t come out if I don’t think it’s better than ‘Fandom’. We’re not there yet, but we’re definitely getting there.”
Waterparks’ new song ‘Lowkey As Hell’ is about everything that’s happened in the past year
The lyrics of this spiky, anxious anthem “came out as word vomit. I think I wrote that song in 15 minutes. It’s a general overview of how we’ve been doing since ‘Fandom’ came out. I don’t do a lot of reflecting, but I’m trying to be better about that and that’s what that song is.”
With lyrics like “what’s the point of being great if I’m great alone?” and “I’ll probably die in my apartment I couldn’t afford last year,” the track paints a worrying picture. “Man, what is okay right now?” asks Knight in return when we check if he’s doing OK. “It’s hard during all this to recognise the good things, and I was being a little drama queen about it.”
During a self-enforced break from social media, Waterparks’ fanbase left plenty of nice messages on Knight’s Instagram, giving him a reason to smile when he returned. That inspired the sappy chorus of togetherness that sees Knight sing: “If you need me now, I’ll be there somehow / I’ll pick you up, we can ride”.
If touring doesn’t come back soon, Awsten’s got a great business idea
Waterparks are hopefully coming back to the UK next summer to play some of their biggest-ever shows at venues like London’s O2 Academy Brixton. If it sells out, Knight is already predicting there’ll be “15 minutes of crying and FaceTiming my parents in place of the usual acoustic portion of the set”.
But if coronavirus is still spoiling our fun by then, he’s got a bunch of ideas ready to take to Shark Tank, the US version of Dragon’s Den.
“I need some science nerds to figure out how it works because that’s not my job, but what about cat litter that has some acidic properties so it dissolves the shit?” he ponders. “Obviously it needs to be slow-working so you don’t burn the cat.” It’s nice to have dreams.
Waterparks’ Fandom: Live In The UK is out on December 18.