For as much as Waterparks is a genre-busting collective of three friends who play music, hang out, and constantly flip the script, Waterparks really represents a bigger, dare we say, movement. The Houston trio— Awsten Knight [vocals, guitar], Otto Wood [drums], and Geoff Wigington [guitar]—have unassumingly brought vibrancy back to rock. (The only thing bolder than their melodies is whatever hair dye Awsten opted for this week!) Their strange magnetic pull has attracted a growing cohort of devoted fans who pack sold out shows, stream their songs like crazy, and have even elevated them to multiple Billboard charts as they’ve also headlined the Sad Summer Festival and accompanied My Chemical Romance on a sold out arena tour.
However, the next era begins with the band’s fifth full-length and debut album for Fueled By Ramen, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, and even more adventures…
“Waterparks is so much fucking bigger than Otto, Geoff, and me,” muses Awsten. “However, it wouldn’t be Waterparks without the fans at the shows. It wouldn’t be Waterparks without the presence online. It wouldn’t be Waterparks without this awesome community. There are so many people who are a big part of this. It has completely evolved from where it started, and it feels massive to me. I’m lucky enough to guide it.”
Waterparks might just be the biggest band of tomorrow. To understand why, you have to go back to the beginning. Their 2011 formation cemented the union of three distinct personalities. Raised somewhere in between the iPod generation and the first wave of social media, Awsten, Otto, and Geoff occupied a singular creative crossroads. A glance at Otto’s listening history would span the likes of Every Time I Die and Balance & Composure, while Geoff found inspiration in crossover juggernauts such as Linkin Park. Awsten’s tastes covered the gamut from Donald Glover and One Direction, to Ke$ha (and everything else in between).
Following their launch, the group bubbled up with a famed one-off Houston appearance on 2013’s Warped Tour—which they eventually shined on for its entirety during 2016. It’s fitting they popped off on the same stage that also supported category-defiant disruptors a la Eminem, Deftones, Katy Perry, and more early on. With eye-catching, often meme-able music videos and a sound somewhere between alternative, pop, electronic, and rock spiced up with a little hip-hop attitude and even R&B vocal acrobatics, Waterparks fittingly defied categorization themselves and ushered in a new era of “alternative,” living up to the definition of the word for the 2020’s, speaking to not only music but also total cultural immersion with fashion, unforgettable videos, and a boundary-breaking culture.
They reached unprecedented heights with 2021’s Greatest Hits. Don’t let that title fool you—it didn’t collect their best-performing songs at a discounted price, but it did showcase their best material to date. As such, it cracked the Billboard Top 200 and landed in the Top 10 of the Top Alternative Albums Chart and Top Rock Albums Chart. In the wake of its release, they impressively eclipsed half-a-billion streams thus far. In addition to coverage from Rolling Stone, MTV, Kerrang!, and Alternative Press, they graced the covers of V Magazine and Upset Magazine (who also awarded the record a “five-out-of-five star” perfect score). Perhaps, NME summed it up best though, “Instead of celebrating the past, ‘Greatest Hits’ is opening the door to what comes next.” Along the way, they sold out various headline tours. 2022 saw the band sign to Fueled By Ramen and turn the page on a new chapter in 2023 with INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.
“Whereas I saw Greatest Hits as a dark indoor album, I see this body of work as a light outdoor album,” he reveals. “There’s a bright vibe with very high energy to it. So much of what we do is about how it’s going to be experienced by the community. We did a lot of programming on the last record. I wanted to get more tactile and touch shit now,” he laughs. “I needed to hold a guitar and have the strings vibrating on my fingers.”
That brings us to the first single “FUNERAL GREY.” Powered by four different guitars (including a toy guitar for the main riff), the track swings like a wrecking ball from a buoyant verse into a distortion-lifted hyper-hypnotic hook, “She wore a sweater in summer weather. She wore a sweater. It was FUNERAL GREY!”
“This is—and I fucking hate the term—more love-driven,” he confesses. “It’s a reintroduction, and it’s more about other people than just me. When I wrote the song, I was walking around [collaborator] Julian [Bunetta]’s neighborhood. I was laughing, because it looked so haunted—like something out of an M. Night Shyamalan movie. I thought, ‘If this was an Instagram filter, it would be ‘Funeral Grey’.’ It’s got a dark title, but I love how bright it sounds. To me, that’s Waterparks.”
On its heels, they served up the introspective, infectious, and irresistible single “SELF-SABOTAGE.” Like listening to an internal dialogue, airy verses culminate with a self-effacing query, “What the fuck is wrong with me?” Meanwhile, snappy guitars and fuzzy electronics underline the manically catchy hook highlighted by Awsten’s wild sky-high register. It’s yet another illustration of the boys’ uncanny knack for the unpredictable. Speaking of “FUCK ABOUT IT” [feat. blackbear] only further showcased their progression with its sticky hooks and artful vibe curation as it initially reeled in over 10 million streams (and counting).
Following “ST*RFUCKER,” INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY really kicks into high gear with “REAL SUPER DARK.” Its heavy catharsis manifests through jarring electronics, guttural screams, and an unexpectedly catchy chant. Meanwhile, “BRAINWASHED” depicts the ups and downs of infatuation against a soundtrack of handclaps and a sunny guitar riff that wouldn’t be out of place in your favorite turn-of-the-century summer comedy. Awsten groans, “My day’s fucked until you wanna text back,” before trying to break the spell, “Now, I’m having the same thoughts, can’t stop thinking you’ve got me brainwashed…why do I think you’re so cool?” The ride comes to a close with “A NIGHT ON EARTH.” A rush of hyperpop-style production barely relents long enough for the singer to proclaim, “Now Jesus hates my guts. It’s getting personal,” before one last blast of apocalyptically catchy melody.
There’s something for everyone here. As always, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY is meant for the people comprising this greater movement—like everything Waterparks do.
“When you listen to us, I just want you to feel good,” Awsten leaves off. “It’s bouncy shit. Even if it’s aggressive, it’s enthusiastic. There’s a lot of energy behind this. I try to make music that tingles people’s fucking brains, which is what my favorite music does for me.”