Alternative rock band Waterparks isn’t afraid to take a risk — as long as trashing a nearly completed album in favor of starting over is considered a risk.
“Just because you put work into something doesn’t mean it needs to be the final thing,” frontman Awsten Knight said in an interview with The Phoenix. “If it’s not right, it’s not right. … I wouldn’t want to be in 2020 singing about shit I was mad about in 2017.”
With a burst of instrumental layering, a Rihanna reference tucked into alt-rock riffs and a bubblegum pop chorus all in the first three songs, “FANDOM,” released Oct. 11, isn’t the album where Waterparks plays it safe. The album jumps from song to song, creating intentional confusion for the listener.
“It’s the process of grieving for me, which is a very back-and-forth loopy process and I wanted the tracklist to help reflect that concept,” Knight said. “I wanted it to feel really manic and whatever is being felt, I want it to be very convincing and confident and powerful.”
The fans who filled The Vic Theatre (3145 N. Sheffield Ave.) Nov. 29 seemed convinced as they jumped on queue. They screamed out the lyrics, were (mostly) quiet upon request and high energy tracks such as “War Crimes” stirred them into a mosh pit.
“War Crimes” sits as a deep cut on the album — it wasn’t a single, it isn’t at the top of the band’s Spotify page and sonically it’s a little all over the place. But it works.
“At first it was like the equivalent of ‘Am I rambling right now?’ but in song form,” Knight said.
The song takes on an intense exterior with commanding percussion from drummer Otto Wood and the impending relentlessness of a repetitive synth. A brief pre-chorus mellows out into dreamy keys and transitions into a bop of a chorus where a melodic guitar from guitarist Geoff Wigington softens the intensity of the verses. Top it off with angry screaming and, on paper, it’s not a song that should sound cohesive.
Knight said his continuity concerns were put to rest when he played the recording for Benji and Joel Madden, founding members of alt-rock band Good Charlotte and Waterparks’ managers. He said they loved the track, adding that it was Joel’s favorite.
“I think people forget that listeners and fans also just like cool shit,” Knight said. “They don’t necessarily need to be fed verse, chorus, verse, chorus, chorus, chorus. There’s nothing wrong with that — I’m all about pop structure … but it’s also okay to go off and do some wild shit.”
That love for pop music shines through in single “Dream Boy.” With an infectious hook and no shortage of tamborine, it fits beautifully amid radio singles, but those all-too-sweet expectations grow to be too much as Knight sings, “Build-A-Boy, pick my pieces.”
The expectations in part come from the singer’s Twitter account where he invites Elon Musk to a show, wishes Post Malone a nice evening and wonders if Captain Underpants is anime. The all-caps tweets are sent out to more than 100 thousand followers who might feel as if they’ve been given an insight into Knight’s brain.
“It’s one of the ways people feel so close to me, feel as invested is because they see all [my tweets] and they feel like they might know me,” Knight said. “We probably wouldn’t be here, at least to this capacity, if it wasn’t for my online presence.”
But for Knight it comes at a cost.
“To be respected you kind of have to appeal to people who might not give you a chance if they see an all-caps tweet,” Knight said.
He’s not ready to retire from Twitter quite yet, but joked that when he does it “will be so nice because the internet is terrible anyway.”
Until then, he’ll be hyping up his own band — specifically “High Definition,” a single off “FANDOM.” Knight said the slow, dreamy, confessional track incorporates his favorite sonic elements.
“You can make your own favorite song,” Knight said. “Granted that’s not the kind of thing I say out loud often because it sounds like an asshole thing but … unless you’re just not fully doing your job, it’s weird to pretend you’re not all about your shit.”
“FANDOM” is available on all streaming platforms.