waterparks issue 401 awsten knight interview
[Photo by Ashley Osborn]
Features

Awsten Knight says if ‘Greatest Hits’ hasn’t grown on you yet, it will

January 28, 2022
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Waterparks are dropping hints that new music is on the way. On January 18, frontman Awsten Knight posted a link to a blank pre-save, identified in the link only as “tbd.”

Now, the band have posted a bright red image containing the word “ALRIGHT.” The post has invited speculation about whether the band are launching a new era, as well as about how soon we might expect something big from the band.

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In December, Knight caught up with Alternative Press for issue #401. He chronicled the band’s year and also revealed the growth that might soon be coming to fruition. During the conversation, he revealed how he has grown, both mentally and physically (“There’s so many different kinds of cardio. It’s so hard to prepare,” Knight explains). Read the full interview below.

It’s not a typo — Waterparks changed the name of the closing track on their album Greatest Hits to match a fan’s tattoo, which incorrectly added a word. It’s now called “See You In In The Future,” wherever you stream music. Frontman Awsten Knight tweeted, “HEY I SAW YOUR TATTOO AND FIGURED THE LEAST WE CAN DO IS CHANGE THE SONG TITLE FOR U.” Knight had requested the change as soon as he saw the tattoo but didn’t know how long it would take to go into effect. “I saw the timeline going off, and I was like, ‘Oh fuck!’” he says. “I had just woken up, and I had to make posts.” Knight doesn’t know if he’ll change it back anytime soon. He showed the amended song title to drummer Otto Wood, who had also just woken up. “He’s like, ‘We’re gonna change it back?’ and I’m like, ‘Chill!’ So we’ll see how it goes,” Knight says.

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Like the title of the track in question — one “in” or two — Knight tends to look forward instead of reflecting on the past. “I’m pretty bad at it,” he confesses. “It kind of takes me a while to do it. I can’t really think about a tour, or even a rollout or album cycle or whatever, until it’s done.”

Tour life doesn’t give him much time to think about what’s happened. When asked about the release of Greatest Hits six months after the fact, Knight responds, “I haven’t really looked back yet. It’s just been go, go, go.” But it sums up the band’s 2021. After dropping Greatest Hits in May — to which Knight gives the title “my favorite album to come out this year” — the band hit the road, doing in-stores, headlining The Pit Stage at Reading and Leeds in the U.K., on top of their own tour. The frontman also found time in 2021 to launch his own clothing line, hii def, and the band have recently seen their 2019 single “Turbulent” take off on TikTok. 

Greatest Hits is an album that the more you listen to it, and the more you know about it or you learn about it from reading your interviews, the more you get out of it as a listener. Now that people have had a good five to six months to sit with it, looking at reactions online, does it feel like people are getting it?

It does actually. I try not to look at Twitter too much, but anytime I go on, as far as the replies go, I see at least one or two being like, “I didn’t really like ‘LIKE IT’ or ‘Magnetic’ or whatever at first.” And then they’re like, “But that song fucking slams! Oh, my God!”

I knew for some people, it was gonna grow on them. Because some of it’s a little left-of-center for what we normally do. I know these songs are fucking dope. They’re crazy, and the production is nuts. I know exactly what went into it because I made half of it. I know how cool this is. I just think sometimes it’s gonna take some people a little bit to catch up, and I’m seeing that online every day. [Laughs.]

Has the process of making Greatest Hits, releasing it and touring on it changed the way you approach music? I guess it always changes.

Yeah, it always changes. I think, this time, I had to be a lot more involved, especially because we couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. I was like, “Well, if I’m not this involved, it’s not gonna happen.”

I’ve always been a producer basically, in the way of, “I need it to sound like this. This sound here, not those sounds…” But actually, this one kind of forced me to be the guy sitting there making the stuff. Where normally, I could be like, “Make it sound like ‘whoo!’ or crystals or whatever,” I had to be the guy being like, “OK, how do I make this shit sound like ‘whoo?’” [Laughs.]

Do you want to do more producing in the future?

No. I mean, I will [Laughs.] Because it’s fun to make demos, and I like having them. When a song only exists on your phone, it’s a really funny feeling. I’ve said before: It’s like an inside joke with yourself. Where you’re like, “Oh, my God, it’s this thing.” And you’re like, “Ooh, no one in the world knows it exists but me!” And it’s a fun feeling. But oh, my God. I’m not a professional. [Laughs.] There were so many times where I was just like, “I fucking hate my computer. Oh, my God. Why does it keep shutting down while I’m trying to record?” Or, “Why does this vocal keep skipping whenever I try and track it?”

Some of those nights where I was trying to record, I cannot describe how frustrated I was getting just at the technological side of it. Because I do enjoy it when everything works, but there’s rarely a time when you’re not troubleshooting. Even when I’m with Zakk [Cervini], our normal producer guy that I work with on everything, there’s times where he’s like, “Ah fuck, Pro Tools is restarting. I gotta do this,” or “I gotta update this.” He actually knows what he’s doing. Me? That happens, I’m just like, “Fuck!”

Which songs have been going over really well live?

“Magnetic” went really well. “See You In The Future” went really well. “Numb,” “Violet!” Actually, “Fuzzy” went really well — better than I thought it would. “Paranoid,” of course. “LIKE IT” was fun.

There’s not constant crowdsurfing to certain ones, but it’s also a matter of realizing that’s not the point of those songs. There’s not going to be a pit to “Snow Globe.” [Laughs.] That’s how we gauge things. We’re like, “What’s fun to watch for us?” But there are certain ones, like that one for example, where we’re like, “Well, we should play it because it fucking bangs.” But that’s just one where we can’t expect the crowd to do too much.

Outside of music, you’ve also started releasing clothing, and that’s something you’ve been wanting to do for a while. How did it feel finally getting to do that? 

It’s been so good. Because I’ve been working on it for a couple of years now. It just took so long to get everything going, especially with everything slowed down. A lot of factories shut down. A lot of people are not doing stuff. So I was like, “Fuck,” but it gave me more time to learn about clothing and production and stuff like that. I think all of that is making the pieces come out better, too. I don’t think there’s been an item that’s taken more than three minutes to sell out, so I’m just like, “Holy shit!” [Laughs.]

Going back to music, I wanted to talk to you about TikTok. You’ve talked about how important it is for music, and you even dropped a little sneak peek of “Numb” on there. Now “Turbulent”’s gone viral, which is your second song to go viral on TikTok.

It’s so nuts. Someone from Hopeless [Records], who we put FANDOM out on, hit me [up], and they were like, “Hey, ‘Turbulent’’s kind of going off.” I’m like, “That’s cool.” They were like, “Would you want to do anything for it?” I’m like, “Yeah.” [I] started making posts for it, and all of them were just going way up. Then tons of people started doing it… Then the streaming went up. It’s so great. Nothing else in the world can do that for your music.

TikTok has had such an impact on music that’s not recent, that hasn’t come out within the last year, which is really interesting.

It is. I think it’s really cool when things can go off on there, but I hate feeling like something is made for TikTok. That’s when it bums me out.

Has your relationship to TikTok or the way you feel about it changed in the past year?

In the past year, not really, because I saw the power of it during FANDOM, and I was just like, “Holy shit.” Whenever I first heard about it, I was like, “No” ’cause I thought it was just like another Musical.ly type thing. 

Growing on Instagram is very hard now. It used to be fucking super easy. With the way they run it now, no one sees anything… By comparison, every time I post a TikTok, there are so many people in the comments that are like, “Oh, I never heard this. Dope!” And if I post, I immediately get like 500 more followers. I’m just like, “How?” [Laughs.] It feels fake. It’s so easy to do well on. Nothing is doing what TikTok is doing for music right now — in a positive way.

I was reading an interview you did for V Man. I thought you had a really interesting quote: “Nostalgia is poison for art.” In the last year, people have been having the nostalgia conversation, whether it’s “pop punk is coming back” or even with new music, a lot of it is referencing older music. How do you resist that when it’s coming from all these different places?

I think as long as you have a very clear idea of what you want to do and a clear idea of what you don’t want to do, it’s not way too hard to avoid. I think naturally, it’ll work its way in as an influence. We all grew up listening to Good Charlotte and blink and all this stuff or watching TRL. It’s gonna be part of the DNA. At this point, I just want to make the coolest shit possible. I don’t fight too hard to bury influences that are built in.

I just think it’s cool to grow outward. I love drum-and-bass type stuff. I love weird electronic stuff. I love how jazzy chords make me feel. Anything we can do to bring all of that in and implement it in a way that it hasn’t been formatted, I think that’s the answer. Rather than being like, “No, no, no. No power chords. No, no!” [Laughs.] I think it’s just a matter of doing what feels natural and doing it as cool as possible and not making art for the sake of chasing a certain trend, but also not making art for the sake of running away from it.

Were there any low points this year?

So many! [Laughs.] But I think that’s just being an artist. You have those days where you just fucking hate what you’re doing or you question it all. At bare minimum, you question it all and doubt shit, and especially being so home and secluded, you extra question everything. You make some stuff, [and] you’re like, “Fuck yeah!” You have the “Snow Globe” demo in the car, and you’re like, “This is sick.” Then you sit on it for a few months, and you’re like, “Is this sick?” Every day has those. Of course, there’s always setbacks or weird little things you have to deal with, especially when you tend to micromanage a little bit like I do. But I think the good outweighs the bad. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t do it.

Did you learn anything about yourself this year?

I learned that there’s different kinds of cardio. [Laughs.] I thought I’d be fine from riding my bike. I’m like, “Yeah, I’m good.” Then I started playing tennis, and I was just like, “Oh, fuck! My body is trash.” Then I got good at that. Getting back and playing shows and singing and yelling and running back and forth a lot, I’m like, “Oh, God.” There’s so many different kinds of cardio. It’s so hard to prepare. I learned a lot about clothing. I had to learn a lot about production last year. Learning how to control your brain is one that’s always happening. So that’s been a big one. Because I think if you can control your brain, you can control anything in your life.

Have you learned anything specifically that’s helped you with controlling your brain?

I’ve got two therapists, for different sides of things. I think one of the big things that I’m trying to implement more is basically just stepping outside of yourself and being like, “OK, if I worry about this thing for the next six hours, will that change the end result that I get? Will worrying and this anxiousness and all of that — will that remotely, possibly change any outcome?” And the answer is, “No, it just isn’t.” I think that trying to step outside yourself and assess the situation and think about it in those terms, you’ll just have a less anxious life. It’s very hard to do because when you’re in stuff and stuff is happening, and especially if it’s personal, it’s so hard to master that situation and be like, “Well, hey, wait for the outcome.” And your brain’s like, “No!” [Laughs.] I think that’s been a really big one that I’m working on.

How do you feel you, as a person, have grown or changed in the last year?

I think I’ve gotten better at my brain. I think I’ve chilled out. There’s certain things I used to see, in music or art or whatever, that would just piss me off. I realized, if I saw some really dumb shit where I was just like, “God, they fucking suck. This is so stupid. Why do people like this shit?” it would piss me off for an afternoon, and then looking back, I’d be like, “Man, I could have used that afternoon to make something or do something instead of [being] pissed off.” Because now, a week later, I could have had a new song done, and instead, I spent that day being pissed at something that doesn’t even affect me. So I’ve gotten better at that. Now, if I see something, I’m just like, “Huh.” Or even if someone, like a friend, comes to me and is like, “Dude, look at this stupid bullshit,” I’m just like, “Looks like he’s having fun.” And you just kind of float by it.

Written by Aliya Chaudhry