Waterparks are like the dark Disney World for adults and music fans. Constructed by vibrantly saturated colors that burst from each album cover and stage setup to every video shoot and Awsten Knight’s color-coordinated hairstyles, the group’s in-your-face attitude and lightheartedness blanket the insecurities and questioning of reality via a fantastical pop sensation. While the band have taken a more unorthodox approach to what would typically be considered “concept albums,” the interconnected emotions and lyrical context across each release proves otherwise. “With the concept of Greatest Hits, there are so many directions that it could go,” Knight says. “Conceptually, I wanted it to be a combination of a bunch of different eras that people never got or that haven’t happened yet.” 

On what will be appropriately dubbed their greatest hits based solely on the strength behind each song, Waterparks’ fourth LP, Greatest Hits, spans 17 tracks, each defying the group’s previous releases. While their debut album may not conceptually stand against their forthcoming release, that’s not their intention. Listening across their discography, however, Knight and co. have conceived a crystal-clear throughline, connecting Double Dare to Greatest Hits.

Waterparks aren’t only helping to shape the future of alternative music—they quite inevitablyAre the future of music. Dating back to the trio’s debut full-length, Knight, Otto Wood and Geoff Wigington have gone beyond the constructs of being musicians to create an immersive world. “I want it to have cooler merch than everybody so you can wear it,” Knight says. “I want you to be able to go to a show and experience it. I want it to be a full experience of every sense.”

While the last five-and-a-half years have seen Waterparks evolve from alt-pop darlings to God’s Favorite Boy Band, Greatest Hits will surely skyrocket the group into the stratosphere. Despite music and fan connectivity being at the core of their success, Knight divulges into their fashion choices, cultural influences, album motifs, growth and production on the album that got Waterparks to where they are today. They may be among the glow-in-the-dark stars, but they’re exactly where they’re supposed to be.


ZAKK CERVINI: First off, I just want to start with this. This is your first album that you are listed as a producer. That’s something that I see the world moving toward and something that I think is really cool, especially in this day and age. I just feel like the rate at which music is coming out right now, if your band are capable of writing and producing their own songs to a professional degree, it’s like a superpower. You don’t really need to depend on anyone, and I’m not saying that it’s totally necessary, but it’s a huge advantage. I feel like if you can’t do that in this day and age or if you’re not moving toward being able to do that, it could be challenging to keep up with other bands. Certain bands, even if they’re not the best bands or whatever, if they’re professionals and they’re able to make their own music and get it out there and deliver something that’s cool, they are going to win or have at least a leg up on a lot of other people.

An idiot that makes a ton of output is still going to beat a genius that’s stuck and making nothing.

Yes, I agree.

And that’s a problem with bands because bands have a much slower output than almost any other artist of any other genre. You don’t see Drake sitting on an album and riding it out for two years, then dropping a deluxe edition. That’s the speed that so many bands work at. You have to be able to keep up with the general landscape, and since so many people are making such dope shit out of their bedrooms and stuff now, it’s becoming more and more of a necessity. There are always exceptions to every rule. There’s always going to be those artists that can put out an album every five years, like a Frank Ocean type.

But it’s such a huge advantage to be able to do that. I learned that really early. That’s why I started trying to learn. I started making demos for us in like 2014 after I’d be begging people who just don’t care that much back in Houston for any kind of time to be able to go to their fucking mom’s garage and record some songs. They’re like, “Yeah, well, I’m busy.” The more self-sufficient you are, every extra step you have makes you that much taller. It’s those superpowers.

Totally, 100%. I’m a huge advocate of bands producing themselves. I mean, you’ve always been doing it. You’ve always been a producer. Producing isn’t just being on the computer. You’ve just been growing and growing over the past couple of years, and you’re going to continue to grow. But it just got to this point where when we were making this album, I thought it wouldn’t make sense to not have you as a co-producer with me. And if we’re co-producing this album, then we’re a team, and it’s not all on me, and it’s not all on you. So many bands have really learned how to produce themselves during COVID out of necessity because they couldn’t get into a studio with a producer. And those are the bands that are succeeding right now. I’m just saying having the ability to—if you’re on a desert island —to be able to do it by yourself is absolutely invaluable. 

I think so, too. It’s funny you say that [about] the desert island thing because when you’re quarantined in, that’s what an apartment fucking feels like. When you can’t go anywhere, you can’t see people, this is basically a desert island. To your point of feeling like a team, I 100% agree with that. I already had this mentality of, “I don’t want to be more in my own shit. I don’t want to be more reclusive. I want to be more collaborative.” And I think this helped that so much because I not only had that mentality with it, but when we actually could get together, I was like, “Oh, my God, thank God. Hey, by the way, this right here and this right here.” I’ve been fucking sitting with it like a crazy person. It’s more rewarding to have it as a team effort, and it also is just better for the process.

And that’s another skill that you mentioned—being able to collaborate is a skill in itself. With this album, there are certain songs we made from scratch, [and] there are certain songs that you demoed out and that we completely flipped on their head and changed the arrangement [or] changed a key. It’s a different thing. There are other songs that you wrote and demoed that we barely changed at all. We tried everything, and I think at the end of the day, whatever was best for the song ended up happening. Your album has the full scope of songs: songs we made from scratch, songs that we changed a lot and songs that you basically made completely on your own. That’s another part of producing, too, is knowing when to not touch something. I would say that can be even more important than knowing how to do something, knowing when not to speak or knowing when not to change a sound. Knowing when not to change the vibe is really important. That’s something that I’m constantly learning and growing with.

You’re good about that. And the thing is, I think a lot of producers won’t see it that way because a lot of producers bring ego into it. That’s one thing with you: There is not fucking one ounce of weird ego shit going on. And I think that’s what helps things because you genuinely just want what’s best for a song, and it’s not about like, “But how do I make sure it has a Zakk Cervini touch?” It winds up going in that way anyway. When a mix is fucking slamming from anybody, not even just us, sometimes I’ll be like, “Yo, Zakk did that shit.” It’s the equivalent of hearing an Eric Valentine mix when you’re younger.

My mentality with producing is it has to be a safe space, and we have to be able to get personal with each other, and you have to be able to be vulnerable and feel safe around the environment that you’re in. Otherwise, there’s no way that you’re going to make your best shit. I was with an artist the other day, and we were telling some stories, and she was like, “Would you ever write a tell-all when you’re done producing someday?” And I was like, “No, because that’s completely against what I’m about.” I’m not out here to expose someone’s personal problems or talk about if this person was a shitty person or that kind of thing. That can all stay in the room, in this sacred chamber of the studio, and it doesn’t leave. 

It’s like doctor-patient confidentiality. I never thought about that.

That’s not my motive. I want you to be able to say what you’re scared to say around me, and if it sucks, that’s totally fine, too. But usually, it’s probably not going to. I’m super proud of you for producing this record, and it was awesome.

I’m looking at the tracklist right now. There are so many fucking just dope things. One of the craziest things to me was that even though there are so many demos for this, “Just Kidding,” “The Secret Life Of Me” and “Crying Over It All” were all made in the same two days. We made so much dope shit so fast, and then we left for the FANDOM tour, came back and it was locked down immediately. But it was like, “Damn, dude.” I’ve thought about this before, and I wonder what else would have come out if we did a week during that. That was one of the most productive as far as output that was kept. I know some people go into studios, and they’re able to make five songs in a day or whatever, [but] that’s not how I work. And I don’t think you work like that. I think you’re capable—you could if you wanted to.
We’ve done that a few times, though, when we’re in a good rhythm, like back in the day when we made “Easy To Hate.” It was the first song we made, and we made a ton of songs that week. [They] didn’t end up seeing the light of day for whatever reason, but they were good, and we did it. We did a ton of stuff that week.

Whenever the next thing is, I want us to go back to Houston.

You played me a bunch of stuff that wound up becoming the album, and one of them was “Snow Globe.” That’s a song, too, that we tried so much different stuff on, and a lot of the different stuff we tried ended up making it onto it. But most of the bones in the drum sounds and a lot of the vocals and a lot of the synths and stuff, most of that stuff remained intact from your initial demo. We tried to shoot holes in it so many times, and we just kept coming back to the original because it was sick.

I feel like “Snow Globe” is one of the ones that stayed mostly the same. We had so many other production things. We’d listen and go, “This is cool.” Then we’d look at each other, and we’re like, “Vibe’s gone though.” Even when we were making the final thing, I was like, “Something’s not right.” I felt like such an idiot. I was like, “Zakk, listen for this frequency. It’s a lower thing that’s missing. I feel like we have it in the mid. But like, where’s the lower?” And we’re listening in the car and in headphones. We had to bring back demo mastering type shit on it, too

“Numb” changed pretty substantially, in my opinion. We switched the chorus up slightly and then the verse. The verse production became different, and then obviously, the outro is a different thing, too.

Numb” we dressed up nicely. “Numb” showed up in one of those tuxedo T-shirts that middle schoolers wear, and we sent [the song] out there in a full Grammy outfit.

That was a happy accident because we were messing around in the studio, and I accidentally played it at half speed, and you were like, “We got to do that for the outro. We got to just make the outro half speed, pitched down, heavy.” And I was like, “That’s tight.” It’s almost like a metal thing or an old-school hip-hop thing where they would just pitch the beat down and slow it down.

Very Houston, just saying. And then I took a phone video of it, and I dragged it into REAPER at home afterward, and I put wind chimes over it. Then I remember we got together, and I was like, “CASH REGISTER, THUNDER, HORN,” but like a mystery horn, like fedora guy solving a mystery.

This is stuff only you can think of, and that’s how I know we’re in a good spot with a song when you start being [like], “We need to put a dog barking here, or we need to put glass breaking here.” I’m like, “OK, we’re getting close on this.” And we need the extra little things to make it pop. You know that song “Sorry” by Justin Bieber? I love that song, but there are spots, for instance, in the verse, there’s just a random scream that happens. That song would probably still be a hit without that, but that makes the song.

Yeah, you already made the cake. Add the icing.

Violet! was another one that the first time I heard it, I loved that song.

I remember that being one of your initial favorites.

I love that song because it feels so good and so happy-go-lucky. And then when you read the lyrics, it’s pretty dark. That was another one, too, where it started off so poppy. I was like, “Maybe we should potentially bring the rock band into it more to juxtapose it a little bit even though the lyrics are already juxtaposed.” I really love the way that one turned out. 

That one has maybe the most instant replay value for me. When that one finishes and it loops, I don’t change it to another one. I’m like, “I can do this again.” It’s so nice on the switch-up in the chorus, dude.

There are so many cool guitar and synth ambient textures in that song. I really love everything about that—the way we produced it, the message and the melodies. Great song, great guitar solo. Another interesting one was “Fuzzy.” That one we worked on throughout the entire process of making this album. We made this album over many months. We didn’t sit down and lock down for a month. 

I don’t prefer that. I love how the album came out, but I don’t think I would want to do that process again. I like being in the zone for a month-and-a-half.

Because of COVID and the way things were and the studio being closed, it had to be that way, which was not ideal. 

I know it had to be for the circumstances. When it comes time to do another thing, I definitely want to be in a zone and live in it, as opposed to constant in and out. It’s like creative blue balls. [Laughs.] 

That being said, I’m happy that we did it because the album wouldn’t be the same without it. “Fuzzy” was one that we totally worked on and rearranged and made new sections and changed the production so many times throughout the process.

That one and “Magnetic” freaked you out the most.

“See You In The Future.” is another song that we started the vibe very briefly together in the studio.

I have that voice memo. I was on the bus in Europe, and this was 2018. I’ve been wanting to make a thing with that for so long. So we got to the 808s.

The other great thing about this album, too, and the thing that you’ve created for your band and your world as a whole is that you’ve created this sound and this way of making songs where there aren’t really any rules. Only you can do it. It can’t be replicated by anyone else. No one else sounds like Waterparks, and no one else really can sound like Waterparks. It just wouldn’t work because of the way you’ve built yourself. And that’s one of the hallmarks of a great artist. Your band don’t sound like a derivative of anything, and no other band sound like your band.

That’s the goal, man. That’s what I strive for. That’s not to put anybody else down. It’d be weird if anybody that we came up with did something like “Fuzzy” or “Snow Globe” or “Secret Life” or “Magnetic” or “Ice Bath” or even “See You In The Future.” It’d be odd if any of our peers did something like that. That was always such a thing from the top. There needs to be an insane variety so we can always do everything. This album was definitely a fucking stretch.

This album is a stretch, for sure. The other cool thing about this album, just because of how diverse and how boundary-pushing it is, is that it opens the door for your band more than it pigeonholes you into anything. You can put out songs that span so many different genres, and it will all make sense. It has so many different flavors of things, and it all makes sense. And that’s only going to allow your band to try more and more things. And your band have an identity. I wouldn’t say it’s a rare thing. It’s just really hard to achieve that and achieve an identity that you are also happy with.

Even if you’re super confident when you start putting out songs, people are finally hearing it because when we made this stuff, less than 10 people in the entire world were hearing these things. When it all finally goes out, I think there’s always going to be a little bit of anxiousness, no matter what. And you know, there’s always going to be dumb people or pop-punk Reddit people that are like, “Shit sucks!” No matter what it is, I know people say opinions are opinions, but their opinions are wrong. [Laughs.] 


[ Photo By Ashley Osborn]


DE’WAYNE: These are all really great songs. I’m really excited for you guys to put it out, and I’ve been blessed to be able to hear it from an early stage.

Well, you’re on “Fuzzy,” you’re on “LIKE IT,” you’re on “Paranoid,” you went on “See You In The Future.,” and I kept that in there. You’re on more songs than anybody.

Even having Mikey Way, it’s insane, bro. How does [it] feel to just have your friends and people who you look up to on the record?

That’s the only way it could be. Even if there’s dope people around or whatever, if I don’t know them [or] if I’m not a fan, then it’s like, “Why are they here?” Luckily, with everybody on it, it’s both. I’m like, “We’re friends, and I’m a fan.” You can only do so much on your own. People bring such different things—everybody that did stuff on there. They have a unique touch. It wouldn’t be the same if I did it.

Do you remember your first show, not even with Waterparks, just as a band?

OK, so the first time I played with a band, it was a group of kids. I took guitar lessons for like two years, and we tried to play a show. I wasn’t even singing yet because I didn’t really want to, and I was just like, “Oh, I’ll just play guitar. That’s fine.” The girl who was singing just stopped singing and left, and then the drummer started playing the wrong beat, and it got very off, and then we just stopped. [Laughs.] And then the first show that I played, I was very nervous and self-conscious about singing for a long time. And so, for the first one, it was mostly covers, but I was playing with a couple of friends at a local spot. This is when I got up the courage to[air quotes] “be the singer” because I was like, “I don’t want to have to know anybody else.” Imagine bringing in a singer. Singers are divas, so I was like, “Fuck it, I’ll sing.” It was just that by default. But again, I’d be playing guitar, and I’d be like, [singing under breath] “A seven nation army couldn’t hold me...” I’d be shy. I’d stop, but I wouldn’t leave like the girl did. I was doing that for a while until, I think it was the drummer I was playing with—it wasn’t Otto [Wood] yet—was like, “Look, if you’re going to be the singer, you have to sing.” And I was like, “OK.” [Laughs.] 

So I started trying, and I wasn’t good, but I was doing it. Again, it was always about trying to learn shit and practice along with shit. I hope I don’t have it anywhere, but on an old Mac [on] Photo Booth, the whole thing was full of me singing along with things. And I’d listen back, and I’d be like, “Ugh” because you realize you don’t sound how you think you do. So I’d listen back and be like, “Oh shit.” And I would try again. I’d be like, “Oh, that time I did that pretty well. That was pretty cool.”

Even when we were on tour or on the road together, you would show me little clips and audio memos just to warm it up, so I love that you’re doing that shit, bro. Can I name my top five songs off the album?

Yeah, do it! I’m looking at the board right now.

[ counting on his fingers ] “Just Kidding.”

I’m nervous for that one now. People are so bummed about “Paranoid.” I saw people being sad, and I was like, “Oh shit...”

But when I hear you talk about what you’re saying on the record, I’m like, “Oh.” I love to see you go there. And they’re just like [throws arms in the air], “AHH!” I remember you showing me the first few versions of that fucking song. Yeah, “Just Kidding,” “Fuzzy.”


I always loved “Numb,” but when that dropped, I was like, “You was in your bag, bro.” You had your foot in the bag, bro. “Numb” is my shit. I know I’m fanning out right now, but I really love that one.

When that outro hits, I feel good.

That shit is insane—and the pre-choruses. You went really hard on “Numb.” I gotta put “LIKE IT” in it. 

When I heard you doing stuff over it and everything like that like [mocking DE’WAYNE], “I like it, I like it,” I was like [Gasps.], “AHH!” I thought it was mixed and varied enough, but I was definitely out here just like, “Oh shit!” 

It felt really, really good. Let me see. For my last one, I’ve got to go with either “American Graffiti” or “Low Key.” I just think “Low Key” was such a good starter to what people are going to experience with this album. I know it’s a super-chill record, but I just think your balance and your artistry on that song really shines with how GH is going to be.

“American Graffiti” is going to be a really good one live. Us trying out that one at rehearsals, especially after I figured out how to do it, I was like, “Oh, my God.” We’d record it back so we can hear it like, “Yo, we fucking kill that song.”

Do you think the world is prepared for more Waterparks and Greatest Hits?

Here’s the thing: I think I operate Waterparks, for the most part, in a selfish way. It’s like when I write songs, it’s very much about me. I’m not writing to or for other people. It just happens to be that people find ways to apply it to themselves. Especially writing Double Dare and shit, I definitely was not like, “Oh, this is going to be relatable.” But then it just wound up being that [way] because everybody feels like everything they’re going through is like they’re an alien and like nobody else in the world is feeling what they’re feeling right now. But then you put it all on an album, and everybody’s tattooing it on them and shit. And you’re like, “Oh, maybe I’m wrong.” People do know what this is, and that’s cool. Not to give a cheesy answer or whatever, but I think it makes people feel less alone with their shit when they hear somebody else gets it.

But to go back to the question of is the world ready for more, it’s more like, “Am I ready for more songs to be out?” You have to do what you’re doing for you because if you’re doing it for other people, you’re going to have peaks, [and] you’re going to have valleys and shit like that. If you’re always operating on what other people want or you try to predict what they’re ready for, you’regoing to drive yourself crazy because you’ve got to just do what you want. And if people ride with you, then that’s fucking great.


Paige Owens: In your 2019 solo cover interview with Alternative Press, you painted a graffiti wall, and you put all of these Waterparks Easter eggs onto it. How did you determine both the album title and hair era for Greatest Hits?

I knew what the album title was going to be since 2015, I think. I was just like, “That’s the title.” Sometimes you just know what it is, and that was very much the case. The thing is, with the concept of Greatest Hits, there are so many directions that it could go. Conceptually, I wanted it to be a combination of a bunch of different eras that people never got or that haven’t happened yet. Again, there’s always ideas, you know what I mean? You can go back and see me with purple hair being like, “Yeah, low key as hell.” There’s always ideas. The point of the whole multicolor thing is because blue was for Double Dare, purple was for Entertainment [and] green was for FANDOM . But with a multi-era world combination, I was like, “It’s going to have to be a multicolor thing going on.”

I wanted graffiti to be a big part of it. Obviously, there’s a song “American Graffiti,” which is named after my dad’s favorite movie. That’s why there’s always print or writing or whatever on my head because I wanted that to be a play on it. Some people have been finding it, but you can go back and look at old merch and old show setups and just old things and find the red, blue [and] yellow fucking everywhere. I knew that’s what this was going to be. Greatest Hits is all of it. It’s like designing multiple eras that people never got. For the graffiti thing, it’s cool to tie in things like the graffiti cover with AP. It’s cool to tie stuff in like that when you know what the plan is because you could be giving them something that fully pertains to FANDOM, a different era, but do it in a way that you know [what] is next.

How did you know this particular album was going to be graffiti?

Well for one, I’ve always wanted to. But shoutout [to] Benji [Madden]. I’d watch Good Charlotte videos when I was younger, and I’d be like, “Oh, my God, he’s got leopard print. That’s so cool.” And I was like, “This is the perfect excuse to do that.” I’ve also got a title list of songs that I want to make, and “American Graffiti” was on that. Because there’s always going to be a lot of ideas floating around, but sometimes you have to look at the overall concept to be like, “Does this make sense for this time?” Technically, I had the “Numb” pre-chorus back in, I guess early 2018, [when we were] dropping Entertainment. [Singing“Numb” under his breath] But the thing is, it just wasn’t time for that yet. So there’s always going to be people who are like, “How do you plan so far ahead?” It’s a matter of just always making ideas, and this is truly such a big part of it: It’s always making ideas and then picking the best time to bring them to light because that’s how tie-ins happen.

If “Numb” was written before, or at least partially, certain FANDOM things, I can write FANDOM things in relation to that and then pull it up to the future. Since this band are what I do all the fucking time, every single day, it’s just a matter of picking all of the best tie-ins, and after you do that for a year, people are like, “How did you do that?” It’s just like, “Time and a lot of things.” It’s a matter of finding the big picture and working Backward.

When you did the FANDOM album artwork, you were really involved with its creation. How involved were you with creating the Greatest Hits album artwork?

Very. So I knew I wanted it to be primary color-leaning, but the problem when you’re doing primary colors is it’s so easy to look clown-y or like Microsoft Paint. You have to find workarounds. I knew I wanted a picture of us to be on the cover, though, because everybody for their greatest hits albums, like traditional greatest hits, they’re all on the cover. So I was like, “OK, we’re on the cover.” And originally I wanted it to be close up, but one of the other ideas was like that but black and white. I was like, “It just feels so wrong with these songs to have it be black and white.”

With the red, blue and yellow, we obviously can’t do it in a traditional, straight up, just like paint bucket, Microsoft, red, blue, yellow kind of thing. It needs to be about shading. Obviously, there’s a blue sky. Great. And I was like, “OK, I want us all in solid yellow clothes, nothing else. But the way we’re going to work in the red is I want the shadowing on us to be a scarlet red.” Basically, anywhere it would be dark, like a darker yellow or a shadow, it’s red. So what you have to do when you’re fucking with primaries is look at tones. You have to choose the right shades, and that way it still feels good because at the end of the day, it’s art.

I hope this doesn’t sound fucking condescending or corny or weird or whatever, but when you start involving yourself, like your face in things, it’s tricky to get people on board. When I saw this [album cover photo], it didn’t feel like a promo. I was like, “That’s art right there.” That’s become so much more important to me. I’m not saying art wasn’t important before, but I’ve started prioritizing that a lot more. It was such a challenge to be able to look at yourself objectively and be like, “This is art over this, even though you technically look better here.” The picture is very imperfect, and it feels abstract, and it just stuck out so much because the color is just fucking blasted. But at the same time, with my face [turned away], it matches so much of the content. I saw it, and I was like, “That right there is a timeless album cover.”

Not to mention this is the first album cover that you guys are physically on. Previous albums have been represented by colors and some physical object.

No band name, no album name. It’s the first one to do that, too. If it’s called Greatest Hits, you better be making some bold fucking decisions. There were versions where I put the album name or the band name on it. I was trying out every position. I was just like, “None of these are accomplishing the artistic goals.

You’ve grown a lot since your first album release. I’m sure it’s way more intense and overwhelming for you internally since it’s been almost 10 years. I think the biggest jump has been from Double Dare to now. Your lyrical content has evolved so much since the release of Double Dare and Entertainment. You were still trying to figure out your future, goals and what you wanted. And now your writing shifted dramatically on Greatest Hits. The context is so mature. You’re clearly focused on yourself and your future.

To be fair, I also wasn’t going through a breakup while making it, but I know what you’re saying because I was thinking about that the other day. I was like, “There are no weird breakup songs or anything that’s self-deprecating for the sake of another person on this album.” That’s pretty cool, right?

You’re really breaking the mold because it’s easy to fall back into those feelings that you’ve already moved on from and create something based on what you felt at one point in time. You don’t do that on Greatest Hits. You could have resurrected those feelings just to have a token heartbreak song on the album. 

Also, another aspect of it is, besides wanting to do something different than previous things, was with that kind of thing, people know that they don’t fully know us or me or whatever. But anyone I’ve been with or that I may have seen or been dating or whatever, I keep that stuff pretty on the down low now. I just don’t like putting it out there, especially after seeing how that does go. It’s just such a weird thing to have everybody so in your shit or in somebody else’s shit. When a lot of people feel strongly about you or what you do, it can bleed over onto other people that are close to you. I think it’s a lot easier to keep those worlds separate, for the sake of both of them, honestly.

For some time now, Waterparks have grown beyond being a band. You function more as a business or brand. Was that a conscious decision, or did it naturally happen?

See, I try and look at it less as a business and more like a world. I want it to have cooler merch than everybody so you can wear it. I want you to be able to go to a show and experience it. I want you to be able to do all these different things online since everybody lives on their fucking phone, especially if they’re young. I want to always be giving them things to be immersed in.

Obviously the music, as well. I want it to be a full experience of every sense. I’ve got enough ideas for it. It’s literally just a matter of finding the time in the day to fully execute everything and on as big of a scale as we want or as small of a scale if it’s supposed to be a limited thing.

I know we touched on this earlier, but I think there’s something to be said about the title Greatest Hits, where it could have been misconstrued by the fans as just a compilation of previous tracks. As simple as the title seems, it also represents this idea of grandeur because it’s such a bold statement. Like you said, you don’t have the band name on the album, and you don’t have the album title on it, either. Do you think that the songs on Greatest Hits are by far Waterparks’ greatest hits?

I think so. I’m going to tell you why: I think it’s us doing the most, and that’s not to discredit old things because there’s so much of FANDOM and all the albums, really. When we start going into album mode, people are like, “What have you been listening to?” And I’m like, “Greatest Hits.” And they’re like, “All year?” [Nods.] When I’m making new shit, I’m not listening to FANDOM the whole time. I think Greatest Hits has the best guitar work so far. It’s got most of my favorite lyrics. It’s the most unhinged and direct lyrically as well. It’s gone in directions that I’ve wanted to go for a while. But I’m not just trying to be a spaz about it because I feel like when people make too big of a jump, it feels disingenuous. It’s a lot better to be able to feel the growth with an artist. I think stuff like “Gladiator,” “Ice Bath,” “See You In The Future.,” “Magnetic,” it’s stuff that I’ve wanted to do for a while but haven’t. I think it’s a combination of not wanting to be totally fucking crazy.

Because if you went from Double Dare straight to stuff like that, it would feel odd. It would feel inauthentic, and you don’t want that. I think it’s really cool how now people can tell when something’s inauthentic, or they’re like, “Fuck those people. They were obviously made by this, and it’s not a real thing.” I’m glad you all see it because I don’t spend my time focusing on or thinking about other people like that. It’s just such a waste of time and energy. If you spend a whole day fucking mad, you could have made two songs that are your best shit ever. You’ve got to stay tunnel vision on everything. But I think now is such a good time for these songs, and they’re so out there and so past what we’ve been doing but not in a way where people are going to be like, “This isn’t Waterparks.”


[ Photo By Ashley Osborn]


Josh Madden: When you were living in Texas, what was informing your style? You had some crazy hair ideas. It’s really interesting because I don’t think I’ve ever seen some of the stuff you were doing.

I thought having blue hair would be fun and funny because for my whole childhood, I was allergic to blue dye, like very allergic. And I was like, “Dude, if I outgrew that, I’m going to get some blue fucking hair.” I’ve always just been very drawn to color. My dad was always into pastels, like purples and greens and shit. I think maybe it came from ripping off my dad and generally just liking colorful shit more. Also, I think that because I started going to local shows when I was a preteen and it wasn’t the most accepting place because people are weird, insecure and they’re young and they’re straight edge, hardcore or whatever. Everybody was very, very, very in black—it was either just black or white. I just didn’t like that culture, and I think that drove me further into colorful territory because I show up in blue with some pink sleeves. I think I associated people who take themselves too seriously with more plain-looking shit as far as color goes.

Were there any movies or anything that you saw and you were like, “Oh, that person looks cool” or music videos? Because I know your music taste, and I don’t think any of your music taste was your style inspiration. I don’t feel like you were listening to anybody and then trying to look like them.

I would see a lot of bands in striped shirts, and I was on a stripes kick for a while. I’m pretty sure I would even see GC [Good Charlotte] or Sum 41, and somebody would have stripe sleeves.

When you were younger, what posters did you have on the wall?

I had a “Say no to drugs” poster with a lot of dogs on it. I guess that’s still pretty on point. My dad one time was like, I think this was for a birthday or Christmas or something, he was like, “Check it out” and brought me back to my room, and it was the biggest fucking Jimi Hendrix poster ever in this massive thick yellow frame. So, yeah, that was on the wall.

Did you have cut-outs or stickers or anything? 

I did have stickers. I think a lot of them were space or ghosts. I had the stars, the glowing stars. But for my work areas, if I’m in my room, I’m probably making something, but I can’t have that much stuff around me or I’ll get distracted, very distracted. I tried to keep it minimal so I could think better.

In the last couple of years, your styles [have] changed, but it mirrors the music [and] the state that you’re in with this record. I’m obviously seeing more than most people in real time, but it seems like you have really become a lot more adventurous in style.

See, the music feels that way to me. When I was talking to Zakk, even before we were starting stuff, he’s like, “What are you thinking you’re going to do direction-wise for the next album?” And I was like, “You know, it can’t be nothing like us, but I want it to just be FANDOM but on a big grand scale. I want it to sound expensive and push it as far in every direction as possible while still maintaining the core identity.” And that’s what I feel like the clothing is doing, too, because I wear that shirt from “Low Key As Hell,” the Brain Dead one. That’s something that I wouldn’t have been able to wear in 2015. It just wouldn’t have made sense. But when I wear it now with everything, the push in all these different directions, it just feels grand and expensive, and it’s abstract color-wise, and it sounds fucking dumb, but it’s far out. It matches the music in that way.

I feel like with this record, classically, you’re making records in your room and then bringing them to a studio. I feel like this record and every aspect—the videos, the photos, the music—I feel like you’re showing up and doing it on the spot. A lot of it feels created on the spot, less premeditated in the idea, but more spontaneous in the action.

See, I think things have to be a little more spontaneous for me to be excited. And I definitely didn’t let myself spend too much time on every song because especially when you’re in this new way of life and you’re stuck in a monotonous thing, you can’t feel stuck in any other way. You have to keep yourself up and moving. And I think these songs, at least making the demos, you couldn’t force it, but when the idea came and was floating through the air, and you’re like, “Pop! Oh, this is what it is.” With stuff in the studio, it was interesting because I feel like a lot of that energy was very held on to, like a spontaneous energy, because the process for Zakk and I, it’s like I bring in the demos, all of the stems, and then we try and beat those. We see which ones we beat, and then we choose if the demo was better or [if] the new ones [were].


[ Photo By Ashley Osborn]


Travis Riddle: There are so many different themes and pieces of imagery that you go back to over and over, the most obvious being the recurring colors to represent people or things. I feel like the same thing is true with the albums as a whole. Entertainment touched on—and even the title is about the idea—all these different events in your life that are emotionally traumatic events that are interpreted just as pieces of entertainment for people who listen to you. So for them, it’s a fun bop rather than a harrowing, difficult experience that it was for you. Which you talk about in “Numb,” also. FANDOM builds on that, and it’s about the fans creating this image of you based on the songs, based on the limited information that they know about you or the way that you present yourself on the internet.

So the thing is, I wanted to make sure with this album [that] there are definitely still elements of it, but as a whole, I feel like it’s more focused on just me. And when it does get to those subjects, it’s less about the other group of people and more so elements of that still seeping in but not necessarily about them. It’s about me.

It’s less about the cause and more [about] the effect on you. Greatest Hits builds on that idea on FANDOM of the dream boy versus the real you and this idea of having a different persona for the public than what you actually are.

That’s a big part of “Magnetic.” “Magnetic” is about the darkest side of the dream boy-type character.

With this idea of creating different versions of yourself and the duality between them, why is that a topic that you wanted to talk about? And why is that what fans needed to hear next?

The thing is, I definitely don’t think I set off trying to necessarily keep that a focal point, but what I wanted to do, and as I was picking the songs, I had this theory in mind as I was making the album. The intro came about pretty early, and I was like, “OK, I know what I want this to be, and I know where I want it to go.” And it was a matter of filling in the pieces I wanted. I wanted this album to be something that’s happening over the course of a night.

So [on] Greatest Hits, the intro starts with those street sounds [that] were taken in New York the day FANDOM was coming out. And I had that going because I wanted it to feel like FANDOM was what you’re living and then Greatest Hits is the side of it at night when you’re alone.
So that’s like in “Snow Globe,” FANDOM is 7 p.m., and then 3 a.m. is Greatest Hits.

Exactly. So the thing is, Greatest Hits starts, and it’s got sounds from the day of FANDOM. It never fucking storms in L.A., but it was, so I walked around my complex getting the storm sounds from that. So it’s a combination of both of those. It’s like FANDOM ending. As soon as I sing that first line, “Last night, I had the strangest dream of all,” every time it starts to slow, it’s like when you’re falling asleep or if you’re going into your dream or even like sleep paralysis-type stuff. And that’s what I wanted it to be. Time starts getting slower and slower. And there’s also the clock ticking. So there are 15 clock ticks, one for each song on FANDOM , and then that’s when it goes right into the last boom, and then you’re in the Greatest Hits world. That was a big thing I wanted to accomplish with that, and that’s why it starts to sound nightmarish. The vocals weren’t perfectly tuned—they’re very jagged, they’re not on time, they’re very sloshy and very layered. And that was the lead into it, and that’s why “Fuzzy”’s the first thing, and it’s like, “Oh, my demons drive a limo straight up to my window/I hide under my pillow/Welcome to the intro.” That’s like the start of the night.

There’s a lot of talk about night and dreaming on this album. I was actually going to ask you at what point in the whole writing process you knew that this was going to be how the album started, and it sounds like it was pretty early on.

This album was obviously made when I was very stuck at home, but the three songs that were made before that were done right before we left for the FANDOM tour. It was “Just Kidding,” “Secret Life” and “Crying Over It All.” But the thing is, it works really fucking well, and I made sure because I’m not going to throw songs in just for the fuck of it, but it plays so well into the dream thing because “Just Kidding” is probably the most blatantly dark part of the album. But it’s the most obvious, and so it’s an obvious low point. And then “Secret Life” is straight up where it dissociates. It’s too low, and it’s just like, “Boom,” and it goes straight up into the prettiest, spaciest…

Into the sun, which you literally talk about.

Exactly. I’ve tried a lot of different kinds of mental things that are supposed to help. One of them was Transcendental Meditation. A lot of the exercises that I would do, it’s like, “Now you’re off the ground. You’re in the sky. You’re getting further from everything. You’re separating yourself. You’re in space. You no longer see anything. You’re detaching.” And a large part of that is in the sonics where it’s bells, like, “Ting,” and as soon as the song starts, I took the bell from it. It’s not just the lyrics that play into it conceptually—it’s also the music, too.

I love how that one lyric [“Last night, I had the strangest dream of all”] literally touches on all the themes of the album. And it feels to me like it applies to so many of the different dichotomies or dualities or juxtapositions or whatever that you explore on the album—literal dreams versus reality, the dream boy versus the real and the “fakelove” and fulfillment from fans versus real love and fulfillment from your personal relationships. Your period of reflection is, “We’re making the next album.” There’s no break in between. I really feel like this is your most cohesive album all together, lyrically, because you touch on that topic [of dichotomy] in really big ways but also really small ways. It’s in every single song, pretty much. Like “Low Key As Hell” is about the dream job versus the reality of the job and calling yourself a diva, but also you’re a sweetheart, so there’s the juxtaposition there. In “Violet!,” we have a fan’s idea of their relationship with you versus their actual relationship.

Everything is very polar opposites.

So every song on this album is tied together by this idea of dualities. 

Even with “Secret Life,” it’s like, “First I find my evil twin, then I would make best friends with it.” I don’t see myself as a fucking evil person, but even the darkest side of it, it’s still being able to be best friends. Everything is just a huge juxtaposition but hitting each other, and it still works.

What drew you to this metaphor of all these opposites and juxtapositions? Why was that the way you wanted to explore this specific period of your life?

I think because FANDOM was about external stuff, and I realized being forced to spend every fucking day with yourself for a year, you look inward as opposed to out. I think the whole thing of coming off this very external thing to the very internal thing set in motion these things that are exact opposites but meshing, and it makes everything feel as conflicted as I do about everything that I’m writing about in real life. There’s even part of the album where it goes even deeper in on that. Like with “LIKE IT,” [it’s] very about all the external things that come with this kind of job.

But then it goes from “LIKE IT,” which is about all those external things, and then you have a little intermission, and then “Magnetic” literally attracts it all back to you. 

“LIKE IT” is the ultimate outside stressors, and then “Magnetic” is like wrestling with the me aspect of it, containing that larger-than- life version of yourself and not letting it become the real version of you. As an artist, people get to see 5% of you, 10% of you, depending on if you’re very personal. So when that becomes the known version of you, it’s your own fault. It’s not anything you can blame on other people, but when that becomes who you’re known to be, in a lot of ways, perception is reality. It’s weird to be known for someone that you don’t feel encapsulates who you are

Obviously, this subject matter is very specific to you, or at least at its widest, people who are in the public eye with large fanbases. Stuff like “Ice Bath” or “Paranoid” are inherently less relatable than songs like “Powerless” or “Stupid For You.”

It’s always shocking how much people find ways to relate to things or that I don’t expect because I can be like, “I only see my friends onstage, so cut the check or cut my neck.”

Whenever you’re writing this stuff, do you ever worry that you’re going to alienate people who can’t necessarily relate to these problems and they just want a love song or something?

I write selfishly. But the thing is, they still find ways to make it work.

The ultra specificity of it is what I think is most interesting about your lyrics. But I’m also someone who knows you personally, though. I don’t know how it’s different as a listener who doesn’t really know you.

Broad stuff works with some people, but the more specific something is, the more real it feels. I just appreciate that more because you can do both. You can have good songs but not be painfully vague.

I want to hear about the connection between “American Graffiti,” the song, and American Graffiti, the movie.

It’s not the content of the movie, but it’s the concept of the movie. George Lucas made American Graffiti out of spite because there were studio people telling him that what he was currently working on at the time wasn’t relatable enough. And they’re like, “This is weird. Can you just give us something really easy to swallow?” And he was just like, “Fuck it” and just made this thing, which did become a classic. But he did it out of spite. And that’s literally what I think “American Graffiti,” the song, is because I was frustrated.

One of my favorite dichotomies on the album is the fact that you titled a song “Fruit Roll Ups,” and then the first line or whatever is like, “I’ve got Fruit by the Foot. Do you want to come over?” I think that’s really good. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.] I love that. I want to annoy the shit out of OCD people. Even I’ve got a little bit of that going on.

With how detail-oriented you are with everything, what compelled you to freestyle that song, and did you go into it knowing what you were going to talk about and how it would relate to everything? 

It felt romance-y, the instrumental. I had put down just the guitars with Zakk. I think it was after we did “Paranoid,” [and] I put those guitars down. He left, and then I just added everything else around it. But at first, it was just snaps and the bass. I was like, “OK, cool.” Sometimes an instrumental can bring certain shit out. The person who told me that was Benji because I was like, “Dude, how do you write songs?” He’s like, “Dude, just go in there and start singing.” I’m like, “What?” And he was like, “Yeah, go in there and just do it.” [And I was] like, “OK.” He’s not really wrong about much. So, the first one I did that with was “Snow Globe.” And it worked pretty well. Now, the thing is, if I’d get stuck, I’d skim through my notes because I’m always writing lyrics, and I’d see a verse, and I’d try it out, like, “That sucked, nah. That doesn’t make sense with the rest of the songs, so no.” But I would try and just sing things over, and “Fruit Roll Ups” was the third song I did that with. It just worked so well with “Snow Globe.” I was like, “I’m going to do that again, for sure.” The choruses don’t match lyrically. It’s really annoying trying to do some rehearsals. I was like, “What the fuck?”

I want to talk about the two linchpins of the whole album, the two songs that encapsulate what the album is about the most. You can tell me I’m wrong if you disagree, but I think it’s “Snow Globe” and “The Secret Life Of Me.” 

I think “See You In The Future.” is really important for it, too. As far as conceptually, I could maybe agree with that. Granted, that’s not to remotely discredit others because there are pieces in every song that work toward the general and overall concept. I think “See You In The Future.” is just such an important thing because “Ice Bath” is the wake-up moment. And then you get to see that “See You In The Future.” may be the most chaotic song on the album. And that’s outside of the whole dream or nightmare state. It’s like you wake up, and everything’s on fire.

See You In The Future.” is really the culmination of everything coming together and you trying to reconcile all that. 

Very frantically, too. I want to do “See You In The Future.” because I worry that one’s going to be overlooked, and it’s one of the coolest fucking songs. It’s like how each of these things are weighted equally, even though one is so much more insane and not valid. But it’s me saying that the shit that could be seen as absurd or whatever to other people still carries equal weight. And that’s a problem for me.

This ties into both “See You In The Future.” and “Crying Over It All.” I feel like it’s going to be easy for people to think of “Crying Over It All” as being a love ballad. 

But it’s not. Well, it is in a way. So when I had the idea for that song, the concept that came to mind was writing it about whoever I meet in the future. It’s about someone that I don’t know yet.

So because you don’t like the pop-punk label, is it fair to say that Greatest Hits can be categorized as a horrorcore album?

Yeah. It’s like a Rocky Horror music show. It’s rocky and it’s horror; it’s a show; it’s music. [Laughs]. 


[ Photo By Ashley Osborn]