[Photo by Jawn Rocha]

Why Waterparks' Awsten Knight tackled his religious guilt on INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Waterparks are constantly evolving. With their forthcoming fifth studio album, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, the trio of Awsten Knight, Geoff Wigington, and Otto Wood are readying another immersive era. But beyond the playfulness of their online presence lies an even deeper message of facing your trauma and coming out on top. Read an excerpt from their cover story below, which appears in our spring 2023 issue.

Beyond the topic of social media, Awsten Knight gets admittedly “introspective” on the record. When asked to discuss the overall lyrical themes and concepts behind INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, he takes a deep breath and delivers a warning: Things might get a little turbulent.

“There is a love story throughout the record that is expressive to and for other people, but the album itself has to do with overcoming, unlearning and growing past religious guilt,” Knight explains. “It’s something that I’ve struggled with for a long time.” On “FUNERAL GREY,” he delivers the punchy line “baptized in my spit,” which is a playful twist on a weighted subject. The theme of religious guilt doesn’t just apply to the overall lyrics of the record but also extends to the album’s striking cover art, which at first glance appears to be an image of a blue frog over a red backdrop; in actuality, it possesses a much more poignant meaning.

“Frogs have always been one of my favorite animals,” Knight reflects. “However, when I learned that frogs were seen as dirty and unclean in a biblical context, it was interesting to me that something that I saw as so good, natural and beautiful could also be seen as a bad thing through a biblical lens.” In other words, the concept of shame plagued the charismatic bandleader for as long as he can remember, and INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY was the moment for Knight to finally face his trauma head-on and “come to terms with himself” once and for all. That explains why a majority of the new songs possess “hypersexualized” energy — a conscious rebellion against a conservative past. “Growing up in church, you’re taught that everything is so wrong and bad. I always felt like shit, so [this album] is the breakaway from that specifically.” 

waterparks alternative press spring 2023 issue

[Alternative Press spring 2023 issue with cover stars Waterparks, shot by Jawn Rocha]

By overcoming his religious guilt, Knight was able to tap into an evolved sense of self-worth that he’s since applied to his very own love life, which he details on the album’s stripped-down ballad “CLOSER.” “My concept of love has changed throughout the years, and that song is about [looking at the past] and realizing that when I was younger, it was maybe more of an obsession. Now I’m taking it apart and learning more about love and the way I present the current version of myself to other people.” Inversely, there is the alt-radio-ready anthem “BRAINWASHED,” where Knight admits that he still wrestles with the idea of true love, constantly making sure that he’s not just wrapped up in the “honeymoon phase.” Knight jokes that this track and “FUCK ABOUT IT,” which features a guest vocal spot from blackbear, are “polar opposites,” as the latter couldn’t be further from the “hyperfixation” he details in “BRAINWASHED,” once again proving that he feels the most comfortable when inserting juxtaposition wherever he can.