Artist Spotlight: Waterparks mixes bubblegum pop and emotional rock

One of the first noticeable things about Waterparks is their ability to blend things that shouldn’t go together. The band pulls influence from a variety of genres, including rock, pop, electronic and punk.

Hearing heavy electronic sampling in a rock song can be a surprise at best and off-putting at worst. Sampling isn’t secondary to the guitar and vocals of the band. Rather, they’re central to the melody. In “Peach (Lobotomy),” the electric horn-like sound provides depth to the verse and melodically moves in tandem with vocalist Awsten Knight’s voice.

“Sleep Alone” from the band’s latest album “Entertainment” features electronic-tinged verses reminiscent of a boy band. As the song progresses, the guitars become more prominent, taking a break to riff before the final chorus. Then, Knight’s vocals become raspier and he reaches for a scream and the guitars build a wall of sound, enough to headbang to.

The band not only juxtaposes genres but also their music and lyrics. Their fun sing-along songs often times have an emotional meaning that can be hard to uncover unless you really listen to the lyrics.

Take “Blonde,” the lead single from “Entertainment,” for example. It’s undeniably catchy, with major power chords and a rapid-fire delivery by Knight that makes it impossible not to head bob, hum or at least tap a foot to.

But the lyrics detail Knight’s struggle with fame and mental health. The song references Knight’s frequent tendency to change his hair color and ties it into the idiom “blondes have more fun.”

“I go blonde when I’m sad/Blew motivation I had…Haven’t been home in some months/I haven’t loved myself,” Knight sings. The lyrics can be hard to uncover beneath the bouncy music, but once you discover them, it becomes impossible to look at the song the same way.

“21 Questions” is another example of Knight’s ability to tell a story through his lyrics. A bit more obvious on the surface than a song like “Blonde,” “21 Questions” is an acoustic ballad based on an alleged complicated experience in Knight’s love life.

Knight’s girlfriend at the time allegedly began seeing him while she was in a relationship with someone else. Knight references this instance in many songs, including the band’s popular song “Stupid for You.” Knight packages his insecurities related to his relationship into “21 Questions” in a heart-wrenchingly honest way; “You dropped your guy and took me on/It’s everything I wanted/But then what?/Would you get tired of my time?” he wonders while strumming an acoustic guitar.

Knight has spoken openly about the anxiety he feels before releasing deeply personal thoughts and experiences into a public setting. In an interview with Strife Magazine, Knight said picking the track list for the band’s debut “Double Dare” was tricky.

“It was like, well damn, a lot of these uncomfortable songs are now gonna be heard by the world, all right I guess,” Knight said.

Before the release of “Entertainment,” Knight posted a letter on social media saying the changes in his life since the recording of the album led him to feel very different about it.

“To be (overly) honest with you ‘Entertainment’ was ruined for me. I stopped listening to it and it felt weird to hype it in interviews,” the letter reads. “However, the worst part was the pure dread I felt thinking, ‘F-ck I still have to tour on this and sing these words every night.’ The idea of that was actual torture.”

Knight resolved this later on; listening to the album didn’t “sting” as much as he thought, and he felt excited again for the album’s release. As a listener, the album feels cathartic because Knight expertly matches pop songs with emotional undertones. He weaves his thoughts on love, mental health and himself throughout the guitar riffs and whimsical synth in a strikingly relatable way. So the next time you want a song to sing along to (or cry to), Waterparks can provide you with both.


Schae Beaudoin is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at schae.beaudoin@uconn.edu.