It’s snowing outside on a frigid day in Columbus, Ohio. It’s an hour before doors open but people have already lined up for tonight’s show at A&R Music Bar—a sort of winter Warped Tour lineup featuring Never Shout Never, Metro Station, Jule Vera, Waterparks, and Me Like Bees.
While Never Shout Never and Metro Station are the powerhouse names atop the bill, they’re not the only ones with big ties to the scene. Coming out of nowhere last year, Waterparks has been on a steady climb after receiving a big time endorsement from Good Charlotte’s Benji and Joel Madden. The pop-punk legends offered the opening slot of their reunion show last November to the young Texas trio (“Joel Madden slid into our DMs,” says guitarist/vocalist Awsten Knight) and things have been picking up since. When it came time to record their latest EP, Cluster, My Chemical Romance bassist Mikey Way filled the role for Waterparks, as the band chooses to remain a bass-less trio with fill-in performers. With a little help from the Madden brothers, the band secured a slot on this tour—their very first.
Tonight, Waterparks—filled out by guitarist/vocalist Geoff Wigington and drummer Otto Wood—is looking to catch the attention of a new audience again, but it’s tough to tell that by watching. Before the set even begins they’ve coaxed the crowd into pushing closer, and soon screams are echoing through the venue like they’re headliners. Knight revels in the limelight, giving mischievous glances to audience members and calling for crowd participation every chance he gets. Even when he’s demanding hands in the air—calling out the closest nonconformists until they give in—he’s still half-singing.
The songs aren’t quite as recognizable to the crowd as those of Never Shout Never or Metro Station, but when they play the songs from Cluster the audience can be heard singing along. As their set nears an end, it’s unclear if the jumping and clapping is coming from Waterparks diehards or newly won-over fans. Before the closing song, Knight admits the band hasn’t had any crowd surfers yet on tour. Sure enough, the crowd surfers rise up before the closer even fully kicks in—and yes, stage diving follows.
So who are these guys and what have they been doing until now? Substream caught up with the group to talk about the Madden Brothers, haunted hotels and when they’ll finally release an album.
Waterparks is obviously getting a lot of hype recently, especially after the Madden brothers endorsed you. How does it feel to have such a huge name behind you?
GEOFF WIGINGTON: It’s unbelievable, I can’t say it enough.
AWSTEN KNIGHT: They’re like our other parents. They’re like the nicest people in the world to us.
WIGINGTON: And we always have to drop that they smell so nice.
Were you guys fans of Good Charlotte before?
WIGINGTON: Definitely. We all grew up watching their music videos.
KNIGHT: 4th or 5th grade I’d be up getting ready for school and they’d be on VH1, like “The Anthem,” “Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous,” all that. It’s weird to know that you’ve listened to them for so long—The Chronicles Of Life & Death was one of the first three physical CDs I owned—and now we know them and can text them and it’s fine.
This is your first tour and you guys are already touring with Never Shout Never and Metro Station—who are also big names. How did that come about?
KNIGHT: Honestly, Joel [Madden] hit us up and was like, “Hey, you guys want to tour with Never Shout Never?” and I was like, “Yeah.” We found out later they were like, “Oh, also Metro Station,” and we were like, “This is a pretty big tour.” I was super-excited about the venues because I’m a mega-nerd as far as watching live videos of bands. I like seeing the names of venues that I actually recognize like Starland Ballroom and things like that.
OTTO WOOD: It’s so cool playing all the House Of Blues.
WIGINGTON: House Of Blues in Chicago was so cool.
KNIGHT: Tour’s only halfway done but as of now, Chicago House Of Blues, that’s my babe.
WOOD: And the Rave [in Milwaukee].
KNIGHT: The Rave was so tight, have you been there?
No, tell me about it.
KNIGHT: Okay, so Jeffrey Dahmer used to go there and get his victims and then he’d go across the street to the Ambassador Hotel—
WOOD: —supposedly, allegedly.
KNIGHT: He would take them across the street to this hotel the Ambassador which I also went to and they would not tell me anything. I was like, “Where’s all the haunted stuff?” and they were like, “It’s not haunted,” and I was like, “Okay, well where is it ‘not haunted,’ like, what floor?”
WIGINGTON: I went down into the area I wasn’t supposed to go into—
WOOD: —the boiler room.
WIGINGTON: I swear it was like pitch black and it went on forever but ever since I went down there I’ve just kept falling and hurting myself.
KNIGHT: It’s been weird.
With all these established acts so quick to support you, what do you think it is about you guys?
KNIGHT: I don’t know!
WIGINGTON: It’s like these people keep somehow finding us, reaching out to us real quick.
KNIGHT: We got offstage in Arizona, I looked at my phone and Kellin Quinn had posted about us and I was like, “What the fuck?” That was awesome. It’s weird stuff like that—we’re very lucky.
How do you think you fit into the scene? Are you a pop-punk band?
KNIGHT: Probably a pop band.
One thing I noticed, particularly on Cluster, you’re playing with more electronic elements that you don’t see from other similar bands. Where does that influence come from?
KNIGHT: I listen to a lot of Top 40 stuff, [Geoff] loves a ton of electronic.
WIGINGTON: I’m like really far into that.
KNIGHT: We really don’t want to make just a pop-punk release and be like, “There you go world, another one.” We really want to put a lot of twists on things. We play rock, we’re a band with guitars and drums, but it’s really cool to be able to put in curveballs of things we like.
WOOD: Trying to add tinges of things, different elements that give it a fresh spin.
What about Cluster do you think has been different as far as the reaction?
KNIGHT: The reaction’s been awesome. It probably helps that a lot of cool people are endorsing it as well, but it’s definitely gotten a way bigger reaction. We’ve put out a couple other EPs, we’ve never done an album, but with the other EPs people have been like, “This is good,” but with this it’s been like, “This is fucking tight.”
WIGINGTON: Everybody puts it on and they’ve been saying they listen to it nonstop since they’ve gotten it.
I was reading one interview from 2012 where you were excited to have sold 100 copies of your first EP. You guys also hadn’t played any shows at that time.
KNIGHT: I’ve been doing band stuff since I was 13 or whatever. Starting this one I was like, “You know, I want to do this one right, make sure it’s not rushed.” A lot of bands when they first start, as soon as they get four or five songs together they’re like, “Let’s hit the road and tour even though nobody knows us and nobody will go to our show.” But even local shows, who wants to go to a show and watch a band where they don’t know the music? So I thought it was a really important thing to do. Shows were definitely not a rushed thing.
So you have been slow to get to the first show, to get to the first tour and the first album.
KNIGHT: That’s another thing with the album. Obviously we can crank out a bunch of songs, but if there’s not a demand on it we don’t want to drop 13, 14 songs on people and be like, “Consume it!” We want to be at a point where it feels right to make an album before we just go in and do it. Speaking of Cluster, we easily could’ve [made an album].
WIGINGTON: There was talks about it.
KNIGHT: There were definitely enough demos.
What’s the plan for an eventual album, is that on the horizon now?
KNIGHT: I think it’s safe to say that it’s on the horizon, you could say that.
WOOD: Cryptic statement.
KNIGHT: You can expect an album. Unless we all die in the cold out here or we find ourselves in an unfamiliar cave and we get snowed in—then you can’t expect an album from us. S