Since the release of the Blue Album in 1994, there have been three constants in life: death, taxes and RIVERS CUOMO’s almost superhuman ability to write infectious, quirky, intelligent pop songs. WEEZER’s ninth album, Everything Will Be Alright In The End, comes out Oct. 7 on Republic Records, and is loaded with all the things fans have come to love about the band—crunchy guitars, ripping solos, spot-on vocal harmonies—plus plenty of stuff they’ve never attempted before in their 22-year history. We sat down with Cuomo before a recent show in London, Ontario, to discuss his thoughts on the album, Weezer’s recent history and what to expect in the future. AP 315, featuring Weezer on the cover, is available on altpress.com/shop now.
Everything Will Be Alright In The End seems to be a direct reaction and response to the past five years of Weezer’s career, starting with Raditude. What did you expect for Raditude and what did you think when people started giving you feedback toward it?
RIVERS CUOMO: Geez, I dunno what I expected. I guess being in Weezer, you always have to expect you’re gonna get hit hard when you put out a record. It just happens, no matter what we do, from the first record on. There was a lot of love at the time, too; we had a song ["(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To”] that got played on the radio a lot and seemed to bring in a whole lot of new fans. So I guess it was a period of pleasant and unpleasant. But I guess that’s kind of what it’s always like. You have to take the good with the bad.
There’s always that new blood that comes in, but that core feels like they’re being alienated—whether they actually are or not—but they have a feeling of entitlement, like, “Why isn’t he doing what I want him to do?” You’ve seen this happen eight or nine times now; how do you let that not affect you, or does it affect you?
At various times in our career, we’ve answered this question differently: How do you balance this amazing community we have and this history and this relationship we have where we’ve created music that touches people in such a deep way and is so helpful for them and so meaningful to all of us—how do you honor that and at the same time honor your artist’s instinct to try new things and explore? At times, we’ve rebelled against where we came from and shut out those voices and said “We’re just gonna do whatever we wanna do right now,” but I guess starting around the time of the first Weezer Cruise, we found ourselves locked up with a couple thousand of the most hardcore Weezer fans, and no one knew what to expect. It could’ve been like communities can be online, with a lot of negativity and criticism, and it can be very unpleasant. But for some reason, face to face, when you’re surrounded by your fans, and everyone knows all the songs and all the B-sides, it felt like nothing but love and support, and the fans seemed super-determined to make it clear to us that they absolutely loved us and that we were okay. [<[Laughs.]span>
Does that emotion coming from fans negate the negativity at all? A lot of popular musicians get to the point where they just filter out all negativity. Is it healthy as an artist to only receive positive reinforcement?
Let me continue the story. With the cruise being such a positive experience, I think we just looked for more and more ways to get closer to our fans and spend time with them and play them demos and share our ideas with them and hear their ideas. For some reason, when it’s face to face, in real life, the troll factor doesn’t exist. The internet brings that out in people. We’ve been able to have real conversations with our fans. They’re not telling us that everything we’re doing is perfect; they definitely have suggestions and things they like and don’t like, but it’s all very constructive and it feels like we’re all working toward the same goal of making Everything Will Be Alright In The End an amazing album.
We first started meeting the fans [o[on the Memories tour]We’ll see the same 50 people at those shows that were at the previous shows. When you see the same people again and again, you build up a relationship and trust, so we’re not just feeling the love and support but it’s opened up to be a very constructive relationship.
On the Memories tour, you were playing select fans demos that appeared to be part of a deep sea-themed concept album. There were also a few teaser videos posted to weezer.com around the same time period, also alluding to the same thing. That material has not yet been released commercially, at least to my knowledge. How much of what you show people ever sees the light of day?
Ultimately everything sees the light of day. [<[Giggles.]span>
You really think so? You have 600 songs no one’s heard.
Well I guess it depends on what you mean by the light of day. Just by showing it to someone, it’s seeing the light of day.
Public consumption, availability, professionally released.
I think everyone in the Weezer community would agree the goal is to make a classic album. That brings up something else I could tell you: There’s not going to be a deluxe edition [o[of EWBAITE]ny time soon, or an iTunes bonus or Japan bonus. The album is the album. This is exactly how we wanted it to be. We started introducing all these different versions and auxiliary songs, it takes away from the meaning of the album. That’s something we said in our bio: There’s all these forces that are eroding the meaning of an album. That’s just the world we live in today. We’ve allowed it to eat away at our album making process the last decade. I’ve never been comfortable with it, and slowly over the years, those eroding forces have added up, and it’s really hard for an album to feel like a significant and meaningful piece of work now, so we were faced with a choice of just rolling with it or fighting it, saying “no” to the record company and iTunes and whoever else is trying to sell things their way, for creative and artistic reasons, this is what it has to be.
You mentioned the goal is to make a classic album. In your mind, what is the last classic album Weezer made?
It’s been a gradual process of erosion. With each record, you go back in time, it feels more and more classic to me. I think on Make Believe, we didn’t have B-sides. So going back, even the Red Album, I remember the record company calling and saying, “You know how you did deluxe for the Blue Album? We wanna do it for the Red Album.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute, it hasn’t even come out yet! Shouldn’t we wait, like, 20 years?” [<[Laughs.]nd they said, “No, do it now, your fans want all those extra songs.” And it’s true. The fans would say they’re conflicted. As a fan, they want to hear as much as they possibly can, but at the same time, we all miss having these classic albums that are a huge part of our lives and we can grow old with, and everyone knows what it is. Everyone has the same version. There’s no second-guessing: “Maybe that song should’ve been on it.” In talking to fans, it became clear that what we all want is the classic album again, and we’re willing to sacrifice all the extra, optional things that could come along with that and go back to something like the Blue album, where a few months down the road, you’ll maybe get one extra song as a B-side. Maybe a movie soundtrack song or something.
Not many people know this, but AP attempted to put Weezer on the cover in 2010 surrounding the release of Hurley and the Memories tour with a comprehensive oral history of the years surrounding Pinkerton, but the plug was pulled at the last minute, and I was told it was because you were more interested in moving forward and not live in the past. Has your mindset changed since then? What are your goals with Weezer now? How do you justify wanting to move forward when you have so much history that resonates with millions of people and those people want nostalgia?
In conversations with our fans, we just feel it out, and it becomes pretty clear what the right balance is. For some reason, I’m getting this impression—and maybe it’s because of the lyrics of “Back To The Shack”—but people are expecting [<[EWBAITE]o be a real throwback album. And I think it’s true that there are a lot of familiar vibrations you’ll pick up. But there’s so much on here that no one’s ever done before.
How would you describe the album? What does it mean to you?
It’s a gigantic triumph. It’s an Everest that we’ve climbed together, and it feels so amazing to be at the top, looking out.
Do you care how it’s received?
Absolutely. But I already feel like, I play it for everyone I see, and I feel like this album is moving people in the way we all wanted it to.
In your mind, if you’re climbing this Everest for the past four years now, what’s the next peak beyond that? Do you have discernable goals you want to accomplish, with or without Weezer? Are there still things you want to cross off your list that you hope this album will help facilitate?
[<[Chuckles.]e just got here and we’re already asking what’s next! I just got my eye on the next peak. What is it, K-9?
K2. K-9’s a dog. [<[Laughs.]t feels like Weezer world is getting more stable, which is a great thing for an artist. Because we achieved something that we believe is so great, that we love so much, that we can take this experience and build on it for the next one, and achieve something even greater.
To an average outsider, you’ve been off the radar for four or five years. You’ve had pretty amazing set of comebacks in the public eye—first Green in 2001, then Make Believe in 2005, then Red in 2008. Do you think you are coming back? Do you think you ever went away?
It’s true between Pinkerton and Green, we really did go away for years, then again between Maladroit and Make Believe and then again between Make Believe and Red. But this time feels different. We did stop promoting anything and being out there in the public eye in a big way, but we’ve been playing 60 shows a year and constant interactions with our fans—nerd night, Weezer Cruises—it feels like we’ve still been building, just focusing on the core community. To the casual music fan out there, it may appear that we’ve disappeared, but we’ve been working and building this whole time, and in very close contact with our core fans.
When I first interviewed you in 2007, I asked if you had ever thought about having children, and you coyly avoided the question, then I found out later that you and your wife had already had a daughter for a few months at that point, but it hadn’t been made public. Now, seven years later, you’ve having her play “Perfect Situation” onstage with you on the Weezer Cruise. Have you lowered your guard more as you’ve approached fatherhood? Do you concern yourself less with how people view you?
I don’t think I’m guarded by nature. I think I’m an oversharer if anything. But having a daughter, I became super-protective of her. I had no idea how to handle it. But fame and the internet has been amazing for me, but I can’t just inflict that on somebody else, especially my innocent little daughter. It’s something she would need to choose for herself, so I better not even mention her existence. That’s probably what I was thinking. I’m still pretty protective for the reason I just mentioned. [M[My son]s 2.
He probably can’t even understand what’s going on.
I don’t even understand what’s going on!
There’s a line in “I’ve Had It Up To Here” where you sing, “I don’t want my music to be less well known than my face.” How much of that is autobiographical? What part of you desires fame? What percentage of you is still seeking hubris?
For me, I just want the record to be famous. It can be handy to be a known name sometimes in my daily life, but I definitely don’t feel the need to be recognized. It’s all about the album.
Are you nervous about the impending club tour where you’ll be playing the new album start to finish? Will there be auxiliary musicians onstage with you?
I wouldn’t expect auxiliary musicians, apart from the fans coming up to form a choir at the end of “Foolish Father.” A lot of the complex orchestrations in the songs, we’re coming up with creative ways to make it work as a four-piece. Scott is getting a double-neck bass and lead guitar. We’re gonna be able to cover a lot of ground. It’s gonna take some serious work to pull it all together. It’s so important to me to have these shows be a real event and a coming alive of the album, and to do it within the context of the community, to have the fans there, to experience the album as an album, as it was meant to be heard, together, that to me is the peak of the Everest we have been climbing. That’s what we’re aiming for.
The Memories tour was limited engagement but kept on growing; do you anticipate playing this album on tour more often?
I think we’ll keep doing it whether or not there’s a massive amount of support. We’ll keep doing it for whoever wants to see it, even if it’s just 50 people.
The past few years you’ve been doing the state fair and casino circuit, playing the same greatest hits set. To some fans, it feels like Weezer lost the plot. Do you have to be a greatest hits band at this point?
We’ve been doing Memories shows too. Depending on where we’re playing, that’s what we’ll gear the set towards—sometimes, that means we play the hits, which admittedly, quite a lot of people still want to hear. Or it may mean playing Pinkerton and a bunch of B-sides, and honestly, as a musicians who’s constantly performing and playing, I love mixing it up like that.
How much of this new album will be represented in the future? Where’s the line drawn between doing what you want to do as an artist and doing what they expect you to do as an entertainer?
From day one with Weezer, you can’t fight your audience. You just instinctively want to play stuff that gives people goose bumps in the arena or club or wherever you are.
Lemme say this, though: The plan is to do these club shows where we’re focused primarily on the new album and then next year to do a classic, old-school, proper rock tour, where it’s definitely themed around the new album but we’re not playing the entire album front to back. I think all the hits will still be there; I’m just imagining we’re playing sheds, or big places in the summer. But it will feel like the tour is in support of the new album.
Do you worry about what Weezer’s legacy is? Do you worry that you’ve done damage to it?
No. If anything, the opposite is true. As years go on, people are more accepting of albums they initially didn’t give a chance. I hope that in the future, some things we did that people initially disregarded as seeming too different for them, they will love and accept as being a part of Weezer.
This was your third time working wirh Ric Ocasek. What’s something he brought to the table this time around you hadn’t experienced the first two times?
It was just amazing watching him solve one of the problems in “Back To The Shack.” The second chorus needed a lift, and he picks up a guitar—and just to see Ric Ocasek pick up a guitar on one of my songs was just crazy enough, but then he plays this melody that was, “That’s it! That’s what we needed!”
Did you play him your cover of the Cars’ “You Might Think”?
When we released it, he emailed me and said, “Good job.” [<[Laughs.] thought we did a great job and it was very faithful. I know from my perspective as a songwriter, I take [a[artists covering my songs]s the highest compliment, so I imagine Ric would take it that way.
Does it still surprise you that you resonate with millions of people? When does it ever stop affecting you?
I guess I just feel more loved now than I used to. I used to feel super-insecure and anxious, and it was hard to hear applause as applause. It was easy to interpret as “Aw, they probably hate it.” But now it feels like Weezer are in a super-stable place and a lot of people out there love us and are rooting for us; they want another great Weezer record. alt