Weezer A Rivers Runs Through It
Published Oct 06, 2014More than anything else, Weezer circa 2014 are a wealth of contrasts. They remain a major cultural touchstone in the modern rock world, inspiring as many imitators as detractors. Rivers Cuomo, the band's singer, guitarist and creative brain trust, is a well-known dictatorial leader who relishes collaborating with pop songsmiths and producers while shunning collaboration with his bandmates. Famously shy, to the point of reclusiveness, Cuomo has of late engaged in some of the most blatant attempts at fan service ever seen. Viewed by many as a Brian Wilson-esque creative genius he is just as often derided as an opportunistic hack. Yet almost everyone can agree that Weezer produced at least two classic albums and have orchestrated a second post-millennial career arc that's seen their popularity reach new heights. As Cuomo, Brian Bell, Scott Shriner and Patrick Wilson ready their ninth studio album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, Weezer remain a lightning rod for opinions, a rare commodity in today's ready-to-please cultural landscape.
1970 to 1988
Rivers Cuomo is born June 13, 1970 to Frank Cuomo and Beverly Shoenberger. Depending on which parent you ask, Cuomo is either named after the first thing Beverly heard outside the hospital after his birth, or a trio of players from the 1970 World Cup. His brother, Leaves, is born the following August. The family live at a Buddhist Zen Center in upstate New York. After Frank leaves in 1975, Beverly and the boys move to Yogaville, a community founded by "Guru to the stars" Sri Swami Satchidananda, the opening speaker at Woodstock. It is considered by many to be a cult. There, Beverly meets Stephen Kitts and the two marry. Attending the Integral Yoga School, Rivers is known by his Sanskrit name, Rama. In John D. Luerssen's Weezer biography, River's Edge, Cuomo recalls being "a very sombre child." Pop music is essentially verboten, but the daughter of one of his parent's friends plays him Kiss's Rock and Roll Over in 1977. "Somehow that album found its way into the commune," says Cuomo in River's Edge. "I've pretty much based my life around that record." In 1980, Satchidananda moves Yogaville to Virginia, but Beverly and Stephen remain behind, settling in the suburbs of Hartford. Rivers and Leaves receive a major culture shock when they enrol in Mansfield Middle School, a public school. "We even had to teach each other to swear so that we could fit in," he tells Luerssen. Rivers and Leaves take their stepfather's last name and choose new first names for themselves. Rivers now goes by the name Peter Kitts; his brother, Jimmy Kitts. He also joins the Columbia House record club, buying Kiss records as well as albums by ABBA, Queen and Eddie Rabbit. In May 1981, Rivers is diagnosed with a congenital condition that causes his right leg to grow slower than his left. By age 11 he wears a half-inch lift in his shoe forcing him to quit playing sports, leading him towards music.
Rivers meets Justin Fisher after their moms discover a shared interest in holistic therapy and become friends. Cuomo attends his first concert with Fisher: Men at Work at the Hartford Civic Centre. Shortly after, Cuomo and Fisher witness a group of classmates play Quiet Riot's "Metal Health" at a school event. "The girls were, like, rushing the stage and we're sitting on the side," recalls Fisher to Luerssen. "We all sort of looked at each other and we're like 'why aren't we doing that?''
In 1984 Beverly gives birth to Gabriel, Rivers and Leaves' half-brother. Several months later Rivers, now 14, starts his first band, Fury, with himself on vocals and guitar, Fisher on bass, Leaves on drums and friend Eric Robertson on second guitar. They exclusively play Kiss covers. They play their fist gig in Southbridge, MA in September.
Cuomo and Fisher attend E.O. Smith high school where they quickly discover that their interest in comic books and heavy metal puts them at odds with the school's predominantly jock and preppie student populace. They learn karate in an effort to defend themselves. It's around this time that Cuomo experiences an "identity crisis," according to Luerssen. Cuomo contemplates becoming a monk but is cautioned against it by his parents' Zen master who advises him to follow his dreams. The event is later recounted in the Pinkerton track "Across the Sea."
Inspired by Metallica and dissatisfied with Fury's direction, Cuomo and Fisher form Avant Garde and Cuomo starts taking guitar lessons from Jim Matheos, guitarist in local metal band Fates Warning. They recruit Kevin Ridel as singer and his brother Eric on rhythm guitar. They practice four times a week. The group record a six-song demo in December of 1987. The recording makes the metal charts at the local college radio station.
By grade 11, Cuomo is the leader of a pack of metal heads. But the school's music teacher still manages to convince him to play Johnny Casino in the school's adaptation of Grease. He also starts branching out musically, listening to the Beatles, the Beach Boys, contemporary pop and even classical. He applies and is accepted to a five-week music course at Boston's Berklee School of Music. There he meets Mike Stanton from Texas. When the course is over, Stanton moves to Connecticut and joins Avant Garde. He moves in with Cuomo and his family. However Beverly and Stephen's marriage is on the rocks. "I opened the refrigerator and saw a can of beer," recalls Cuomo in River's Edge. "All of a sudden I made the connection that my stepfather was leaving because my father had started drinking when he left my mother." The episode is later recounted in the song "Say It Ain't So." With Stanton now a member, Avant Garde record their second demo, Somethin' Different, and start setting their sights outside of Connecticut.
1989 to 1992
After divorcing Stephen, Beverly and Leaves move to Newington, CT. In March, Cuomo and his Avant Garde bandmates set out for Los Angeles with stars in their eyes. Fisher flies and finds the group a "fleabag apartment"; Stanton and Cuomo drive. They are soon joined in the city by their friends in Fates Warning. Cuomo enrols in courses at the Guitar Centre, but ultimately fails to graduate. He also gets a job at Tower Records. Avant Garde find it much harder to operate in L.A.'s infamous pay-for-play scene. The band rename themselves Zoom in an effort to shake things up but the move proves futile and the group split in the spring of 1990.
Working at Tower opens Cuomo's eyes to the musical world outside of metal. The Pixies and Nirvana prove to be particular favourites. He enrols at L.A. City College and shifts his musical focus away from technique in favour of songwriting. "Metal seemed kind of dumb so I consciously repressed it," he tells Luerssen. "I locked myself away with an acoustic guitar and started writing my own songs."
After his girlfriend, Lisa, breaks up with him, he begins spending more time with Tower coworker Pat Finn. Finn played in a band called Bush (neither the English post-grunge band, nor the Canadian '70s rock group) with Pat Wilson on drums and guitarist Tom Gadrocki, who'll later play guitar in Wax. Wilson knows Finn from Buffalo, where they both grew up, and moved to Los Angeles as Finn's behest. After Bush split up in the spring of 1991, Finn and Wilson start jamming with Matt Sharp. Sharp grew up in Arlington, VA, but moved to San Diego at age 16. By 1989, he'd made his way to Los Angeles, playing in a goth-y synth group called the Clique. Sharp, Finn and Wilson dub themselves the Wrong Sausage and record a number of goofy, They Might Be Giants-inspired tunes. The trio add Oakland guitarist Jason Cropper to the mix.
Cuomo meets Wilson through Finn and the two start a short-lived band called Fuzz, recording a five-song demo on Cuomo's new eight-track. Cuomo moves in with Wilson, Sharp and Cropper, and Karl Koch, another Buffalo transplant. The group continue to pursue a variety of musical projects, befriending fellow L.A. alt-rockers Wax. "I don't know if we even liked each other," Sharp tells Luerssen. "We just kind of lived together for nine months or a year and then went our separate ways."
Sharp briefly moves to San Francisco and Cuomo moves to the Berkley area. On Thanksgiving weekend, 1991, the Wrong Sausage, now known as Sixty Wrong Sausages, play their lone gig. In early 1992, Finn leaves the band and Sharp takes his place. The new quartet — Cuomo, Wilson, Cropper and Sharp — have their first practice together on Valentine's Day. In March, they play their first gig opening for Keanu Reeves' vanity band, Dogstar. Without a name, they settle on Weezer, a nickname Cuomo picked up due to a childhood asthma condition. That same month Cuomo, Sharp and Fisher move into the Amherst House, named for the street it was on in West Los Angeles. Weezer practice regularly in the garage. Koch videotapes the band's performances around L.A. and makes many of their early flyers and handbills. "We would just play, and if we got a following, we did, and if we didn't, we didn't," Matt tells Rolling Stone in 1995. "And we didn't. It was pretty much no expectations for anything; we just basically didn't have anything better to do."
In August they record a demo in their garage. The Kitchen Tapes, so named because the drums were recorded in the kitchen, includes early versions of "My Name is Jonas" and "Only in Dreams." In November, they record The Real Demo, which features "Say It Ain't So," "No One Else," "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here" and "Undone — The Sweater Song."
"Rivers had scholarship opportunities from universities and he was essentially like, 'Well, if we don't get a record deal by this date, then I'm going to go to college,'" says Sharp today. "So there was a very literal sense that if we don't make this record now we're never going to make it."
In February Weezer share a bill with That Dog and the two groups become fast friends. That Dog's Anna Waronker is the daughter of music producer Lenny Waronker while Petra and Rachel Haden are the daughters of jazz musician Charlie Haden. Weezer also adopt super-fans Mykel and Carli Allan into their circle. The two sisters frequently feed the group homemade baked goods. A number of A&R reps, including one from Geffen, briefly take note of the group but ultimately nothing comes of the interest. In May. Weezer open for Sloan at the Jabberjaw. At the time, the Halifax band were signed to Geffen subsidiary DGC, once again putting the group in front of label execs. The band flirt with the idea of signing to Slash Records. Finally in June, Geffen A&R rep Todd Sullivan signs the group to DGC.
"There was a whole philosophy of: if you're a young band, get on a cool indie label, release three or four records with them and get some street credibility, and when you peak move over to the big corporate entity," says Sharp today. "We were turned down by every single small, medium and larger record label. We got very close to that album not being heard by anybody."
"There wasn't a big bidding war," confirms Geffen's head of marketing, Robert Smith, in Rivers' Edge. "[Weezer] didn't come from the indie scene. They had nothing out before this album. We started from scratch."
With major label backing, Weezer set their sights on recording their debut album. At first they want to self-produced, but are dissuaded by Geffen. Instead they go with former Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, who urges the band to decamp to New York and record at the legendary Electric Lady Studios.
"The real fun came when we started to record," Ocasek tells Luerssen. "That's where the personalities developed and I got to see just how artistic Rivers really was." In the middle of the sessions, Cropper leaves the band. His departure remains shrouded in mystery — and a non-disclosure agreement. Cuomo strips Cropper's guitar parts off the record and enlists Brian Bell as his replacement.
Raised in Knoxville, TN, Bell is well known around L.A. He plays in Space Twins with his girlfriend Susan Fox and did time in the band Carnival Art, who were briefly signed to Matador Records. Bell flies to New York for the end of the recording sessions. Cuomo re-records all of Cropper's parts himself and, according to River's Edge, Bell only sings backup on the album. Asserting his growing dominance in the group, Cuomo sequences the record himself and oversees the mastering process alone in New York. Meanwhile, DGC forces the band to jettison the sampled film and TV clips used in "Undone - The Sweater Song." The group quickly write a script, which is recorded on an eight-track in Cuomo's Amherst garage by Sharp, Koch and Mykel Allan. While in New York, both Wilson and Sharp work on demos for solo projects.
With five months to kill between the recording and release of their debut, Cuomo keeps writing, penning future B-sides "Susanne" and "Waiting on You" as well as early versions of "Tired of Sex," "Getchoo" and "Why Bother." Space Twins record the seven-song Craterface demo. Wilson records a demo EP under the name Suburban Advantage. According to Koch he circulates about ten copies to friends and industry contacts. He and Wilson marry.
In February, Billboard runs a story about Geffen, mentioning Weezer, and a four-song giveaway cassette is sent to radio and retail. It's cover features the legs and feet that are cropped out the cover photo from the group's debut. Weezer is released in May. Its cover, featuring the four band members against a blue background, recalls the Feelies debut album, Crazy Rhythms. It is widely referred to as The Blue Album.
"The record was barely reviewed at all and when it was, it wasn't necessarily given too much praise," recalls Sharp. "Undone - The Sweater Song" is the record's first single and the band hit the road opening for Material Issue. In July, DGC releases DGC Rarities Vol. 1 featuring unreleased material from DGC artists like Nirvana and Sloan. Weezer's "Jamie" is also included. It's the only commercially available recording that features Cropper. That same month, they head into L.A.'s Ocean Way Studios to record B-sides "My Evaline," "Mykel and Carli" and "Susanne." The latter is about Geffen A&R rep Susanne Filkins, who works with Guns N' Roses and Stone Roses. The band head back out on the road with Lush. The Allan sisters found the official Weezer fan club.
"Undone" eventually hits #6 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart, but the band feel that their label isn't that interested in them. "We were the smallest priority to Geffen," says Sharp. "Barely recognized by the record company. I don't think there was a real plan for how to handle us."
Geffen commissions a music video for the track. The band hire Spike Jonze, whom Bell knows from Jonze's work with skateboard mag Thrasher. Jonze's pitch is ten words long: "A blue stage, a Steadicam, a pack of wild dogs." The clip still costs $60,000 to produce and one of the dogs defecates on Wilson's bass drum pedal. On August 25, the band play Late Night with Conan O'Brien, marking their network television debut. The band open for Live and once again tap Jonze to make their next video for the track "Buddy Holly." Years later it's revealed that the song is about a Korean girl Cuomo had befriended with whom he developed a protective relationship. For the video, Jonze splices scenes of the band into vintage footage from the '70s sitcom, Happy Days. Al Molinaro returns to reprise his character Al Delvecchio introducing the band. The innovative clip sends their career into overdrive and is today still regarded as a high point of the medium. The Blue Album ends up on several year-end best of lists, including Rolling Stone.
Even as Weezer's career soars, Sharp and Wilson begin voicing their frustration over being creatively stifled to the media. "Basically, this is just Rivers' band," Wilson tells Rolling Stone in 1995. "It used to be different. It used to be more of a band, but Rivers just isn't down with that idea. He says he's not interested in playing anybody else's music." Cuomo refused to sit down for an interview with the story's writer, instead requesting that questions be sent to him via fax.
Cuomo starts looking ahead to the band's sophomore follow-up. He conceives a rock opera called Songs from the Black Hole. In the spring, they embark on the World Domination Tour. During the trek, Cuomo learns that he's been accepted to Harvard after penning an entrance letter detailing his disillusionment with life as a rock star. The band film a video for third single, "Say it Ain't So." Keen to avoid being dubbed a novelty act, they opt to not have Jonze direct their next video. Instead they hire Sophie Muller, who films the band performing the song in their old Amherst house. Shortly after the shoot, Cuomo undergoes an operation to lengthen his right leg. Doctors shatter his bone and he is forced to wear a leg brace, which slowly stretches his leg out so that the bone can regrow in the gap. The operation costs upwards of $50,000.
Sharp recruits Rachel and Petra Haden from That Dog along with Wilson and other Los Angeles musician friends and records what becomes the Rentals debut album, Return of the Rentals. The album is released by Madonna's Maverick Records in late October. In August the band head back to Electric Lady to start recording their second album. They opt to self-produce and quickly abandon ideas of creating a conceptual song suite. After recording half an album's worth of material, Cuomo, unable to write on the road and taking a steady supply of painkillers for his leg, heads to Harvard, studying music. While recording Weezer's next album Wilson, now living in Portland, OR, makes a series of demos under the name Huge Guy (the project later morphs into the Special Goodness). Bell turns down turns down an offer to play bass in Elastica, instead focusing on Space Twins in Los Angeles. In the fall "Suzanne" is released on the Mallrats soundtrack. In December, Maverick Records label-mate Alanis Morissette personally selects the Rentals to open a series of tour dates for her.
The Rentals record is a success; they hit the road amidst rumours that Weezer will break up. Cuomo's refusal to co-write with his bandmates only adds fuel to the fire. In the spring, the band reconvene in L.A. and continue work on their second album. "The Pinkerton time was very up and down," says Sharp. "There were tumultuous times in there, where things were pretty discordant. But there were times of togetherness and unity where we were doing something together and we were finding it together."
The album is named after a character in the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly. Its sound is inspired by the Flaming Lips and Steve Albini's work with the Pixies and Nirvana. With the exception of "Pink Triangle" and "El Scorcho," Pinkerton's ten songs are sequenced in the order they were written. "El Scorcho" becomes the record's first single backed by a Mark Romanek-directed music video. However the director's name is removed from the credits after a disagreement with Cuomo, who ends up editing the video himself. Pinkerton is given a September 24 release date but the band are slapped with a restraining order from a security firm called Pinkerton's Inc. the day before its release. The case is thrown out of court.
The album is met with mixed reviews. Many people are thrown by the album's rougher sound and deeply personal lyrics. The changing winds of modern rock radio don't favour the album either. It debuts at number #19 on the Billboard 200. The band tour in support of Pinkerton, but the album sells poorly compared to its predecessor and is named the second worst album of the year in a Rolling Stone readers poll. Its relative failure exposes fissures in the band.
1997 to 2000
Sharp busies himself with the second Rentals album and appears disinterested in a jaunt opening for No Doubt. The band audition bass players to fill in for the tour, but Sharp eventually relents and joins his bandmates for the trek. On July 9, Mykel and Carli Allan are killed in a car accident with their younger sister Tryst. Weezer headline a benefit concert to help with funeral costs in L.A. featuring That Dog, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, Ben Lee and members of No Doubt and Red Cross. Following the end of the No Doubt tour, the band spend the rest of the year out of the limelight.
Cuomo heads to Cambridge, MA in the fall and immerses himself in the local music scene. He plays a number of solo shows with a revolving door of local musicians including bass player Mike Welsh. He records a number of demos. In January, 1998 Wilson comes to visit looking to find common ground with his bandmate. While there, he works with Cuomo, Cake guitarist Greg Brown and members of Soul Coughing to record the song "American Girls" for the soundtrack to Meet the Deedless. Sharp, in town mixing the second Rentals record, produces with Bell and Weezer A&R man Todd Sullivan amongst the friends providing backup vocals. They go by the name Homier. Cuomo and Sharp also co-write the track "My Head is In The Sun," marking the first time the two would collaborate together. The song is released the following year on the Rentals' Seven More Minutes. The Special Goodness release their debut album. Although a deal with Geffen was thought to be in place, it only ever surfaces in Japan.
In February 1999 Cuomo heads back to L.A. to rekindle Weezer. Sharp does not attend rehearsals and officially leaves the band in April. "I'm very proud of both of those albums and feel very fortunate that for whatever reason, our particular chemistry together connected with people," Sharp says today. The band's old friend Patrick Finn and Redd Kross member Steve McDonald are both briefly considered as a replacement, but ultimately the band go with Welsh, who is playing in Juliana Hatfield's band. With Welsh in place, the band record a cover of the Pixies song "Velouria," which is released as part of a Pixies tribute album, Where Is My Mind? the following year.
The band once again disperse and Cuomo hermits away writing dozens of songs. He also gets braces on his teeth. Universal Music buys Polygram and corporate restructuring leads to Sullivan's dismissal at Geffen. Dozens of bands are dropped, yet Geffen hangs on to Weezer. After many delays, Maverick releases the Rentals' Seven More Minutes in April. Despite a star-studded line-up of contributors including Ash's Tim Wheeler, Elastic's Donna Matthews, Blur's Damon Alban and That Dog's Petra Haden, it fails to replicate the success of the band's debut, barely cracking 100,000 copies sold.
2001 to 2002
Despite Weezer's public inactivity, their reputation continues to grow online via the Rebel Weezer Alliance and Weezer.net, both run by Koch. The band themselves solicit opinions on their new music from fans by posting demos online. This is exacerbated by the advent of Napster and file-sharing as whole. Adding fuel to the fire, dozens of rising emo bands begin citing Pinkerton as a major influence, pushing sales of the record. In June, 2000, Weezer play a run of dates on Warped Tour confirming to the world that they do still exist. With their sights firmly set on making a third album, the band enlist Ocasek to once again produce and Geffen gives Weezer the go-ahead to begin recording in November. In December, they post the track "Christmas Celebration" on their website for download, a rarity at the time. Recognizing the internet's role in keeping Weezer from falling into obscurity, Yahoo sponsors their next tour in early 2001. Dubbed the Yahoo! Outloud Tour, the Get Up Kids and Ozma open. Initially only promoted online, 90 percent of the tour's tickets are sold before turning to traditional advertising. "They never said anything to us for that entire tour," the Get Up Kids' Matt Pryor tells Spinner in 2009. "They're the only band I've toured with for a month that I've never spoken to. They're jackasses."
Weeks before their first album in five years is released, the band fire their manager, with Cuomo taking over duties. Their second self-titled album, Weezer, commonly referred to as The Green Album, is released in May. To coincide with its release, the band play a free show at the Sunset Strip Tower Records where Cuomo used to work. Reviews are favourable, although some fans bemoan the album's slick sound, impersonal lyrics and deadpan vocal delivery. "That record is about reaffirming what Weezer is," Bell tells Guitar World in 2002. In the press Cuomo begins to speak out against Pinkerton. "It's a hideous record," he tells Entertainment Weekly. "It was such a hugely painful mistake that happened in front of hundreds of thousands of people and continues to happen on a grander and grander scale." Nevertheless, The Green Album debuts at number four on the Billboard chart and Weezer play Saturday Night Live. It goes on to sell 3.5 million copies worldwide. While in New York, Cuomo records a demo called "A Dio" for Enrique Iglesias, but the signer passes on the track. In August, Welsh leaves the group under mysterious circumstances. Some believe it's drug related although it's later revealed that Welsh was checked into a psychiatric hospital in Boston. After auditioning a number of players, Scott Shriner, a former U.S. Marine who played in Vanilla Ice's rap-metal group, joins Weezer.
The band begin performing new material while touring behind The Green Album. As the tour progresses the music becomes more aggressive. In October the band head into the studio to begin work on another new record. A second set of sessions takes place in December. Both sessions are self-produced. The Special Goodness self-release their second album, At Some Point Birds and Flowers Became Interesting. Seeking a critical voice outside of the band, Cuomo starts interacting with fans online, using the screen name "Ace" (short for Ace Frehley). He begins posting demos for fans to download and critique. However these interactions slowly deteriorate and he begins to sour on the approach. Still, the next album's title comes from a fan suggestion and Weezer message boardies are thanked in the record's liner notes.
In January, 2002 Rock Music, a Weezer tribute album featuring groups like Grade, the Ataris and Dashboard Confessional is released on Dead Droid Records.
The band's label is not keen about Weezer releasing a new album so soon after The Green Album. The band self-finance recording sessions as tensions between the group and the label reach an all-time high. Problems are exacerbated when an early mix of "Dope Nose" that Cuomo circulates to friends at radio is put into rotation. Cuomo eventually smooths things over with the label and just a year after The Green Album, i>Maladroit hits stores in May. The title is French for "awkward." It features a much harder and ragged rock sound than its predecessor and perhaps to go along with the new sound, Cuomo grew a beard in the interim. It is featured in several high-profile stories about the band. In July the band head out on the Enlightenment tour with Sparta and Dashboard Confessional as openers.
Cuomo continues to court the ire of Pinkerton diehards, refusing to play more than one or two songs from the record a night. "I'll fuck with them sometimes," Cuomo tells Guitar World in 2002. "I'll start to play one of those Pinkerton songs, they start to cheer and then I'll bust into one of my gay pop songs." Cuomo begins managing AM Radio, a band fronted by old friend Kevin Ridel. He also sings on the Crazy Town track, "Hurt You So Bad." In September, the band release the limited edition Lion and the Witch EP to independent retailers. The disc's six songs were recorded live in Japan. Cuomo sends producer Rick Rubin demos for the band's next album. Rubin agrees to work with the band.
2003 to 2005
At Rubin's behest, Cuomo begins practicing vipassana meditation. "I was averse to the idea, initially," Cuomo writes in his 2004 Harvard re-admission letter. "My goal in trying all the crazy experiments in my life has always been to improve, maintain, or recover my connection to music. Meditation, it seemed to me, would rob me of the angst that I believed was an essential precondition to that connection… I have found that the areas of tension in my mind — the fear, the anger, the sadness, the craving — are slowly melting away… I feel like I am finally much closer to reaching my potential." That same month the Special Goodness release their third album on N.O.S. Recordings. Epitaph would remaster the record and re-release it the following January. Cuomo also co-writes the song "Stupid Girl" with Cold's Scooter Ward, which becomes that band's biggest hit. In November, Space Twins release their debut album, The End of Imagining on their own Raga Drop records. Writing for Rolling Stone, Lueresen names it the seventh best album of the year. Weezer end 2003 by starting to record their next album with Rubin.
In March, 2004 Geffen releases a deluxe edition of The Blue Album, including an extra disc of era-appropriate B-sides, rarities and demos. The same day the band release their first DVD, Video Capture Device: Treasures from the Vault: 1991-2002. Compiled by Koch, it features all their music videos to date, live performances, interviews and documentary footage of the band. It's certified gold later in the year. In the summer, Weezer reconvene for another round of recording. In September, Cuomo heads back to Harvard, leaving the rest of the band to do overdubs.
After Cuomo returns from school in January, 2005, Weezer head to Rubin's home studio, finally finishing the record in April. Make Believe is released in May, 11 years to the day after The Blue Album. It receives mixed reviews and to this day remains one of the band's most reviled albums amongst fans. Exclaim! reviewer Sam Sutherland sums up the consensus of many fans and critics in his one-line review, "Remember when Weezer were good?" Still the record does extremely well at retail and radio, debuting at number two on the Billboard 200. Singles "Beverly Hills" and "Perfect Situation" both hit number one on the Modern Rock chart. It goes on to sell 3.7 million copies worldwide. "We Are All On Drugs" is released as the record's second single. For MTV, the band change the song's chorus to "We are all in love." A video by director Marc Webb (Amazing Spider-Man, (500) Days of Summer) for "Perfect Situation" features Canadian actress Elisha Cuthbert as the diva frontwoman of a band called Wheeze. In December, the band release the two-track Winter Weezerland EP through iTunes. The songs were originally recorded in 2000 for a fan club giveaway.
2006 to 2007
Following promo activities for Make Believe, Rivers heads back to Harvard to complete his degree. Wilson and Shriner are hard at work with the Special Goodness and Bell starts a new project called the Relationship. Rumours that Weezer would break up begin to circulate. In June 2006, Rivers marries Kyoko Ito in Malibu before heading to Japan for their honeymoon. The two met in 1997 after one of Cuomo's solo performances in Cambridge. Their daughter, Mia, is born a year later.
While in Japan, Cuomo tells MTV Japan that the band are in fact finished. "Really, for the moment, we are done. And I'm not certain we'll ever make a record again, unless it becomes really obvious to me that we need to do one." Despite the statement, on the band's official website Koch insists the group are in fact still together.
In April of 2007 a demo of the track "Pig" leaks online. Its metadata suggests it's from an album called Deliverance at Hand! The record turns out to be a collection of demos. Rick Rubin produces sessions in the spring and self-produced sessions follow. Finally the band hooks up with Jacknife Lee, who produces "Pork and Beans" and "Troublemaker." In December, Cuomo releases his first solo album; Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo is a collection of demos and home recordings from 1992 to 2007.
2008 to 2011
In June, the band release their first album in three years, the third self-titled Weezer, commonly known at The Red Album; notably, it's the first Weezer album to include compositions from Wilson, Shriner and Bell. The album is relatively well-received by critics and debuts at number four on Billboard, eventually selling 625,000 copies. Cuomo tells Rolling Stone that "Pork and Beans," the album's first single, was inspired by Geffen rejecting a number of his songs and requesting that he "write some hits." In the fall, the band head out on the Troublemaker Tour with Toronto's Tokyo Police Club and Tom DeLonge's post-Blink-182 group Angels & Airwaves. In November, Cuomo releases a second instalment of demos, Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo. Tracks include a cover of the Beach Boys "Don't Worry Baby." The collection's cover is Cuomo's senior class portrait, featuring teenage Rivers sporting "boomin'" glam-metal hair.
That same month, the band set to work on their next album. Early reports suggest that they will continue to use colour-coded album titles. "If I had my way, we would just use colors from now on, then we wouldn't have to think about titles," Wilson tells Billboard. "We must've had a hundred titles for The Red Album, and none of them felt right, so we just gave up and said, 'Okay, let's just make a color.'" In December, Weezer release the six-song EP Christmas with Weezer. The songs had previously been available via the iOs game of the same name created by Tapulous, best known for Tap Tap Revenge.
In April 2009, Cuomo releases the EP and accompanying DVD Live at Fingerprints, featuring performances of Weezer songs and an interview with NPR's Terry Gross. The band introduce a Weezer-branded Snuggie to their line of merch — it's appropriately called a Wuggie. That summer, videogame music label Pterodactyl Squad releases an eight-bit tribute album to the band.
In the run-up to the release of their next studio album, it's revealed that Cuomo has been writing with pop star Katy Perry. The resulting track, "Work It," is earmarked for Perry's 2010 blockbuster Teenage Dreambut ultimately remains unreleased. Raditude is released at the end of October. Lil Wayne guests on the track "Can't Stop Partying," which Cuomo co-writes with Wayne and Jermaine Dupri. Uber-producers Jacknife Lee, Butch Walker and Dr. Luke also contribute. Wilson also contributes the track "In the Mall." The album receives mixed reviews. Pitchfork's Rob Mitchum gives the record a 4.5, explaining "the record's teen-boy empowerment message doesn't have much to offer anyone over 13 years old." The album peaks at number seven on Billboard and tops the Alternative Albums chart but sells significantly fewer copies than The Red Album. It remains Weezer's lowest-selling record, shifting just 110,000 copies worldwide. Weezer end the year on a dour note when their bus hits a patch of black ice somewhere between Toronto and Boston. Cuomo suffers three cracked ribs and a lower leg injury, forcing the band to cancel their remaining 2009 tour dates.
The band release a five-track EP for 2010's Record Store Day fittingly titled, …Happy Record Store Day! The cover features the same image of a dog leaping in the air from Raditude, photoshopped over an image of a record store. The EP features collaborations with Kenny G and Sara Bareilles, two live tracks and a cover of Green Day's "Brain Stew." Cuomo co-writes and sings the chorus of B.o.B.'s "Magic," which is released as the fifth single from the MC's debut album. The track is co-produced by Dr. Luke, with whom Cuomo had collaborated on the Raditude track, "I'm Your Daddy."
Weezer's contract with Geffen expires in the spring and by summer the group have signed with Epitaph for a one-album deal. The resulting record, Hurley, which is released in September, features a photo of actor Jorge Garcia, who played the character Hurley on the TV series, Lost. "We struggled super hard trying to come up with an album title, trying to find some kind of phrase that summed up the whole aesthetic behind the album," Cuomo tells Spinner. "We just went with some random word that doesn't really have anything to do with anything. I just loved this photo of Jorge Garcia — it just had this amazing vibe. We didn't want to do a fourth self-titled record and we knew people would refer to it as 'the Hurley record' even if left it without that title, so we just called it Hurley."
The album's title also ties in with clothing company Hurley, who release a Weezer-branded line to accompany the record. A bonus disc included in deluxe edition contains one new track, "I Want To Be Something," and three covers: Coldplay's "Viva la Vida," World Cup anthem "Represent" and Yo Gabba Gabba song "All My Friends Are Insects." Cuomo once again collaborates with big-name producers and songwriters on many of the tracks, including Linda Perry, Ryan Adams, Dan Wilson and No Doubt's Tony Kanal. The album fairs better critically, scoring a 68 on Metacritic and peaks at number six on Billboard.
The day after the album's release, Cuomo reveals to the AV Club that the band are already hard at work on a followup. Taking a page from the record's first single, the band embark on the Memories tour, which finds Weezer performing their much-loved Blue Album and Pinkerton records in their entirety. Fittingly, Pinkerton is given the deluxe reissue treatment in November. In an interview with Exclaim!, Cuomo denies that he ever had ill-will towards the album. "Right around 2001, when we put out The Green Album, I said a lot of negative, inflammatory things about Pinkerton and about a lot of things" he explains. "Those quotes have lived on for the last nine years, and people get confused and think I still feel that way, even though it was something I said in an off-handed way nine years ago. But ever since, I've been trying to make it clear that, of course I think it's a brilliant album; I love it. I love the songs and I love playing those songs and I hope the positive message gets through." On the same day the new and improved Pinkerton hits the streets, the group also drop a B-sides and rarities compilation called Death to False Metal, which includes an un-ironic cover of Toni Braxton's slow jam "Un-Break My Heart."
In October, Seattle's James Burns begins a crowd-funding campaign to raise $10 million as an incentive to force Weezer to break up. In a statement he writes: "Every year, Rivers Cuomo swears that he's changed, and that their new album is the best thing that he's done since Pinkerton, and what happens? Another pile of crap like 'Beverly Hills' or 'I'm Your Daddy.' This is an abusive relationship, and it needs to stop now. I am tired of my friends being disappointed year after year." For his trouble, he receives a number of death threats from Weezer fans. Meanwhile the band seem to take the whole thing in stride, with Wilson tweeting "If they can make it 20, we'll do the 'deluxe breakup!'"
Even while people plot the band's demise, others look to celebrate the group. A group of Toronto-based female musicians including Laura Barrett and the Bicycles' Dana Snell form the Weezer cover band, Sheezer. "It's an interesting '90s conceit because that's when it was a big deal if you were a 'girl band,'" Snell told Exclaim! "I don't feel like that exists any more. And every guy and his bro have covered Weezer at some point, so this is a fresh take on it." Fittingly the band stick to tracks from the group's first two records.
Moving into 2011, Cuomo continues to collaborate with a wide variety of artists. Co-songwriting credits include actress-turned-musician Miranda Cosgrove, pop punk groups All Time Low and Panic! At the Disco and electro house producer Steve Aoki. He also contributes guest vocals to Simple Plan's "Can't Keep My Hands Off You," but does not appear in the accompanying music video.
In July, former bass player Mikey Welsh joins the band onstage at a gig in New York, playing guitar on "Undone - The Sweater Song." Welsh is found dead in a Chicago hotel room three months later. His death is announced October 8 via his Facebook page. His death is suspected to be from a drug overdose, which led to a heart attack. In an eerie coincidence, Welsh predicted his own death, tweeting, "Dreamt I died in chicago next weekend (heart attack in my sleep). need to write my will today." In response the band tweet: "We are shocked and deeply saddened to hear the awful news, our friend and fellow weez rocker @mikeywelsh71 has passed away. We love u Mikey." In December, Cuomo releases Alone III: The Pinkerton Years, which collects demos the musician made between 1993 and 1996, including many tracks originally slated for inclusion on Song From the Black Hole. A special edition is bundled with The Pinkerton Diaries, a 237-page hardcover book featuring journals, letters and music notation related to Pinkerton.
2012 to 2014
The inaugural Weezer Cruise launches in January, taking fans on a four-day trip from Miami to Cozumel, Mexico. Along with performances and Q&As with band members, the trip includes performances from Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, Wavves and the Antlers. Wilson's side project, the Special Goodness release their fourth album, Natural, in May of 2012. At a Los Angeles fan event in October 2013, Cuomo reveals that the band are once again working with Ocasek on a new album. He also teases a greatest hits package and fourth edition of his Alone series.
In January 2014, the band play a free show to celebrate opening of Microsoft's new store in Brampton. February sees the return of the Weezer cruise. Second time out, fans travel from Jacksonville, FL to the Bahamas and Miami. Guests include Toro Y Moi, Ash and Cat Power. In April, the band stop by Jack White's Third Man Records in Nashville to cut a new version of "Susanne" in White's analog recording booth. They release the cut via an Instagram video.
In March, Weezer begin teasing new material via a series of videos on their website; in June they reveal the record will be called Everything Will Be Alright in the End. It's given a September 30 release date, but is eventually bumped back to October 7 after recording takes longer than expected. In July, the band reveal to Entertainment Weekly that the album was conceived and recorded over a four-year period and was recorded in Cuomo's garage studio. Over 200 songs are written, with 20 ultimately recorded. ''I'm hearing three big themes," says Cuomo. "One is my relationship to other people, and how I want to have super-deep relationships and risk and share and how scary that can be, and how sometimes it's just not appropriate to tell everybody everything and how painful that is for me. Then there's relationships with women. That's always a hot topic for me. And I was originally thinking of the third theme as father figures, but with a spin." First single "Back to the Shack" hits the web in July.
Few bands arrive as fully formed as this. The crunchy double guitars, half-time beat, and Rivers' croon, at once both aloof and emotive, are all here. The Blue Album, as it would come to be known set the template by which Weezer and nerd-rock-cool in general, is judged. A mixed bag of indie rock signifiers, classic rock touchstones and pop culture references, on their own each of the ten tracks feels iconic. Taken as a whole they are an anomaly of the '90s alt-rock era that birthed them. It's also arguably the only album most Weezer fans can agree on.
Cuomo's feelings on the record seem to change with the weather, but fans continue to flock to the album's deeply personal lyrics and themes. The infamous commercial flop turned cult classic has lost none of its raw nerve in the 18 years since it was released and it's the best hard evidence of Weezer's one-time musical genius. Pinkerton continues to be the mile-marker by which future records by Weezer are judged.
Choosing a favourite post-millennial Weezer record is a matter of taste and age. But Maladroit remains an under-appreciated outlier from this phase of the band's career. Their most "rock" record by a mile, Maladroit was hastily assembled during promotional duties for The Green Album and it shows. For every triumph like the joyous, totally nonsensical "Dope Nose," there is a half-baked nugget like "Slob." Yet Maladroit is the last record where Cuomo and company sound like they're following their own muse rather than indulging in cheap fan service.