Originally published in MOO Magazine (November 1994)
(Listen to the entire interview – you’ll mostly hear me and Brian Bell. Matt Sharp was on the bus with us and did make some comments but he’s a little harder to hear)
Rule #27 in the Rock Journalism Handbook: Never allow a band to read a review of its disc in your magazine prior to interviewing said band.
“Unfortunately, we can’t get good reviews, especially in magazines like MOO (see issue 4),” says Weezer guitarist/vocalist Brian Bell. “We’re definitely not geared towards the alternative, hip, college radio sort of vibe. We’re more commercial. Reviewers sense that, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I’m so sick of all these millions and millions of bands popping up and putting out their 7″ singles. I’d rather do what we’re doing and be on the radio.”
These days, the lovable geeks are touring cross-country and opening a string of sold-out club and theater dates for Live. Not bad for a band that, pre-MTV “Buzz Clip”, was opening for Cindy Lee Berryhill. Cindy Lee Berryhill? Nah, I’ve never heard of her either.
Credit for Weezer’s relative overnight success must be given to MTV and radio stations that played the quirky first single, “Undone – The Sweater Song”. The Spike Jonze-directed video, with the fully-trained, professional stunt dog (“Better actors than we are,” Bell admits) running across the set, made its way directly into heavy rotation at MTV as a “Buzz Clip”.
“It’s just amazing. Pre-‘Buzz Clip’ to post-‘Buzz Clip’ is pretty much like night and day,” Bell says. One of the perks of being the current “next big thing” is that the record company, in Weezer’s case, Geffen, doesn’t mind trading in the rickety old van for a luxurious TOUR BUS.
“You might think, ‘Oh, Weezer has a tour us, they’re sell-outs.’ But, fuck, I’ve been touring in a van for like four or five years. If I had to do it any longer, I think I’d quit,” Bell says.
Some of the adventures in the old touring van make for strong material when the band sits down to write songs for the next album. Bells tells a story of the band’s misfortunes in Nevada while Weezer was on tour with Lush: “We broke down in Winnamucca, Nevada. There’s like a famous whorehouse in Winnemucca. We had no idea. We were all bummed out when we could have had a real fun time. Instead of losing money getting the van fixed, we could have lost it other ways.”
But who needs to pay for it? When you’re a big MTV band playing melodic, commercial garage pop with a surf music undertone, you’re bound to make a big hit with the women. And don’t think that the boys in Weezer aren’t drawing their share of female fans; it just so happens that Weezer is one of the most popular bands … in junior high and high schools across the country. As you read this, thousands of teenagers are being turned on to this generation’s equivalent of the Cars.
“I always thought that we’d appeal to people in our age bracket (around 25 years old),” Bell admits. “I guess we don’t appeal to people who write for college music magazines (Whoa! Another stab to the heart). We appeal to high school students.
Paying homage to the Cars, Weezer asked Ric Ocasek (for you kids out there, Ocasek was the lead singer for the Cars) to produce its album. “It was as simple as sending him a tape and him liking it,” Bell says. Bell and the group’s bassist, Matt Sharp, were even able to pass the Cars pop quiz I gave them. They named all four members of the band, including the drummer.
The band also allows pop culture to manifest itself into the lyrics. Throughout the self-titled debut, references are made to surfing, Buddy Holly, Mary Tyler Moore, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss and the Dungeon Master’s Guide from the role-playing fantasy game that was a rage in the mid-80s, Dungeons and Dragons.
“One of the major fantasies you can have is playing Dungeons and Dragons and, like, you’re this different person battling monsters,” Bell explains. “I’m sure the lyrics to ‘In the Garage’ (written by vocalist/guitarist Rivers Cuomo) had something to do with going completely with your imagination and then having this fantasy that you’re going to be a rock start playing in the garage with Quiet Riot posters hanging on the wall.”
The fantasy may have become reality for the members of Weezer, as the inside cover of the band’s disc reveals a rehearsal room with a poster of Kevin Dubrow and Carlos Cavazo (Quiet Riot’s singer and guitarist, respectively) tacked above the equipment. Hidden behind an amp in the photo is a large poster/tapestry of Judas Priest’s British Steel cover.
“We asked some kids – our fan base is really young – at this radio promotional show … we were like, ‘Whoever can name the bands in our album cover will get free tickets to a show,” Bell says.
“They thought the picture of Quiet Riot was the Clash! ‘It, uh, Pavement …’,” Sharps adds.
Both Bell and Sharp admit that they never expected to perform in front of thousands of screaming fans, especially after some of the early Weezer shows.
“The worst show was in Portland, Oregon. We played after Rollerball – The Move. After seeing that movie, I was frightened,” Bell says. “People in Portland were not there to see us. By the time we went on, there were 10 people left. By the time we were done, there were two.”
This pales in comparison to a recent free radio promotion show Weezer performed at in New Jersey.
“They say there was 10,000 people there!” Bell says.
“I didn’t see 10,000 people there!” Sharp comments.
“There was maybe 3,000,” Bell admits. “Somebody said there was 10,000 people in the area, but that must have been the whole city – people in their houses … We were told that we were playing in a baseball stadium. We got there, and it was right outside the stadium – in the stadium parking lot.”
And in a scene straight out of the Beatles’ Help, “The kids were just screaming ‘Weezer!’,” Bell says. “People were mobbing us, all these little girls and boys.” I bet Paul, George, Ringo and John could relate.
(In case you were wondering: David Robinson was the Cars’ drummer)