Aquarian Weekly interview with Matt Sharp - April 1995
Weirder by the Day
By Al Muzer
Accusations such as geeks, nerds, gimmick, punk sell-outs and crass opportunists have been hurled at MTV Buzz boys, Weezer, ever since their goofily infectious first single, "Undone - The Sweater Song," and its lurching, loudly shouted chorus started bombarding the airwaves.
Mostly, however, Rivers Cuomo, Brian Bell, Matt Sharp and Patrick Wilson, by way of witty, self-depreciating lyrics coupled with a quirky brand of crunch-pop, find themselves saddled as heroes of the "geek-rock" movement.
The video for their second single, "Buddy Holly," shows Weezer as the house band at Arnold's Drive-in in a Spike Jonze (Breeders, Beastie Boys, Dinosaur Jr) directed Happy Days spoof.
The sight of Weezer drummer Wilson slyly winking at a love-struck Joanie, or the Fonz giving guitarist/vocalist Bell a thumbs-up should go far in cementing that geek image, no matter how false it may be.
"Geeks!" exclaims bassist/vocalist Sharp angrily. "Completely false. You're talking about that Entertainment Weekly article ("The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth" - EW Oct. 94), right? We did a long interview with that guy (Chris Nashawaty)," continues Sharp, "there was all this great material he got, and he extracted shit that made it seem so totally not like the conversation was."
"He was into it, (the geek angle) more than we were," says Sharp. "'Well, I played Dungeons & Dragons when I was a kid, blah, blah, blah,'" Sharp adds in a nasal imitation. "Really, it seemed as if he came in looking specifically to get a geek angle on us."
"I never played D&D when I was a kid," Sharp says, "and as far as Weezer being geek-rock, I don't know about that. We play 'New Wave through a Marshall Stack,' if you really need to pigeonhole us."
Formed by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Cuomo in 1992, the LA-based band is made up of transplanted East Coast (Cuomo, Connecticut; Sharp and Wilson, NY; and Bell, East Tennessee) natives.
"We got together musically nearly three years ago, Rivers, Pat and I started out as roomates," Sharp continues. "Pat and Rivers were in a couple of different bands together that didn't really do anything. So was I. After awhile, I got tired of L.A. and moved to San Francisco."
"They called me one day," Sharp adds, "and asked if I wanted to come and work on some songs with them. If I liked the songs, they said, I could play in their new band if I wanted to," laughs Sharp. "It wasn't about playing, really, as much as it was about accepting the songs and getting along with Rivers and Pat."
"We just kept practicing and playing gigs," Sharp reminisces. "We opened in club after club where nobody saw us, but, eventually, we developed a small following."
"One day this record industry guy came to check us out," says Sharp. "Once one or two industry guys show up, they all seem to show up. Of course, everyone but Geffen rejected us. One guy from Columbia even told us," laughs Sharp, "that, 'There's no future for this kind of music, this American guitar pop thing,' it was frustrating, but we believed in the band."
Signed to Geffen Records in June 1993, the band got ready for the studio while Cuomo, in a sudden burst of optimism, penned "In The Garage," "Holiday" and "Buddy Holly."
Thoughts of album art, singles, videos, song sequencing, touring, cash advances and possible producers occupied the hours the boys weren't practicing.
"We were gonna produce the record by ourselves," says Sharp, "but then Rivers bought The Cars Greatest Hits album by chance and began playing it."
"We got into the early Cars thing and began to notice a musical similarity between us and them," he continues. "Our use of chords, downstrokes and melodies shows the same economy and tightness as a Cars song. 'Buddy Holly,' " laughs Sharp, "is not that far off from 'Just What I Needed'."
"Rivers decided that that was reason enough to send Ric Ocasek a tape, just to see what he thought of our chances," says Sharp. "Two days later Ric just showed up and told us he wanted to do the album."
"He was really adamant about wanting to do our album and very supportive of our music," marvels Sharp, "so off we went to New York for two months at Electric Lady."
With the album selling well, Weezer find themselves nearing the middle of a what will amount to year-long promotional tour. Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien, MTV's 120 Minutes and a slew of shows at clubs across America have gone into pushing the album into the CMJ Top 20.
"We're kind of headlining as well as opening on this tour," says Sharp. "Last night we played with Hole, Dinosaur Jr, Veruca Salt and Bad Religion at one of those mega-type radio station shows that raises money for charity. Tonight we're headlining with local bands opening and Saturday, The Dambuilders are opening for us at The Stone Pony."
"We like to goof around and have fun on stage," continues Sharp. "One of us will start playing around, and the rest will join in."
"We did 'Turn The Page' by Bob Seger the other night, totally unexpected, unprofessional and off-the-cuff," laughs Sharp. "Rivers knew part of the song and started singing it, I chimed in with a falsetto thing and then the rest of the band kicked in. It completely baffled the crowd."
"We draw on some of the '70s and '80s stuff we grew up on," says Sharp. "I wanted to be Ray Davies, Pat probably wanted to be in Rush and I think Rivers always wanted to be Ace Frehley."
"You know," laughs Sharp, "the standard suburban dreams of glory - air guitar and rock-star poses in front of mirrors. The usual '70s and '80s bands that everyone else listened to," adds Sharp. "Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, Van Halen, Gary Numan, The Cars - that late-70s new wave stuff. No real geek idols there."
"Mary Tyler Moore," says Sharp, "sent us each, framed, personalized, autographed pictures! We all thought that was pretty amazing. Oh, yeah, the Fonz is gonna introduce us at a show in LA. Things just get weirder and weirder by the day for Weezer - and we encourage it."