Detroit News interview with Brian Bell - August 10, 1995
Nerd-chic? Weezer trashes the labels and just plain rocks
By Vikki Tobak
Weezer. They've been called everything from "geek-rock" to "nerd-chic," and in a lot of ways, that's not so far from the truth. But taken on their own idiosyncratic terms, these guys prove that even the most unabashed musical underdog can rock as hard as the big boys of today's "cooler than you" indie rock.
With a platinum-selling, self-titled debut album under their belt, this gang of four is adored by screaming teens and closet Beach Boys lovers alike. Their unique mesh of nontraditional lyrics, guitar-ridden grooves and all-around good, solid songs such as "Undone - The Sweater Song", "Buddy Holly" and the current single "Say It Ain't So" prove that they have a lot more up their flannel sleeves than their "geek-rock" reputation might lead you to believe.
Success for Weezer has meant going beyond power pop. "We're like the antithesis of grunge," guitarist Brian Bell says proudly. The foursome first crossed paths a few years ago in Los Angeles after saying goodbye to different areas of Eastern suburbia (Bell is from Knoxville, Tenn.; drummer Pat Wilson is from Buffalo; bassist Matt Sharp is from Arlington, Va., and lead singer/guitarist Rivers Cuomo, who grew up on an ashram, is from Connecticut).
They left their hometowns for different reasons. Rivers, for example, says, "At 18, I freaked out and moved to L.A. to become a rock star." Other than admitting to that, the shy chief songwriter for the group prefers to let the other guys in the band do the talking.
"None of us really expected any of this," says Bell, who joined the group midway through the recording of its album after the departure of Jason Cropper, "so we're all handling it in different ways. Rivers just happens to be very introverted, and that's OK because he's an amazing songwriter."
It's been a big few years for a band that didn't expect much success. Bonding on that mid-20s, regular-guy thing, Weezer (which was Rivers' nickname as a kid) played its fair share of local gigs around Los Angeles and was signed almost immediately by Geffen. Before long, the group was recording at New York's Electric Ladyland studios with producer Ric Ocasek.
"It's not like I think we suck or anything," Bell says. "It's just that it's such a surprise. Personally, I know we've worked hard for what we have, but I also know that only a fraction of good bands actually make it this far, so... it's cool."
MTV fell in love with the group on the strength of its video for "Buddy Holly," which incidentally almost didn't make the final cut of the album.
Director Spike Jonze, hot off the success for the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" video, convinced the guys to make "Buddy Holly" a take on the '70s TV show Happy Days, with the band performing at a makeshift Arnold's drive-in. (Looking back, Bell says Sharp easily would have been the Fonz, Wilson would be Ralph Mouth, and it would be a toss-up between him and Rivers as to who would be Richie.)
The boys of Weezer were instant Buzz Bin babes. "The way the video came together is actually quite funny," Bell explains. "We knew Spike back when he was taking photos for skateboard magazines. Right when we got signed, I ran into him while I was delivering food to Propaganda Films. See, I was the only guy in the group in the band to keep my day job for a little while after we got signed. I was like, 'Hey, I'm in this band Weezer who just got signed. You should direct our video.' And he took the delivery and said, 'OK.' Ah, fate."
Weezer is wrapping up a hectic touring schedule that brought the band to Detroit's State Theatre in March, to Europe for three months and now to Meadow Brook in Rochester on Friday. Soon, the band plans to take some time to pursue individual endeavors.
"We're definitely not breaking up," Bell says. "I know there have been some rumors."
Rivers will return to college, while the rest of the members work on side projects: Sharp records with the recently signed Rentals, and Bell has his own band called Space Twins. In the meantime, a self-produced album is in the works for spring '96. Weezer "won't be called geek-rock" for long, Bell says.
"We start recording when we return from our much-needed break," he says, "but the album's already done in our heads, know what I mean?"
So how will the new album compare to their debut blastmaster? Well, you can expect anything but a sophomore slump.
"We're going for the deeper, darker, more experimental stuff," Bell says, "but we'll always be the Weezer you know and love."