Encore Magazine article - July 1995

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Print interview with Matt Sharp
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Publication Encore Magazine
Interviewee Matt Sharp
Interviewer Paul Lay
Date July 1995
Title Weezer
Sub-title Just another bunch of geeks?
Format Print
External link Archive via PastPrint
References See where this interview is referenced on Weezerpedia

Weezer
Author: Paul Lay (Encore Magazine)
Published: July 1995


Just another bunch of geeks?

"We're not into any nostalgia trip, but The Fonz is a fan. That's pretty cool."

It's true. Apart from once joining Weezer on stage, Henry Winkler appears in the video for the LA-based quartet's new single, 'Buddy Holly'. Well, sort of. In fact, the video cleverly intercuts the band with footage from the TV series Happy Days (complete with the Fonz, Arnold's Diner et al) itself a nostalgic recreation of Fifties small town America.

Weezer are not the first band to transport themselves back in time for a video - Nirvana did it for 'In Bloom' - but Weezer don't look awkward 40 years back. They're clean-cut, cute and very American Graffiti. Their kooky pop sensibility owes much to 24-year-old Connecticut-born Rivers Cuomo, their chief songwriter, who's currently deciding between Harvard, Princeton and Yale as the place to continue his musical studies between breaks from the band.

The question is, are Weezer using subtle postmodern irony? Or are they part of a new wave of homegrown but anodyne American big-sellers (they've shifted one-and-a-half million copies of their eponymous debut in the States so far) following the trail laid by fellow geeks Green Day? Are they the kind of band Newt Gingrich might feel at home with ("we're wacky but conservative, just like my dad," according to guitarist Brian Bell), and whom Beavis and Butthead would almost certainly disdainfully label 'college'?

Their preppy image certainly got the backs up of some critics over here on their recent tour. The "Corporate Breeders", they were labelled, though they also received considerable praise for their post-punk musical deliberations. Despite those annoying, trebly middle-eights and self consciously 'gormless' lyrics, there's enough dissonance and experiments in the mix and passion in the vocals to belie the calculating style.

True, Weezer can be unbearably arch ('Surfwax'), but on tracks like 'Say It Ain't So' - with its "my love is a life-taker" refrain - they sound like a heady cross between Foreigner and The Impressions. That's some fusion.

Talking to bassist Matt Sharp, it becomes clear just how disconcertingly eclectic the band's musical tastes are. There are the obvious things: "early Beatles, stuff like 'If I Fell' and the Beach Boys too. Melody is primary." Then things take a downturn. "Jesus Christ, Superstar had a big influence on Rivers, along with all those other things you English despise."

Quite. Weezer are also keen disciples of just about the ultimate in the no-cred stakes, Gary Numan. "The first three LPs, especially Pleasure Principle they're synth classics."

Individually, however, Matt shows a little more discernment. "The last two Talk Talk LPs are just about the best ever made. People who've opened their ears to them, they're amazed. They're very personal, honest statements. But people always take it funny when you mention their name." (Not so much nowadays. Talk Talk are frequently cited as a profound influence on a host of musicians, ask the boys of Radio 3's Mixing It.)

Despite their success, Sharp is keen to play down the music's obvious commerciality (drummer Patrick hated the LP's "Phil Collins' sound"). "We're not really into writing music that sells just for the sake of it. We write songs to deal with things that affect us," he insists. "I really think the success took the label and the band by equal surprise. Perhaps they thought we'd grow. I don't know. Some people even think we sold out by signing to them. But we don't really give a shit for credibility. We write these songs if people like 'em, they like 'em. If they don't, they don't. In the end we're just a band from LA, a garage band."

Maybe, but not every garage band gets to record in Electric Ladyland studios with The Cars' Ric Ocasek producing. Funnily enough, Bad Brains were the last group who did and look what happened to them...

"We like to describe ourselves as a cross between The Cars and Bad Brains but no one else seems to agree," offers Sharp. "It was a thrill to have Ric Ocasek on board. We sent him a tape, thought nothing and then he came back saying he liked it and wanted to produce us. He's a great songwriter so we thought, yes, okay, let's get him to do it."

And what of the clean-cut, upbeat nature of the music? 'Holiday', according to Rivers Cuomo, was "written in a sudden burst of confidence and optimism right after we got a record deal. The positive emotions have since dissipated - along with our advances but I still like the songs."

What about politics? Are you part of the culture that's turning in on itself? Matt laughs. "We have no concern at all for politics. Anyway, we've just spent a year on the road -constantly - so we're feeling a little disconnected."

The next stop on the horizon is Japan. Then they'll take a summer break while Cuomo writes new songs and the others amuse themselves. "We've all got separate interests outside the band. I've got a group, The Rentals, who I gig with and that's cool."

Weezer are a band at ease with themselves. "We get on well, enjoy ourselves. As well as we've done, we don't let the pressures get to us. You could write completely the opposite to what I've told you and it wouldn't bother me. You might say we're the best band since The Beatles or you might say we ripped off the Pixies, but so what? If we care we'll get screwed up. And we're basically decent.

See also