Hartford Courant article - October 6, 1994

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Print interview with Brian Bell
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Publication Hartford Courant
Interviewee Brian Bell
Interviewer Roger Catlin
Date October 6, 1994
Title Rivers Cuomo returns home with Weezer
Format Print
External link Archive via Newspapers.com
Archive via Courant.com
Associated concert Weezer concert: 10/06/1994
Fury concert: 11/19/1983
References See where this interview is referenced on Weezerpedia

Rivers Cuomo returns home with Weezer
Author: Roger Catlin (Hartford Courant)
Published: October 6, 1994

The last time Rivers Cuomo played the state in which he grew up, it was as part of a metal outfit called Avant Garde or an even earlier Kiss tribute band called Fury.

“We had makeup, black lines under our eyes and everything,” he recalls.

Cuomo was so serious about his metal career that upon graduation from E.O Smith School in Mansfield, he and Avant Garde took off for Los Angeles, where the Sunset Strip was producing such million-selling bands as Motley Crue, Poison and Guns N’ Roses.

“We had such a hard time,” he says now. “The five of us living in one room, all kinds of roaches all over the place. It was terrible.”

As a result, Avant Garde quickly split up. “It was real disillusioning,” he says. “Because it was my dream band from high school.”

Expectations were understandably low, then, when as a record store clerk and part-time college student Cuomo began writing songs and started performing them around Los Angeles with a new set of roommates.

But almost instantly, the band, known as Weezer, began to attract a lot of attention among record-label executives. “We’d do gigs where there were 50 people there, and they all had business cards,” he says.

Ending up on Geffen Records, Weezer released a low-key debut album earlier this year, which, with the help of a video that gets constant airplay on MTV, helped make “Undone (The Sweater Song)” the latest in a series of punk-spirited new pop tunes to crash the charts this year.

Weezer’s appearance on a national tour with the band Live no doubt helped sell out tonight’s show at the Sting in New Britain nearly a week in advance.

“It’s amazing. Weezer is just exploding,” said Sting spokesman Lance Schultheis.

“It’s fun to have a band opening for us who people know,” Live drummer Chad Gracey said in an interview. “It’s Weezer’s first bus tour, and they’re all excited about that.”

The turnaround for Cuomo — who may be the most successful Connecticut rocker since Michael Bolton during his hard-rock beginnings — is something he strives to keep in perspective.

Most of the songs for the debut — including “Undone (The Sweater Song)” — were written in depression after a lot of bad turns.

“I kind of gave up music.... I got a job at Tower Records, went back to school to study English. My parents got divorced, girlfriend broke up with me. I just started writing these songs.”

Writing was new to Cuomo, who was mostly a lead guitarist before — but so was the musical style.

“Getting a job at Tower opened my mind to all this music I didn’t hear in Connecticut: Velvet Underground, the Pixies, the Stooges,” he says. “In 1985, it was pretty much all Twisted Sister and Motley Crue [in Connecticut].”

His roommates Patrick Wilson and Matt Sharp had the same background, Cuomo said: “They were from the East Coast, listened to bad music, were in bad metal bands, came to L.A. to be famous, didn’t, then started listening to good music.”

Drummer Brian Bell, who had hailed from Knoxville, Tenn., rounded out the quartet.

“We didn’t catch on that quickly,” Cuomo says. “We weren’t part of a happening scene. At the time, there were a lot of pseudo grunge bands in L.A., and it was hard to find our audience.”

Once the band was signed, last year, they chose Ric Ocasek to produce, because they were always fans of his band, the Cars.

Luckily, they knew the video director Spike Jonez [sic] before he became famous for his work with the Beastie Boys. He directed the one-shot studio performance of “The Sweater Song” that became an MTV buzz clip. More recently, they joined forces to make a video for the song “Buddy Holly,” which mentions the ’50s rock star (as well as Mary Tyler Moore).

“I don’t know what it’s going to look like,” says Cuomo of the new clip. “I can tell you that the Fonz is in the video. That’s about all I can say.”

So from playing the Bridges Cafe in East Windsor to being broke in L.A, to working with such ’70s icons as Henry Winkler and Ric Ocasek, it’s pretty heady stuff.

But Cuomo says it’s even more exciting that the band will be playing in his old turf in Connecticut. He’s paying homage by naming the band’s publishing company after his old high school.

“I don’t know how well known we are in Connecticut,” Cuomo says. “But I’m looking forward to it. My mom lives in Newington. I hope my friends come out.”

Weezer opens an all-ages show with Live tonight at the Sting, 677 W. Main St., New Britain. Doors open at 7 p.m.; the music starts at 8. The show is sold out. Information: 225-2154.

See also