St. Louis Post-Dispatch interview with Matt Sharp - July 31, 1994
Weezer: LA Alternative Group Is in from the Dark
By Alan Sculley
With the single "Undone - The Sweater Song" beginning to gain airplay on alternative stations (including KPNT (The Point) in St. Louis), Weezer is making a name for itself in the modern rock world.
But if bassist Matt Sharp refuses to be caught up in this first brush with recognition, one can hardly blame him. Nothing, it seems, has come easily to this Los Angeles quartet.
In fact, when Sharp met future band mates Rivers Cuomo (guitar/vocals) and Patrick Wilson (drums) about four years ago, doing a musical project together wasn't on their minds. At the time, the three aspiring musicians were just looking for a place to live in Los Angeles. A mutual friend suggested they rent a place together.
It wasn't a fortuitous beginning.
"I don't know if we even liked each other very much. We just kind of lived together for nine months or a year and then we all went our separate ways," Sharp said. "I moved to San Francisco, and they moved to different places. Then, like a year after that, Pat the drummer was coming through, and he said, 'You should listen to this tape. It's some stuff that Rivers and I are writing together.' "
Sharp really liked what he heard. Soon, the three uneasy friends, augmented by another acquaintance, guitarist Brian Bell, formed Weezer.
The quartet didn't exactly take the Los Angeles club scene by storm.
"We had at least 50 songs or more when we started and we just kind of kept playing in LA and just rotating the songs a lot until we figured out what we liked the best," Sharp said. "For about nine months, there were about 10 people at every show. There were sometimes, like, three people.
"It was kind of sad," Sharp said, laughing as he recalled those early struggles of the band.
Slowly, as the band began to lock into the spirited guitar pop that defines the Weezer sound, more people began to come to gigs. Eventually, a buzz began, and Weezer's casual career began to take on momentum.
"Our theory or whatever that we practiced was never sell anything, never try to push anything on anybody," Sharp said. "And that's sort of, probably, the reason why nobody ever came to see us, because we never really advertised anything. We just wanted to do it pretty organic."
"So we just kept playing and playing until people started showing up. And once people started showing up, a couple of record people, like on smaller labels and stuff, started showing up. Then around LA, it's kind of like, I guess, if one key person gets into it, they all go, 'I don't want to miss out.' "
Soon many labels were pursuing Weezer. Geffen Records, which promised the band full creative freedom, won the bidding war, and Weezer began planning to record.
Initially, the members of the group wanted to produce themselves, Sharp said, but at Geffen's suggestion, they agreed to talk to some producers. Almost jokingly, Cuomo added the name of Cars founder Ric Ocasek to the band's list of possible producers.
"A day later, two days later, the record company called us up and said Ric's coming to your rehearsal today," Sharp recalled. "We were just like, yeah, right, he's coming to our rehearsal. But that day our drummer, Pat, saw him in a guitar store, and he goes, 'Oh, my God, maybe he is coming.' So he came to our rehearsal and hung out, and we were all pretty nervous. We'd never really dealt with anybody outside of the band at all."
Ocasek, though, was very interested in Weezer's music, and he persuaded the band to hire him as producer. Sharp said that Ocasek's laid-back manner really helped the band create what is one of the year's best pop debut releases.
"I think he definitely had something to do with how it ended up sounding," Sharp said. "But it was more like he was just there to protect us and make sure that nobody came in from the record company or anywhere because he was worried about that for us.
"He's like, You're a new band and people can screw with you. I want to make sure you get what you want.'...He just was more like executive producer almost in the fact that he was kind of there to make sure everything was OK, to make sure we relaxed."
Weezer: Opening for Lush
Where: Mississippi Nights, 914 North First Street, Laclede's Landing
When: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday (all ages)
How much: $12 in advance, $14 day of show Information: 421-3853