The Tennessean article - July 22, 1995

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Print interview with Brian Bell
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Publication The Tennessean
Interviewee Brian Bell
Interviewer Clark Parsons
Date July 22, 1995
Title Rocking the boat
Sub-title Los Angeles' popular Weezer making big waves
Format Print
External link Archive via
Associated concert Weezer concert: 07/23/1995
References See where this interview is referenced on Weezerpedia

Rocking the boat
Author: Clark Parsons (The Tennessean)
Published: July 22, 1995

Los Angeles' popular Weezer making big waves

With several weeks off before the start of Weezer's U.S. tour, which begins this weekend in New Orleans, guitarist Brian Bell figured he could go anywhere.

He chose Spain.

"I always had this dream of Spain," Bell said earlier this week from his hotel room in Barcelona.

Bell explained that he grew up in a Knoxville suburb called Spanish Trails, in which the street names were Cordoba, Granada, Barcelona and other Iberian cities and regions. Plus, Bell added, he took guitar lessons from a guy who studied under Spanish classical guitar legend Segovia. "It's the most fun country," Bell said, adding that Weezer's bassist, Matt Sharp, is also along for the adventure.

Also in the group is lead singer/writer Rivers Cuomo, who has been recovering from recent surgery. Cuomo is known as Weezer - a nickname his father gave him when the singer was a boy. Patrick Wilson plays drums for the band.

"The people here can understand sarcasm. In Germany, they don't understand sarcasm," Bell said.

The United States certainly understands Weezer's take on the world; the Los Angeles rock band's debut album has already gone multi-platinum. The music is propulsive and powerful, with thick textures of guitar sounds and honest-to-goodness vocal harmonies. Lead singer Cuomo's fractured tenor rises above the din singing lyrics that offer a churlish blend of wit and alienation.

Joining Weezer was a fateful move for Bell, who moved to Los Angeles upon graduating from his Knoxville high school in 1987. He said he was tired of living in a suburban realm where the primary feeling was lethargy and the primary topic was the University of Tennessee Volunteers.

"I knew I needed to be out there," he said of Los Angeles. It was three years before Bell even joined a band, however. "I spent a lot of lonely time in my apartment, working on my sounds, a lot of trial and tribulation."

Bell joined Weezer in August 1994 [sic], just before the band made its album. Bell had been frustrated with his own band, and Weezer decided to replace a guitarist. The timing was right, and Bell said Weezer's different musical philosophy made the invitation alluring.

"Everything at the time was so grunge oriented and trying to be so alternative and almost unlistenable," Bell said. "And with their sound, everything was in a major key, and they were trying to sing with harmonies; they weren't necessarily pulling it off. Still aren't," he adds with a laugh.

A major surprise about the band Weezer is that Ric Ocasek, the leader of early 1980s rock band The Cars, produced the album. So when Bell joined the group, he learned 10 songs from demo tapes in one weekend, flew to New York and found himself in a recording studio with three relative strangers as well as Ocasek and his then-pregnant wife/supermodel Paulina Porizkova.

"Paulina came in, and she was reading our palms and making them sweaty," Bell said.

It took some time for Weezer's music to catch on, but by the time its single Buddy Holly was released in the late spring, the band caught fire. The song's video was directed by wunderkind Spike Jonze, who made it appear as if the band was performing during an episode of the TV show Happy Days.

"It took a good three or four months to get all the personalities in the band to click," Bell said.

Only a few rock bands - Green Day and Live most notably - have done so well so quickly in recent years, and Bell said Weezer's surprising success caught them off guard.

"We're just beside ourselves. We're just ecstatic," he said. "When they first told us the album was going gold, that was the first time in years I felt secure in my life. I thought, 'Oh my god, I guess I am a musician. People are buying what I do.' It gave me a sense of self-worth."

With Barcelona beckoning from outside his window, Bell said he hasn't seen the recent movie of the same title.

"I'm living my own movie here," he said.


Weezer, with special guests Teenage Fanclub and That Dog [sic], performs an all-ages show tomorrow at 328 Performance Hall, 328 Fourth Ave. S. Tickets cost $15 and are available at Ticketmaster outlets by calling 737-4849.

See also