Taking a bow in front of a 5,000-strong audience at London’s Brixton Academy last month, there’s no denying Weezer have always been meant for the masses. Twenty-four years and ten albums in, opinions on them may have remained divided over the years (to say the least), but through their ever-expanding evolution, the outfit continue to incite devotion.
But despite the mass adoration that surrounds them, the group view themselves with a distinctly modest regard. “We were pretty tight,” frontman Rivers Cuomo offers by way of description of their recent shows, speaking just a couple of days after their latest stint. He’s actually walking by the side of a river. You couldn’t make it up. “We’ve been playing the new songs long enough now that I’m not making any mistakes. I remember all the words.
“I’m trying to write an algorithm for generating setlists that are drawing from a large pool of songs,” he diverges, “so that every night the order is different, and every night there’s new songs for us, songs we don’t usually play.” Weighing up the pros and cons of switching things up, and figuring out how much work it’d be for the lighting tech and crew if they did, the focus is very much on the future.
Armed with their new, self-titled ‘White’ album, anyone would think it’s time they got used to life at the top, but the band aren’t about to get complacent. “I can see on Metacritic that we have something like an average score of 74,” the frontman - never shy of a browse online - proudly declares, “which is pretty good compared to a lot of records out there, and it’s definitely fantastic for us.” Their tenth full-length release, the ‘White’ album is rooted in the sand and surf of the Californian coastline. “We started out with the goal of making a beach album,” he recalls, “with these beautiful chord progressions and melodies, but it’s an unusual take on the beach setting because I’m a weird person.”
“You can see throughout our history that we often react to one album by going 180 degrees on the next.”
Their idiosyncrasies have always been a part of what make Weezer so admired. Venturing into the studio individually to “record all our parts and really perfect them without input from the other guys,” the album demonstrates the band at their most vibrant. “If I’m in the room with them I have a little too much influence,” Rivers admits. “As a songwriter I have an idea of how I want the song to go, and it’s hard not to influence them.”
Taking a difficult step back from the work he was creating, the result is a record that’s as varied and multi-layered as the four men who created it. “I’ve learned over the years that if I micro-manage it, it ends up not as rich and complex as it could be,” he explains. Being able to see “a highly perfected version” of what his bandmates had in mind, the frontman had the distance he needed to bring the collaborative process to full fruition. “I’m always looking for ways to give other people an opportunity to take a crack at it and put their layer of creativity on it.”
That extra layer of creativity was brought to life with the assistance of producer Jake Sinclair. Having played as Rivers Cuomo in Weezer tribute act Wannabeezer from a young age, it proved the perfect creative alliance. “He was intimately familiar with the kinds of ways I sing and the way I play and the way I write, so he was a fantastic partner for me,” Rivers praises. “He was always able to hear when I got off track and articulate that in a way that would inspire me to get back on the right one.”
“I’m trying to write an algorithm for generating setlists.”
This album may still be shy of a month old, but Weezer are already thinking about the next one. “You can see throughout our history that we often react to one album by going 180 degrees on the next album,” Rivers states. Charting their progression from the ebullience of the ‘Blue’ album through the darkness of ‘Pinkerton’ and on to the brightness of ‘Green’ as an example, the band are on an endless quest for contrast.
So where are they headed from here? “What could stand out more against ‘White’ than ‘Black’?” Rivers questions. The polar opposite of their latest release, the follow-up promises to be hinged on a certain darkness. “I think it’s going to maybe be like Beach Boys gone bad,” he says, alluding to the material he’s already at work on. “I’m thinking of swearing, which is something I’ve never done in songs.” Tackling “more mature topics”, the band’s next record certainly seems set to take a darker tone. “Less summer day and more winter night,” Rivers expands. “If it were a movie in the United States it would be rated R instead of PG.”
Weezer’s new self-titled album is out now via Crush Music / Atlantic.
Taken from DIY’s May 2016 issue, out now. Subscribe to DIY below.