Make Believe band commentary

From Weezerpedia

Weezer posted song-by-song commentary about their fifth album Make Believe to their official website in 2005. Karl Koch archived these comments in the Weezer Recording History.


Band commentary for "Make Believe"
Author: Rivers Cuomo, Brian Bell, Scott Shriner, Pat Wilson
Date: c. 2005


Rivers: I was at the opening of the new Hollywood Bowl and I flipped through the program and I saw a picture of Wilson Phillips. And for some reason I just thought how nice it would be to marry, like, an “established” celebrity and live in Beverly Hills and be part of that world. And it was a totally sincere desire. And then I wrote that song, Beverly Hills. For some reason, by the time it came out—and the video came out—it got twisted around into something that seemed sarcastic. But originally it wasn’t meant to be sarcastic at all.

Pat: I think that’s - that happens a lot with Weezer songs. People think we’re being funny, and then somehow it changes into something [else]. And I’d also like to say that Rick said, ‘why don’t you have a boom-boom-chop song?’ And that’s how it turned into that.

Scott: For me, two things I want to say about it. One is that I kept trying to think that it was supposed to be like a swing beat, with kind of a lot of upbeats, and a lot of jingly kind of thing, but as much as I kept trying to make that happen, it just never worked and it wound up being totally, totally straighter than straight, which I think wound up being the best thing for the song, all said and done. And then the next thing was, is that, when I heard all of the different mixes—cuz we had like four different people mix it—it just, it sounded good and I kind of dug one version of it, but when I heard the mix that Rich Costey did, somehow he put the kind of magic on that song that I was kind of expecting to get out of it.

Brian: When I first heard the song, it was a Rivers demo of it, and I think I called him and said, ‘Congratulations, you wrote a hit song.’ It had a hit immediately, regardless of—even more from its original version than from something else. To me, it was like - whatever “hit song” means - that’s what it evoked [for] me. I thought it would be a great - there was a reality haircutting show called “blow out” or “blow up” or something like that, about this salon in Beverly Hills, and I was trying to sell Rivers on letting that be that show’s theme song. But luckily we never did that.


Pat: It sounds like it could have been on the Green Album. I think of it as, like, classic Weezer.

Scott: To me it’s just an epic drama, and I felt really strong about it being on the album. The lyrics of the first verse always just really killed me, so I really pushed hard for that song to make the record.

Brian: Yeah, I like it lyrically a lot: “Here’s the pitch, slow and straight”, bla bla bla bla bla bla bla, and yeah, like Pat said, it’s classic Weezer Green Album style, a lot of downstrokes, the big intro, it could have gone on that album. But I think it’s more than that now—it’s uh, you know, Green Plus!

Rivers: I sincerely hope that it’s the last song I write about being frustrated and angry with myself for being shy...because I’ve written way too many of those songs already.


Scott: That song was tough, and it was the first song we tried to track at Grandmaster, I think, it was like the first night, and we probably retracked the basic drums for that, like four or five different times and it was almost going to get thrown out. But somehow, at the last minute, it came together, and it sounds absolutely magical to me. And that’s one of my favorite songs on the album.

Pat: Yeah, it sounds awesome. Wicked melody.

Rivers: Yeah, that might be my favorite song on the record. I really like the solo Brian came up with too.

Brian: Ironically [laughs], I don’t play any of the guitars on it—but most all the guitars on it in the studio—and I don’t play of them live, which I think it kind of funny. It’s really fun to watch Bobby and Rivers play that song every night. It feels like—

Rivers: You’re the composer and we’re the performers

Brian: Yeah, yeah! It’s neat, it’s really cool. I love the notes that Rivers added to the solo. I feel that that song could be—that Weezer migh—things that Weezer can do and go in the future, as far as texture, and the use of clean guitars. I don’t think there’s any distorted guitars on that song.

Rivers: All the keyboard sounds are from a $75 Casio.

Brian: We even tried using expensive Moogs and things, to try to, like, “this can’t be good enough, a $75 Casio?” and the tones just didn’t blend. And we ended up using the Casio.

Scott: It’s got a really cool, super consistent, like, kind of level from start to finish, which I think is really neat.


Pat: It’s just beautiful; it’s huge-sounding

Rivers: I think I was trying a foolish experiment of fasting and seeing how that would affect my songwriting. So, I think I was extremely hungry when I wrote that song.

Brian: I can’t say anything better than that! But it’s a powerful song dynamically. It’s really ballsy to play that song, to have Rivers do an intro that long before the band kicks in is a little bit frightening. And it seems to work; it has a very grandiose impact.

Rivers: When the back-up vocals come in in the second verse, that’s one of my favorite moments ever on a Weezer record.

Scott: It’s just an example, for me, of playing as little as possible and it sounds so much bigger by playing the tiniest amount of bass. As light and small as I could, winds up being just twice as big.

Brian: For some reason I liken it to ‘Say It Ain’t So’....and I don’t know why. I think it’s just the mellow verse into the huge chorus. It’s a great change.


Scott: I still don’t know how the acoustic guitar really goes. [laughter] I just always think of Rick Rubin in the studio, just moving his head back and forth, rockin’ in the control room. You know, that’s the picture I have about this song. And it felt like it was important for this song to be on the album, as well.

Brian: It’s a great sentiment. It doesn’t come across as being, know, too hippie-ish, which is good, but musically it’s such a simple chord progression that a child could play it and that’s always a good sign, first off, when we don’t have to think about it too much when we play it. I think it’s just a great message. I think we need a song like that these days.

Rivers: Yeah, it’s actually not coming from a “hippie” place at all. So people shouldn’t be worried that now I’m Mr. Peace, or whatever. [laughs] If you listen to the lyrics, I’m actually - I was actually in a place of war, not peace, just total inner struggle and decadence. I was just exasperated and longing for some kind of escape from that sort of lifestyle. So the song is actually not coming from a place of peace at all.


Rivers: I was living in an apartment above the Sunset Strip, and every Friday and Saturday night I’d hear people cruising and partying, and hooting and hollering. And I went to sleep one night and I heard those sounds all through the night, in my dreams. I had this dream about a kid on the Metro bus, blasting hip hop into his brain through his headphones. And the music sounded so decadent and overstimulating, and I woke up in the midst of that dream, in a haze, and immediately said to myself, “Man, we’re all on drugs!” And I instantly knew that would be a cool song.

Brian: I remember the first time Rivers played it for me, and just felt this, like, ‘can we do this?’ You know, I mean, this is a hit song, without a doubt. Just singing that chorus the first time, when we played these songs acoustically in the office, it was just a riot because it was just so much—it was like I felt like we were doing something illegal by saying that. And there were thoughts like, how are parents going to like this? Or you know, are we going to be banned from kids, you know, listening, whatever, their album collections? I think it’s a great song because it’s not saying anything positive or negative about drugs. It’s one of those ambivalent songs. I’m just glad that my guitar intro got used. [laughs]

Pat: Yeah, I had to fight for that, man! You guys had this other thing going on, where you wanted it to be all mellow, when it was so obvious to me that it should be the big rock track. I love that intro.

Rivers: (to Brian) Yeah, I loved your intro from the first time you brought it in. On this album you’ve come up with so many great intros and musical interludes.

Brian: Well, that’s what great about our music, too, is there’s different ways to interpret it., and I think all of them should be explored, because I actually liked—Rivers had a different version of it that worked equally as well. I think everything should be explored, or else we’re cheating ourselves.

Rivers: And also, it’s interesting that we’ve found that sometimes one of the other guys will start singing a line that I came up with, and it sounds a million times better. Like on this song, when Scott sings “never get enough” in the chorus, it’s just, it’s so right, it’s obvious that he has to sing that.

Scott: Right on! It’s funny, and I remember you talking about - when you were living in that apartment—it’s like, ‘I always hear these people going, ‘WHOOO! WHOO! All night long, a whole car full of girls are like, ‘WHOO!’’ and that’s exactly what we sing in that song. [laughter] It’s really cool. After the first chorus at these shows, even though nobody knows the song yet, people are so into it. Out of all the new songs, that song seems to hit people the fastest, to me.

Pat: Yeah, Kevin and Bean talk about that song all the time, I guess. They’re like, ‘that’s the best title ever!


Brian: “The Damage in Your Heart” was actually a song that me, Scott, and Pat kind of fought for, or wanted, from Rivers’ demo. When he went back to school, we kind of finished the album, had our twelve songs, and that was one of the ones that we thought we should look at again. For some reason, the three of us were drawn to it...

Pat: I think it was Rivers’ 13th favorite, right?

Rivers: Something like that

Brian: And he was really open to the idea of trying anything we wanted to try on this album, so, you know, we tried lots of songs that didn’t make it. But the fact that we persisted on that—just took his demo and kind of redid it while he was gone, and then he finished it up—was kind of an interesting process. I don’t know if the song, for me, turned out as well as I wanted it to, but it certainly is a nice song.

Rivers: Yeah, I have to say I’m really grateful to these guys for believing in this song and pushing for it to be on the album. And in so many other ways, just like this, they helped me stay on course while we were making the album, and keep me from going too far in one direction or the other, either with my songwriting, or my singing, or my guitar-playing. This album wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for the other three guys in this band really keeping me on course, and supporting me, pushing me, encouraging me. So it was a real band effort.

Scott: Cool

Pat: That’s huge


Scott: It’s funny, in the studio it seemed like a lot of chord changes and when we play it live, it really takes on its own, kind of, life form which never ceases to amaze me. To me, it almost seems complicated, but then again it’s so simple and so clear and people really seem to get off on it.

Brian: I think this was a song that I fought for at Rick Rubin’s house. [laughs] ‘Wait, we forgot about this song!’ I remember running out to my car, and grabbed—we must have, 75 to 100 - not even exaggerating - CD’s of demos and B-sides—or what we consider might be B-sides, A-Lists that turn into B-Lists, B-Lists that turn into gets really confusing and it’s easy to forget about things. But I made everyone listen to it, and I think 3/4ths of the way into the song it comes back around to that one moment..and everything sounds so good at Rick Rubin’s house, because he has this uber-sound-system, and it just was, like, apparent that we had to do it. And I thought it was just an unbelievably sincere message that Rivers was conveying and that - I don’t know if he knew the weight of what he was saying. It was really great.

Pat: Yeah, I love the way when I listen to that song I hear someone really being just sounds like, okay, this guy has something he wants to say, I love that. It sounds very truthful.

Brian: Also, it’s a personal lyric but it’s extremely universal because, you know, it’s hard to say “I’m sorry” in any sense, it’s hard to admit fault, and I just think it’s a song for all guys that don’t know how to express themselves, so that they can at least sing that lyric to whoever they harm—their girlfriend, or whatever.


Pat: Yeah, like George Bush could go to North Korea and say, “I’m really sorry”


Scott: That’s a wild...that’s one song that’s, like, kind of, like a wild card on the record, I gotta say. Cuz...that was...yeah, that’s a wild track. And we left it

Pat: No one thought about that song for the longest time, the next thing I know, ‘we’re doing that song!’

Scott: Yeah, and when we kind of went back and tightened everything up, it was one of the songs that I think I left all of the bass from when we tracked it. That’s just nuts.

Pat: It’s on fire. That song sounds like it’s on fire to me.

Rivers: I’m trying to think of something interesting...

Pat: That it didn’t go with Shrek?

Rivers: It’s such a complicated story, I don’t know if it’s that interesting.

Scott: I’m glad that it didn’t, I can say that much.

Rivers: Yeah, that song has some weird karma with Shrek. I remember I originally wrote it about some guy I met, and then Shrek asked us if we had a song, and then I thought, ‘oh yeah, I remember that song, let me think about showing it to them’, and they actually thought it sounded too much like it was written for Shrek. ‘Cuz this guy was kind of ogre-ish, and he made me laugh...

Brian: And you changed the lyrics for them, right?

Rivers: So I had to change the lyrics so it sounded less Shrek-like

Pat: Shrek-y?

Rivers: Shrek-ish!

Pat: Shrek-ish? Puck-ish?

Scott: It will live on longer than Shrek 2 will.

Rivers: I don’t know if it’s that interesting.

Brian: But it was also...I think at the moment when the Shrek people wanted it, it wasn’t complete either. And that would have been the version that would have been the first Weezer song people heard in 3 years, and it wasn’t actually finished to the best it could have been, so it’s a blessing that we got to work on it a little longer.

Rivers: Yeah, I feel the same way. It got so much better. I resang it, put the organ on it, it sounds way better. We put the drum sounds on it...


Pat: That song sounds like every note is placed exactly where it’s supposed to go,’s one of those songs where nothing sounds out of place, it just sounds great to me.

Rivers: I wrote that song for Jennifer Chiba after Elliot died, and I wanted to console her, but I was confused and skeptical about my own motives for wanting to do so, so I wrote that song about that.



Brian: I’m already on the record saying it’s about a spider, that’s all I know about it. But it’s some of the coolest guitar stuff ever, and I can say that because Rivers came up with it, so I don’t sound conceited. But I think that Rivers didn’t want the harmonics on it—[to Rivers] right, at one point?

Rivers: Uhhhh...probably. [laughs]

Brian: But there’s three guitars playing those harmonics. There were notes that I didn’t know even made harmonics. It took me a long time to figure out what was going on, and how to play it. It was a song, for me, that I discovered things about the guitar I didn’t know about. And that’s always amazing when you’ve been playing an instrument for 20 years, and you find a new sound it makes - it’s cool, you know?

Scott: It reminds me of the apartment that Rivers had above the Sunset Strip, with like, a yoga mat, a spoon, a bowl, a bar of soap, and a towel—that’s about all that was in there.

Rivers: I didn’t have a bowl! [laughter] I didn’t!

Scott: ...and just sitting in there...and it was just, I don’t know...

Brian: It’s probably the most un-Weezer-like track that’s ever been on an album, whatever that means, and I think, you know, that that could be good.

Rivers: I think, it didn’t work until Pat put the drum-beat on there. Cuz when I originally wrote it, and recorded the demo, it was some weird, New Age drum beat that I found in the Casio.

Scott: Oh yeah, it was total, like, “In the Air”...

Rivers: “This song’s kinda cool, but...”

Scott: It was like a Phil Collins beat!

Rivers: And then as soon as Pat put his beat on it, it sounded like Weezer.

Scott: Yeah, Pat’s beat is correct on that song.

Brian: It was a was fun song to track live as a band too. I felt like something special happened while tracking it.


Rivers: Rick said, write a song like Billy Joel or Elton John, so...

Brian: But no pressure!


Rivers: So, I didn’t really accomplish that at all, but I did write a song on the piano. So that’s about as close as I could come.

Brian: I think it’s a beautiful chord progression. It’s deceptively simple too. It sounds a little more complex than it is, and it’s great fun to play live - I wish we would’ve tracked it more, and played it - approached it more how we do now. But I think it came across pretty well. But I think - any regrets, I wish we could re-record that song how we do it right now.

Scott: It’s another one of those songs where the less bass notes I play on it, the better it works. I remember switching back and forth from trying to do it on piano, or Rivers playing it on guitar, and then going back and back and back, and it turned out to be just right.

Rivers: It’s the first song I wrote entirely on piano.

See also