Starline interview with Matt Sharp and Brian Bell - November 15, 1994
Weezer Sheds Their Sweaters
They're contenders for 1994's most unlikely looking rock stars: the members of Weezer are as far removed from image as it gets. But guitarist/vocalist Rivers Cuomo, bassist Matt Sharp, drummer Patrick Wilson, and guitarist Brian Bell have hit big with their Geffen debut and radio staple "Undone (The Sweater Song)," and carved a whole new demeanor for the MTV generation.
Weezer was formed when Connecticut native Cuomo, then fathfully into "hair bands," moved to Hollywood and set up residence with Sharp and Wilson. Working the strip, they passed out flyers and worked crowds, trying to gather attention. During this time, Bell was in another band, but gave Weezer a business card, hoping his group could open for them.
"I was really impressed with Rivers' guitar playing and singing ability," he recalls. "I just saw a future for this band. I gave them my phone number, just thinking maybe my band could play a show with them or something. That was my intention, just to hang out, get to know them, and play shows with them. And they were cool, and they saw me at a party. I talked to Rivers afterwards, and this was the second time we talked. We probably spoke about ten minutes at the most."
Bell says he was thrilled when he learned later that Weezer had landed a record deal and were in New York with producer Ric Ocasek (Cars). He couldn't have been more surprised when his phone rang one weekend informing him that Weezer was having problems with their guitarist. "I auditioned on tape," he explains. "Somebody from Geffen delivered a demo tape that day and I had to learn four songs in one day and FedEx it to New York." Weezer flew him out, he learned all ten songs in two days, and Weezer cut their album.
According to Sharp, Weezer didn't get together with a hit record as their goal.
"When we first started, we didn't really have any expectations of anything," he states. "We weren't in it to get signed or anything. We really sucked. We were just like 'Let's just do this because we like the songs,' basically. We had at least 50 songs or more when we started and we just kind of kept playing in L.A. and just rotating the songs a lot until we figured out what we liked the best. So for about nine months, there was about ten people at every show. There were sometimes like three people. Then pretty much out of nowhere everything just started picking up much better."
He says they were drawn toward Geffen because the label was willing to give them creative control over the project. This included giving them a choice of producers. Weezer opted for Ric Ocasek because Cuomo had been listening to a lot of Cars music, but Bell says that until Ocasek actually showed up, they didn't really believe he would undertake their debut.
"Our first thought was we should do it in our own element and have nothing be different and make like as little of an experience as possible, do it in L.A. and we'll produce it ourselves and just get an engineer we like, to do it that way. And he (Ocasek) was saying pretty much the opposite, like, 'Your first record should be an experience. You should get away from (L.A.) and get away from all these people and really just get into making of a record.' His wife was in New York, and she was pregnant, so he couldn't leave so he said 'Let's go to New York and do it there. I'll get a studio.'"
For Bell, Weezer's success is the culmination of childhood dreams. "I had idols and everything," he notes, "but I never thought I would be one of them."