The Advocate (Baton Rouge) interview with Matt Sharp - July 21, 1995
Weezer's Success Far Exceeded Own Expectations
By John Wirt
Weezer began with slight expectations. Though the Los Angeles rock band's debut album has sold around two million copies, the four young men of Weezer originally expected to move a whopping 100 units.
"We honestly did not expect anything from this record," said Matt Sharp, Weezer's bassist and falsetto vocalist. "Everybody in the band thought the songs were good and we wanted people to hear them, but we expected the record to fail. "
How wrong Weezer was. Helped by incessant touring and good-humored music videos for the group's humorously downbeat "Undone - The Sweater Song" and Beach Boys-esque "Buddy Holly," Weezer has become one of DGC Records' most popular new acts.
No one is more amazed than Sharp and his fellow Weezers, Rivers Cuomo, Brian Bell and Patrick Wilson.
"We were shocked when we were up around a thousand records," Sharp said. "We were going, 'Oh, my God, all the people who own this record, we don't even know who they are! Wow, somebody went out and bought our record, somebody who does not know us and is not a friend, not even a friend of a relative or anything. It's just somebody who heard it and liked it.' That absolutely is the weirdest thing in the world to all of us. "
So far, the hard-working Weezer hasn't had much time to luxuriate in rock stardom.
"We haven't had time to think about anything," Sharp said. "We've just been on the road constantly. You get in your van and go. The food is the same. We don't eat meat, we're vegetarians, so we end up getting, like, the same junk back in the clubs. They give us cheese sandwiches or something. So it's not too extravagant or too glamorous."
Weezer got its non-glamorous start on Feb. 14, 1992. It was a genuine garage band, the kind composed of players and singers who didn't necessarily know how to sing or play.
"We were doing this just because we liked the music, not because we were all great at what we did," Sharp recalled. "It was like, 'Wow, we suck. We don't know how to play well at all and we're not together.'"
"When we played it was like everybody going for it and not knowing what they were doing. So our shows were just us having fun, butchering these songs that we'd written. But it was probably the most pure experience I've been through as far as dealing with people. It was great."
While Weezer was having fun, listeners, Sharp said, were not.
"Nobody really wanted to listen to it, nobody would come to see us play. Everybody just said we sucked, told us we were horrible."
"So we would just play in our garage in L.A. and, like, once a week, play a show. And nobody would show up. And then we'd go back to the garage and play more and play a show the next week and still nobody would show up. Maybe seven people would come to see us, but usually it was right around three."
"It stayed that way for about a year. After you do that for awhile you sort of feel it is only about us, and what other people say and do is a separate issue. "
Making music for the love of it, of course, is the best reason to do it. Weezer was created, Sharp explained, "out of wanting to play music that we like, which is a pretty basic concept."
"Most bands that are doing really well now, that's what their deal is. Green Day and the Offspring and us and all these bands, we're basically just all trying to write songs that we ourselves would go, 'Wow, that's really good.'"
Ironically, record companies showed interest in Weezer even before people did. The music industry interest grew despite Weezer's disinterest in pursuing a record deal.
"We wanted to figure out what we're doing first, because it just takes a while to become a band and figure out what you're about," Sharp said.
"But once record companies in L.A. start showing up to see you, they all come. It works that way for most bands. In L.A., you play a show and if one guys says, 'Wow, they're really good,' then everybody's just afraid of losing their jobs, so it's the domino effect. They haven't even heard you and they're flying out from New York."
"With us, still nobody was showing up to see us play. Most of the people coming to see us were people from record companies and our friends who felt sorry for us."
Actually getting signed by DGC Records and having a music hero like Ric Ocasek (of the Cars) produce the debut album left Weezer woozy.
"When we first met Ric, we were so freaked out by everything. We'd never met anyone famous. We were like, 'Oh, my god, what's happening?' It was very hard to look at anybody eye-to-eye. But we milked him for all the Cars stories we could get because we were all Cars fans."
Ocasek proved an excellent producer for the recording studio novices.
"When the Cars did their first record it was this whole crazy experience that completely flipped them out," Sharp said. "He wanted to do that with us. He was like, 'This may be the only record you ever make, so you should remember this time as really special and go somewhere.' So we went to Electric Lady Studios (in New York) and it was great."
"We had figured out where the songs should go, the form and arrangement, so Ric wasn't very heavy-handed. He wanted to keep us excited about doing it, but not too stressed out, and just sort of be there for us. "
While Weezer is serious about its music, music videos are another story.
"If you write music and you think videos are a serious art form then you're an idiot. So we treat them like they should be treated."
"We just want to do things for videos that are fun for us and kind of make fun of the whole video thing of being super-dramatic and serious and 'I'm this tortured artist.' If we did that it would just look ridiculous. "