Washington Times interview with Brian Bell - July 27, 1995

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Looking Beyond Today's Style

By Gerald Mizejewski; The Washington Times


Last year a band called Weezer raucously emerged from the L.A. club scene. It brought one of the strangest, yet most memorable, set of images in modern rock - an MTV performance at Al's for Fonzie and the gang from the old Happy Days sitcom, with the idea that misfits can be cool. It also had something to say about a sweater.

But what lies beneath this fun-rock exterior is a group with strong messages that looks beyond current styles to play what members would call "timeless rock 'n' roll." When talking with Weezer, it becomes apparent that they are also four guys who are a little uncertain of how to handle their rapid popularity.

Brian Bell, the band's lanky guitarist and background vocalist, recently took time from a Weezer tours of small venues to talk about music, performing and his reaction to success.

"We're maybe a backlash of people getting carried away with being super noisy," says Mr. Bell, whose band headlines a Sunday show at the Bender Arena. The show will also feature Scottish glam-rock band Teenage Fanclub and Weezer's favorite touring partner, That Dog.

"We want to be known as a rock band," says Mr. Bell, 24, originally from Knoxville, Tenn. "Whatever the trends may be, rock will be with us."

Weezer's current tour, which was kicked off June 21 in New Orleans, is its second this year. The band is a touring machine, having been on the road almost constantly since its debut album, Weezer, was released in May 1994.

Mr. Bell has mixed reactions to the audiences that listen to his music. But he says he prefers major label exposure to an indie label's appeal to a devoted yet limited following.

"We've been concerned with...appealing to a wide variety of people," he says. "[But] why even do this unless you change someone's life from it, be it an 8-year-old or a 40-year-old?

"We now have a means to have our music heard."

The soft-spoken guitarist added: "I know what it's like to do independent work, when your name's misspelled on the marquee and no one cares. You get back to your hotel room and think, 'What purpose am I serving?'"

But Mr. Bell voiced his dissatisfaction about fans who jump on the bandwagon - those who don't even take the time to understand the music.

"We definitely deter them from coming to our shows," he says. "But at the same time, it's those people who buy the T-shirts and CDs."

The members of Weezer say they find it strange that the energetic songs that have attracted these people to the band are the ones with the most somber and serious messages, Mr. Bell says.

"The whole irony of 'The Sweater Song' is that people sing along and don't catch what he's [singer and songwriter Rivers Cuomo] talking about: a relationship break-up," says Mr. Bell.

Weezer's other hit, "Buddy Holly," is a song about the relationship between Mr. Cuomo and a Korean girl named Cung-He, whom Mr. Cuomo stuck up for when people made fun of her, Mr. Bell says.

The 1950s style of the song is their response to the "super noisy" trend in rock music, he says. To emphasize this, the band eagerly performed the song's video on the set of Al's restaurant from Happy Days.

It's also simply the type of music that Weezer likes to play, Mr. Bell says. He points out that one of the songs from the band's only other release—a 1994 "Undone - The Sweater Song" EP—was a barber shop quartet tune.

A new album is also in the works, Mr. Bell says. Weezer has already recorded seven songs for the sophomore effort that he says "will be much better" than the debut.


IF YOU GO

WHAT: Weezer with Teenage Fanclub and That Dog

WHEN: 8 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Bender Arena on the American University campus, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW

PRICE: $20 all seats

TICKETS: 202/432-SEAT