"This," says Matt sharp, bassist for Weezer, to Pat Wilson, drummer for Weezer, "is my sassiest moment ever."
Matt is speaking with characteristic Weezer irony, which is not just any old irony but the irony born of unexpected rock success and the many hours of forced togetherness in vans, buses, airplanes and hotel rooms that such a success entails. At this, his sassiest moment ever, Matt is lying face down on a drum riser on the set of England's most ridiculous TV show ever, The Word. Weezer's particular acre of the set – a garishly lit stage beneath a single prom-in-your-high-school-gym cardboard arch – is currently deserted, although hordes of beautiful, albeit nonsassy, teens are expected soon.
In the meantime, there is not much to do besides lie on a drum riser, as Matt is doing, sit on the floor next to a drum riser, as Pat is doing, or, as guitarist Brian Bell is doing, silently lounge against the stage in the graceful S-curve posture that has made sculpture baroque and runway models super ever since both came into being. (Brian, who joined the band after the departure of Jason Cropper midway through the recording of Weezer, the band's debut album, is a one-man refutation of Weezer's geek-rock reputation. "The best compliment I ever had," he says, "was when Eddie from Urge Overkill came up to me and said, 'You've got good fashion sense, Brian, and don't think that people don't notice.'")
While being sassy, in Weezer terms, is a state that can be roughly defined as looking as if you're in Blur, it is actually better explained by example than by argument: Anna Waronker, of That Dog, is the sassiest female alive; Veruca Salt have more than adequate sass, they have major sass; and tragically, Courtney Love has so much sass that she has none – she has blown out the sassometer and can't be measured. Polly Harvey, on the other hand, is sass. Good Lord, is she sassy. Chris Acland, the drummer for Lush, is the sassiest male alive; Beck, while sassy, doesn't even come close; and nobody in New Jersey has any sass. If you reside in New Jersey, your sass card has been revoked, and you get it back when you leave.
"You're not gonna put on hair spray, get in your Camaro, listen to Extreme and have sass," says Matt. "There's gotta be nonshowering happening."
"Is that part of being sassy?" asks Pat doubtfully.
"Yeah," says Matt in pained but patient tones.
"You have to not shower and be aloof and not be aware of your own sass."
"But I have all those things," says Pat, "and I'm not sassy. Because I'm married, and that's not sassy. I have no sass. I am sans sass, I am without sass, I am awash in a sea of nonsass."
There is a long pause, during which some British stagehands hoist an enormous fuzzy blue couch into position on a nearby area of the set, Matt rests his head on his arms and closes his eyes, we all sink a little deeper into the dimensionless pit of nonspecific exhaustion, the rain outside swoons softly, softly swooning as it falls on all the living and the dead, and, in a nutshell, seconds pass like hours.
"Peter Jennings has some sass," Pat offers at length.
"And that same person in the Camaro can turn around and have sass," Matt says dolefully. "You know, you may think that Arlington, Va., is the capital of style. You may think it, but you'd be wrong."
Although they met and became a band in Los Angeles, the members of Weezer are distinctly Eastern suburban in outlook and background, because they are, in fact, from the suburban East. Matt, coincidentally enough, is from Arlington, Va., Pat from Buffalo, N.Y. ("which is like Chicago, only worse"), Brian from Knoxville, Tenn., and lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Rivers Cuomo (who looks sassy in the video for "Undone – The Sweater Song" but does not aspire to sassiness in real life) is from Connecticut. They are all in their mid-20s and members of the silent, nonwhining majority of their generation. What this means in practice is a common belief in the coolness of Ace Frehley ("It has to be Ace. He had the best of the four Kiss solo records," says Matt), a groupwide inability to tuck in a shirt and an intuitive feeling for the totemic force of Star Wars action figures (when Brian got the call from Rivers inviting him to join the band, Brian was asked to name his favorite. Hammerhead, if you care).
Like millions of their peers, they were raised on their parents' classic rock and lowered on their friends' bad metal cover bands. "And you want to know why I wasn't in Whitesnake cover bands?" asks Pat. "Because I couldn't grow my hair. I just never grew it right. I didn't have boomin' hair like everybody else did." "Everybody in Virginia listened to Black Sabbath all the time," adds Matt with anguished glee.
After drifting to L.A. via various aimless routes and a couple of pre-Weezer mutual associations (in one of which Matt and Pat recorded "this ultrafoofy Euromix with violins descending in weird scales and the words to 'Paranoid'" and composed an ode to their experiences selling dog shampoo entitled "Get People to Buy What They Don't Need"), Weezer achieved their final form in early '92 – except that Jason Cropper was in the Brian Bell slot – and everything was in place for the next step. This turned out, as it so often does, to be immediately provoking absolutely no interest on the part of anyone.
"We would just play, and if we got a following, we did, and if we didn't, we didn't" says Matt. "And we didn't. It was pretty much no expectations for anything; we just basically didn't have anything better to do. And we all sucked, me especially."
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