Rivers Cuomo has long possessed an obsessive streak – from self-producing Weezer‘s 1996 album Pinkerton to achieve the exact sound he heard in his head to constructing an elaborate, highly detailed outline for every song on 2013’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End. For Pacific Daydream, the band’s eleventh studio LP, due October 27, the singer took his perfectionism to an entirely new level: Cuomo estimates he drew on thousands of riffs, chord progressions, and beats stored on his home computer for the album, and even wrote a custom formula in Google Sheets to pair up musical ideas – some dating back to 2000 — based on their key and tempo. “Then I can see which ideas are most likely to fit with each other,” he explains. “I’ll find an idea and be like ‘Whoa! I don’t even remember making this!’ It’s kind of like collaborating with myself.”
He’s hardly exaggerating: in a process that over the past two albums has become the norm for the band, Weezer were never in the studio together when recording Daydream. Rather, Cuomo would send demos he’d recorded alone at his Santa Monica home to producer Butch Walker (Taylor Swift, Fall Out Boy, Keith Urban) who’d then bring in each band member to his L.A. studio to record their respective parts. Sitting in a local upscale coffee shop and dressed in a white and blue-striped shirt, jeans and a bowler’s hat, Cuomo admits Weezer’s new creative process is “completely unrecognizable from what I grew up with,” but as he notes, “things have been evolving this way for years now.”
The new method isn’t for everyone. Bassist Scott Shriner says he prefers everyone be in the room together when recording. Ultimately, though, “whatever keeps Rivers the most productive and happy is best for all of us,” he says. The four band members recorded together for 2013’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End, but found it a struggle. “It was like nobody was really communicating,” Shriner recalls, “It’s not productive.” And plus, “if Rivers was in the room I’d probably have been like ‘Ah, I shouldn’t mess around with your part right there.’”
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That’s because, like Weezer’s classic first two albums, Daydream is a personal dispatch from Cuomo’s analytical and slightly paranoid mind. Its best songs cloak moments of melancholy in catchy massive pop hooks and earwormy guitars, and explore topics of romantic longing (“Mexican Fender”), aging (“Beach Boys”) and running on life’s endless hamster wheel (“Happy Hour”). “It had to transcend the darkness,” Cuomo says of the album. To that end, like last year’s self-titled LP (also known as their “White Album”) feel-good, summery vibes abound on Daydream, most notably the chant-along “La Mancha Screwjob.”
“There’s always a part of me that just loves super-joyous pop music,” Cuomo admits. “I just get so excited when ‘Call Me Maybe’ comes on.” He’d love to be an artist with a profound message, but “it’s hard for me to be divisive in a song.”
Weezer auditioned several producers before enlisting Walker. He’d previously worked with the band on 2009’s Raditude, but felt far more connected this time. “There was that melancholy inherent sadness that I love so much about Weezer,” Walker recalls of the acoustic guitar-and-vocal demos Cuomo sent him this summer. The producer pushed the band in bold new sonic directions: on “Beach Boys” Cuomo uses vocal effects for the first time; and “Sweet Mary” transformed from a typical Weezer guitar rocker into what Cuomo calls a “full-on Phil Spector, Pet Sounds” orchestral number with glockenspiel.
This fall, Weezer hit North American festivals and before heading to Europe in October. Cuomo promises “longer and more frequent world tours” on the horizon. Says the singer with a smile, “We’re just living the dream.”