Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo on Reviving the Spirit of the Nineties, Joining Tinder
As Rivers Cuomo began writing his latest batch of Weezer songs, his producer, Jake Sinclair, asked what it would take to get back into the mindset that produced the band’s classic first two albums. “I need to get out of the house,” Cuomo replied. He ended up doing way more. He grew back the beard he wore when the band recorded 1996’s Pinkerton. He started watching young surfers at Venice Beach in hopes of finding lyrical inspiration. He even signed up for Tinder – for purely platonic purposes. “My wife’s cool with it,” Cuomo says with a shrug.
The result is the band’s fourth self-titled LP, destined to be known as the “White Album,” thanks to a cover image that shows the band near a lifeguard tower on a white beach. The imagery mirrors the sound and lyrics of summery album tracks like “L.A. Girlz,” “Wind in Our Sail” and “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori.” “There’s so many freaky people at Santa Monica and Venice Beach, and I wanted to capture as much of that as I could,” says Cuomo. “Of course, there’s always the uplifting, sing-along melodies and the crunchy guitars.”
Cuomo and his producer went through a backlog of 250 songs, but only one, “California Kids,” made the album. The 30-year-old Sinclair, determined to return Weezer to their Nineties glory, thought they needed to push harder. “Sonically, I wanted the record to have all the brashness and unpredictability of Pinkerton with the summer Beach Boys grunge pop of the Blue Album,” says Sinclair. “When I first met Rivers I told him that I knew the Weezer playbook better than anybody. I also said, ‘I know what the kids like, so there may be a way to have a win for everybody.'”
The disc comes just 16 months after Weezer’s last LP, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, which reunited them with Blue Album producer Ric Ocasek and earned them their best reviews in years. “It was bizarre to have the critics actually dig what we’re doing,” says Cuomo. “A pleasurable kind of bizarre. I feel like we’re on a trajectory and the critics are on this other trajectory and random times they just kind of line up.”
Sinclair is such a Weezer fanatic that used to front a Weezer cover band called Wannabeezer, and as a kid in Boise, Idaho, slept in a tent at the front step of a record store in order to score tickets to a show on their 2000 comeback tour. He followed their career all through the ups and downs of the past 16 years, even through colossal missteps like their 2009 Lil Wayne collaboration “Can’t Stop Partying.” “I think they got confused,” he says, diplomatically. “It’s hard not to when you’re in a band that long with rotating members. I can’t imagine that losing [original bassist] Matt Sharp was an easy thing.”
Early in the process of creating the the White Album, Cuomo watched Sinclair use Tinder to meet women and became fascinated by the concept. He set up his own profile. “My description says, ‘Not looking to hook up, just trying to have new experiences and get some ideas for songs,'” says Cuomo. He began using it to alleviate boredom on tour, meeting men and women alike. “I’m not superexcited to talk to people who know that I’m in Weezer,” he says. “It’s more exciting when I find people that are interested in me as a person. When I’m in a city I’m not totally familiar with, I can meet someone on Tinder and they can take me around.”
“I knew there was zero chance of him hooking up with anybody,” says Sinclair. “But he started constantly getting out of the house and writing down all the details of what happened to him.” (Annotating his lyrics on the website Genius, Cuomo acknowledged Tinder’s sexual side. “I’m so jealous of the hooker-uppers,” he wrote. “Seems like it’s so easy to get laid now all these good looking atheletic young guys r getting so much free sex it kills me.”)