Weezer's Rivers Cuomo Talks New Album, 'Everything Will Be Alright in the End'

by Tom Beaujour
Posted Sep 30, 2014 at 2:17pm

This is an excerpt from the all-new November 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus our cover feature on Jeff Beck and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, not to mention features on Eddie Van Halen/MXR, George Thorogood, the guitar pick revolution, Nita Strauss and Black Veil Brides, plus gear reviews (Epiphone, Zoom, Gretsch, TC-Helicon, Mesa and more) and lessons by Marty Friedman and Steel Panther's Satchel, check out the November 2014 issue of Guitar World!

Weezer Heads Prevail: Unfazed by perennial reports of rock’s death, Weezer carry on with Everything Will Be Alright in the End, their ninth, and latest, studio album.

“Rock is dead. Guitar is dead.”

Weezer’s ninth studio album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, opens with these two dire statements, both uttered before the opening riff of “Ain’t Got Nobody” kicks in.

“All those voices you hear on the record are the voices that we’ve heard in our lives and in our careers in recent years,” explains Rivers Cuomo, Weezer’s primary songwriter, lead guitarist and vocalist.

Thankfully, it seems that Cuomo and the rest of the band—guitarist Brian Bell, drummer Patrick Wilson and bassist Scott Shriner—chose to ignore the naysayers whispering in their ears. “Ain’t Got Nobody” is unabashedly rocking and guitar driven, and if anything, Everything Will Be Alright in the End sounds more like a rebirth for Weezer than a last gasp.

Hard-edged numbers like the declamatory “Back to the Shack” and the pounding “I’ve Had It Up to Here” are arena-ready anthems, while more emotionally raw numbers like “The British Are Coming” and “Foolish Fathers” feature the plaintive yowl that turned the band’s second album, 1996’s Pinkerton, into a celebrated emo-rock cult classic years after its release and initial commercial failure.

Everything Will Be Alright in the End also marks the return of producer Ric Ocasek, who previously worked with Weezer on their 1994 self-titled debut (known by fans as the Blue Album) as well as on their also-eponymous 2001 comeback (dubbed the Green Album). The band spent three three-week stretches with the Cars frontman at Los Angeles’ storied Village Recorder studios, and according to Cuomo, this third-time collaboration was a charm.

“Recording this record felt like much more of a creative process than making the first album,” he says. “Because when we made that record, we’d been playing the songs for a year and a half in the clubs and there had been several rounds of demos. It felt like the songs were pretty much done and there wasn’t room for much more creativity once we got into the studio.

"And then when we made the Green Album, I didn't want to hear from anyone. This time, there were a lot more unfinished parts, and there was a lot more work left to be done, so it was wonderful to have this amazing creative talent sitting there right next to us in the trenches.”

EXCERPT: A lot of the lyrics on the new record seem to explore Weezer’s relationship to their fans and how that relationship has evolved over the years.

We’ve gone through many different phases. Even when we made our second record, Pinkerton, I already had a feeling like, Well, we’ve established this amazing style on the first record, but already I want to do something different. And I assumed that everyone was going to come along with me.

But a lot of the fans of the first album were not fans of the second album, so then it became this whole issue of, What am I supposed to do here? I have this instinct to try all of these different things and to go off in all of these crazy directions, but at the same time, you can’t really take for granted this amazing connection that happens between us and an audience. I mean, we were really lucky to have that kind of experience on our first record and touch the heart of an audience in such a profound way. And you can’t really take that lightly and just say, “Well, maybe let’s do a hip-hop album next time.”

And ever since then, we’ve related to the question of how to find balance in different ways. At times we’ve rebelled and said, “Well, we’re not going to care about anything we’ve done or what anyone’s saying around us; we’re just going to go off and do whatever’s striking us at the moment.” And that was definitely a big part of our process—figuring out how to balance all of the different things that we value.

Did you approach songwriting any differently for this album? Some of the tracks have really expansive arrangements.

I wrote a lot of the more exploratory music on piano, and the foundation of the song would be one long extremely emotional jam—a rough outline of the emotion—that I would record on a Dictaphone. I’m not very good at piano, and that limitation can be a strength for me, as I don’t have muscle and finger memory and playing habits like I do on the guitar.

Also, the piano is wonderful because you’ve got two hands that have equal power to do rhythm, melody and counterpoint, so they can both go off and do whatever they want. Counterpoint is my absolutely favorite part of music, so that was extremely liberating.

Does the formal musical training that you received in college come into play when you’re devising the contrapuntal movement?

In those moments of composition, it’s all very much flow and not doing things because I was taught them in counterpoint class. But I think there’s a part of my brain that is at least aware when I’m doing parallel or contrary or oblique motion. So part of my mind is watching the process as it’s happening.

And I do feel that while I have a natural instinct for counterpoint—a real enjoyment of it—I also have learned a lot in school and from books as well by playing contrapuntal music on both piano and guitar. I have some good books of Bach keyboard music transcribed for guitar, and there’s always a nylon-string guitar hanging on the wall in my house and a bunch of classical guitar books to grab. I kind of do that just for fun.

It also sounds like you’re really having fun playing lead guitar on this record. There’s an almost subversive nature to the way that you pepper the solos on songs like “Ain’t Got Nobody” with dissonant phrases and chromaticism.

The trick for me was how to make it sound new and not cliché. Rock guitar has been around for decades now, and there are so many strong traditions, and so much of it is just burned into my fingers. So, nine times out of 10, when I pick up the guitar to jam something, it sounds pretty cliché.

One way that I get around that is, before I even pick up the guitar, I record myself singing the guitar solo, and then I go back and I learn it on guitar. I sing things that I would never think to play with my fingers. On the solo to “Ain’t Got Nobody,” which I really love, it actually took me a long time to learn how to articulate what I had sung, and I ended up doing some really nontraditional, non-guitaristic things.

This is an excerpt from the all-new November 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus our cover feature on Jeff Beck and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, not to mention features on Eddie Van Halen/MXR, George Thorogood, the guitar pick revolution, Nita Strauss and Black Veil Brides, plus gear reviews (Epiphone, Zoom, Gretsch, TC-Helicon, Mesa and more) and lessons by Marty Friedman and Steel Panther's Satchel, check out the November 2014 issue of Guitar World!

Photo: Emily Shur

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