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With their last album, Weezer went back to their roots with glorious results. Their follow up, ‘Pacific Daydream’, proves they’re a band who can’t stand still.
Words: Ali Shutler. Photos: Brendan Walter.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2 vc_col-lg-8 vc_col-md-offset-2 vc_col-md-8″][vc_column_text]Weezer have spent the past twenty-something years defining and redefining their world of big melodies and big emotion. Continually searching out the new, each album captures a snapshot of a band always on the move.
‘Pacific Daydream’ once again sees Rivers Cuomo (vocals, guitar), Patrick Wilson (drums), Brian Bell (guitar, keyboards), and Scott Shriner (bass) burning things down and starting again. “This is what, album eleven?” grins Rivers. “We’ve done so many 180s we’ve covered the whole circle,” he smiles. He feels “pretty damn good” about what’s to come.
Chapter ten was the White Album, a critical darling and fan favourite, which saw Weezer recapture and distil their urgency. Born from the desire to do something entirely new and different while maintaining the allure of the classic, it was created by “going back and forth, trying to figure out the best way to move forward and press the most pleasure buttons for everyone.”
Tracks like ‘Thank God For Girls’ saw the band write over samples for the first time. “It feels different, and it’s definitely a new sound for Weezer,” Rivers explained just after the record came out. “But it’s still definitely a Weezer song.” There’s something about this band that manages to maintain a musical identity even when trying to kickstart a revolution.
“Everybody thinks they’re going to go into the studio and be super adventurous and throw out the rulebook, but sometimes you just sound like you,” Pat shared last summer.
The White Album felt like “a minor victory” for Weezer, but it didn’t change things enough. “The positive reception only confirms the direction we were already going in,” Rivers said at the time. “It feels like our audience trusts us now and we have a little more leeway to be experimental on the next record. The audience is ready to be challenged more.”
“That’s why we wanted to do something more radical this time around,” Rivers muses – and that’s where ‘Pacific Daydream’ comes from. “It’s the first time we’ve managed to change the guitar approach. Instead of just the distorted eighth note, downstroke, power chord thing, we’re trying a bunch of different sounds. There are cleaner sounds, echo and reverb.” [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”46702″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2 vc_col-lg-8 vc_col-md-offset-2 vc_col-md-8″][vc_column_text]Usually, there’s a crunch to Weezer, a grungy guitar hero in every track, but this album sways, twisting in the melancholy beauty. “We’ll slow dance, head on my shoulder,” sings ‘Happy Hour’ just before reminding us that everything is going to be alright.
The something different wasn’t always going to be the luscious transportation of ‘Pacific Daydream’, all iconic sixties inspiration of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson cut with their rock band comfort, though. “We set out to do The Black Album, which was to be the opposite of The White Album – very dark and experimental and weird.”
As always with Weezer, it didn’t quite turn out that way. “There’s just something about the beach and the sun. That’s very much a part of who we are, and it’s hard to turn the other direction, especially when I live right here by the beach in LA.”
With the want to sound “like a four-piece rock band” central to everything they do, ‘Pacific Daydream’ is “like a seventies British punk band like The Clash playing The Beach Boys.” It feels like new ground. It feels like home.
“Right after touring with Panic! At The Disco last summer, we started writing with the intention of making The Black Album,” says Rivers. “[However] some of the songs I wrote didn’t fit that album, so I put them in this other folder off to the side. As I kept writing, that other folder filled up first and seemed like a strong album unto itself, and that’s what became ‘Pacific Daydream’.”
It was one of those things that just happened. “It wasn’t totally conscious or intentional. Yeah, we had the idea for The Black Album, but it was mainly ‘cos the last one was White. It just seemed fun to have that contrast. Writing for a theme like that is always very loose and pencilled in. We started going towards that and then, very spontaneously, these other songs started coming out.”
Weezer were always going to chase excitement and the new. “Rather than try and combine all the songs, we kept them separate. The same thing happened when I was writing for ‘Pinkerton’ in ‘95. At the same time I was writing those songs, I was writing these country-pop songs that were totally different, so I just decided, let’s keep these songs in two separate piles rather than try and combine them.”
It’s an assertive decision that’s stuck and is something they all agree on. “We like to keep each record very unified, to keep the albums as individuals. They each have their own limited pallet and their own feeling. It doesn’t feel like we’re just picking the ten best songs regardless of what they’re about or what style they are. We want the album and all the songs to fit together and work, so the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
“The cool thing about that is we’re able to keep making albums very quickly because once we finish one album, there are already a couple of other albums that are nearly done.”
How many partially sketched out albums are currently sat in the Weezer vault? “I don’t want to talk about that too much because I want to keep the focus, as much as I can, on the album we’re putting out. We still have those Black Album songs…” But Rivers doesn’t know if they’ll ever be released. “I think they will, but I’ve been writing recently, and now something else is happening with some more piano-based songs.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsG37JcEQNw”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10″][vc_column_text]
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2 vc_col-lg-8 vc_col-md-offset-2 vc_col-md-8″][vc_column_text]The White Album was a record about the excitement of a day at the beach, engulfed in the joy of making new connections and having experiences that would last through the ages. It bounded about the place, carefree and untethered.
‘Pacific Daydream’ finds the band still at the shore, but with the sun setting on the horizon. The day is drawing to a close under the very present danger that this won’t last forever, so there’s a desire to savour this feeling and make the most of every moment.
It started with the idea of a daydream. “That was my original inspiration,” Rivers explains. “This idea of this world we could create at a bar by the beach, where you can go escape with your friends. There’s still lots of sadness, but you can transcend it with the music and the camaraderie. I wanted it to be so vivid that it feels like you’re entering this world, this real world, and you start to question whether you’re the listener listening to the Weezer album or you’re one of these characters in the album that’s imagining the listener.”
From the opening grab of ‘Mexican Fender’, through the twinkle of ‘QB Blitz’ and the melancholy sparkle of ‘Feels Like Summer’ until the bonfire skip of ‘Any Friend of Diane’s’, ‘Pacific Daydream’ is a record of wistful gazes and full-bodied immersion. There’s a universe to unravel, but it still feels personal.
The record was initially called ‘Somebody’s Daydream’, but where’s the magic in someone else’s escape? “Pat thought the word ‘Somebody’s’ wasn’t all that attractive so he came up with the modification ‘Pacific’ and everyone liked that.”
It’s a similar story with the artwork. Initially chosen because the band liked it – “Yeah, this feels amazing” – there’s a depth to their gut reactions. Deeper meanings lifted up in the excitement of the heartfelt.
“When I start to pick that image apart, I can see a lot of themes in there that I relate to and can hear on ‘Pacific Daydream’. There’s that feeling of loneliness with this girl out in space, but then there’s the whole planet of six million people right there, and she can see them all, but she’s not really in the same space as them or connected to them in the way they’re connected to each other.”
Weezer blend the fantastic with the everyday. ‘Pacific Daydream’ feels otherworldy but is grounded in the earth between your toes, the things you can reach out and touch. Lyrically, some it is character play and storytelling, the rest is confessional.
That mix is “about 50/50,” says Rivers. ‘Mexican Fender’ has its foundations in a day he spent with La Sera’s Katy Goodman, while ‘Beach Boys’ seems like a simple ode to a band who mean so much. Instead of simple retellings and straight arrow narrative, the winding reactionary emotions become the heroes of our story.
“It seems like with each album I get more interested in character play and putting other people’s words in my mouth, and just being surprised and amused at how my character changes as I adapt different language. It is really fun but at the same time, there are still things I need to say from the depth of my psyche, and I just say those things in plain language or stream of conscious metaphors. I just make sure there are lots of different flavours on the albums.” [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”46694″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2 vc_col-lg-8 vc_col-md-offset-2 vc_col-md-8″][vc_column_text]Usually this blend happens within one song. “I need a bit of both,” he continues. “I need a little salt and pepper. Sometimes the first draft of a lyric will be my own personal rantings, and then I’ll go back and replace some of the lines with some lines I found somewhere else – maybe a slogan on someone’s t-shirt, a line from a poem, a line from a movie – and then other times it’ll be the other way around. It’ll start out with a bit of text I saw somewhere else, a scene in a movie, then I’ll go from there and write my own story into it. It’s usually best if I have a bit of both in any one song.”
“’Get Right’ is about really wanting to be more social and have a relationship,” Rivers explains. “It’s about feeling lonely but, for some reason, not being in the right mindstate to get out of the house and to connect to other people. I just had this image of myself hiding under the stairs.”
Elsewhere, ‘La Mancha Screwjob’, apart from being a brilliant phrase, is about somebody he once worked with and “having mixed feelings about them as a collaborator, but ultimately realising we’re much better than anything I can do on my own. Owning up to the mistakes I made in that relationship and reaffirming the value I see in that relationship.
“‘QB Blitz’ is about another person in my creative life, a collaborator. That one’s ultimately about disappointment with decisions that had been made, and that feeling of, ‘Why did I trust other people when I should have just been going with my own creative instincts?’ I just need to get back in touch with my instincts and go for it, rather than relying on the advice of the experts.”
It’s affirmative action that’s mirrored in ‘Beach Boys’. The track uses distorted vocal samples from the titular band’s ex-manager Murry Wilson – also Brian, Dennis and Carl’s father – recorded during the infamous ‘Help Me, Rhonda’ sessions. They see him criticising the Beach Boys’ shift from surf wax America to something more evocative, personal and intimate. Ignoring his advice, the song in question became the Beach Boys’ second Number One single, and a year later they released ‘Pet Sounds’, proving their own instincts right. The parallels burn neon bright.
As Weezer move forward, they’ve started to trust each other more. “We’ve gone through so many different phases and so many different ways to make decisions, and it seems like keeping it pretty tight, the four of us, our manager and in this case, Butch Walker [who produced ‘Pacific Daydream’], works well. We pretty much keep it at that, then once it’s done, you can go off, play it to some other people and get some reactions. I guess we have to wait and see how the world reacts to this record, but it feels like we did a good job this time.”
In the loneliness, the isolation and the detachment, there’s a feeling of hope to ‘Pacific Daydream’. It turns out there are some things Weezer just won’t change.
“Most of our records are pretty hopeful,” Rivers considers. “It’s my nature when I go to write a song; it never feels likes it’s done until it feels uplifting and no matter what I’m singing about, no matter how dark or angry, the music always makes it feel inspiring, uplifting. It’s hopeful. It’s just what makes me feel good, that’s the kind of music I gravitate towards as a listener. But then as I’m writing I just keep playing and playing until I feel that way. That’s what I aim for.”
Sitting on the edge, there’s also a reflective calm to the album. “Part of it might be the change in producer. Jake Sinclair, who produced The White Album was 29-years-old and was very much a fan of the nineties version of Weezer. He had a very useful, almost juvenile perspective. Butch Walker is our age, he didn’t grow up being a Weezer fan or playing in a Weezer cover band, so he has all these other points of reference that maybe bring in that mature, reflective side. He’s very knowledgeable about the history of guitar rock, and it was great to have him as a sounding board.” [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBqFoyXXs3E”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10″][vc_column_text]
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2 vc_col-lg-8 vc_col-md-offset-2 vc_col-md-8″][vc_column_text]Eleven albums in and Weezer are still experimenting, still pushing things forward. Hip-hop flourishes, warped colours and blossoming conviction all add to the escape to Weezer’s new world. It feels like the band have accepted what Weezer is, and what they could be in the future.
“I think part of it is that some time has gone by and we’ve come to terms with the developments in technology and the way music is made,” says Rivers. “Of course, things are going to keep changing, but we’re now somewhat used to the idea of recording into a computer.
“You now have infinite tracks available, you have autotune and time correction, we’ve adjusted to all these new techniques, and we’ve heard all the new sounds. We have a more graceful relationship with the current techniques. All the pieces of our lives are in place right now for maximum creativity.”
The new turns might not force a mainstream spotlight, but they’re not hiding behind echoes of the past either. “I still have a very reactionary and extreme personality as an artist. I’m always the one to say, ‘No, we have to throw out all this stuff and do this other crazy thing’. But it’s very democratic; there are a lot of very smart, creative people in the room when we’re making the record. Between all of us, we’ve managed to make a subtle and beautifully evolved album.”
Three great albums in four years, Weezer are currently full stride. “There are just so many ideas,” Rivers starts. “So many crazy, fun things to try every morning when I get up, I can’t wait to get back to work. I love Spotify; I just love listening to new music on there.
“Maybe it’s ‘cos I’m not of the new generation that grew up with all this production and technology, but for me, it’s completely mind-boggling. ‘How the heck are they making these tracks?’ I have the same computer they have, but how do they get those sounds out of it?” he laughs. “It’s inspiring.”
Rivers doesn’t know exactly why the band are so productive, or why that’s happening now. “It’s happened before in the past, and at times, it goes away, and then it’ll take us four or five years to put out a record,” he says. But he’s embracing it. “I don’t know what the future holds but I hope we can keep making great records like this.”
At no point does ‘Pacific Daydream’ sound like a band going through the motions or running out of places to go. “It’s the joy of creativity, experimentation and exploration,” says Rivers of why he still does this. “And like, maybe hearing what other people are doing, catching a song on the radio and thinking, ‘Man, I want to try that’ or ‘I wonder what would happen if I combined this beat with that chord progression and then put a Weezer melody over the top of it’. Then the wheels start turning and next thing you know, you’ve got a whole new album.” [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”46704″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2 vc_col-lg-8 vc_col-md-offset-2 vc_col-md-8″][vc_column_text]The thing is, it’s never just music for music’s sake. They’re entertainers, performers and they long to connect. “I’d like to bring in a lot of new people with this new record,” starts Rivers. “People are going to hear the single ‘Feels Like Summer’, then they’re going to come check out the whole album. It’s going to feel like this compelling world that they’ll want to be a part of. They’ll want to join Weezer World, come to a show, get into the other records and see us as one of those classic bands like the bands we grew up on. For me, that was Metallica. It was about more than just a record; it was a real culture and something I relied on in my life.”
It doesn’t happen for most bands, but Weezer are still growing. The day after ‘Pacific Daydream’ is released, they’re playing Wembley Arena. It’s by far the biggest headline show they’ve played in London.
“Oh man, it’s so exciting,” exclaims Rivers. “It feels like for our entire career we’ve pretty much been at the same level in England, which is Brixton Academy. It’s an amazing venue, and it’s been incredible, but boy does it feel good to graduate to Wembley.”
There are plans to return sooner rather than later, too. “We haven’t announced anything yet, so I’m not really supposed to say anything, but we plan to spend a lot more time in the UK and Europe now.”
Rivers has a pencil drawn plan to do Weezer until he’s sixty, but he’s got his list of things to achieve before then written in permanent marker.
“We want to build up our audience so we can play bigger and bigger shows,” he starts. “It’d be awesome to get to Coldplay size. And then, keep making experimental records. I don’t know exactly where that’s going to lead to, but it’ll continue to involve the four of us as players on our guitars, bass and drums. And keep pushing the boundaries as far as we can.”