In 2014, the conventional wisdom is that the album is dead, and that nobody listens to a record the whole way through. Rivers Cuomo figures there's two ways to respond. "You can change with the times, give in, and not put a lot into your album," he says. "Or you can say that for artistic and creative reasons, we have to try so hard to make this an album people want to listen to. We decided to respect it."
So for its ninth studio album, Weezer--Rivers Cuomo (vocals/guitar), Patrick Wilson (drums), Brian Bell (guitar), and Scott Shriner (bass)--reunited with the man who helped the band make some of their most iconic album-length work. Ric Ocasek, frontman for the Cars, was also the producer on Weezer's self-titled 1994 debut (aka The Blue Album) and their self-titled third album from 2001 (aka The Green Album). The resulting record is one of the finest in Weezer’s vast and varied catalogue. It's out September 30, 2014, and it's called Everything Will Be Alright in the End.
"We started hearing it in the studio: that's the sound," Cuomo says. "Ric's part of that chemistry. And he's made contributions to the songs that he wasn't able to before. In the case of the Blue Album, we'd been playing the songs for a year and a half in the clubs--they were pretty much done. And I didn't want to hear from anyone on the Green Album. Now I'm in a much more open and collaborative state of mind." When the new song "Back to the Shack" needed a boost in the second half of the chorus, Ocasek told the band that he heard a synth melody, and then played it. "It was so Ric and it was so perfect for the song," Cuomo says.
Between 2008 and 2010, Weezer was unusually productive, releasing the Red Album, Raditude, and Hurley. After those hyperprolific three years, they deliberately dialed down the tempo, with Cuomo taking his time writing songs. "I have an instinct to move slowly and a belief that a record only gets better the longer you let it grow," Cuomo says. "It becomes more complex and layered. A testament to the value of taking four years to write and create these songs is that each of those four years is equally represented on this album. It's not like one or two of them was just a waste of time."
Everything Will Be Alright in the End contains three groups of songs, organized thematically. When all the songs were ready, the band recorded them with Ocasek in three sessions of three weeks each, in January 2014, March 2014, and June 2014. All the sessions were at the Village recording studios in Santa Monica, California. "I grew up with this romantic image of working in a recording studio," Cuomo says. "I can't let go of it. I just feel more excited and connected to music history when I'm in these rooms that my heroes worked in."
Once the album is released, the band wants to focus on sharing with as an experience for their fans, scheduling a six city club tour where they will play Everything Will Be Alright in the End front to back; there are also plans for fan participation, including opportunities to sing the choir parts from the album.
"At its best, Weezer has always been a communal undertaking," Cuomo declares, remembering how the band honed its craft in the clubs of L.A. circa 1992. "We were there with our audience--it wasn't a large audience, just a few people at first, but it grew to a few hundred. As a band becomes successful, it's easy to get separated from that community." In recent years, the band has deliberately reconnected with its fans. "It started with the Weezer Cruise," Cuomo says, "but we’ve also been meeting with fans after every show, getting to know them. It feels like we're all in this together again." That bond is reflected in Weezer's music, he says: "Naturally, we want to write and play the songs that express what the community wants --the songs that make us happy."
After some early personnel changes, Weezer has had the same lineup for thirteen years. "Our favorite times are when we get together," Cuomo says of the quartet, "whether it's getting on the plane to do some shows, or stretching the end of a song when we're playing live and really listening to each other, or putting on the headphones in the studio and getting down to work to make a little piece of rock history."
Weezer is: Brian Bell (guitar/vocals) - Rivers Cuomo (vocals/guitar) - Scott Shriner (bass/vocals) - Patrick Wilson (drums)