"I think I was surprised that it didn't do better than it did," Cuomo says, after another protracted silence. "Now it seems like, of course it wasn't going to do well. But..." He stops. "I was really excited. I thought we had something new and exciting, like a new kind of music. And...um...looking back at the time, that was right when people got excited about ska and swing music"--he spits out the two genres like curse words--"and maybe they didn't really want the brand new kind of music that we had to offer."
Many, however, did, and during the band's extended period of inactivity, that number rose steadily--you know, the whole "I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on" routine. They've been not-so-patiently waiting for the return of Weezer in the years since Pinkerton, and most of them have been waiting online, checking the band's Web site for anything qualifying as news, keeping the band's name alive via newsgroups and chat rooms and bulletin boards, trading live recordings on Napster. The band's strong Internet presence, as much as anything else, is responsible for the success of its recent tour. "I think it has to be," Cuomo agrees, before quickly adding, "We'd still be doing Weezer if the Internet crashed, or whatever. This is our fate."
Not so long ago, that didn't seem to be the case. In fact, it didn't look as though anyone wanted to be doing Weezer. Bassist Matt Sharp left in February 1998 to concentrate on his other band, The Rentals, and was eventually replaced by Mikey Welsh, who had played with Juliana Hatfield, among others. Brian Bell and Pat Wilson both spent more time with their own side projects, The Space Twins and Special Goodness, respectively. Cuomo was back in school--enrolled at Harvard, as he had been briefly between Pinkerton and Weezer in 1994--and playing sporadically in bars around Boston.
"I think maybe I did two," Cuomo says now, dismissing the heavily bootlegged gigs. "They weren't really solo; they were with other people. It was nothing"--his voice drops an octave--"serious at all. It was probably just a way to meet girls, really." And? "I think, probably, it did work," he says, laughing.
His decision to resume his scholastic career "was kinda stupid, in retrospect," Cuomo says, referring to how it brought any plans involving Weezer to a halt. More to the point, it was all for naught. "I think I have two semesters left, but I'm never going back. I was an English major, but I was just basically doing general ed. I don't know...it just seemed like fun. I really enjoyed it when I was there, but now, uh, I just don't want to go anymore."
While Cuomo was writing English term papers, Bell and Wilson recorded and played around Los Angeles with their other bands. Wilson even took Special Goodness on the road, with Welsh joining the group on bass. The four of them regrouped in 1998, working on new Weezer songs on and off throughout the year, material that was later scrapped by Cuomo. Which seems to be a pattern: Cuomo says that since Pinkerton, the band has written "hundreds" of new songs, with only a dozen or so, apparently, still surviving. The rest will "turn up on Napster five years later," he jokes.
Now, finishing a tour that began on June 16 in Santa Barbara, Cuomo insists the band is ready to go into the studio and make another record, and the quartet of songs the band played at Deep Ellum Live bear him out. In particular, "Superstar," with guitars swiped from Rick Nielsen, sounds like the proper reintroduction to Weezer, with lyrics like, "I'm just a regular white guy/Who's afraid to rock so hard/I'd break my guard/And give myself away." The band has studio time booked at the end of October, though strangely, no one has agreed to produce the album yet. "We sent out our demo tape to a bunch of producers, but most of 'em turned us down," Cuomo says. "So we don't know yet. But we're gonna start in October regardless." The band's label, Interscope Records, maintains that no work on a new record will begin until a producer is chosen. So the waiting game begins again.
As for how a new record will sound, Cuomo says the new songs "are like one-third new, one-third Pinkerton, and one-third 'blue.' It still sounds like us, but it's a little different." He still sounds cautious about edging into the territory Weezer explored on Pinkerton, maybe a little gun-shy, even though Pinkerton is a better record, and as the years pass, more people agree with that sentiment. He doesn't want to be ahead of his time. All that means is more heartbreak.