Weezer Open Up About “Summer-Vibing” White Album & How The Songwriting Process Has Evolved Over Two DecadesWritten by Sally McMullen on April 13, 2016
You might think that a band who has been in the industry for as long as Weezer has would have their game plan nailed down by now, but the alt-rock icons are still learning as they go. 22 years since the release of the debut self-titled Blue Album and 15 years since hits such as Island in the Sun topped the charts, Weezer is back with their latest self-titled album (otherwise known as the White Album).
In recent years, we’ve seen Weezer experiment with some new sounds (much to the distaste of many fans and critics alike) on records like 2009’s Raditude and 2010’s Death to False Metal. This time, though, the new album is driven by the charmingly awkward lyrics of frontman Rivers Cuomo and the quirky alt-rock sound that Weezer fans know and love. With tracks like California Kids, L.A. Girlz and Endless Bummer, the White Album embodies a chill surf-rock vibe that pays homage to the quartet’s Cali roots.
Following the release of the new album, we chatted with bassist Scott Shriner about the recording process, how Weezer tapped into their unique sound and why, after almost 40 years, he’s still learning new things about music every day.
Music Feeds: Congrats on the release of the White Album on April 1! Weezer has released 10 albums over the last twenty or so years, meaning the band records an album almost every two years. Do you ever feel like you need more of a break in between albums?
Scott Shriner: No, I think we’re all always working on new music. It’s what we do. We’re musicians (laughs). If anything, I really like to put out an album every year or year and a half. Always moving forward, that’s really great for me. You know, there’s a lot of pressure on Rivers, being the main songwriter, and whatever it takes for him to be able to create, I support. I like it when we don’t have big breaks though.
I read that the recording process for the 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright In The End was quite calculated and that Google docs filled with strict steps and deadlines were even involved. Was the process the same this time around?
The process is never the same from album to album. It’s kind of remarkable. If ever we do it in a way that perhaps isn’t my favourite, I don’t worry about it that much because we always do it differently the next time. I’d say, for the most part, we’re pretty organised and Rivers is pretty organised with his writing and that’s the kind of guy he is. It helps him function better if he has everything laid out really clear in front of him.
I always enjoy recording, unless I’m being rushed. That’s the only time I don’t enjoy it. I like for the band to get together and play the songs a bunch together as a band before we record them and we don’t always do it that way, but that’s fun for me.
Is that because not only do you get a feel for the song, but also an idea of how it’ll sound live?
I guess so and I think I just find inspiration from playing with the other guys and feeling how it’s going to work as a band. The more we play it or if we play it on tour, which we used to do a long time ago, we’d often play new songs for people before we’d record them.
But I gotta say, this album, even though we did not do it that way, we worked with this producer Jake Sinclair and he’s a fantastic musician and a bass player and singer. So we really got to focus on creating some really memorable, hooky bass lines together and I’ve never recorded with a producer who was a bass player. So that was super enjoyable for me.
Yeah, I can imagine that’d be really cool to bounce ideas around with another bass player.
Yeah, it was! And he’s another guy who is really good at organising stuff. So we’d run a couple of passes of the drums and the guitar and he’d be like “I really like that.”
Then he could help me organise my parts, “let’s repeat that twice and the third time we’ll do that other thing and then we’ll go back to that.” I don’t know, he was almost like a director in that way. Like a film director, you know what I mean? He’s very good at being able to keep the big picture in mind.
Jake has also worked with the likes of Taylor Swift and 5 Seconds of Summer. What was it like working with someone with a background like that?
Well, I think that first Jake is a massive Weezer fan. He’s really studied the work and was actually in a Weezer cover band when he was a kid and I think he really kinda understood what it was about Weezer that really made us great. I think that maybe working on some of those bigger, newer records… you know it’s not like he’s an older dude that’s kinda stuck in his ways. Like, he’s got some new sounds and some new ideas with it at the same time knowing what it is that makes Weezer awesome.
Speaking of what makes Weezer great, it seems like you guys have done a bit of a throwback to a more traditional alt-rock Weezer sound for the new album. Whereas, there was some more experimentation on the other recent albums.
Well, I don’t think I’d call it a throwback. I’d say we approached this album with a theme in mind which is kind of southern California beach, you know, good times. While keeping our kinda awkward walk to it, you know? (laughs). So it’s not like “let’s go back and recreate something.” I think it was just like here’s the secret, here’s the special ingredient that is kind of our sound and here’s the theme we want to have on the album with the beach thing and let’s put it together. And Rivers is always working really hard on writing and just wrote some great songs for this album.
The album seems centred around, like you said, LA pride and summery vibes. It actually made me a bit devo listening to it because the Aussie summer has just wrapped up and so many of the songs would be perfect on a summer playlist.
(Laughs) Your summer is over and ours is just beginning. That’s pretty funny.
Yeah, so basically we’re going to have to live vicariously through the new album until next December.
Well, when are you bringing us back to Australia?
Hopefully soon, right? I was looking at Weezer’s touring schedule and, after your tour in the US, you guys are touring Asia in August. Do you think you’ll get a chance to stop by Oz while you’re on this side of the world?
I sure hope so. I kind of have a feeling that after that, the US tour and going to Asia for those shows, that we might need a tiny bit of a break. So, I can’t say. I haven’t heard yet.
Well, we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed. You guys obviously have a massive fan base down here and around the world. Do you ever feel that extra pressure or like you need to prepare for the fans’ reactions to a new album?
I don’t think that as artists you can really prepare. I think we just have to do our part, make some music that we’re really excited about and give it our best shot and just stay off of that part. But, I mean, like I said, we do things so differently from album to album.
I just hope that if ever there’s something that’s not someone’s cup of tea, that they’ll come back for the next one. Because, like I said, it’s gonna be different (laughs). The next album is going to be very different, always.
Yeah, that’s true. Not all bands can achieve that, though. So it’s cool that Weezer tries to change it up for each album.
Yeah, and I think we’ve kind of just locked into a really good system right now. The way Rivers has been writing and working and, once again, kind of finding out what the core part of Weezer was again. You know? What is so awesome about it.
Maybe that’s why people keep calling it a throwback or return to form or whatever. It’s just, you know, we have a sound or niche that we’ve made for ourselves and may have gotten off the path here or there. I feel like now we’ve kind of got a good recipe.
You’ve been playing bass with Weezer for over 15 years and bass in general since high school. How do you think the way that you approach writing your parts of the songs has changed over the years?
Oh my gosh. I just keep learning so much. I guess that was another part of what was so cool about working with Jake. Somehow this year I discovered that I can be a little random with my parts and a little slashy here or there. I think this year I’ve kind of found the art of creating a more consistent hook.
Something that’s special but consistent and repeating it and making it really stick in the song as opposed to changing it on every verse or chorus and adding parts. And, like I said, just being kind of random. So, I don’t know, this has been a big year for me bass-wise, if that makes sense. It’s kind of a musician’s answer there, but you asked (laugh).
I think also in the past I’ve had a sound that was a little bit destructive (laughs). I think on this album we went for something a little less muscular and something a little warmer and rounder. And I think it sits in the mix really nice with the guitars being crunchy if the bass is a little bit round. It blends well with the drums. So I’m really happy with how it turned out.
Yeah, you definitely brought a more aggressive sound to Weezer when you joined, but I think the style you’ve tapped into this time has complemented the vibe you guys were going for.
Yeah, I mean a bassist has kind of a big role and I think I came from a more metal or heavy rock background. And over the last few years I’ve kind of veered or kind of grown into a different player, so I think that’s going to reflect also. I mean, even from the last album to this one, I’ve completely changed what I listen to and where I’m coming from.
What have you been listening to recently and while you were creating the album?
Oh, that’s not fair because I’ve been studying guitar. So I’ve been listening to a lot of guitar players. I’ve been really into Pink Floyd these last few months.
So some classic rock? I was hoping you were going to reveal something more embarrassing than that!
(Laughs) Well, some of the music I listen to may be embarrassing but not as embarrassing as watching UFC fights or anything.
Ha! I’m glad that UFC fighting is your example of peak embarrassment.
Yeah (laughs). But, I’m studying music so I’m kind of going back to find out why a bunch of my favourite songs from when I was young, like, what it is about them that gets me so excited? And I’ve been studying theory and music and there’s just so much to learn. I’m really excited.
The White Album is out now, grab copy here.