Circa 1994–2001 or so, angsty but wistful teens loved Weezer. Songs like “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” and “Undone (The Sweater Song)” got at the awkwardness and alienation that defined a certain kind of 90s adolescent experience. And the sweet melodies on their self-titled debut (aka “The Blue Album”) only matured on the harder, grittier Pinkerton.
The band’s unique brand of dorkiness did not age well, however. Although The Green Album still featured catchy riffs, lyrically and conceptually Weezer began to flatline. That their most recent LPs are titled “Raditude” and “Hurley” (the latter after a character from the TV show Lost) does not bode well.
But you can relive Weezer’s wonder years via Sheezer, an all-female Weezer tribute act based in Toronto, Ontario. Sheezer shows are enchanting celebrations—communal recollections of magical musical memories. Everyone sings along, everyone knows where the guitar solos are going, and everyone smiles at their favourite parts. It’s a lot of fun.
And they sound perfect. Sheezer is made up of some of Toronto’s tenured indie greats: Dana Snell (The Bicycles, Doug Paisley), Laura Barrett (The Hidden Cameras), Alysha Haugen (By Divine Right, The Hidden Cameras), and Robin Hatch (Our Lady Peace, Dwayne Gretzky). If you’re near the GTA, you can see them for yourself on May 30th at Lee’s Palace.
After a recent rehearsal for their upcoming gig, Noisey had the opportunity to ask three quarters of Sheezer about Weezer, tribute band names, and more.
Noisey: Describe for me your first encounters with Weezer. What was it about those records that you found engaging?
Dana Snell: Well, “Blue Album” came out when I was in high school, and Pinkerton came out in my first year of university. So, super-influential music listening times, when you really got into whatever record…
Robin Hatch: When I got into the albums, I was on Myspace a lot. It was a couple years after the album came out, but Rivers Cuomo had a Myspace, and he was like this Nicholas Cage–type figure to me and my friends on Myspace back in the day. We thought it was funny that he was on this social networking website and would read your messages but not respond to them, because you could see he had done that. [Laughter.]
Laura Barrett: And I got into both albums quite late, so my experience with them is more as the soundtrack to a lot of touring, a lot of long drives, being able to listen to the albums as albums, which was different than a lot of the other listening that I did.
So when did the idea of Sheezer first present itself? Did you know from the start that you wanted an entire act devoted to this band and these records?
Dana: Like Laura said, it was on a drive, and she said that “The Blue Album” is one of those ones where you can listen to the whole album. And so we were just commenting on that, what excellent songwriting is in “The Blue Album” and, you know, “Imagine playing these songs, it’d be so fun!” We then thought of the name, and said, “Oh my god, it’s so good!”
Laura: Dana is maybe being a bit too humble here. She thought of the name, she thought of the whole concept, and from that we knew we had to do it. It was one of those band names that you come up with as a joke, and then just like that, it was one of those things that you actually have to act on, once you come up with the concept.
Dana: And no one else can get there first!
Are there other Weezer tribute acts?
Dana: At the beginning we were kind of paranoid that someone else had started Sheezer.
Robin: There’s a band called “Geezer”—it’s old men.
“Geezer” doesn’t sound as good as “Sheezer.”
Dana: Nothing really sounds as good as “Sheezer.” [Laughter.]
Were there other all-girl tribute bands that you had seen? It’s a whole genre…
Robin: It was more novel at the time.
Laura: We were tossing out a lot of other…“Oh, we could be ‘Labiohead,’ or ‘Tribe Called Breast.’”
Robin: There were a lot of good ones. “The Sheagles.”
Dana: “Shevo.” “Vaginasaur Jr.” is my favourite one. But I hadn’t seen any all-girl cover bands at that point; I just knew of them. And I think that the reason we got so much press in the beginning was that we were like one of the first cover bands that was of a band that was not from the 70s and 80s. It’s a cool idea, I think, to take a really masculine music and deliver it as women.
Does it work in the same way, with Weezer songs? The tension between the macho, sometimes even misogynistic dimension of some of the material, and then the people on stage?
Dana: Maybe less so, because it’s a little more…as Robin says, “Beta male.”
Robin: Yeah, beta masculine.
Dana: So it’s more the nerdier, more sensitive dude that would tend to get into Weezer. But that’s a tension within Weezer itself. Nerdy, neurotic guy and then metal-influenced rock. So yeah, that’s still there, and maybe there’s another layer now.
Robin: I don’t think any of us are subscribing to the ideologies of Pinkerton, but it’s funny to sing them, to think of Rivers having sex with so many girls in one week or something like that. [Laughs.] He’s like, “Uh, I’ve had enough.”
And it’s tormenting him—he’s just tormented by it.
Dana: You can’t help but love the guy.
Laura: Also, just to go back to the all-female band thing, we’re blessed to have a lot of women making music in our immediate circles. So it didn’t seem so novel to me, at least…. It’s just a great chance to play with some of my friends, who happen to be female and, you know, really good at their instruments.
So, you almost exclusively play songs from “The Blue Album” and from Pinkerton. Why hasn’t post-Pinkerton Weezer resonated as strongly with you and with others?
Robin: I’m not sure how The Green Album was recorded specifically, but what was popular in terms of a rock sound when The Green Album came out…sounding more pop-punk became trendy and fashionable. And I think that sounding pop-punk is one of the things Rivers was trying to reject when he released Pinkerton after “The Blue Album.” Songs like “Surf Wax” are a little more party-oriented, and he wanted to get into the more melodic stuff. So I think Green Album and Maladroit are him sort of confused about where that leads him, if he shouldn’t sound either way.
Dana: It wasn’t a bold break. It was almost like a watering down. However, are they going to read this? [Laughter.]
Laura: It is a time capsule, right? People can pinpoint the time of their life when they really got into those [first two] albums. And I think, as time went on—and maybe that’s just a function of having more choice and more albums getting exposure—but The Green Album, I don’t think people necessarily had, in the same numbers, that exquisite connection. So we’re playing into a very comforting feeling of, like, these being the two albums that just shine, they sparkle, and there’s not a single song that I would cut. They’re all winners. And then Green Album and Maladroit…I just haven’t focused on them; I haven’t listened to them in depth. I don’t sit down and put on The Green Album.
I guess it’s that break they took. They were an important part of so many people’s lives, then they went away, and we all grew in different directions. But then we’re reunited and we have nothing in common.
Laura: [Laughs.] Interesting.
Robin: Yeah, they’ve gotten older, but have we? [Laughs.]
Laura: Really hope they don’t read this… [Laughter.]
Have you ever thought of taking the tribute act to another level? Where instead of just playing Weezer songs, you actually try to write a Weezer record?
Laura: Okay, we kind of thought of this recently, didn’t we? Maybe I just had that thought.
Robin: I think we definitely want to make a band. And that’s one of the colours available to us on our palette of what we could produce.
Laura: Having learned bass for this band only, and knowing only Matt Sharp’s bass stylings, I could potentially generate new Weezer bass algorithms, right? I feel like if I just meditated on it I might be able to write a new Weezer song, Pinkerton-era. [Laughter.]
Robin: Oh, for sure.
Laura: So who knows? It’s really fun, when we have free time in a practice space, and we just jam on instruments that…for me, bass is not my first instrument by a long shot. So it’s interesting to see where that takes us, what we make.
Henry Adam Svec is a veteran wunderkind - @performingtime