Photo By Serena McCarroll
Normally the world wouldn’t mourn the loss of a cover band. Most of them are embarrassingly maladroit and give unoriginality a bad name. But in the history of playing other people’s songs, very few cover bands have been adored and respected as much Sheezer. Formed simply to have some fun and use what is easily the best cover band name ever, the four members—Robin Hatch, Laura Barrett, Dana Snell and Alysha Haugen—have had a blast over the last five years performing the work of Rivers Cuomo… well, only really his first two albums. In their time, they mostly stuck with playing various gigs around their hometown of Toronto, but they did manage to spread their rad-itude across Canada on a 2011 tour with Born Ruffians. Sadly though, now it’s time for them to hang up the lightning bolt guitar straps. Noisey made the argument last year that Sheezer is actually a better band than Weezer these days, and so we felt the need to reach out to keyboardist/guitarist Robin Hatch before Sheezer play their remaining gigs in August. As well as ask why her bandmates can’t keep doing this till they die.
Noisey: So why is Sheezer calling it a day?
I think we felt it had reached its peak in terms of how much we were getting out of the project, and also how much people were willing to go see the
performed over and over in Toronto. It would have been nice to go out and do some international tours, but at this point none of us have the time to get together even for practices, let alone shows.
Did it go longer than you originally thought it would?
I think so because it started as a joke. The fact that it even happened made it go longer than it imagined. We’ve been together for about five years, so definitely. There is a surprising lasting power for cover bands in Toronto.
How tired were you of just playing those first two albums?
We were only doing maximum five shows a year, so it was never super tiring. I play with Our Lady Peace, so I see how the audience responds to newer songs versus the older songs. You start to get an appreciation for why band leaders want to start writing new material, so they can keep it fresh for themselves on stage. Because we only play Blue Album and Pinkerton it is hard to keep things fresh.
Did you learn all of the songs from both albums?
There was one show where we did both albums front to back. But logistically with the instrumentation it’s a bit hard to get some of the Pinkerton songs. And “Only In Dreams” we only bust out at certain shows, because it means we have to practice that final section. But we did learn both albums and a few B-sides.
Sweet. Were there ever any recordings?
We used to get soundboard recordings from Ottawa, and we talked about putting them up online. But one of the biggest problems with live performances is that they never quite sound like the recording. So our insecurities about how the live recordings sounded prevented us from posting those online. People would likely be pretty harsh with their criticism. So no, we never officially put anything up online, but on YouTube you can find some live audio. We’ve discussed making original music, but we never have the time to get together.
Last year that emo band You Blew It released an EP of Blue Album covers. Did you ever discuss doing something like that?
I guess we’ve been hesitant to find out the legal logistics of publishing Weezer songs under our names. But we are more of a live band. We’ve never considered ourselves as a studio band. But maybe we should have because sometimes I’ll go into Shoppers Drug Mart and hear these Hall and Oates covers and they don’t sound like the originals at all. They don’t have any of the elements that made the originals good, and yet they’re getting licenses for the songs and getting played in stores.
So what about the post-Pinkerton material?
It’s not all that bad. We do play “Hash Pipe,” and we’ve tried “Island In The Sun” a few times. I guess in interviews too we felt that we came across as too exclusive to the Blue Album and Pinkerton. But I remember as a teenager waiting for Make Believe to come out, thinking it’d be the return to those first two albums, and in some senses it was. I think Rivers Cuomo is an unbelievable songwriter. But the album came out and you still only have that longing for the first two albums. It must be some kind of nostalgia-based decision, rather than any actual discrimination towards the later albums.
That happens with every Weezer album—the fans wait and see if they can return to that early glory. Has there been any discussion about continuing on as a different band?
We have a band name – Oubliette. Everybody has their own solo stuff too. I’m working on stuff. Laura, obviously has an awesome solo career. Dana and Lysh are both working full-time now, but hopefully we'll find the time.
So, I found it interesting that Weezer began playing their first two albums front to back after Sheezer came along. Coincidence? Or were you the inspiration?
Part of me wonders because Rivers is pretty cryptic about how much he follows our online presence. When we saw him at the Sound of Music Festival, he knew that the band was breaking up. He had read that AUX article, which is pretty interesting. And one of the first things he said was, “Do you guys wanna come on the Weezer cruise?” I guess in interviews we’ve mentioned how cool that would be. But who knows? To use Our Lady Peace as an example again, I think a lot of the ‘90s alternative rock bands are deciding to tour these old albums, start to finish. Maybe we influenced it… but I’m sure they just figured it out themselves.
It makes sense, considering how superior those two albums are compared to the rest of their catalogue.
When we were touring a new Our Lady Peace album a few years ago, people were still coming up to the band, asking them to sign Clumsy. I think maybe too, I said nostalgia before, but also maybe for how you used to experience music, where it was start to finish on a CD. You had to learn every song on an album or you just would.
You mentioned meeting Weezer at the Sound of Music Festival. What was that like?
We went up to [bassist] Scott Shriner first, because he seemed like the most accessible of the band members. We talked to him first and then [drummer] Patrick Wilson, who was from Buffalo, so he mentioned that and said he knew us location wise. He was really funny. And then we watched the Weezer set, and right after they basically came right up to us backstage. Rivers asked if Laura was him, like, “You guys are Sheezer. Are you me?” to Laura. So that was really cute to hear.
— sheezer (@sheezer) June 14, 2015
Did you think it was fitting that you finally got to meet them just as you’re winding down the band?
Definitely. Because before I joined the band, about six months before, I was interning at MTV Canada, and got to hold the boom mic during a Weezer interview when they played at the Molson Amphitheatre with Blink-182. And after the interview I asked for a photo, autographs, I was just such a fan… and I got into so much trouble from all the staff that was there. Then in the office the next day, in front of the whole office, I was yelled at for being unprofessional. And then the photo didn’t turn out on the negatives, so it was all for nothing. I was humiliated at my outburst of fandom towards Weezer. So to go from that extreme low of meeting Weezer to now, where I’m in a Weezer cover band and Weezer is coming up to me and know who I am? That is vindication.
What will you miss most about not having Sheezer in your life?
I guess the group excitement of everybody singing along to the songs. It’s unparalleled: our appreciation, the audience’s appreciation. I mentioned before that the reason why we don’t release covers is because there would be decisions over how they would sound and where the studio would be, but live it doesn’t really matter that much. It becomes more about the music itself and the appreciation for the melodies. It doesn’t have to sound exactly like the album. Even when Weezer plays for everyone they want to sing along to “Say It Ain’t So.”
You also play in [cover super band] Dwayne Gretzky, so I guess everything will be alright for you in the end.
Totally! Yeah. I love playing covers live. I think it’s my niche, so I’m still getting my fix for sure.
What if Weezer asked you to reform and play the Weezer Cruise?
Would you do that? Oh, 100 percent! That’s a no-brainer. I think that’s been our goal the whole time. We’d find the time if they asked.
*Sheezer’s final shows:
July 31 – Kitchener, The Boathouse
August 6 & 7 – Toronto, Lee’s Palace
Cam Lindsay cried after this interview was completed. Follow him on Twitter.