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GUY RAZ, host:

My next guest got an English degree from Harvard in 2006. It's just one of the many reasons why he's one of the more unusual and unlikely pop stars of the past two decades. His name is Rivers Cuomo.

(Soundbite of song, "Memories")

RAZ: Rivers Cuomo is the front man for Weezer, a band consistently beloved in some quarters and reviled in others. Their fans breathlessly await each new release while their detractors sharpen their knives.

Through it all, Rivers Cuomo seems to keep getting happier. Weezer's new songs, like this one, "Memories," are unapologetic, if slightly ironic anthems to rock excess.

(Soundbite of song, "Memories")

WEEZER (Music Group): (Singing) Memories make me want to go back there, back there. Memories make me...

RAZ: Rivers Cuomo joins me from NPR West in Southern California. Hello.

Mr. RIVERS CUOMO (Singer): Hello.

RAZ: There are a few references on this record to getting older, and this song, "Memories," seems to be about the way things used to be for the band Weezer. Is that right?

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah. And the way people are taking it is kind of look back to the heyday of the '90s alternative rock era or reference to the first two Weezer records, came out in '94 and '96. I hate to spoil a good story, but mostly, I was reminiscing about a time in 2001, 2002 when Weezer was on tour in Europe and getting into all kinds of trouble, driving through the festivals in our bus and looking out the window and seeing all kinds of crazy scenes.

(Soundbite of song, "Memories")

WEEZER: (Singing) I want to be there again.

RAZ: Now, over the years, as you know, Weezer has received, you know, obviously very good reviews and some very bad reviews, as every band does. Does it still get to you when you read a bad review, or are you at a point now where you just kind of ignore it?

Mr. CUOMO: Well, you know, we're running a business here, and we rely on press and word of mouth to help us sell our records. So when we get bad reviews, it's we got to take that seriously and try to turn it around.

I look at it myself critically because some people are just trying to make themselves appear cooler by putting Weezer down. You can set those reviews aside. But some critics very genuinely want to help the band. So they're giving us advice and trying to get us on a course that they think we should be on. So I take those people very seriously.

RAZ: Tell me what you want - how you want people to think about this record.

Mr. CUOMO: Well, I think I would like them to notice how amazing my singing is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUOMO: I feel like I really brought a lot of intensity and passion. And I tried a lot of new things with my voice, screaming and singing like an insane person, but then I'll just sing very gently.

RAZ: Because you don't have, I mean, you've got a fine voice, but you wouldn't compare your voice to Jeff Buckley, for example.

Mr. CUOMO: No, or Adam Lambert. No.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Right.

Mr. CUOMO: I'm not technically great, but I think I bring a lot of expression, on this record especially, and I would hope that people notice that.

(Soundbite of song, "Trainwrecks")

WEEZER: (Singing) Someday we'll cut our critics down to size and crash a Diddy party in disguise. We fall, but then we rise we are trainwrecks.

RAZ: My guest is Rivers Cuomo. He's the front man for the band Weezer. Their new album is called "Hurley."

And I want to ask you about something that happened after your second record, "Pinkerton," came out. It, of course, received some negative reviews.

There's a kind of a legend about what happened to you and the band. You took this extended break from recording after that, and then the story goes you kind of sealed yourself away, you know, from the world at Harvard. How much of that is true?

Mr. CUOMO: Well, it's true that it got very bad reviews. And I really just wanted to come back with a great record. And I kept trying and trying to write songs, and I just was so filled with self-doubt. It was very difficult to have the confidence to get into the studio again.

And I got kind of more and more isolated, and it took a while to get out of there before I was willing to commit anything to tape again.

RAZ: What was it like for you as a student there? I mean, you were already pretty well-known. Presumably, a lot of the students were fans of the music that you had produced. Were you able to just be a sort of a normal student or was that impossible?

Mr. CUOMO: I went there on and off between '95, and I finally graduated in 2006. And at first, it felt like I was pretty anonymous. No one knew who I was or really cared. And by the time I graduated, the kids who were college-age that time had - a lot of them had grown up on Weezer. They knew that I was going to be there.

I was living right there in the dorm with them, but everyone was very respectful and cool, and no one was like knocking on my door in the middle of the night well, maybe a couple of times, but that was cool.

RAZ: And were there any moments or sort of classes that you took that were, sort of had more of an impression on you, maybe even influenced your work?

Mr. CUOMO: First and foremost, I think it's just the work ethic and sticking with something and working on it and revising it until it gets as good as it can possibly be.

And a lot of that comes from just the work ethic of the other students around you. They're, you know, they're kicking ass. So you've got to bring it every day.

RAZ: You have a young child at home, I guess younger than 3 years old. How does that change the way you make music and the way you think about how you're supposed to be as a pop star?

Mr. CUOMO: I find myself getting a lot of practice in the role of entertainer. You know, at the end of the day, I come home from work, I may be in a bad mood or really exhausted or something, my daughter does not care. She just wants me to be on and to give her everything I got. So that muscle has been strengthened in me, and I'm there to entertain.

RAZ: Is she a Weezer fan?

Mr. CUOMO: Absolutely, which actually drives me crazy because when I've been listening to Weezer all day, the last thing I want to hear when I come home is a Weezer record. But that's all she wants to listen to.

RAZ: That's Rivers Cuomo. He's the front man for the band Weezer. Their new record is called "Hurley." You can hear a few tracks at our website, nprmusic.org.

Rivers Cuomo, thank you so much.

Mr. CUOMO: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song, "Hang On")

WEEZER: (Singing) Hang on till I see you again. I'm going to be more than a friend. You know that this isn't the end so hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on.

RAZ: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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