Friday, September 17, 2010
[pitchfork.com] Earlier this week, we reported that the fuzzed-out British punk trio Male Bonding had done some work in the studio with a truly unlikely collaborator: Weezer leader Rivers Cuomo.
We called up Male Bonding leader John Arthur Webb, currently on tour with Best Coast, to talk about the songwriting session with Cuomo. He also talked about his homemade Weezer tattoo, getting kicked off a St. Louis college campus for drinking, and the next Male Bonding album.
Pitchfork: How did you end up working with Rivers Cuomo?
John Arthur Webb: Maybe six months ago, we got an email from his assistant or somebody at Weezer.com: "Would you like to do a songwriting session with Rivers?" We first thought someone was winding us up, so we sent it to Sub Pop so they could check out the credibility. We actually thought someone was playing a prank on us. Sub Pop got back to us and said it's kind of legit. He lives in L.A., and his assistant said, "He's around for a couple of months if you want to go over. If not, he'll be in London just before the Reading Festival," which they played. We didn't answer the email for months. A couple of weeks before Reading Festival, I was like, "OK, I'm going to see if we can make this happen." I emailed her back and asked if he still wanted to do it. She said, "Yeah, do it. Book a studio the Thursday before Reading."
We booked a studio for like four hours, and he flew in from L.A. and came straight to the studio. We were there waiting for him. He was like, "OK, so you know what's happening?" We were like, "No, we haven't got a clue." We just thought we'd maybe jam for a few hours, record the whole thing, and he could take it away with him. But he was like, "No, we're going to write songs and record it now." He had a couple of ideas, which we didn't hear in the end. We played him something that we had drafted up the night before, and he was like, "I like it. Let's do that." We just literally spent maybe an hour moving bits around and recorded it. We did a few takes, and then he took it back to L.A. with him. He said he's been working on the vocals some more. And that's everything that happened and all we know about it, really.
Pitchfork: Do you know what the song is for?
JAW: No, we're not sure. He mentioned it could be a Weezer song, or we could write a song for Male Bonding. But I think we went in the Weezer direction with it. He said it was maybe a bit too pop-punk for Weezer, so we'll see what happens. He's going to send it to us. We saw him at the Reading Festival, and he said he'll send us the song when he finished working on it. He said he'd share it with the other Weezer guys as well, and see if they want to use it or not. I think the idea was that we'd be writing a song for Weezer. It was maybe a bit too quick or something, and they weren't sure whether it worked out for them. We'll see what happens to it.
Pitchfork: Did you write something consciously Weezer-y?
JAW: We had this idea that we worked on the year before, and nothing ever happened. There was like one part in it that I really liked. I kept trying to use it in another song, and it never really fit in. So the day before we went into record, we had a rehearsal, and I was like, "OK, let's try this bit." It's been bugging me for ages, and he really liked that bit. It's kind of a chuggy bit. It did remind me a little of Weezer; it's maybe a bit "Hash Pipe"-y or something. It was weird. We didn't want to write something that tried to sound like Weezer, but it was hard not to be aware that that was what we were working on this song for. I haven't heard it since we recorded it. I mean, it was cool. It sounded really good. We all really liked it.
Pitchfork: It's an unlikely pairing because that band is so immaculately clean-sounding. That's not how you guys sound at all.
JAW: No. I don't know how he heard of us... He looks past all that stuff. He's worked with so many different people that I think maybe he just hears songs-- melodies and stuff-- and can place it out of any genre of music. I like to think he just likes our songs. It sounded very clean and like a rock song. It didn't sound lo-fi or anything. Our next record's not going to sound like our first one in that respect. I think it'll sound a lot less lo-fi, more produced. So it didn't seem like such a crazy thing to me. I mean, it seemed insane because we all love Weezer. Like, I've got a homemade Weezer tattoo. Maybe they're a subliminal influence in our songs because I listen to Weezer all the time, still.
Pitchfork: There is a basis in melody in what you guys do that isn't so far away from some stuff Weezer have done.
JAW: Yeah, I'd like to think that. Melody-wise, he just kills it. It was amazing to watch him work with that song. It came together so quickly. We were jamming it over, and he would just come up with a vocal melody on the spot. He's an incredible musician, just a songwriting machine. I'd like our songs to have as much melody as possible, and that's something we're working on, so who knows.
Pitchfork: Did you show Rivers your Weezer tattoo?
JAW: No, I thought it might freak him out a bit.
Pitchfork: What was he like, on a personal level?
JAW: He was lovely, really sweet. He was obviously a bit jetlagged because he'd just flown in from L.A., but he was a lot less strange than I thought he would be. He was very curious about us-- how we write songs and what we've been up to. It was a nice experience. It happened so quickly. It was literally three hours, and then we went home and that was that.
Pitchfork: Do you have a favorite Weezer song?
JAW: Recently I've been listening to "Keep Fishin'" loads. Like everyone, I think the Blue Album and Pinkerton are their classics.
Pitchfork: Their more recent stuff has been pretty divisive. What do you think of it?
JAW: I haven't listened to that much of it. I listened to Raditude right after we did that recording. I think there's a couple of really good songs on there. I haven't heard the new one. I've heard the single, "Memories". With that new record, I don't know if he's going back to his roots or not. People seem really down on their new stuff, but they've been playing for a while and they've got to keep themselves interested in playing music. If he does a song where he raps and it's all keyboards, it doesn't bother me.
Pitchfork: Weezer has an interesting list of collaborators, especially recently. You're one degree removed from Lil Wayne now.
JAW: [laughs] I was just thinking about that yesterday. And Kenny G, right? Maybe I'll get to work with Bone Thugs next. That'd be really cool.
Pitchfork: You mentioned your next record and how it wouldn't sound as lo-fi. Are you working on that right now?
JAW: Yeah. We're going to be recording it in February, and it'll come out on Sub Pop. It's nearly written, and it's just getting confirmed now. It will probably be more of a guitar record, and definitely a lot less lo-fi sounding. That lo-fi stuff with us was just a means to be able to record our own music and not pay much money to do it. It's a good means to be creative because you can just record stuff on one mic in a rehearsal studio and put it out on a 7'', which is an amazing situation to be in. Nothing Hurts was a weird experience for us because we'd never been in a studio before with a producer, and we'd never had to think about doing more than one take on stuff. But it was interesting, and it made us realize that the next time when we record, we're going to take a little bit longer to do it. There might even be a guitar solo in there somewhere.
Pitchfork: Do you have a producer picked out?
JAW: Yeah, I think we're going to work with John Agnello. Those Dinosaur Jr. albums he did, Without a Sound and Where You Been?, were stuck in the CD player when I was growing up.
READ THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW HERE!!
Posted by Dan Goldin at 2:25 AM