June 13, 1970 |
New York City, New York, United States
|Origin||Pomfret, Connecticut, United States|
|Genres||Alternative rock, power pop, emo, pop punk, indie rock|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, singer-songwriter, guitarist|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, bass, harmonica|
|Associated acts||Weezer, Scott & Rivers, Avant Garde, Zoom, Homie, Goat Punishment, Sixty Wrong Sausages, B.o.B, Big Data|
|Warmoth Fat Strat (1993-2001, 2012-present)
Gibson SG (2004-2012)
Fender Stratocaster (1992-1993, 2002)
Gibson Explorer (2001-2005)
Rivers Cuomo (//; born June 13, 1970) is an American musician and singer-songwriter. He is best known as the lead vocalist, lead guitarist and songwriter of the alternative rock band Weezer, with whom he has recorded eleven studio albums.
Raised in an ashram in Connecticut, Cuomo moved to Los Angeles at age 18, where he participated in a number of rock bands before founding Weezer in 1992. Cuomo has also released three compilation albums of home demos: Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo (2007), Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo (2008) and Alone III: The Pinkerton Years (2011). In 2013, he and Scott Murphy released a self-titled Japanese-language album under the name Scott & Rivers.
Early life and education
Rivers Cuomo was born in a Manhattan hospital to parents of Italian and German/English descent. He was raised on Yogaville, an ashram in Pomfret, Connecticut run by the yoga master Sri Swami Satchidananda. Cuomo's mother Beverly named him Rivers because he was born between the East and Hudson rivers in Manhattan. His father, Frank Cuomo, is a musician who played drums on the 1971 album Odyssey of Iska by jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter. He has a brother, Leaves.
Cuomo attended a private school on the ashram. His family moved to nearby Storrs, Connecticut when the ashram was relocated to a plot along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Cuomo attended E.O. Smith High School in Storrs, Connecticut, changed his name to Peter Kitts, and was involved in musical activities including the school choir and a school production of Grease. After graduating from high school, Cuomo reverted to his original name. After the release of Weezer's 1994 debut album, Cuomo enrolled in Harvard College, attending classes on and off from 1995 to 2006. He graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
After a series of musical projects in Los Angeles, Cuomo formed Weezer on February 14, 1992 with members of the local band Sixty Wrong Sausages, including drummer Patrick Wilson; "Weezer" was Rivers' childhood nickname, given to him by his father when he was a toddler. The original Weezer line-up comprised Cuomo on vocals and guitar, Wilson on drums, Matt Sharp on bass, and Jason Cropper on guitar. Weezer signed with DGC, a subsidiary of Geffen Records, on June 25, 1993. In August, the group began recording its self-titled debut album, also known as The Blue Album, at Electric Lady Studios in New York with producer Ric Ocasek.
After the release of the Blue Album, Cuomo developed a "huge inferiority complex" about rock music, saying: "I thought my songs were really simplistic and silly, and I wanted to write complex, intense, beautiful music." He began studying classical composition at Harvard University, but realized he did not enjoy contemporary classical music and missed Weezer. He stated:
Since then I've gotten a greater appreciation for what pop artists do. Yeah, the music isn't necessarily as involved, but the art itself is so much more multifaceted than just music — it involves lyric writing, collaborating with other musicians, some improvisation, and the art of overseeing the persona of the band and who you are, how you act and dress, how you move onstage. All of these things are integrated into a very multifaceted art that moves a lot of people and is important, and relevant to our culture in a way that serious classical music isn't right now. I do have a lot of appreciation for what pop artists do now, and see that they can have an important and beneficial effect on the world.
Throughout 2002, Cuomo posted on Weezer message boards as 'Ace' to discuss music with fans. He once had a website called the "Catalog of Riffs" in which he shared old demos of songs as well as scans of many personal items (letters, schedules, records). Since 2003 he has kept a MySpace page in which he has posted many blog entries including his original admission essay and two subsequent readmission essays to UC Riverside. Additionally he uses his MySpace blog as a clearinghouse for clarifications, corrections, and addenda to interviews and press reports about him. (This has included responding to misinformation on his Wikipedia entry.)
Starting on the Foozer tour in late 2005, Cuomo would invite fans onto the stage to play "Undone – The Sweater Song" on acoustic guitar. After the performance, fans were allowed to keep the guitars they played. In 2008, coinciding with the release of Weezer's new album, The Red Album, Weezer announced a "Hootenanny Tour" in which radio stations would audition fans to play songs live with Weezer. This "hootenanny" style performance was replicated for the band's "Troublemaker" video and on the group's 2008 Troublemaker Tour. On November 25, 2008, Cuomo invited a small group of guests to a jam session at Fingerprints Records in Long Beach, CA. This marked the release of Not Alone – Rivers Cuomo and Friends: Live at Fingerprints. Fans chose the songs and played the instruments while Cuomo sang.
One of Cuomo's earliest music projects was the progressive metal band Avant Garde. Cuomo played under the name Peter Kitts, Kitts being the surname of his stepfather. The band played several shows in Connecticut. He moved with the band to Los Angeles in March 1989. In late 1989 Avant Garde changed its name to Zoom. The band dissolved in the late spring of 1990. Before Weezer, Cuomo worked as a roadie for King Size on the band's Guatemala tour. During a Weezer hiatus, Cuomo formed a musical project called Homie, consisting of what he called "goofball songs" for his "country band". An album was planned, but only one studio recording, a song titled "American Girls", has been released. Cuomo has contributed to recordings by various other musicians (Crazy Town, Cold, Mark Ronson). He also briefly managed the band AM Radio in 2002 and 2003.
In early 2004, he made a surprise appearance onstage with Matt Sharp California State University, Fullerton show to play two old Weezer favorites ("Say It Ain't So" and "Undone"), a rare Weezer demo that they worked on together ("Mrs. Young"), and a new song they wrote together, "Time Song." Also, Sharp announced that they might work on a collaborative record together. But later that year, Sharp announced on his website that although they had come up with "15 or 16 new song ideas, some good, some not so good" for their new album, their "special brand of dysfunctionality" may keep them from finishing the project.
In March 2008, Cuomo started a video series on YouTube called "Let's Write a Sawng." Cuomo wrote a song in collaboration with YouTube users' suggestions. The end result was "Turning Up The Radio" which appeared on "Death to False Metal".
Cuomo has had cameos in a number of music videos. These include The Crystal Method's "Murder" and the video for The Warlocks' "Cocaine Blues." Cuomo also makes a guest appearance on Sugar Ray's "Boardwalk", the first single on the group's latest album, Music for Cougars. Cuomo featured on the song "Magic", on B.o.B's debut album B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray which was released in April 2010. In a May interview with HitQuarters, producer-songwriter Lucas Secon confirmed that he had recently worked with Cuomo on both a Steve Aoki single and "some Weezer stuff."
In 2011, Cuomo collaborated with Japanese singer Hitomi for her first independent album Spirit, in the duet "Rollin' with da Homies", which was co-written by him. He was also featured on the Simple Plan song "Can't Keep My Hands Off You" and Miranda Cosgrove's song, "High Maintenance".
In 2013, Cuomo released a self-titled Japanese-language album with Scott Murphy of Allister under the name Scott & Rivers. The album debuted at #1 on the iTunes Japan alternative charts. The album is only available physically in Japan, and digitally worldwide through iTunes.
Cuomo has cited influences including the Beatles, Kiss, Nirvana, Giacomo Puccini, Green Day, Jane's Addiction, Lou Barlow, Pixies, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Sonic Youth. He has stated the work of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, particularly on the album Pet Sounds, inspired the more melodic approach he took to songwriting in the early nineties. Cuomo took it upon himself to become a student of rock and pop music and in the late 90s, Cuomo created "The Encyclopedia of Pop" for himself, a three-ring binder which broke down the mechanics of pop and rock songs featuring songs by Nirvana, Green Day and Oasis.
Cuomo rarely uses profanity in his lyrics, as "Weezer came up at a time when Jane's Addiction released Nothing's Shocking — everyone was trying to be controversial. We looked back to rock and roll's pre-drug days — to the clean images of the Beach Boys — that felt, ironically, rebellious." He has experimented with various methods of "concentration", such as fasting, to aid his songwriting.
Appearing on the Song Exploder podcast in 2016, Cuomo explained his current songwriting process. He maintains Spotify playlists of music with "cool" chord progressions that he uses to find musical inspiration. He sometimes uses piano to write vocal melodies his vocal muscles would be "too lazy" to create themselves. Conversely, he improvises vocal melodies to write guitar solos, to avoid guitar habits and create solos with "space in [them] because I have to breathe" and "something you can sing along to". To write lyrics, Cuomo writes stream-of-consciousness thoughts in his journal, then highlights interesting lines and adds them to a spreadsheet of potential lyrics organized by number of syllables and strong-weak emphasis. When he comes to write a song, he finds lines that fit the melody and assembles them in a way that suggests a story.
On June 18, 2006, Cuomo married Kyoko Ito, whom he had known since March 1997. He proposed to her in Tokyo shortly before Christmas of 2005. The wedding was held at a secluded beach on Paradise Cove in Malibu and was attended by six of the seven members who played in Weezer, as well as Kevin Ridel ( Ridel High ) and Rick Rubin. The couple have a daughter, Mia, who was born in May 2007 and a son, Leo, who was born in 2012.
Cuomo was born with his left leg 44 mm (13⁄4 in) shorter than his right leg. After the success of The Blue Album, Cuomo underwent the Ilizarov procedure to correct the condition. This involved the surgical breaking of the bone in his leg, followed by several months of wearing a steel brace which required self-administered "stretching" of the leg four times daily; Cuomo likened the ordeal to "crucifying [his] leg." An X-ray of the leg is part of the album art for "The Good Life" single, and the experience inspired him to write the song. Cuomo can be seen wearing the brace on an episode of the Late Show with David Letterman, which can be found on the DVD Video Capture Device.
On December 6, 2009, Cuomo was in his tour bus driving to Boston from Toronto with his family and assistant when the bus hit an icy road in Glen, New York and crashed. He suffered cracked ribs and internal bleeding. Due to this accident, Weezer canceled the rest of the 2009 tour dates, planning to reschedule them the following year. The band made its return to the stage on January 20, 2010, performing at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.
Cuomo has followed a vegetarian diet throughout his life; having been raised a vegetarian. However, in 2002, he told an interviewer that he might like to start eating meat regularly and claimed to have done so in the past, eating "some kind of barbecued beef in Tokyo."
Cuomo practices Vipassana meditation and was a student of S.N. Goenka. As of mid-2009 he also teaches children's meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka. Cuomo helped acquire music rights and provided financial support to a 2007 documentary titled The Dhamma Brothers about Vipassana meditation being instituted in an Alabama state prison.
Cuomo is a fan of soccer. In 2006 he wrote a song titled "My Day Is Coming" in tribute to the U.S. men's soccer team, and followed it up for 2010 by writing "Represent", which he considers to be an "unofficial" anthem for the U.S. team. The latter song was released as a Weezer single on June 11, the day before Team USA's World Cup opener against England. His favorite soccer player is Landon Donovan. He supports the U.S. Men's National team, Los Angeles Galaxy and English side Sheffield Wednesday. In early 2008 he played in the Mia & Nomar Celebrity Soccer Challenge and scored a goal in the game. His video for "Lover in the Snow" off of his Alone album dealt with this game and his love of soccer. He was also a backer for "Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story" In August 2009, Cuomo also participated in the Athletes for Africa 5v5 Charity Soccer Tournament in Toronto, Canada alongside actor Michael Cera.
- Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo (2007)
- Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo (2008)
- Not Alone – Rivers Cuomo and Friends: Live at Fingerprints (2009)
- Alone III: The Pinkerton Years (2011)
- "Today in history". The New York Times. Associated Press. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
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- Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 50
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- "Allister News". AbsolutePunk. January 13, 2011. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
- "iTunes - Music - Scott & Rivers by Scott & Rivers". Itunes.apple.com. 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2015-07-25.
- Alone 2 Liner notes
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- Scaggs, Austin (2008-06-28). "Q&A: Rivers Cuomo". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
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- Riesman, Abe J. (April 26, 2006). "Rivers' End". The Harvard Crimson.
- Chen, Lena (2006-12-21). "Hey, Rivers Cuomo! What did you do for Valentine’s Day?". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- "Full story". Weezer.com. Archived from the original on 29 November 2006. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
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- "Rivers Cuomo Vegetarian". Happycow.net. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- "Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo In 2002: ‘I Think I Had A Falling Out With The Fans’ | The Bad Penny (beta)". Thebadpennyblog.com. 2010-09-17. Retrieved 2015-07-25.
- "Lion's Roar - Buddhist Wisdom for Our Time". Shambhalasun.com. Retrieved 2015-07-25.
-  Archived July 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
- "The Dhamma Brothers". Frizzy Logic. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
- Montgomery, James. "Rivers Cuomo Says Weezer Are 'Done' For Now — Again". MTV. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
- Montgomery, James (June 11, 2010). "Weezer Debut 'Unofficial' World Cup Song, 'Represent'". MTV.com. Retrieved June 24, 2010.
- Soto, Alfred. "Rivers Cuomo: ‘There’s So Much Pain in My Voice’". SPIN. Retrieved 2015-07-25.
- "Rise & Shine: Jay DeMerit's story". CNN. 2011-11-03.
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