Rivers Cuomo

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Rivers Cuomo
Rivers Cuomo Performing in 2015 - Photo by Peter Dzubay.jpg
Cuomo performing with Weezer at the Gathering of the Vibes in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 2015.
Background information
Born (1970-06-13) June 13, 1970 (age 46)[1]
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
Years active 1984–present
Associated acts Weezer, Scott & Rivers, Avant Garde, Zoom, Homie, Goat Punishment, Sixty Wrong Sausages, B.o.B, Big Data
Website riverscuomo.com
Notable instruments
Warmoth Fat Strat (1993-2001, 2012-present)
Gibson SG (2004-2012)
Fender Stratocaster (1992-1993, 2002)
Gibson Explorer (2001-2005)

Rivers Cuomo (/ˈkwm/; born June 13, 1970) is an American musician best known as the lead vocalist, lead guitarist and songwriter of the alternative rock band Weezer.

Raised in an ashram in Connecticut, Cuomo moved to Los Angeles at 18, where he played in several rock bands before founding Weezer in 1992. Burnt out after the success of Weezer's self-titled debut album, Cuomo enrolled at Harvard University, but dropped out to record Weezer's second album, Pinkerton (1996); he later re-enrolled and graduated in 2008. Though Pinkerton is now frequently cited among the best albums of the 1990s, it was initially a commercial and critical failure, pushing Cuomo's songwriting towards pop music.

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). He has collaborated with a number of artists; in 2013, he and Scott Murphy released a self-titled Japanese-language album under the name Scott & Rivers.

Early life[edit]

Rivers Cuomo was born in a Manhattan hospital to parents of Italian and German-English descent.[2] He was raised on Yogaville, an ashram in Pomfret, Connecticut run by the master yogi Satchidananda Saraswati. 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.[3][4] He has a brother, Leaves.[5]

Cuomo attended a private school on the ashram.[5] His family moved to nearby Storrs, Connecticut when the ashram relocated to a plot along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.[6] Cuomo attended E.O. Smith High School, and was involved in musical activities including the school choir and a school production of Grease.[7][8][9] He also changed his name to Peter Kitts (Kitts being his stepfather's surname);[10] after graduating, Cuomo reverted to his original name.[11]

One of Cuomo's earliest music projects was the progressive metal band Avant Garde.[12] After playing several shows in Connecticut, he and the band moved to Los Angeles in 1989 and changed their name to Zoom.[13][14] The band dissolved in 1990.[15] In 1990 and 1991, while Cuomo was writing material for what would become Weezer's debut album, he worked at Tower Records, listening to "basically everything that was released at that time ... I was exposed to a ton of music I otherwise never would have heard."[16]

Weezer[edit]

Main article: Weezer

Cuomo formed Weezer on February 14, 1992, with drummer Patrick Wilson, bassist Matt Sharp and guitarist Jason Cropper. "Weezer" was the nickname given to him by Cuomo's father when he was a toddler.[17] Weezer signed with DGC, a subsidiary of Geffen Records, on June 25, 1993, and released their self-titled debut album, also known as the Blue Album, in May 1994. It was certified gold on December 1 and platinum on January 1, 1995, with sales of over one million.[18] Despite his success, Cuomo tired of the monotony and loneliness of touring and 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."[19]

In March 1995, Cuomo had extensive surgery to extend his left leg, which was 44mm shorter than the right. This involved the surgical breaking of the leg bone, followed by months of wearing a steel brace and painful physiotherapy sessions;[20] the procedure affected his songwriting, as he would spend long periods hospitalized under the influence of painkillers. At the end of 1995, Cuomo enrolled in Harvard University to study classical composition. His right leg was still in a brace following surgery, and he required a cane to walk; he described it as "like having, I think, about seven arrows lodged into your leg bone, and then having to walk around with them lodged in like that for thirteen months, with only Advil."[21] Between classes, Cuomo took painkillers, rested in bed, and listened to opera. He told the New York Times: "The only time I could write songs was when my frozen dinner was in the microwave. The rest of the time I was doing homework."[21] He auditioned for the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum chorus but was not selected.[22] He became introverted and grew a beard and wrote in his diaries how students wearing Weezer T-shirts did not recognize him. He abandoned plans for a space-themed rock opera titled Songs from the Black Hole, and his songwriting became "darker, more visceral and exposed, less playful."[23]

Realizing he did not enjoy contemporary classical music, and missing Weezer,[21] Cuomo dropped out of Harvard two semesters before graduation.[21] He expressed the isolation and sexual frustration he had felt at Harvard in Weezer's second album, Pinkerton, released in September 1996. With a darker, more abrasive sound than Weezer's debut, Pinkerton was a commercial and critical failure, but attained critical acclaim later.[24][25][26] Following the mixed response to Pinkerton, Weezer went on a five-year hiatus. Cuomo enrolled at Harvard twice more and completed semesters in 1997 and 2004.[21][21] During the 1997 semester, he played with a different group of musicians with a new band, Homie, in Boston. In February 1998, Cuomo disbanded Homie and moved to Los Angeles to work on new Weezer demos with Bell and Wilson, but the sessions were unproductive. In 1998 and 1999, he lived in an apartment under a freeway in Culver City, California. In an essay for Harvard, he wrote: "I became more and more isolated. I unplugged my phone. I painted the walls and ceiling of my bedroom black and covered the windows with fiberglass insulation."[21]

Disappointed by Pinkerton's reception, Cuomo intended to return to simpler songwriting with less personal lyrics. He stated that Weezer's subsequent albums, the Green Album (2001) and Maladroit (2002), were "very intentionally not about me. Not about what was going on in my life, at least in a conscious way."[22] He also developed a greater appreciation for pop music, feeling that its multiple disciplines —including lyrics, improvisation, and image —produce a multifaceted art "that moves people and is important, and relevant to our culture in a way that serious classical music isn't right now."[19] In June 2008, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Harvard[27] and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.[28]

Other projects[edit]

Cuomo performing in 2010

One of Cuomo's earliest music projects was the progressive metal band Avant Garde.[12] 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.[13] In late 1989 Avant Garde changed its name to Zoom. The band dissolved in the late spring of 1990.[14][15] Before Weezer, Cuomo worked as a roadie for King Size on the band's Guatemala tour.[29] 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). Cuomo managed the band AM Radio in 2002 and 2003; he and the band's frontman, Kevin Ridel, went to school together.[30]

In early 2004, Cuomo joined ex-Weezer bassist Matt Sharp onstage California State University, Fullerton. They worked on a record together in February that month, but the material remains unreleased.[31] In March 2008, Cuomo began a YouTube video series in which he wrote a song in collaboration with YouTube viewers.[32] The finished song, "Turning Up The Radio", was released in 20101 on the Weezer compilation album Death to False Metal.[citation needed]

In December 2007, Cuomo released Alone - The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo, a compilation of his demos recorded from 1992 to 2007.[33] It was followed by Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo in November 2008[34] and Alone III: The Pinkerton Years in November 2010; the latter album was sold exclusively with a book, The Pinkerton Diaries, which collects Cuomo's writings from the preceding the release of Pinkerton.[35]

Cuomo has made 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."[36]

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"[37] and Miranda Cosgrove's song, "High Maintenance".[citation needed]

In 2013, Cuomo released a self-titled Japanese-language album with Scott Murphy of the band Allister[38] 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.[39]

In 2015, Cuomo appeared on the song "Snowed In" on Big Data's album 2.0.[citation needed]

In 2015, Cuomo produced a Fox pilot for a sitcom based on his life, DeTour, starring Ben Aldridge as Cuomo. The pilot was not picked up.[40]

Artistry[edit]

Cuomo performing in 2013

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."[41] He has experimented with various methods of "concentration", such as fasting, to aid his songwriting.[19]

Appearing on the Song Exploder podcast in 2016, Cuomo explained the process he used to write albums such as Weezer's White Album. 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.[42]

Influences[edit]

Cuomo credited the Beach Boys as a major influence on his early songwriting, and told Upset magazine:[43]

On tour with Weezer following the Blue Album, Cuomo listened extensively to the operas Aida (1871) and Madama Butterfly (1904), the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), and the musical Les Misérables (1980), which influenced the composition of Pinkerton and the unreleased Songs from the Black Hole.[44]

Other influences including the Beatles, Kiss, Nirvana, Giacomo Puccini, Green Day, Jane's Addiction, Lou Barlow, Pixies, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Sonic Youth. 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.[45][46] In 2008, he said his biggest recent inspiration had been Eminem, praising his "creativity, passion, inventiveness, and playfulness."[47]

Personal life[edit]

Cuomo took a vow of sexual abstinence from 2004 until his marriage in 2006.[21] On June 18, 2006, Cuomo married Kyoko Ito, whom he had known since March 1997.[48] He proposed to her in Tokyo shortly before Christmas 2005.[49] 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.[50] The couple have a daughter, Mia, who was born in May 2007 and a son, Leo, who was born in 2012.[citation needed]

Cuomo was born with his left leg 44mm 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."[20]

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.[51] 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.[52][53] 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."[53]

Cuomo practices Vipassana meditation and was a student of S.N. Goenka.[54] As of mid-2009 he also teaches children's meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka.[55] 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.[56]

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,[57] 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.[58] His favorite soccer player is Landon Donovan. He supports the U.S. Men's National team, Los Angeles Galaxy and English side Sheffield Wednesday.[59] 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.[58] He was also a backer for "Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story"[60] In August 2009, Cuomo also participated in the Athletes for Africa 5v5 Charity Soccer Tournament in Toronto, Canada alongside actor Michael Cera.[citation needed]

Discography[edit]

With Weezer

Solo

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Today in history". The New York Times. Associated Press. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  2. ^ Collinge, Miranda (2008-06-29). "My sporting life: Rivers Cuomo, front man of American rock band Weezer". The Guardian. London. 
  3. ^ Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 3
  4. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Odyssey of Iska > Overview". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-01-06. 
  5. ^ a b Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 5
  6. ^ Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 8
  7. ^ "Rivers' End: The Director's Cut | Arts | The Harvard Crimson". www.thecrimson.com. Retrieved 2015-07-20. 
  8. ^ "Rivers 10.15 Interview with Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-01-07. 
  9. ^ Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 20
  10. ^ Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 15
  11. ^ Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 50
  12. ^ a b Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 17
  13. ^ a b Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 31
  14. ^ a b Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 37
  15. ^ a b Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 40
  16. ^ "Rivers Cuomo Fan Interview 2006". Weezer.com. June 2006. Archived from the original on 9 September 2006. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  17. ^ Karafin, Amy. "Rivers in the Stream". Tricycle. Retrieved 2007-10-15. (subscription required)
  18. ^ "Gold and Platinum: Searchable Database". RIAA. Retrieved August 30, 2007. 
  19. ^ a b c Sullivan, Kate. "I, Songwriter". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved 2016-04-21. 
  20. ^ a b Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 148–149
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h "Student With a Past". The New York Times. 2006-02-16. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-07-20. 
  22. ^ a b "Rivers' End: The Director's Cut | Arts | The Harvard Crimson". www.thecrimson.com. Retrieved 2015-07-20. 
  23. ^ Pinkerton Deluxe liner notes
  24. ^ "Pinkerton by Weezer: Reviews and Ratings". Rate Your Music. Retrieved 2007-10-01. 
  25. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Pinkerton – Weezer : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". AllMusic. AllRovi. Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  26. ^ Donohue, Mark. "Nude as the News: Weezer: Pinkerton". Nude as the News. Archived from the original on November 15, 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-01. 
  27. ^ Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 22
  28. ^ "Rivers Cuomo's Harvard Graduation". Spin. Retrieved 2007-10-15. 
  29. ^ "Rivers Cuomo Fan Interview 2006". Weezer.com. June 2006. Archived from the original on 9 September 2006. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  30. ^ "Weezer's Rivers Cuomo Helps AM Radio Dress For Success". Retrieved 2016-08-01. 
  31. ^ "Matt Sharp Says LP With Rivers Cuomo May Never Come Out". Retrieved 2016-08-01. 
  32. ^ "Help Rivers Cuomo Write a New "Sawng"! | Pitchfork". pitchfork.com. Retrieved 2016-08-01. 
  33. ^ Kharas, Kev. "Weezer's Rivers Cuomo to release solo album". Drowned in Sound. Archived from the original on October 17, 2007. Retrieved October 16, 2007. 
  34. ^ Thompson, Paul (October 28, 2007). "Rivers Cuomo Talks Alone II, Weezer, That Hair". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  35. ^ Pelly, Jenn (November 11, 2011). "Rivers Cuomo Releasing Pinkerton Diaries Book and Demos Comp Alone III". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  36. ^ "Interview With Lucas Secon". HitQuarters. May 17, 2010. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  37. ^ Newman, Jason (March 11, 2011). "New Song: Simple Plan With Rivers Cuomo, 'Can't Keep My Hands Off You'". MTV. Retrieved January 27, 2013. 
  38. ^ "Allister News". AbsolutePunk. January 13, 2011. Retrieved January 14, 2011. 
  39. ^ "iTunes - Music - Scott & Rivers by Scott & Rivers". Itunes.apple.com. 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2015-07-25. 
  40. ^ "TV sitcom about Rivers Cuomo's life will never air". 2015-07-10. Retrieved 2016-08-01. 
  41. ^ Scaggs, Austin (2008-06-28). "Q&A: Rivers Cuomo". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2015-05-03. 
  42. ^ "Rivers Cuomo Explains His 'Crazy Way to Write' Tracks on 'Song Exploder' | SPIN". Spin. Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  43. ^ "Weezer: Kings of the world | Interview | Upset". 2016-05-06. Retrieved 2016-07-31. 
  44. ^ Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo (liner notes). Rivers Cuomo. DGC, Interscope Records. 2008. B0012341-02
  45. ^ Eliscu, Jenny. "Rivers Cuomo's Encyclopedia of Pop". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-10-15. 
  46. ^ Luerssen D., John, 2004 p. 270
  47. ^ "Rivers Cuomo | Pitchfork". pitchfork.com. Retrieved 2016-08-01. 
  48. ^ Riesman, Abe J. (April 26, 2006). "Rivers' End". The Harvard Crimson. 
  49. ^ Chen, Lena (2006-12-21). "Hey, Rivers Cuomo! What did you do for Valentine's Day?". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  50. ^ "Full story". Weezer.com. Archived from the original on 29 November 2006. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  51. ^ "Weezer singer hurt in bus crash - CNN.com". CNN. 2009-12-07. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  52. ^ "Rivers Cuomo Vegetarian". Happycow.net. Retrieved 2008-07-03. 
  53. ^ a b "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. 
  54. ^ "Lion's Roar - Buddhist Wisdom for Our Time". Shambhalasun.com. Retrieved 2015-07-25. 
  55. ^ [1] Archived July 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  56. ^ "The Dhamma Brothers". Frizzy Logic. Retrieved 2007-10-15. 
  57. ^ Montgomery, James. "Rivers Cuomo Says Weezer Are 'Done' For Now — Again". MTV. Retrieved 2007-10-15. 
  58. ^ a b Montgomery, James (June 11, 2010). "Weezer Debut 'Unofficial' World Cup Song, 'Represent'". MTV.com. Retrieved June 24, 2010. 
  59. ^ Soto, Alfred. "Rivers Cuomo: 'There's So Much Pain in My Voice'". SPIN. Retrieved 2015-07-25. 
  60. ^ "Rise & Shine: Jay DeMerit's story". CNN. 2011-11-03. 

External links[edit]