Weezer’s Songwriting Process is Bonkers

For starters, the process includes an online anagram generator.

weezer live photo

Weezer photo by Kirsten Pardun

“I’m trying to write songs that I don’t understand,” says Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo on a recent episode of the Song Exploder podcast (listen below). Cuomo employs an abstract method of pulling disparate elements into a song in order to achieve organic results. It’s highly unconventional.

First, Rivers harvests “cool chord progressions” from a Spotify playlist created for just that purpose. After recording himself playing the chord progression on guitar, he obscures the identity of the song it was lifted from using an online anagram generator (‘Walk Away Renee’ became ‘Awaken Early’) to label the guitar demo.

When it’s time to write a new Weezer song, Rivers selects one of his renamed chord-progression demos, and uses piano and vocals to create a vocal melody for it. A preexisting song title is selected from a spreadsheet of title and phrase ideas. Then, Cuomo assembles lyrics from journals, selecting disparate elements based on phrasing and how they fit the melody. After the first draft of the song is written, the other members of Weezer work on the song without Rivers. He intentionally gives them a shot at it without his ear or input. Finally, they record a few ‘anything goes’ takes of the song (with ad libs, screams, harmonies), to add a feeling of spontaneity to the recording.

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