Sounds like the members of Weezer are laughing off those of you who’ve been laughing at them over the past year. And they, too, thought the “Saturday Night Live” skit about their band was funny.
“A lot of it sounded like it came straight off our message boards,” bassist Scott Shriner said of the “SNL” bit.
In the December skit, guest-host Matt Damon played a “ride-or-die” Weezer superfan who goes off on fellow dinner party guest Leslie Jones for bashing the group’s hit cover of Toto’s “Africa.” Jones’ character, in turn, dismisses everything the group has released since the “two perfect albums” that started its career, 1994’s “Blue Album” and 1996’s “Pinkerton,” the former spawning the hits “Buddy Holly” and “Say It Ain’t So,” and the latter going on to be a cult-loved classic.
So it has gone in most conversations and social media exchanges about Weezer since the band’s remake of “Africa” started climbing the charts and piping out of dentist office speakers last summer.
Those disparate reactions and dueling fan bases will sit together under one roof again Saturday, when the Los Angeles rockers return to Xcel Energy Center on tour with one of the pioneering alt-rock groups that influenced them, the Pixies. (Shriner rightfully raved that the Boston legends are “consistently playing better than ever.”)
Calling from L.A. earlier this month — just a few days after the release of his band’s new, all-original “Black Album” — the bassist downplayed whatever significance “Africa” and the hoopla surrounding it might play in audience terms on Weezer’s latest arena tour.
“I don’t think many people who only know us from ‘Africa’ are buying tickets,” Shriner said. “And I don’t think a lot of the fans who’ve been with us a long time care about that one song.
“About the only effect [‘Africa’] has had on our touring has been getting us more offers to play festivals. It’s a summer-festival, broader-appeal kind of song.”
However, Shriner was quick to insist that the mass appeal of their version of the 1982 hit was “completely unforeseen.”
“Honestly, when we were recording it, I didn’t even know if the song was ever going to be formally released,” he said. “It was just kind of a fun dare we took from a fan to record a Toto song. And we didn’t even do the right Toto song at first.”
He was referring to a 14-year-old fan from Cleveland named Mary, who launched the Twitter account @WeezerAfrica with the sole goal of getting the band to cover the megahit. Weezer’s initial witty response to the nutty fan was to instead issue a cover of Toto’s other breezy early-’80s hit, “Rosanna,” but they soon complied and released “Africa” digitally last May.
A billion streams and one “Weird” Al Yankovic-starring music video later, the cover song became Weezer’s biggest hit since 2005’s “Beverly Hills.” With success came backlash, though, which Shriner said only added to the band’s lightheartedness about the tune.
“There’s just no way, under any circumstances, that anyone could’ve ever foreseen Weezer covering a 1982 song by Toto would’ve ever been a hit,” Shriner said.
He similarly laughed off the notion that the band’s “Teal Album” — a whole record’s worth of cover songs — was also some kind of quick, opportunistic money grab.
“Why? To maybe sell a couple hundred thousand albums?” Shriner retorted, poking fun at how little money is made off albums nowadays.
“We did it more as a ‘Weezer can do whatever the [bleep] it wants’ kind of thing. We did it for fun.”
From ‘Teal’ to ‘Black’
Issued in January, the “Teal” collection includes versions of everything from Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” to TLC’s “No Scrubs,” plus other ’80s synth-pop hits in the mold of Toto such as A-ha’s “Take on Me,” Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”
“The more surprising songs like ‘No Scrubs’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’ were more Rivers’ idea,” the bassist said, referring to Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo. “And the rest of us pushed the songs that are kind of more in our zone and harmonious, like ‘Take on Me.’
“These are all songs we grew up with,” Shriner said. “When you’re in a band like Weezer where you actually enjoy playing music together, those kind of amazing songs can be extra-fun to do. We didn’t spend much time sitting around wondering if it would bring us more notoriety.”
And anyway, Weezer already had a new album of original songs mostly in the can when it started up the covers collection.
Led by the rap-rocky single “Can’t Knock the Hustle” and laden with other electronic, nightclub-ready elements, the “Black Album” is one of the more experimental records in Weezer’s canon. It was produced with TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, who also steered records for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Santigold. Cuomo also wrote most of the “Black” tracks on piano instead of guitar, which Shriner credits as one reason it sounds like “a different kind of Weezer record.”
“A lot of the songs are in different keys from most of our other songs, and there’s some messing around musically,” he said, also crediting producer Sitek for some of those sonic variations. “He’s just super laid-back about trying new things, and when you go to his place he has all these weird synthesizers and drum machines to tinker on.”
After making the “Black Album,” though, Cuomo has apparently gone back to writing songs on guitar with a vengeance. Word on the aforementioned message boards is the band is nearly finished with what could be its third album of 2019, tentatively titled “Van Weezer” and purportedly their hardest-rocking album to date.
“As much as anything is ever certain in the Weezer world, I believe it’s going to happen,” Shriner said of “Van Weezer,” letting out a laugh that seemed to echo his prior statement: It’s Weezer, and they can do whatever the [bleep] they want.