It started on Twitter, as these things often do.
A then-14-year-old Weezer fan named Mary (@weezerafrica) began a public campaign to persuade the alt-rock band to cover the 1982 Toto hit Africa. For months, she kept at it, tweeting at the band’s members: When would they bless the rains down in Africa?
Weezer eventually complied, and were shocked when their cover hit No. 1 on iTunes. One of the internet’s few universally beloved comfort food songs, Africa is the gift that keeps giving: Weezer hasn’t had a hit this big in almost a decade.
The band comprises Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell and Scott Shriner.
Bassist/sometime vocalist Shriner, who joined the band in 2001 as a replacement for Mikey Welsh, got on the phone to talk about Weezer’s unlikely resurgence.
Would you have believed it, if someone told you a few years ago that you’re going to have your biggest hit of the decade, but the bad news is, it’s going to be Toto’s Africa?
A: It’s a great story how it started, with a fan reaching out, and us tweeting back. Then we released (a cover of Toto’s) Rosanna, that really confused everyone. I guess we were just kind of doing it for us, because it was fun, having no idea it was such a good story.
She says she’s a 14-year-old girl, but lots of people on the internet say they’re 14-year-old girls. Has anyone actually confirmed that?
Yeah, I’ve seen her on the news. They went and interviewed her and confirmed that fact, that it’s not a 57-year-old guy.
Africa is all over the internet. There’s even dancing dog memes. What is it about that song?
Obviously, it’s a world class hit song, so there’s that, and it’s just kind of globally relatable, somehow. I don’t know, it’s a massive song. Wasn’t it in Season Two of Stranger Things? It started with that, and a lot of younger people became aware of it.
When you guys released Rosanna first, were you just trolling?
We just wanted to do Rosanna for fun. It has such an insane drum beat, (drummer Patrick Wilson) took it as a personal mission to master it. We did both, we just put “Rosanna” out first to keep everybody guessing. We’re fun like that.
Does this hit lead to more people coming to the shows?
We’ve had more walk-ups lately, people buying a lot of tickets at the door. I think having this little booster hasn’t hurt.
Does part of you wonder if you’ll be tied to Toto’s Africa forever, and have to play it all the time?
Yeah, I think Rivers said as much: “OK, now we get to play this for the rest of our career. Ready? Go.”
How can you be mad? The whole amphitheatre lights up and sings along. No matter what I think about a particular song, to see everyone have such a great time, you can’t help but have fun.
Before you joined Weezer, were you a fan?
Yeah. My friend took me to see them at Club Lingerie, saying, “You’ve gotta see these nerds stand up there and play these killer songs.”
I went and saw them, and it was a completely different kind of music that I hadn’t seen at that time.
Years after that, you get a call, and it’s Rivers. But you’re not sure if it’s Rivers?
No, I was sure. You know his voice. That was back in the old tape answering machine days. It was like, “Hey, Scott, it’s Rivers. Will you come over and fill in for us?”
Was there any question you were going to do it?
There was no question that I was going to go and gush all over them, and completely not be cool. They didn’t want me in the band, they just wanted someone to fill in.
Rivers is like, “You’re never gonna be in this band. We just need somebody to fill in while Mikey gets it together.”
I didn’t know I was in the band until we did the photo shoot for the album artwork for Maladroit.
No one was talking to me. It was like, “OK, show up tomorrow.” (Then) “Show up tomorrow.” – Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service