Rivers Cuomo (/ˈkwoʊmoʊ/; born June 13, 1970) is an American musician, singer and songwriter best known as the lead vocalist, lead guitarist and principal songwriter of the alternative rock band Weezer. Raised in an ashram in Connecticut, Cuomo moved to Los Angeles at age 19, where he participated in a number of rock bands before founding Weezer in 1992, with whom he has released nine studio albums. In 2011, he released a self-titled Japanese-language album with Scott Murphy under the name Scott & Rivers. 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).
Early Life And Education
Rivers Cuomo was born in a Manhattan hospital to parents of Italian and German/English descent. He was raised on an ashram in Pomfret, Connecticut run by the late 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.
During early childhood, Cuomo attended a private school on the ashram. Cuomo's parents moved to nearby Storrs, Connecticut when the ashram (known as Yogaville) 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 played the role of Johnny Casino in the school's stage 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 at Harvard University, 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.
Rock Music Career
After a series of musical projects in Los Angeles, Cuomo formed Weezer on February 14, 1992, with members from Sixty Wrong Sausages, including drummer Patrick Wilson. The original Weezer line-up included Cuomo on vocals and guitar, Wilson on drums, Matt Sharp on bass, and Jason Cropper who at first played exclusively on acoustic guitar. Weezer signed with DGC, a subsidiary of Geffen Records, on June 25, 1993. They began recording Weezer (also known as The Blue Album) in August 1993 at Electric Lady Studios in New York with producer Ric Ocasek. "Weezer" was Rivers' childhood nickname, given to him by his father when he was a toddler, although it wasn't because he had asthma.
Throughout 2002, Cuomo frequently posted on Weezer message boards as 'Ace' to discuss music with fans. He once had a website called the 'Catalog of Riffs' ('COR') 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 Harvard. 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 their 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 Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo. Fans chose the songs and played the instruments while Cuomo sang.
One of Cuomo's earliest music projects was a progressive metal band known as 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 though the band dissolved in the late spring of 1990. Before Weezer, Cuomo worked as a roadie for King Size on their Guatemala tour. During a Weezer hiatus, Cuomo formed a musical project called Homie, consisting of what he called "goofball songs" or 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 their 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".
Scott & Rivers
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.
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 their 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 their 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. 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. During many of Weezer's performances, Rivers would go to the side of the stage and play football (kicking the ball against a goal and/or a wall), at the beginning and end of the band's set.
Cuomo has cited a wide variety of musical influences throughout the years, from artists as diverse as the Beatles, Kiss, Nirvana, Giacomo Puccini, 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.
He almost never swears in any of his songs and often uses minced oaths such as "bee-yotch" instead of "bitch" (with the exception of "Butterfly" and "The Good Life" from Pinkerton). He attributes this to The Beach Boys, saying "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 been known to use experimentation to inspire his writing, for example, fasting for a day and then writing a song, as he did on "Hold Me." Cuomo has familiarity with a wide array of musical instruments: besides the guitar, he is also skilled at the piano, and bass guitar (he frequently demoed songs on his own, à la the 1995 Fort Apache Studios Pinkerton demos, and can be seen playing the bass in the Weezer DVD Video Capture Device). Cuomo also plays clarinet (as heard on Alone and SFTBH track "Longtime Sunshine" and the .com-released demo "Clarinet Waltz"), drums (as heard on Alone, in concerts during "Photograph", two songs on the red album and some tracks on Hurley), trumpet (as heard on "Victory on the Hill" from "Alone II") and harmonica.
He is known to perform with customized Stratocasters, most famously a Sonic Blue Warmoth model with a tortoise pickguard and fitted with DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan humbucking pickups, which he used during the Blue album/Pinkerton era. The other guitar he is seen using most is the Gibson SG. He has several models in Cherry and White. Since 2012, he has been using Stratocasters that were used during the 2000-2001 tours. His main guitar is one in Seafoam Green and a backup in Sonic Blue similar to the original one. These guitars are usually covered in stickers or in the case of the original Sonic Blue Strat, electrical tape, as seen in several music videos. Cuomo also notably played Gibson V's and Explorers onstage in late 2001 and throughout parts of 2002. He could also briefly be seen using an Explorer in the music video for "Beverly Hills". His SGs are often adorned with a sticker of the Thai word Farang, meaning "a white foreigner." The sticker is found on the SG that he keeps in E flat tuning; a second SG, usually tuned to E, does not have this sticker.
He has been known to use a range of amplifiers. His first "big" amp was a Randall RG100ES solid state head. He would soon get rid of this amp in favor of an original Mesa/Boogie Mark I amplifier, which was used to record all of the debut Weezer album. He wouldn't use the amp live. Instead, he relied on a Marshall JCM 900 SL-X. He would also eventually rid of the JCM 900 and use another Marshall amp head, the 6100LM 30th Anniversary amp, which he discovered on the set of the Late Show with David Letterman. This would be his main recording and touring amp until the Green album when it became strictly a touring amp until around 2001.
For recording the Green album, he relied on a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier and a modified Marshall amp previously owned by Warren DeMartini of the metal band Ratt. A Vox AC30 was also used on several songs. He would continue to use the 6100, along with bringing back the JCM 900, for a while until the band was forced to change up their rig due to budget and shipping restrictions. The entire band eventually got rid of using amps entirely, switching to a single rack that consisted of 2 Line 6 POD Pros and 1 Bass POD Pro. This would be the main gigging setup until later in the same year, when the band eventually went back to using real amps, starting with a Marshall JCM2000 DSL100. This would be their main amp until the Make Believe sessions, when a Diezel VH4 was brought in. This would be Rivers' main amp and is still used today.