Rivers Cuomo on Weezer's uncertain future. The frontman explains the unusual story behind the band's new album, ''Maladroit''
Rivers Cuomo
Credit: Rivers Cuomo: Debbie Smyth / RetnaUK

Less than a year ago, Weezer were on their way back to the good life. The ”Green Album” — the band’s first release since 1997’s cult favorite, commercial flop ”Pinkerton” — debuted at No. 4. And the hit single ”Hash Pipe” returned Weezer to MTV, reaching a new, ”TRL”-loving audience. But band leader Rivers Cuomo apparently isn’t content to have anything like a standard career path.

When EW.com spoke to Cuomo last month, disagreements between Weezer and their label, Interscope’s Geffen, threatened to derail the release of their new album, ”Maladroit.” The band/label warfare has since ceased, and the album — which gives Weezer’s quirky brand of power-pop a dose of steroids on songs like the unofficial single ”Dope Nose” — is due in stores May 14. But Cuomo explains why it almost never came out at all, why he’d like to release his music for free, and how his band ”started to veer off into outer space.”

What led you to send a ”Maladroit” sampler to journalists and radio stations without submitting the album to your label?
We hadn’t talked to the label in four months, and I guess there was no one around telling us what to do. So we just made a record and sent it around. I think we had a big fight [with the label] about something — I don’t even remember what it was about. We just weren’t seeing eye-to-eye anymore and there was just no reason to talk to them. We’re a self-sufficient band.

But then you sent a letter to radio stations asking them to stop playing the album. Why?
The record company took note, and they were very upset. They said, ”Rivers, we have to stop this now, so please write a letter to all the radio stations asking them to not play your songs.” They were angry, and I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing, so I didn’t really have a choice. What I was supposed to say? At the end of the day, they have a frightening amount of power over my life. If they wanted to, they could pretty much completely end our career and make it impossible for us to release music anymore. It’s frustrating for us, because it’s our album. We made it, we paid for the thing, and we sent it out to everybody. We got it on the radio. We got the attention from press. And now, unfortunately, they have the right to claim ownership of it — so we have to turn it over.

And are you going to?
Unless I totally freak out. They requested the masters — they definitely want to put it out now.

They didn’t want to before?
My understanding was that they were opposed to the idea of us putting out an album so quickly after the last one. We had played them early versions of the songs, and they definitely were not into them. I’m under the impression that’s one of the things we were fighting about: They didn’t like the direction we were going in. They said it sounded too much like Lynyrd Skynyrd — seriously. This one guy at the company is paranoid about classic rock, and if we do anything remotely [like] classic rock, he gets totally bummed out on us. And recently, we’ve just really been in a Skynyrd mood. [A label spokesperson declined to respond to Cuomo’s comments, except to say: ”When Rivers is ready to put out his record, Geffen is ready to put it out.”]