During the first week of June, I spoke with the legendary Weezer guitarist, Brian Bell, over the phone to discuss his latest project, Clara Obscura. It is the second record by his passion project, The Relationship. Brandon Graham, Jon LaRue, and Justin Goings round out the lineup of this side project.
In addition to explaining the context of his second band, Brian clarified some things surrounding Weezer’s long rumored upcoming record, The Black Album, which may not actually exist as we know it, and spoke of the then-recent passing of legendary Soundgarden frontman, Chris Cornell.
You can read our conversation below and check out The Relationship’s latest, “Break Me Open”.
Do you have any thoughts on Chris Cornell’s recent passing?
I remember back in the day when Soundgarden was a new band, and I purchased [Ultramega OK]. I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news. It shows you just how fragile life can be. It was very shocking.
You came out with the first self-titled record by The Relationship in 2010. Why is now, seven years later, the proper time for a follow up?
It’s been bubbling, and it just needed to be recorded. This is a special thing where I can afford time to get things done “not under a deadline”, but only when it’s ready.
How would you describe The Relationship to someone who is new to the group? What would differentiate it from your main band, Weezer?
Not much of a comparison at all… though maybe I could compare the new record’s sound to [The Blue Album] and [Pinkerton]. The sound of The Relationship’s first record is pretty organic, acoustic guitar-based. Clara Obscura is more electric guitar-based. At the core, these two records are an ensemble of players playing together in a studio with few overdubs. It’s sort of just a stream-of-consciousness art.
Now, with Clara Obscura…
Let my clarify something… or rather, CLARAfy something.
Ah, puns. [laughs]
It’s pronounced CL-ARE-a. Not CL-AIR-a. I don’t know… I took Spanish in high school! [laughs] In my mind I wanted the two words to rhyme. Keep trying to make that happen and maybe you are pronouncing the album title right!
[laughs] Interesting, where did this album title even come from in the first place?
It came from listening to all of the songs and thinking, “is there a theme here?” I saw this theme of darkness coming into the light. To me, that meant being clear yet obscure. It was a combination of the two. I started playing around with words and searching for terms. The only term that I found that sort of summed up what I was feeling about the music was this title.
Clearness, from obscurity… something coming together, like a piece of music. You start putting notes together, manipulating and putting them in a certain order. It led to the album cover being a profile, where it’s a negative/positive image. You’ll get the same feeling listening to the record… it gets lighter as it progresses. Songs like “Smile”.
It’s been a pretty busy year for Weezer so far, will you have any time to tour in support of The Relationship record?
You never know. Nothing’s scheduled, the record itself needs exposure. All it needs is people to know about it! I don’t know if touring the traditional way is the best way to do that anymore.
It’s funny to hear you say that, since you normally hear the opposite, with bands nowadays often touting the live show and merchandise over record streams/sales.
I hope you see my perspective! [laughs] I wouldn’t call it a “job”, but I have an amazing band in Weezer, and I lived through all that already! It’s where I am in my life. I already know what that’s like. I don’t need “practice” performing. Is it fun for me? Absolutely. Is it draining? That too. This record is more about recalling emotions as I was writing the material. The touring takes a lot out of me. Playing a pizza parlor in Portland, Oregon doesn’t make much sense to me! Not in my stage of life.
Speaking of your “other band”, can you give us any details on The Black Album?
Hmm… I think someone said something about a “Black Album” somewhere, and there may be one at some point, but we don’t know what it’s going to be called yet!
I think it was Rivers, actually.
[sarcastic voice] Well even he doesn’t know, sometimes! [laughs] Whatever it’s going to be, I’m going to be super excited about it. Whatever it’s going to be called, it’s going to be fucking awesome. That’s for sure! I’m excited for what the future holds for Weezer.