It's two minutes into a 15-minute chat with Weezer's bassist Scott Shriner, and already I'm trying to figure out whether he's messing with me.
Moments after we connect, the affable voice on the other end of the line begins peppering the conversation with questions. "Hey! I have a question for you," he barks. "What's Nova Scotia like? Do you guys do lobster fishing down there? Do you eat lobster a lot?"
Then, just as suddenly, the voice lowers conspiratorially.
"Hey," Shriner says. "Do you know how to kill lobsters, like---humanely? I don't want to torture it and boil it alive."
I do not.
"Just draw me a diagram of where the brain is. I like awareness of what I'm eating and where it comes from, and how the animals were treated prior to destruction."
There's silence and then, faintly, laughter. The band is jammed into a van driving somewhere through upstate New York, and it is very possible---if your inner 13-year-old is listening---to hear Rivers Cuomo's chuckle through the static and other voices. And I have to admit, any residual annoyance has been wiped clean by the inherent "squee!" factor---holy shit, Weezer is making fun of the Maritimes!
It's an interesting time for Weezer. Depending on how highly one values its first two albums (1994's immortal Blue and 1996's maligned-at-the-time Pinkerton) Weezer is either indie-heroes-cum-sellouts or a band that has finally grasped the ear-friendly pop hooks that lay just beneath the crunchiness of its early sound. As the band's third bass player, the pugnacious, tattooed Shriner hasn't been around for many of the ups and downs that characterized the group's rise to mainstream popularity---Cuomo's Harvard period, breakdowns and stints in mental hospitals, the famous splintering and reunion with Matt Sharp, and so on. He was around for the group's surprisingly punk Bonnaroo set in June, where Cuomo leapt around the stage, swung from dizzyingly high risers, pulled people up to play ukulele and tossed rolls of toilet paper.
It's clear that Shriner likes where he's at. In 2001, Cuomo got Shriner's number from a friend. Shriner recalls his first Weezer audition with a tone that falls somewhere between bullshitting and reverence. "They showed me all the songs with their backs to me," he says. "I wasn't allowed to look at them. They made me stand in a corner, facing their backs, and explained the songs to me in that manner. I think they thought I was a pirate or something. Maybe they thought I was a pirate or a gypsy and I'd put a spell on them. You know, the evil eye. Some kinda gang sign."
Despite being late to the game, Shriner is still privy to the Weezer worship and adulation that still flows from longtime fans and new ones. One Facebook group is titled "Scott Shriner is the most devastatingly hardcore man that ever lived" with members that list off Shriner's feats of strength, Chuck Norris-style. Hearing this, Shriner is stoked.
"Weezer has been one of my favorite bands since I first saw them in '94. I love being in this community. Halifax will be off the hook. I can't wait to destroy the city with my bass amplifier."