In addition to fronting Weezer, Cuomo has also worked as a solo artist and a writer and featured artist on other artists’ records
Childhood and youth
Cuomo was born in a Manhattan hospital to parents of Italian and German/English descent and raised on an ashram run by the late yoga master Sri Swami Satchidananda in Pomfret, Connecticut. His mother, Beverly, was inspired to name her son “Rivers” because he was born between the East and Hudson rivers in Manhattan. Her appreciation of the sound of running water further reinforced her desire for this name. His father, Frank Cuomo, was a musician who played drums on the album Odyssey of Iska by jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
During his early childhood Cuomo attended a private school on the ashram where his parents raised him and his brother Leaves. The family moved to nearby Storrs, Connecticut when the ashram (known as Yogaville) was relocated to a plot of land along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Cuomo attended E.O. Smith High School in Storrs, Connecticut under the name Peter Kitts, Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles Valley College, Santa Monica College, and Harvard University, where he graduated Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. In high school, Cuomo played the role of Johnny Casino in the stage production of Grease.
After a series of musical projects in Los Angeles, Cuomo formed Weezer on February 14, 1992, as a vocalist and guitarist with drummer Patrick 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 what Cuomo’s father sometimes called him as a toddler, after the Little Rascals character who he said was “the cool one.”
Cuomo is currently in the process of recording a Japanese album with Scott Murphy of Allister.
Cuomo is featured on the new Simple Plan song “Can’t Keep My Hands Off You”
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.
In 1997, Cuomo formed a musical project called Homie, consisting of what he called “goofball songs” or his “country band”, the songs that he deemed too “light” for inclusion on Weezer’s first two records. An album was started at Fort Apache Studios, but the session was abandoned the tapes were lost. In 1998, Cuomo re-worked one of the Homie songs, titled “American Girls”, with another group of musicians and released it on soundtrack for “Meet The Deedles.”
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 ex-Weezer bassist Matt Sharp at his 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.
Cuomo is a big fan of soccer. He can be seen playing in the “Photograph” video. 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.
In March 2008, Cuomo started a video series on YouTube called “Let’s Write a Sawng.” Cuomo plans to write a song in collaboration with YouTube users’ suggestions. Additionally, Cuomo has had cameos in a number of music videos. These include 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.”
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 over a hundred people, including six of the seven members who played in Weezer (Mikey Welsh being the only no show). The couple have a daughter and a son.
Cuomo was born with his left leg 44 mm (1 3/4 in) shorter than his right leg. After the success of The Blue Album, Cuomo underwent a 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 assistants 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 is a lifelong lacto-ovo vegetarian.
Cuomo practices Vipassana meditation and is a student of S.N. Goenka. As of mid-2009 he also conducts children’s meditation courses as taught by S.N. Goenka. Cuomo recently helped acquire music rights and provided financial support to a documentary titled The Dhamma Brothers about Vipassana meditation being instituted in an Alabama state prison.
Cuomo grew up as a soccer fan but has not followed the sport since 2012. Persistent reports that he follows Sheffield Wednesday FC are not accurate. The only team he followed was the U.S. Men’s National team. In early 2008 he played in the Mia Hamm & Nomar Garciaparra 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. In August 2009, Cuomo also participated in the Athletes for Africa 5v5 Charity Soccer Tournament in Toronto, Canada alongside actor Michael Cera. During Weezer’s performance at Leeds Festival 2010, 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.
Some of Cuomo’s fashion trademarks include his black-framed glasses and his lightning bolt guitar strap. He has sported a bowl cut, most notably in the music video for “Undone – The Sweater Song”. Other notable fashion trends include sporting a life preserver-styled vest in early 2001, growing a thick beard in mid-2002 and a brief suit-and-tie phase in summer 2002. Cuomo has also been seen with a short mustache in the video for “Pork and Beans” and on the Red Album cover. Cuomo has said that he grew the mustache in honor of his father who wore one just like his when Cuomo was born. In 1999, Cuomo got braces on his teeth. They were removed before the release of the Green Album.
Cuomo has cited a wide variety of musical influences throughout the years, from artists as diverse as Kiss, Nirvana, Lou Barlow, Pixies, Sonic Youth, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Brian Wilson and Giacomo Puccini.
He almost never swears in any of his songs and often uses minced oaths such as “bee-yotch” instead of “bitch”. 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 & roll’s pre-drug days—to the clean images of the Beach Boys—that felt, ironically, rebellious.”
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, a 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.
Cuomo plays Gibson SG’s during live performances and usually a Gibson Jr. in the studio. His guitar is adorned with a sticker of the Thai word Farang, meaning “a white foreigner.” Some of his guitars have been known to be adorned with many stickers given to him by fans.
Homie – “American Girls,” from the “Meet the Deedles” Soundtrack: vocals, guitar, songwriting and melody
The Rentals – “My Head is in the Sun,” from Seven More Minutes (1999): co-wrote
Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo
The Relationship – “Hand to Hold” (2007): co-written with Brian Bell, a reworked version of the early Make Believe era outtake “Private Message”
Weezer: Raditude (album)
Not Alone – Rivers Cuomo and Friends: Live at Fingerprints (EP & DVD)
Sugar Ray – “Love is the Answer” (2009): written by and featuring Cuomo
Adam Lambert – “Pick U Up” (2009): co-wrote
Weezer: Hurley (album)
Weezer: Death to False Metal (album)
B.o.B – “Magic” from The Adventures of Bobby Ray (2010): vocals, co-wrote
Kevin Rudolf – “Must Be Dreamin’” from To the Sky (2010): vocals
Miranda Cosgrove – “High Maintenance” from High Maintenance (2011): vocals, co-wrote and produced
Simple Plan – “Can’t Keep My Hands Off You” from Simple Plan’s fourth album (2011)
All Time Low – “I Feel Like Dancin’” from Dirty Work (2011): co-wrote
Hitomi – “Rollin’ wit da Homies” (2011): vocals, co-wrote
Alone III: The Pinkerton Years (released with The Pinkerton Diaries)
Scott & Rivers: Scott & Rivers (album)