"I don't know if [my songwriting] has moved forward," he continues. "It's moved to the side. There's always going to be something special about [Weezer]. There's always going to be something special about Pinkerton. I'm just happy that it has slowly gotten some respect. It's weird. I almost feel like now that Pinkerton has become kind of successful, it's almost like we have to deal with the pressure allover again. Nowadays, I think I like challenges. I feel like  we're up to it now. After the blue album got so big, something felt wrong to me like we weren't good enough to deserve that much of a spotlight. We needed time to get our act together-me as a songwriter and us as a band. Now I feel like we're a lot better in every facet of our band. I'm looking forward to the challenge of the spotlight."

      Do you feel the band have something to prove?

"I just feel extremely grateful that we have the chance to do this again. I feel very relieved that it's not over."


But have they Ironed out their internal issues?


      There is still some tension lingering, it seems. Asked how he and

Cuomo sorted out their difficulties, Wilson gives an elliptical answer

that makes it clear he might not be doing this if his own band, Special

Goodness, had taken off the way he hoped four years ago. "Everybody just wants to work, you know," he says. "So we're all on the same page in that regard. Because it's cold out there." That's not exactly a vote of confidence for band unity. One of the contentious points during Pinkerton concerned videos. There was a time when Wilson and former bassist Matt Sharp-tired of dull videos after the more vibrant Spike Jonze clips-told Cuomo they would only do another video if they could appear in bear and bunny suits, respectively.

So how about it? Any bunnysuit rentals forthcoming? "I don't anticipate wearing a bunny suit," Wilson says, seated next to Cuomo. "But we're also the kind of band that  listens to what other people are saying. If the director says, 'Hey, do this,' I think we're much more likely to do it than we were before. We've been able to recognize. That's a good thing, because I don't think we used to do that so much. Whatever anybody wants to do is fine by me. That's my attitude on almost everything we do."

Adds Cuomo, " A lot of it comes down to the songs, too. On Pinkerton, they were such personal, autobiographical songs, so I didn't want the videos to just totally contradict what the songs were about. I still feel the same way, but now the songs are different. They're not so personal and autobiographical. They're more universal. And I think we can accept some more outside input, and some more things like bunny suits."

"I think we're also a lot more practical than we used to be," says Wilson. "Look, face it, shit's changed big time in the last five years. I mean, it's a business. What are you going to do? Tell your record company, 'No, I don't want to do that?' We're in good shape and all. We're not going to do anything we don't want to do. At the same time, we realize you've got to make some sacrifices in some way." 

At that particular moment, Cuomo speaks with more firmness and less hesitation than at any time in the day. "I disagree. I don't sacrifice anything for the record company." "Well, you're lucky to be in that position," says Wilson. "They do exactly what we want[them] to do. We've hired them to sell our record," Cuomo says.  "Well, that's not exactly true," Wilson retorts. "If they didn't want us to make a record, they could prevent it from happening. In one sense, I agree with you. In the other sense, you have to see they could be a huge problem if they wanted to be."    

It's here, however, where there's a real difference between the Weezer of old and the band who are here today. Cuomo's confidence-in himself, in his songs, and in his bandmates-seems to be at such an all-time high that nothing is going to get in his way.

      Beneath the shyness and the reserve, the slight frame and the oversized glasses, now lies the quiet determination of an artist who has found strength and grown a tougher shell. Will that help him transcend the urges for the Brian Wilson-styled self-destruction and defeat the second-guessing and self-loathing in an effort to achieve songwriting genius? Or will it cover the emotional rawness that made Pinkerton stand out, and make Cuomo a more distant, less direct and therefore, less notable songwriter?

      Stay tuned. The good news is the Weezer story is no longer undone. There will be answers to these questions.  "The cool thing is now I know there's going to be a fourth record," says Cuomo. "I just have so much

faith in our quality that I don't fear anything. We're totally in charge. "I'm very optimistic about the future," he says, with a wide grin. "Now that I've got my groove back on."