There’s an art to crafting the perfect name for a cover band. Any self-respecting cover artist knows that a witty name is just as vital as a good sound, and no act has quite as good a name as Toronto’s all-female Weezer cover band, Sheezer. But with five and a half years of geek-rock glory behind them, the ladies are calling it quits — that is, after one last pair of farewell shows at Lee’s Palace.
In 2009, soon-to-be Sheezer bassist Laura Barrett was driving from Montreal to Toronto with drummer Dana Snell listening to Weezer’s 1996 cult classic, Pinkerton. “The name came first,” Barrett recalls, with regards to the band’s origin. “It was a typical band-name-generating conversation, only this one was too good not to use.” Eventually, Barrett and Snell, along with Alysha Haugen (guitar) and Robin Hatch (keys, guitar, and harmonica), united to grace Toronto with the insecure, emotionally vulnerable geek-rock it had been craving since the mid ’90s.
Weezer’s post-Pinkerton career has divided many fans — in the mid 2000’s Rivers Cuomo, the shy frontman responsible for hits like “Buddy Holly” and “My Name is Jonas“, traded in his thick rimmed glasses and Stratocaster for a creepy dad-stache and awkward dance moves. While last year’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End marked a noticeable return to form for the band, Sheezer made the decision to play tracks exclusively from the Blue and Pinkerton era of Weezer. The result is a nostalgic trip through some of the best alt-rock anthems of the ’90s.
The Internet caught wind of the cover group early into their career after Cuomo himself gave the band his virtual blessings via Twitter. “It was wonderful for our visibility,” Barrett explained. “He already had hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers at the time, so it gave us the ‘Cuomo Bump’, which I’m coining now. We saw an almost instant increase in our fan base.”
What drew many Toronto fans to Sheezer was word of their unparalleled Halloween shows at Lee’s Palace. To my knowledge, nothing on paper says Weezer and Halloween should mix, but when the cover band hit the stage dressed up as Sailor Scouts from Sailor Moon or more recently, the deadliest dames from Tarantino’s Kill Bill flicks, sparks flew.
On the nature of the Halloween shows, Barrett believes that “there’s a sweet nostalgic spirit to dressing up in costume. You can be a kid again and explore a new identity.” She suggests that spirit of youthfulness helped connect those who felt a kinship with that particular era of Weezer. During our chat, Barrett and Snell brainstorm some of the costume ideas they never got to use for their Halloween shows: Sgt. Pepper’s Beatles, Jem & the Holograms, and different eras of Madonna were all on the table but never made the cut.
Barrett explains the choice to stop performing despite their loyal following: “It’s a combination of factors, but generally we are pretty busy with our other projects, and we’ve had a really good run with this one. Five and a half years is nothing to sneeze at!” Outside of Sheezer, Barrett is an accomplished solo musician and soundtrack composer. Other members are involved with acts such as Our Lady Peace, The Bicycles, and locally famous super-group Dwayne Gretzky. Laura muses, “I will say, there’s always the chance that we’ll come out of retirement to play the Weezer cruise, so fingers crossed that it’ll happen!” Of course, I couldn’t let a chat with a member of Sheezer go by without asking the age-old question among Weezer fans: The Blue Album or Pinkerton?
“I can’t answer that!” Barrett tells me. “Blue is wall-to-wall classic hits, but Pinkerton has the moodier epics, and of course “The Good Life“, so that counts for an album’s worth of listening material right there.”
August sixth and seventh will be the last time to catch Sheezer live. Regardless of your stance on modern-day Weezer, anyone who’s ever sang along to any of Cuomo’s patented ‘woe is me’ hooks shouldn’t miss out. Newcomers will surely recognize a song or two they’ve heard from Rock Band, and both the on-stage and in-crowd energy will have even the Weezer-cynic unabashedly making the “Flying W” symbol with their hands. As for the diehards? You’ll swear a show like Sheezer’s could be only in dreams.
Correction (Thursday, August 6, 2015): An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that August seventh and eighth will be the last time to catch Sheezer live.