AJR’s “Sober Up,” which features Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, is a testament to the power of social media. After mutual Twitter follows with Cuomo and direct messages about a collaboration, the New York trio of brothers has its biggest hit to date: a violin-driven departure from its usual pop that topped Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart and is now likely to cross over to top 40 radio. The key players behind the song explain how the format-transcending single came to be.
The Collaborator: Rivers Cuomo
“I kept hearing previous single] ‘Weak’ on Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits. It reminded me of Weezer a little bit; if I were in my mid-20s right now, I’d be trying to do something like that. So I followed them on Twitter. They asked if I wanted to help them finish a song for their record, and sent me a rough track saying it needed a bridge.”
The Artist: AJR’s Ryan Met
“Weezer redefined what a rock star was. Rivers] took ‘Sober’ and elevated it. When we were making it, we didn't think this was going to be pop, rock or alternative. We wanted to make something we would want to listen to, forget about the restrictions.”
The Co-Manager/Label President: S-Curve Records’ Steve Greenberg
“It’s hard to take a band that has already had success at pop radio and introduce them to alternative. But the program director at Denver’s alternative station started playing the record last summer and very quickly it shot into the top 10 on Shazam in Denver, which is when I said, ‘Let’s give this a shot.’”
This article originally appeared in the March 31 issue of Billboard.