Addicted to Noise interview with Matt Sharp - November 17, 1998

From Weezerpedia

By Gil Kaufman

Rentals leader Matt Sharp talked with Gil Kaufman about the band's forthcoming album, Seven More Minutes, how far Sharp had to travel in order to escape the stifling "culture of cool," and the songwriter's passionate affair with a hand-held tape recorder.

Los Angeles, CA

Matt Sharp knew that he wanted to take his time making the second album from his group, The Rentals. What he didn't know was that it would end up taking two years of itinerant recording to get it done - a long time for a group whose debut, Return of the Rentals (1995), was recorded in a mere three days. Hasty recording notwithstanding, that first album nearly went double-platinum.

The second Rentals album, Seven More Minutes, expands the group's kitschy new-wave keyboard-rock sound with lush, sometimes aggressive and, most important for Sharp, revealing tunes. Recorded off and on in London and Spain for more than a year, Seven More Minutes is a group effort that features a number of Sharp's former Rentals cronies, including ex-that dog bassist Petra Haden. Others who dropped by during recording include some Brit-pop pals: Elastica bassist Donna Matthews ("Say Goodbye Forever" and "Must Be Wrong"), Blur leader Damon Albarn ("Big Daddy C") and Ash guitarist/singer Tim Wheeler ("Hello, Hello").

Wheeler also contributes acoustic guitar to the album's emotional centerpiece, "Overlee," a strident keyboard-and-guitar anthem about blissful dislocation, one of the overriding themes on Seven More Minutes. "Where there's no language and there's no country/ I want to take you to Overlee," Sharp and Haden sing in perfect harmony on the track. "A lot of this was written at the time of the highest celebration of my life," Sharp said of the ecstatic feel of songs such as the frantic "Barcelona" and "The Cruise."

No longer a member of synth-pop band Weezer, Sharp said The Rentals are his sole focus now, a task he said he relishes given the freedom and liberation he found in crafting the new album. In an interview conducted nearly eight months prior to the album's release, Sharp talked about his globe-hopping sessions, making new friends, learning how to write songs, leaving Weezer, and the mystery behind "Friends of P."

The Interview: Nov. 17, 1998 - Los Angeles

Addicted to Noise: Were you compelled to do another Rentals record? Did you feel like there was definitely still more that you wanted to do?

Matt: Yeah, everything, in a way. The first one was elementary school. I love that record, but that album's not really so much about the music as it is about everything that happened during that period. It's hard to describe, but I think we were just figuring everything out. We kind of got thrown into the whole thing a little bit off-guard.

ATN: What do you mean?

Matt: We recorded that record at my friend's apartment, Tom's place. It sort of got leaked out a bit. It went from being the do-it-yourself thing and put into this whole other arena, which I don't think we were expecting. We weren't expecting to put it out.

ATN: And it was a hit as well, with songs like "Friends of P."

Matt: I think the whole thing is surreal in that way. We're having a good time, we're hanging out with our friends, making a record. And then all of a sudden it's like, 'OK, you've got to come up with some decisions for what you're gonna do,' like going on the road. There was definitely no big concept or plan of attack. It was improvising as we went along.

ATN: Going into this one, you didn't know this was gonna be your main gig, did you?

Rentals leader Matt Sharp.

Matt: I guess we're continuing the improvisation of the whole thing. Since there wasn't really a plan, it was just more you're hanging around, you're writing songs, hanging out with friends, doing some recording. I didn't sit down with a group of people and say, 'All right, we're gonna do this thing and we're gonna do it this way and it's gonna be strict.' I think probably more the opposite...really wanting to be a lot more open and there wouldn't be any pressure for people to say, 'I have to be here, I have to be a part of this.'

ATN: So it's not like, 'Be in the studio at 9 a.m. We're gonna stay there until we finish.'

Matt: Yeah, most of the time it was, 'Just don't leave the studio.'

ATN: Where were you when you were recording it?

Matt: This one is done in a bunch of different times. A lot of [it]...was done in the midst of the Weezer tour schedule and the Rentals record.

ATN: You did a majority of this record in Europe and that seems to have played into the dislocation themes in the songs. When did you decide that you were going to do another Rentals record? It's essentially just you, right?

Matt: People sort of come in and out. It's a bit vague. A lot of the same people are always around, same guitar players on both records. Petra [Haden] sings on some stuff. Some of the synthesizer stuff on the first record is done by the same guy who did all the stuff on this record. His name is Jim Richards. He's not really a musician full-time. He's a painter. He's not one of those people that's necessarily dedicated to being out on the road.

ATN: Were you demo-ing stuff when you had time off?

Matt: No, we were just recording straight through. Whenever I had time off, we would just go in. At first, it was a set thing. The people who do the basic tracks flew over to London and [we] rented this old flat and lived there for probably about six weeks or so, in sort of this old hippie house in Kensel Green. [We spent] about five weeks [recording]. After the main people were done with their parts, I took a break from it for a while before going in and doing all the vocals and stuff.

ATN: When you started in London, did you realize that this was going to be the focus for you? For a time it wasn't clear if you were going to keep doing Weezer full-time...

Matt: I think the Internet probably propagated a lot more of that than what's reality, in some ways. People would always talk to me about, 'OK, now you're finally done,' over the past five years or so. As soon as the first Rentals record came out and a little bit before that, there was consistent talk about...Every week it would change, it was either me or Pat [Wilson] or Brian [Bell] who was gonna be the next one who was ousted.

Sharp wrote the forthcoming album in Barcelona, Spain.

ATN: You had to have made a decision at some point, 'Well, I'll concentrate on The Rentals and Weezer will continue without me.'

Matt: Sort of like everything in Weezer, it happened without any...there was no real concrete move to do it or not. It just sort of ended up, 'Oh wow, I'm not in that group anymore.' It wasn't this big, 'Here's the day where the call is made and we say we're done or I'm out or you're fired,' or whatever. It was kind of mumbled. I'm sure I probably annoyed people a little bit by...I worked a lot on this record whenever we had time.

ATN: You did the first one where it was totally low-key, like having fun with musician friends. Then it became this enormous success.

Matt: It got a bit more extravagant anyway.

ATN: Maybe Maverick, when they first heard the first Rentals album were like, 'Wow, we can really do something with this,' even though you were coming at it from a very different approach. When you started making the next one, did you get a different kind of pressure, versus none the first time?

Matt: That's part of the reason I think we probably did it over in London in the first place. I don't know if I could have done it here in L.A. or in New York. I didn't really want to repeat any of the experiences I've had already either. A lot of this was about always trying to figure out something new and making it an experience that you look back and you go, 'Yeah, I remember when we did this thing.' The first Weezer record was a little like that for me. One of [Ric Ocasek

Seven More Minutes features a collaboration with Blur's Damon Albarn (pictured).

ATN: And did it work that way?

Matt: Yeah, I think so. I think I'm always going to think of that period of making that record as a really cool time.

ATN: Did you establish lots of new relationships while you were in London?

Matt: Some really great things came out of being there. The big reason was maybe a bit to disconnect from here. But Maverick is amazing about that stuff. They just let me go figure it out for myself, which is what I wanted to do and which is the only way I could have really made this thing. I think we just needed to go away and not have people going, 'We need a smash.' That stuff gets to you after a while. I think that pressure's definitely all over that second Weezer record and that's why it has a reverse effect. You end up in that syndrome that so many people fall into after having something be really commercially successful - I guess it's the Nirvana syndrome - you go out and you make the one record and then you get a little embarrassed of it, so you decide you're gonna go back and make something trashier. Which I don't know if we could have really done with the first Rentals record because it wasn't necessarily a really slick thing, so I don't think I could have rebelled.

ATN: This record seems like it has a lot of dislocation on it. You're in a foreign country. You're far away and you're talking a lot about that, being away from home. Is that one of the themes? You're not rebelling against the success in the sense of it, you're rebelling against where you came from.

Matt: I'm hoping that people enjoy themselves when they hear this thing. A lot of this was written at the time of the highest celebration of my life and playing shows and being much more connected with people and wanting to share those experiences.

ATN: A lot of it, musically, is very upbeat and poppy and fun.

Matt: Right. That has a lot to do with that. The last couple of Rentals tours were a blast. It wouldn't have been very honest of me to come away from it going, 'I'm going to write a really cynical record.' For me, a lot of the content of this record is shedding a lot of that super-sarcasm, super-cynicism. I think that's what I'm most used to from being here. The people that influenced this record and the experiences over the last couple of years have gotten rid of a lot of that.

ATN: Is that because you found that with the positive acceptance of your music that now things were better?

Matt: I don't know if it has anything to do with the acceptance of music. I was spending a lot of time in Spain at this point with friends. There are certain people that will make you step back and go, 'This is all right; this is pretty damn cool,' wherever the hell you're at. There's a bunch of people in the last couple of years who have done that for me, where you're focused in too much and you pull back and you see where you're at and go, 'This is all right. I'm ready for this.'

ATN: You hear that in the songs. "She Says It's Alright" is a really positive song, even though it seems like it could come out of an uncomfortable scenario. It's talking about a girl who you haven't seen and haven't really called and kept in touch with. But it's OK, you sort of fall back into that relationship.

Matt: I think things have gotten a little bit looser, in general, and I'm not so worried about everything. It was really difficult, I think, to enjoy the Weezer experience, for everybody at that point.

ATN: Because you were young or you weren't used to it?

Matt: It's such a bizarre thing if you're really not expecting it. For me, I think I was probably the one most ready to enjoy it. But it was not that kind of atmosphere.

ATN: What was difficult about that?

Matt: I can't complain. The Weezer experience was amazing. We had an absolute blast and did some things that I still look back on and go, 'That was all right.' But just in general, I think it was probably because people may have expected us to understand how to deal with it but we were a bit clueless. I guess that's the cool part of it.

ATN: How did it throw you for a loop?

Matt: Like I said, I don't know if it did for me. But just the environment that we were...the environment that creates that scenario of people feeling embarrassed for the fact that they did something that was successful. It seems like that's been going on for years now. It finally seems to me that that's going away. It's not really like that in Europe. You don't find too many English bands or anybody going, 'Oh, it's terrible, you sold a shitload of records.' And you definitely have that here. It's not really a bad thing. It's kind of a cool thing.

ATN: The funny thing about that is I would think that most songwriters, musicians, singers, they want to communicate with the world. Isn't that part of the whole thing?

Matt: There's different worlds within all that stuff. You write and you do one thing and it's your place. And you go and you do it for whatever reasons you're doing it for. There's a whole different thing about performing and being involved in the moment and enjoying that side of things. They're not one and the same.

ATN: Was there something that you're talking about throughout a lot of these songs on this album, a particular relationship that you were involved in or something that inspired a lot of these songs?

Matt: Well, the majority of this thing was all written in the same places. It was written in a new environment for me.

ATN: Was that Spain?

Matt: Yeah. There are a lot of recurring themes. But I definitely wouldn't say it's a concept record or anything like that. I don't really know what that means.

ATN: Does it tell a story, though? I assume it tells your story.

Matt: I don't really think so. It's not written that way. It's not written in a particular order, it's not written to say I met this person. There's no plot. It's a lot of individual moments for me that are all written in a place where I'd be grabbing a lot of the same images or it evokes a lot of the same emotions for me.

ATN: Why Spain? Is there a particular reason?

Matt: No reason. That's totally random. I met some people there, wanted to keep going back. Also, writing started to become a good thing there. It wasn't the thing that brought me back, but it didn't hurt that whenever I got there it was pretty easy to write.

ATN: Why do you think that is?

Matt: Not worrying about anything. Just relaxing, just having a good time. And hopefully that translates to the record. It was written in that environment. It was recorded in that environment, in a way. A lot of this stuff was written at discos at 7 in the morning.

ATN: I can only imagine that was the case with a song like "The Cruise."

Matt: Some of that stuff is written in the moment... I'd have this little tape deck with me. It's like that horrible movie Night Shift with the idea man.

ATN: Were you doing lyrics or riff ideas?

Matt: I don't know. It's hard to explain. It's a weird process. I don't know if it makes that much sense. Some of it was probably pretty ghastly too. Stuff you're writing at 7 in the morning in a disco is not always going to be your freshest idea.

ATN: But that would become the kernel of a song?

Matt: A majority of them got thrown away. Like I said, depending on the night, the things you listen back to and you'd be like, 'What?' Probably more indecipherable than Japanese for the average American. It was pretty tough to figure out. But there's always some things that stick out when you listen back.

ATN: "Barcelona" feels like a night out. It's speeding up and speeding up, and at the end you run out of gas.

Matt: Yeah, that would be that one.

ATN: Was that one of those songs that was inspired by a hedonistic night out?

Matt: So much of it is from that. That song in particular, yeah, I think it's probably why it got some of that. So much of it is just going place to place and really feeling pretty damn good about life and not having a problem, saying, 'I'm enjoying myself.' A lot of it was written like that, like in a taxi from one place to the next, which can also be a bit silly. It's good that they didn't speak English a lot of the times.

ATN: So, you were in the back seat of the taxi dictating?

Matt: Sometimes. Wherever. Sometimes I'm standing on a toilet at a rave somewhere. A café, anywhere.

ATN: Is that how you normally write?

Matt: It was sort of new at that point. I still write that way now.

ATN: Did you have a microcassette recorder for that?

Matt: Just a normal one, so you can play it back. Most of it I didn't listen to again until much later, and then I put the whole thing together. I didn't want to be really self-conscious of trying to do anything - or conscious. I probably wasn't conscious most of the time. It's like, if you had something cool or if you didn't, whatever. Is it good? Is it not good? I don't care. At that point, that's not where I wanted to be. But there was such a cool, or what I thought at the time were epiphanies and revelations coming through. But you didn't want to be over-analyzing it. So it was do it as much in the moment as you can and who gives a shit... You're absolutely not trying to write a hit or anything.

ATN: Did people ever stop you and ask what you were doing?

Matt: I think that's the bonus of being in a non-English speaking country. A lot of people speak English there, but that also helps you not worry about people hearing how stupid what you're saying is.

ATN: So you were never embarrassed?

Matt: Never, never. I try not to make it too obvious. I don't want it to become an issue. Like, 'OK, now I'm doing this.' So you just do it discreetly, kind of like a bad drug habit, I guess.

ATN: I was going to say...ducking into the bathroom.

Matt: Yeah, it's not too far off, I guess. In the stall with somebody else.

ATN: The first record had a lot of that Moogy sound that you were associated with in Weezer.

Matt: Most of the stuff on the first record was recorded in three days. That's another big difference. This thing was recorded over six months. By the time it comes out, it's gonna be two and a half, three years [since it was recorded]. The cooler thing about it is that a lot of the themes still seem to be pertinent to where I'm at. When we went out to do the first record, then putting on a show, I thought, 'We're already beyond this.' I think that happens to a lot of people. By the time the record company gets the machinery in gear enough to get the thing out, you're like, 'I could've recorded 10 albums in this period or gone through a billion different stages.'

ATN: The Rentals toured with Blur, and Damon Albarn is on this album. A lot of bands tour together, but the members don't end up collaborating. Is it your nature to strike up collaborations with people?

Matt: I think most of the time with me there's not a lot of planning put into any of it. It's just, 'Hey, I'm working on this. Are you around?' With that song ["Big Daddy C"], I thought that the lyrics were a bit more third-person, a little bit more his thing. He was around a bit and I thought, 'That would be cool.' We were recording something else or working on something, and he came in, said, 'Let me hear that song you were talking about.' He goes, 'Oh yeah, I've got 15 minutes before I go to the theater,' or wherever. He did it incredibly fast, faster than I could ever do that stuff. With everybody that I work with, it's like that - 'Are you around?' Hopefully it works and if it doesn't, somebody else will do it or I'll do it. I think it worked for him to do that song. He came up with some really cool ideas that are more suited for him.

ATN: There's a couple of songs on here where you're really getting away from what you were known for. "She Says It's Alright" is almost a Byrdsy acoustic-rock song. Was that something where you decided you wanted to try something radically different? Or is that just how the song came out when you thought it up?

Matt: I think it's a good thing in some ways, but we had a really defined song structure on the first record, which is what I think a first record should be like anyway. You shouldn't be trying to go out there and do everything you can. I liked limitations at that point of my life, because I didn't know enough about what I was doing to do anything else anyway. We did the first record in a very strict way, saying we were going to work under these rules.

ATN: What were they?

Matt: The way we arranged the keyboard patterns that fit every song. Once we figured it out, we were like, 'OK, move on, one song to the next.' It's a very German way of approaching it, I think. You're gonna have your arpeggio keyboard part here, then you do this, then the girls are gonna come in on the bridge or there are gonna be violins on the bridge. There were certain rules that we stuck by, which really gives that record its thing, you could say. And I like records like that a lot. But for me, that wasn't where I was at writing this record. I just wanted to be open to things all the way around. I didn't want to feel like you can't do that. That's part of the reason we did the record in London in the first place. It was to always have that feeling that we could do anything.

ATN: You seem like you were almost deliriously happy making this record. Do you think that's an unusual place to be? Do you think that's rare for an artist to feel, 'I'm going to take advantage of this and go for it, have the best time I can?' Is it a new sensation for you?

Matt: Not now. Not after all this time. I just think of this thing my friend said. It's really a difficult - or strange - thing to try to get to that place where you can say, 'I'm having a good time,' and be all right with it. And also figure out how to say it. It's definitely a much easier thing to go, 'This fucking girl, she dumped me.' You could write those all day. It's a much more difficult thing, I think, at least it was for me, to write something without sounding like a "Romper Room" theme or whatever. Maybe some of this does. But I think somehow we ended up getting away with it. I guess that's it - just to be able to say I'm fucking happy and I'm having a good time and I don't fucking care what you say. Because I think, in general, usually people have a problem with that. A lot of times, people on the outside don't necessarily want you to be there, in that place. Maybe that's part of the reason it's difficult to write about that stuff, I'm not sure.

ATN: "She Says It's Alright" - you're showing up, you're waking up at noon... It's another one where it seems like you're revealing almost this glimpse of a particular day. It's almost like a slice of life, of your life.

Matt: We can establish that. I'm not singing about Fred MacMurray.

ATN: Listening to "Friends of P." or one of the other songs from the first album, it doesn't feel like you're giving as much of yourself on that one, or as overtly.

Matt: I think the first record, like I was trying to say before, the main thing was the fascination with, 'OK, wow, that's a song,' more than anything. Not going, 'Oh, that's a bridge,' or the real ABCs of it. For me, that's where I got off on that record, was listening back and going, 'Wow, that almost sounds like a song.' And I wasn't really particularly concerned about 'Is this a big artistic statement?'

ATN: This time then, you were able to focus more on not only what makes a song, but what makes it this song.

Matt: Yeah, I didn't even think about that stuff on this record. There's an excitement to the first record, to me, because of that. To me, I feel like your eyes are opening. 'Wow, that's how you get back to the verse.'

ATN: But you experienced that in Weezer, I assume.

Matt: But I didn't write any of that stuff. I kind of go, 'How the fuck does he [[[Rivers Cuomo]]] do that shit?' It's amazing how foreign that can become if you haven't done it too.

ATN: So you're sort of learning, in a sense, all over again?

Matt: The only thing I really cared about was to do it in the moment. You can't always keep it there. But there are parts of the record that got there.

ATN: Which ones, for you?

Matt: Sometimes I know listening back to it. I go, 'That part got there,' for whatever reason. I know where that scene is and that's for real and that was written on the spot. Maybe "She Says It's Alright" is actually written there in the place, doing the thing. Maybe there is a photograph of it that I took in that room at that... Sometimes all that stuff kind of comes together in a weird way, in a lucky way. So I guess that's why some of the lyrics tend to be that way, because they are in the moment. A lot of the artwork for this record are photographs I took, which definitely, I think, makes people say, 'Yeah, this is a concept record.'

ATN: You were talking before about these tapes that you were making, dictating stuff from. How many tapes do you have?

Matt: I don't know. I wasn't writing quite as much as I write now. I wasn't writing as frequently. I wasn't aware of it all the time. I wasn't there to write the record either. I wasn't there on a mission to get this done. Since it was over the past couple of years, and in such a relaxed fashion, it doesn't add up to what you would think would be a storage vault-worth of tapes.

ATN: Was there any stuff on here where you consciously tried to get away from the Weezer sound that you might have been known for before, or even the Rentals sound?

Matt: For the most part, no. [We] tried to let the songs dictate what we were going to do. There's different versions of "She Says It's Alright" that aren't as country. You can pretty much tell where things need to be when you listen to them side by side. "She Says It's Alright" kind of started out like "Insomnia" ended up. It started out on the opposite end. It's nice because the people that I work with were like, 'Yeah, that's where it needs to be.' In a group, I think you don't have that liberty when you've gotten really used to each other. There's cool things about being in a traditional band because you can see how people evolve, or how a band deals with each other over a long period of time. You really can feel, 'We can't do that a lot,' or 'Somebody else does that.' You do that to people as well. You look at the drummer and go, 'You can't play that beat. That's not your style.' With this, nobody thought that way. If we had, we probably wouldn't have had things like "She Says It's Alright" or "Jumping Around."

ATN: That was one of the things that was surprising about it. You almost come into it with the first song, "Getting By." It's almost the bridge from the last album, but then it immediately goes into a weirder, different direction with "Hello, Hello" and "She Says It's Alright." And especially stuff like "Jumping Around" - it's almost like a punk song.

Matt: I guess - thank God! I don't know if I could have dealt with playing exactly that. I would never make any excuses for the first record because I really love [it]. This record in no way is an apology for that record. "Man With Two Brains" is basically a rap song. But I didn't think about, 'You can't do that.' On the first Rentals record or any of the Weezer records, I don't think any of those have that freedom. It can go either way. I like records that are super... You're in a mood for a certain record and you just want to hear one kind of vibe the whole time. That's really great, but that's definitely not what this record is about, I don't think.

ATN: There were a lot of different things written about "Friends of P." - people wondering what you were talking about, who "P." was. Now that there's some distance from it, can you tell us a little bit about that song? You make reference to it in "Big Daddy C."

ATN: That song's all about Paulina [Porizkova].

ATN: Ric Ocasek's wife.

Matt: Yeah. It was one of the first songs I'd ever written at the total infancy of all that stuff. I think at the time it came about because she had mentioned that the only people who would write songs for her were bad heavy-metal bands or something like that. And all her friends were getting these songs written about them and all these other supermodel girls were getting all these songs written about them. So it may have been kind of off-handed like that. That song was written when we were making the first Weezer record, when she was around quite a bit, very pregnant and very large.

ATN: Why did you revive it for this one? Is it an inside joke?

Matt: No, it means something, I wish I could explain it but it's not about her. She doesn't have anything to do with that song, the new song, but it's about her friends, I guess.

ATN: I'll take that as a "no comment."

Matt: I just don't want to get into a situation where for the next couple of years, I'm going, 'OK, who's P.?' That thing just started accidentally. It got blown out of proportion for a little while. It started out, somebody said, 'Who's that about?' I said, 'I don't know.' Then all of a sudden, it became, 'Oh, this big secret.' It got to be so fucking funny and surreal. And some of the things that people were writing about who this was about were so amazing that we couldn't stop. Why tell anybody, 'cause people were coming up with ideas that were so much more interesting. This one kid would write something really funny. Somebody else would write something really sad, that it was about Parkinson's disease and it was about his grandfather. They were all just so much more interesting than, 'Yeah, I wrote it about Ric's wife.'

ATN: After the Rentals, after the success that you had, did that make the dynamic in Weezer weird? Because suddenly now, there you were with this huge success that you'd had based on your songs and your music.

Matt: I don't know. I can't speak for those guys or how they felt about what was going on with me.

ATN: Did it do anything for you? Did it throw it off for you at all?

Matt: We always tried to write songs together, to do things, and it just never worked. Or we tried very loosely here and there and it wouldn't work, so we would give up on that idea for another couple months, then go, 'Oh, maybe we should all try to write together,' then we'd go, 'No, that didn't work.'

ATN: Is that why there's so many offshoot bands? There's Special Goodness and The Rentals...

Matt: If you write, you have to write, I guess. At this point, I'm writing so much more than when I was making this record.

ATN: In "Keep Sleeping," it seems like you're talking about going places to see specific people or get back to a certain feeling. You talked about when you were in Spain, you could be freer and do whatever.

Matt: For me or for anybody, you travel enough and then you go, 'All right, this is where I should be.' People go to New York. This [L.A.] feels like home but maybe only for two weeks. I just end up moving constantly. That's one of the few places, when you have your choice to stop moving, where are you gonna go, that's probably it, I don't know. Maybe New York, I'm not sure.

ATN: What's all that moving about, do you think?

Matt: Well, it's being in a band.

ATN: You weren't like an army brat or anything?

Matt: No. I've never had a problem with it. The second I had a chance to get out of where I grew up or if I get bored with something, I move.

ATN: What do you think about what's going on right now in music, or what's not going on? What do you see as going on?

Matt: When I left here to go make the record, I felt this thing of cynicism and sarcasm that you just couldn't escape at every turn. Every conversation, every place I was at, it seemed like people had such a difficult time having a good time. You'd go out to a party and people would be dancing or something, but they weren't dancing because they enjoyed dancing. They were dancing because they were going, 'Look how stupid I look.' They're ultra-aware of everything they're doing. It seems like nobody could ever be laughing if people thought they were actually enjoying themselves. I think the biggest thing about this record is going over to Spain or to London - but mainly in Spain - I didn't sense any of that. People are actually having a good time and actually dancing. And we were singing with friends of mine - we'd be sitting around singing. We were actually fucking singing and not going, 'Look how stupid we look singing.' I'm not saying I joined right in on that. That stuff was completely fucking foreign to me.

ATN: Why do you think it's like that over there?

Matt: Maybe it's just my friends, I don't know. But it's a very L.A. thing. This is all coming back to your question. That was part of the reason we got out of here and part of the reason we went to London. Because I don't think we could have made a record in a place where everybody had that kind of humor and that kind of energy about them. "She Says It's Alright" may be a country song but to me, it's pretty legitimate. We're not going, 'Hey, look how funny this is writing a stupid country song.' Now, it seems like people have finally gotten tired of it, and they're ready to have a good time.

ATN: Even on this album, though, on songs like "Jumping Around," there's a little bit of cynicism in that song. "I'm sort of an old man." You talk about how you don't want to be jumping around when you get older.

Matt: Hopefully the record's not too Disneyland the whole time.

ATN: So you add that one on?

Matt: No. I don't think the record is necessarily one emotion the whole time. I don't think it's necessarily you're just going to be fucking smiling ear to ear the entire time you're listening to it. It's not that clean of a record. And it doesn't have that one element that the first record has, where you put it on and you have this one world that you're in the whole time. This one, I think, moves around a little bit into different aspects.

ATN: How old are you now?

Matt: Twelve.

ATN: You know, in human years. Because in that song, you talk about 'I'm tired of jumping around.' But here you are on a lot of this record - "Insomnia" - you're not just jumping around, you're sprinting.

Matt: "Jumping Around" isn't about one thing either. Some of the songs on this record - which I'm also getting more into - is not making things as specific to one exact period at that exact time, where there's a verse in there that's about one thing and there's another verse that's about another thing. But they all have something of the same sentiment, but they're from different periods or from different things.

ATN: Here you're saying the Rentals shows were really exciting, but in "Jumping Around," it almost seems like you're saying, 'I don't want to be that guy.'

Matt: For sure that's the sentiment of part of it, or at least some of it. A lot of that came about from being on this one TV show in France with this incredibly well-educated, stunning woman. She was sitting within five feet of our equipment while she was being interviewed. I said, 'She's not gonna be there when we start this, when we go into the song, is she?' We're just there to do our one song, doing "Friends Of P." They say to me, 'She'll be gone.' 'Good, 'cause it's really loud. She shouldn't be that close to it.' We come out and she's right there. I'm like, 'OK, here we go.'

ATN: Who was it?

Matt: Irene Jacob, a French actress. We just start into the song. I wanna be able to marry this woman. I don't want her to sit there and be embarrassed for me. That's part of it. I talked to her afterwards. She's like, 'No, I liked it very much.' Oh come on. She said, 'Well, actually I like classical music and...' Yeah, that's what I thought. But she was very sweet about it.