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Billboard interview with Matt Sharp - March 6, 1999

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A Playful Attitude Marks the Return of Maverick's Rentals

By Carrie Borzillo


Matt Sharp had the time of his life during the making of The Rentals' second album, Seven More Minutes, slated for release April 13 on Maverick/Reprise Records. And it shows.

Kicking off with the hands-in-the-air party vibes of the first single, "Getting By," all the way through the bouncy closing track, "Jumping Around," Seven More Minutes is seeped in decadence and late nights out in London and Barcelona, Spain, where the former Weezer bassist wrote and recorded the project.

"I had the best experiences of my life while making this. I've had more fun, better nights out—and that's all over this record," says Sharp, who handled songwriting, vocals, production, and some bass duties on the album. "There's girls that were dancing in some of these clubs at 5 in the morning who influenced this record as much as anyone. That's a major difference in this record; those sort of things are more honestly represented. The last record was a little deceptive, on the geeky side of things."

An optimistic and celebratory follow-up to 1995's Maverick/Reprise set Return Of The Rentals—which featured the modern rock hit "Friends Of P" and sold 96,000 copies, according to SoundScan — Seven More Minutes is unabashedly pop with plenty of ear candy from which radio programmers can choose.

"I wanted it to be a more universal record [than the previous set]. No one had to push me into making more of a pop record," Sharp says. "There were times in Spain where you'd be in a disco seeing 3,000 people jumping up and down to a song at 6 in the morning, and I'd be thinking, 'This is fantastic.'"

"My main thought was that I wanted to make something that would sound good in this environment. I want people to celebrate when they listen to this. Because it was written surrounded by some pretty wonderful people, I think it's an experience to be shared. I don't want to get too silly about it, but everyone should sing along to this one."

ALL-STAR LINEUP

Sharp uses a revolving lineup of musicians on his Rentals projects. Among those who contributed to Seven More Minutes are Blur's Damon Albarn, Elastica's Donna Matthews, Lush's Miki Berenyi, Ash's Tim Wheeler, former that dog member Petra Haden, and Sharp's former Weezer bandmate Rivers Cuomo.

Sharp recorded some of the ideas for songs during his admittedly wild nights out in Spain, whether it was at 5 a.m. in a bathroom stall in the basement of a disco or in someone's apartment.

"It was definitely written and recorded in a more decadent fashion. It was very in-the-moment," he says. "It really represents that time in my life well, like the first one represented my life at that time. The first record was not as epic of an experience, and it reflects that musically too. I was just learning how to write on the first record. This thing was ... learning about everything."

One hard lesson Sharp learned on the last go-around was that it's impossible to juggle two bands at once. Due to his commitment to Weezer at the time (he parted ways with the group in early 1998), the promotion and touring for Return of The Rentals was cut short.

"With this record, everyone that's going to be involved with it, and especially me, is more than ever willing to fight all the way for it," he says. "It was written to be played live, and I want to stay on the road for as long as possible."

Jeff Himes, merchandiser at Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, says Seven More Minutes has a better chance at wide success than Return of The Rentals did.

"It's a more mainstream album," he says, "an album that can get played along [with] the likes of Third Eye Blind or matchbox 20 on the radio. This is a more modern-sounding pop record than the last one, where you heard more of his Weezer roots."

Even with a solid Weezer and Rentals fan base out there, Maverick executives are going back to square one to set up the new album, utilizing word-of-mouth and postcard mailings to retail, radio, and press. The company will also hand out cassette samplers of "Getting By" and the album track "Hello Hello" at shows by acts that attract a like-minded audience, and it will tap into the mailing lists for Weezer, The Rentals, and the bands of the special guests on the album.

"This is a really great album, and it has so many great ideas," says Guy Oseary, head of A&R and a partner in Maverick. "My concern is taking nothing for granted and building up again from scratch."

Fred Croshall, head of sales and marketing at Maverick, adds, "There's been a lot of people asking for it for a while. And that is our biggest challenge, now that we have the street date—going back to everyone and saying, 'Hey, it's coming out April 13.'"

A week before the album's release, the label will alert fans to its arrival through classified ads—resembling true rental display ads—in L.A. Weekly, The Boston Phoenix, The Village Voice (in New York), The Rocket (in Seattle), San Francisco Weekly, and The Chicago Reader. The ads will give the street date and a number to call to hear snippets of music, get tour information, and receive the cassette sampler.

"Getting By," which features backing vocals by Haden, hits modern rock radio March 23; a commercial single has not been planned. Tour dates for The Rentals, who are managed by Pat Magnarella at Atlas/Third Rail Management and booked by Jenna Adler at Creative Artists Agency, had not been firmed up at press time.