Billboard interview with Matt Sharp - October 28, 1995

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$400 Video Sells MTV on Rentals: Low-Budget Clip Gets 120 Minutes Play

By Brett Atwood


LOS ANGELES—For about the price of a catered meal at a production shoot, Maverick/Reprise act The Rentals have delivered a low-budget music video that is capturing the eyes and ears of programmers.

The black-and-white video for "Friends of P.," which has already received airplay on MTV's 120 Minutes, is one of the most bare bones vidclips to ever find its way onto television. In the video, the disinterested members of the rock sextet appear comically stiff and aloof as they perform against a simple white backdrop. The entire budget for the no-frills video is estimated at about $400, according to the band's Matt Sharp.

The low budget isn't the only atypical aspect of The Rentals. With a fictional biography that reads like something out of a James Bond novel, The Rentals are poised to be the Spinal Tap of the modern rock world.

According to the band's bio, the members of The Rentals are the sons and daughters of American embassy employees in Prague. The band, which supposedly was founded in 1978, performed icy synthesizer anthems at that time. Unfortunately, the Eastern Bloc act was forced to go underground after guitarist Rod Cervera was imprisoned for alleged espionage activities. After 12 years in prison, Cervera was released. Maverick mogul Madonna supposedly discovered the reunited act in Prague while attending its first concert in 15 years.

The video for "Friends of P." was deliberately shot as if it were a pioneer clip from the earliest days of music video. The aloof nature of the performance in the clip is in the same visual mode as Kraftwerk and other Eastern Bloc music acts of that era.

Of course, The Rentals aren't really from Prague at all. Many viewers will immediately recognize Sharp in the video as the bassist in Weezer.

Sharp describes the video, which he directed with longtime friend Jason Ruscio, as "cold and removed."

"It's certainly not the most hi-tech video ever made," says Sharp. "We shot it with (Cervera's) camera, which I think was an old World War II camera. We didn't even have a synch motor for the shoot. At the end of the production, we found out that it had all been shot at the wrong speed."

Sharp says that he initially thought all the footage from the shoot was unusable.

"I was bummed out because I thought that we had wasted the $400," says Sharp.

"When we made this video, we were very much removed from the record industry. We were not signed to any label. We didn't have any professional editing equipment. When we tried to edit it, the music would always be two or three seconds out of synch.

"The weird thing is that I don't know anything about making videos. We just sort of made this for fun. It wasn't made to sell records. We didn't think anyone would ever actually see it. It flips me out that MTV is even playing it."

Despite his casual approach to The Rentals, Sharp insists that the band is more than just a side project.

"It's very fulfilling to be able to completely do your own thing with no influence from the record company," says Sharp. "That's what The Rentals are about."

However, Sharp says that his involvement in the second music venture doesn't mean he has left Weezer.

"Basically, it's on hiatus," says Sharp of the band, which copped several MTV Video Music Awards this year. "We are getting along better than ever. We're all enjoying our break from the band."