Rocky Mountain News interview with Matt Sharp - December 8, 1995

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Rentals Eye Long-Term Lease on Hit Parade

By Michael Mehle; Rocky Mountain News Popular Music Writer


Want to watch Matt Sharp's blood pressure go meteoric? Just ask the Weezer bassist about his little side project, The Rentals.

"How would you feel if you put a lot of time, a lot of thought, a lot of money into something, and then you finally put out the final product, and people say, 'That's cute - that little side project.'"

That stings. But then The Rentals have an in-your-face reply - namely "Friends of P.," a catchy single that modern rock radio has pounced all over. That little side project came up with its first hit in just a fraction of the time it took Weezer to get noticed.

For an added boost, a $400 video for "Friends of P." shot in black and white had just enough amateur panache to charm the programmers at MTV, who added the song to its influential Buzz Bin.

The day the record came out, it was being played everywhere, says Sharp, who started The Rentals to get a greater feel for the art of songwriting. In his other band (which hasn't broken up, but is just hibernating after selling 2 million copies of its debut album), singer Rivers Cuomo handled most of the songwriting duties.

(A footnote, the first time Sharp played "Friends of P." live was in Denver last year, when Cuomo lost his voice and the other Weezer bandmates gamely opened a show for Live without him at the Ogden Theatre.)

For The Rentals, which play the Mercury Cafe Tuesday, Sharp wrote a collection of pop tunes powered by distorted guitars, violin and girlie ooh- aaah-oooh harmonies. Yet it's the four Moog synthesizers, one of which is played by vocalist Cherielynn Westrich, that lend a late '70s sound and are getting the greatest attention.

I just decided that I wanted to use something else instead of guitars for the melodies, Sharp says. It's really not much of a concept. I just used the sounds I wanted to use.

Sharp and bandmate Tom Grimley wrote and recorded the material without a record deal. Later, Madonna's Maverick label picked up the band with the permission of Geffen, which put out Weezer's first album.

Geffen was cool to let us take the project elsewhere, the bassist says. They have the first chance at all of our work, and Geffen was great with Weezer. But I wanted to have another label for The Rentals that would really fight for us.

The band is beginning its own tour after opening for label-mate Alanis Morissette for a dozen shows. Although an odd pairing, Sharp said things went well everywhere but Denver, where technical problems and a befuddled crowd made for an awkward evening.

"'I know nobody knew who we were, because they were yelling, 'Who the hell are you?' It was weird, he said. I thought we were playing at Bennigans.

"'This show gives us a chance to redeem ourselves.