Times Union interview with Matt Sharp - February 8, 1996

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Sharp Leading More Than The Rentals

By Greg Haymes; Staff Writer


"First of all, this is NOT 'my little side project,'" bassist-bandleader Matt Sharp emphasized in no uncertain terms during a telephone interview last week. "I have lost far too much sleep during the writing, recording and mixing of this record for it to be called that."

Sharp is talking about his new neo-Devo synth-heavy band, The Rentals, who are currently touring in support of their debut album, coyly titled Return of the Rentals.

"I'm planning to devote a lot of time to The Rentals, and hopefully, we'll be making records for a long time to come," Sharp insists.

The band's first album has already spawned the hit "Friends of P.," which shot straight into the Top 10 on modern-rock charts late last year, and the frenetic follow-up single "Waiting" was released last week.

Despite their considerable success, the Rentals still have quite a ways to go before they approach the double-platinum sales status of a band like Weezer, which just so happens to be the other band that features Sharp's musical talents.

Interestingly enough, while Weezer's self-titled breakthrough album was produced by Ric Ocasek, it's The Rentals' album—co-produced by Sharp and Tom Grimley—that at times sounds like a dead ringer for Ocasek's old band, the Cars.

"I suppose that you could say that this record sounds something like the new wave music of the late '70s," Sharp hesitantly admits, "but I'm definitely not trying to create some kind of new wave nostalgia with this band."

"Personally, I think that Return of the Rentals is far too heavy to be considered a new wave record. It is hard to deny the influence of people like Gary Numan and Jeff Lynne of ELO, however."

Sharp is making a long-term commitment to The Rentals' future, not only as a recording project, but as a live act as well. The band already has some extensive road work under its collective belt.

Beginning last October, the Rentals—whose six-person touring incarnation includes three keyboardists who play vintage Moog synthesizers—tore through a solo club tour and a stint on the road as Alanis Morissette's opening act.

They've just wrapped up a two-week stint with Blur. They're currently filling the opening act slot on the Red Hot Chili Peppers' tour, which stops at RPI's Houston Field House in Troy on Sunday night.

Then they're ready to hit the road with Garbage, followed by a European tour this spring.

And after the Rentals' tour finally winds down, Sharp is scheduled to head back into the studio to finish the rest of Weezer's upcoming album—which is about half completed now—and then tour with that band.

So, is there a possibility that Weezer and The Rentals might embark on a tour together in the near future?

Well, probably not. Sharp prefers to keep his two bands separate. Weezer is signed to Geffen Records, while the Rentals make their home at Madonna's Maverick Records.

"But, you know, it might be fun to do one or two shows together," Sharp says, as though mulling over the possibility for the first time.