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The (Real) Return of The Rentals

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: Aug. 8, 2007

The Rentals
w/ Copeland, Goldenboy
Friday,Aug. 10, 8 p.m.
729 No. 14th St.

There was a time in Matt Sharp's career when he juggled two chart-topping bands with ease. The co-founder of Weezer watched as that band's debut album neared the top of the Billboard charts in '95, driven by hit singles "Buddy Holly" and "Undone (The Sweater Song)." At the same time, his "side project," The Rentals scored a surprise hit with its debut album, The Return of The Rentals, and the single, "Friends of P."

That juggling act became too much, however, when Sharp found himself trying to juggle both bands' follow-up albums and subsequent tours.

"I was in a studio with one band and out on the road with the other," Sharp said last Sunday from Spokane. "The day we finished tracking Pinkerton, I went straight to London and started working on (Rentals' second album) Seven More Minutes. Just as the first round of recording Seven More Minutes was done, I was off touring Pinkerton.

"At the time, it was a helluva lot easier to do those kinds of things," he recalled. "It wasn't much of a struggle to focus, but definitely at some point I hit a wall from that lifestyle, where it left me thoughtless. I was running at full speed, juggling those two projects, and absolutely slammed into a wall and disconnected. I cut ties with the past and started over."




Sharp retreated to a solo career, recording the remarkable Puckett's Versus the Country Boy EP in 2003 and a full-length solo album in '04. Instead of playing in front of arenas filled with screaming fans, he found himself hosting somber candle-lit acoustic shows, like his two Sokol Underground performances in '02 and '03.

Then last year, Sharp was faced with a choice of continuing his solo career, rejoining Weezer or reinventing The Rentals. "I kept looking at my manager and saying, 'You know what this entails? This is the most difficult of all the choices.'"

Sharp pulled together a band that included original back-up vocalist Rachel Haden, ex-Lucy Loves Schroeder frontwoman Sara Radle (who Sharp credits as a major inspiration), ex-Nerf Herder Ben Pringle, viola player/vocalist Lauren Chipman and drummer Dan Joeright. Goldenboy guitarist Shon Sullivan rounds out the touring band.

Sharp said this new band is a different kind of juggling act. "It involves working with multiple very strong personalities all contributing creatively," he said. "Seven people on stage at all times, all of them multi-instrumentalists, all constantly shifting instruments throughout the performance."

The band first toured last summer before pulling together the music that makes up their just-released EP, The Last Little Life (Boompa Records). Sharp said the EP followed a similar path as the first Rentals record. "Both were situations where we recorded in home studios really without the thought that some day someone would hear these songs," he said. "We were just trying to find out where to go in the future."

The final product casts aside the quirky goofiness of The Rentals' debut while retaining all of its hooks and charm and ever-present harmonies. Opening track "Last Romantic Day" is a lush pop song where the Rentals' trademark synth sound takes a back seat to acoustic guitars and warm strings. "Little Bit of You in Everything" is a top-down, blue-sky back-beat chugger, while trombone and viola embrace on pop life lesson "Life Without a Brain." The EP closes with Rentals' classic "Sweetness and Tenderness" reborn as a dense, multi-instrumental set piece that Sharp said inspired the band's direction throughout its rebirth.

Later this year, after the band finishes the tour that brings them to Slowdown Friday night, Sharp and Co. will enter a real studio to record their first full-length in eight year. Though he hasn't been a member of Weezer in a decade, Sharp doesn't mind that fans still associate him with the band.

"There's no goal to distance myself from the past," he said. "I face it every day on the road when people come up and say something sweet and generous about my past with Weezer. I feel blessed that anyone takes the time to appreciate anything I was a part of. It's something I don't take for granted, something I don't run from or feel embarrassed about or challenged by. I feel lucky that the situation occurred and that people got something out of it."

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Published in The Omaha Reader Aug. 9, 2007. Copyright 2007 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.







"I kept looking at my manager and saying, 'You know what this entails? This is the most difficult of all the choices.'"