by Matt Kelchner
“When it clicks right, it’s just the coolest thing,” Matt Sharp tells me as we discuss the importance of chemistry in a band, regardless of their size. It’s something that Sharp feels is exceptionally strong with this iteration of The Rentals. But getting to this point was no easy task. He explains, “it’s not necessarily a struggle, it’s just that everything has to fall exactly right in order for us to be able to play shows.”
The Rentals began as a side project for Sharp to help channel and express his creative thoughts that did not match up with his main band, Weezer. Leaving after Weezer’s first two albums (and arguably their best), Sharp was then able to put all of his effort into The Rentals. Since 2005, Sharp has kept his band in a state somewhere between active and on hiatus, putting out music and hitting the road in spurts. This all changed back in November of last year when Sharp announced he had signed with Polyvinyl Records and was then working on Return to Alphaville, his third full length album and first since 1999’s Seven More Minutes.
With each album and the tours that followed them, Sharp has always assembled a group of talented musicians around himself. Yet despite the numerous different versions of the band, there has always been one underlying aspect that keeps everything connected, “for The Rentals, the way we’ve been playing shows, these sporadic shows every once in a while, what I like to do is have friends of mine from different bands who I’m a real big fan of,” Sharp shares with me, “and also that because of what they’ve done in their own lives, they have a sense of knowing who they are.”
The fact that these band members that surround Sharp come from their own groups is the leading reason that makes scheduling tours so challenging. For this go around, the lineup includes Keith Murray of We Are Scientists, Ryen Slegr of Ozma and Shawn Glassford of STRFCKR, to just name a few. “It’s a pretty big crew but it’s really fun together,” Sharp modestly admits. To pull this tour off, each person’s schedule ended up having just enough space to make things work. “I don’t know if I would quite call it difficulties. It’s just that the stars have to align just so.”
Anytime a band comes along toting such an impressive lineup of musicians as The Rentals do, fans and critics are always a little weary of things never being about a band, rather just the individuals within them. Sharp somewhat jokingly adds, “what’s interesting is that whenever I talk about it, I also feel like it sounds like it’s some sort of jam band, like Ringo Starr and his all-star whatever, you know?” But such is not the case here. “Everybody has been really amazing about just taking it real serious about trying to just play the songs really like how they were intended to be played.”
Throughout our conversation, Sharp repeatedly expresses this sense he gets when playing with this current group, something that makes it feel a little extra special. “We’ve done various incarnations of The Rentals recently where it’s most of these same people are playing and just a couple changes but right now it feels like there’s something right about it,” says Sharp. Freeing his mind from worrying about the cohesiveness of the bandmates behind him opens up Sharp to focusing more on performing and celebrating his latest album.
Not a second goes by where Sharp isn’t taking as much in as he can. Time and time again as we chat, he brings up how grateful he is for everything falling into place the way it has, “bands on any level are about chemistry and there’s never really a formula for it, but sometimes you just put a certain group of people in a room together and it feels right with them.”
The future might be a little tough to predict for Matt Sharp and the Rentals at this point in time. “I want to do at least a couple more shows with this crew. But to bring all these people together and for it to click the way it has, the stars really have to align in an exact way,” Sharp tells me as we briefly talk about his next steps.
As we continue, Sharp tosses around a few different ideas of using different lineups, including possibly joining forces with the guys in Manchester Orchestra, but there are no concrete plans at this point. “If it doesn’t happen with this group of people, we might do it with other people or bands that I’m into. I was talking to Manchester Orchestra about doing some stuff and trying to see if there’s something we could do because I’m just a crazy huge fan of theirs and they’ve become good friends over the past couple years.”
It isn’t long before he switches back to talking about the upcoming string of dates on the East coast, including his stop in Philadelphia this Thursday night. For right now, Sharp is all about living up these moments with his friends and the fans he adores so much. “When we’re on stage at Union Transfer and those people are on stage with me, and Mates of States and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin are on the bill, and all those people have come together, there’s not a second that I take that for granted.”