Matt Sharp is The Rentals. Or rather, he was The Rentals, and now he's just part of The Rentals. It's a little confusing for everyone-including Sharp-but he hopes the band's reunion will clear things up.
Sharp is best known as Weezer's first bassist-that's his low-end thumping and high-end harmonies on The Blue Album and Pinkerton. But Sharp felt creatively stifled in a band where one member is top dog. And if Rivers Cuomo is anything, he's a top dog. So between Weezer albums, Sharp founded The Rentals and released two albums of retro new-wave long before retro new-wave was cool.
Return Of (The Rentals) in 1995 contained the hit single "Friends of P" and was followed four years later by Seven More Minutes. But even being the kingpin of his own band didn't do it for him. So Sharp went solo-yes, he went solo from his own band.
It seems like Sharp's a finicky bastard, but he's totally not; he just got stuck in a bad cycle. Apparently, Sharp never wanted to be the main guy; he wanted to be part of a team. It just took him more than a decade to figure this out.
"When The Rentals started out, we embraced the idea of the revolving-door lineup, but over time that's become less interesting to me," says Sharp. "When you make records with a new group of people every time, you don't get a chance to watch people grow together. It makes it impossible to make records with urgency."
And here's where the new Rentals come in.
"I got kinda toasted on starting over all the time, so the first thing I wanted to do with restarting The Rentals was find people to grow with," he says. "All the people involved in this group are heavyweights, and I'm looking forward to everyone feeling ownership over the band. But we need to learn a little bit about each other, and there's no better [place] to do that than on the road."
In early May, less than two months before the start of the band's tour, Sharp announced the new lineup. Only Rachel Haden-whom Sharp describes as a person "he knew he always wanted to work with"-remains from the '90s version of the group, while new members include vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Sara Radle, keyboardist Ben Pringle (ex-Nerf Herder), viola player Lauren Chipman and drummer Dan Joeright.
Sharp insists this new group is in it to win it, even if it's only been together a few months and has yet to play live-the band's first show will be in San Diego to kick off their tour.
"We know we have a long way to go, but this finally feels right," he says. "It puts me at ease and lets me sleep at night to know that this band is all really good people and all really care about each other. And that we have a deadline that we have to meet-we have to be at the Belly Up Tavern on that day, and we have to be ready to go."
The Rentals play with Ozma at the Belly Up on July 2. Doors open at 8 p.m. $15. 858-481-8140.