“20 Questions” with Matt Sharp of THE RENTALS

September 5, 2014



THE RENTALS are back and I am beyond thrilled!! Tonight (09/06/14) I will be watching them live in Los Angeles, CA. THAT is something I never dreamed possible until now. This band has been a favorite of mine for years. I fell in love with ‘Friends Of P’ from the minute I heard it. Founder, Matt Sharp and I had the chance to chat about the new record “Lost In Alphaville,” time travel, guilty pleasures and more. This interview was, hands down one of my favorites. It was an honor to speak with, in the words of quite a few folks, a legend. You now have a couple task at hand as the reader: 1. Enjoy this interview 2. Buy the record HERE. 3. Stay rad. 


It’s been about 15 years since the release of “Seven More Minutes.” How does it feel to be releasing a new record after all these years? 

The First thing that comes to mind is a lot of pride. I feel very excited about this record and about being able to share it! It was something that I really dreamt of and I have high hopes for it. It took some time because I really thought about all the decisions. My original hopes for it are as close to what it actually is, compared to anything I have worked on. From that stems a whole lot of pride and that has to with everybody’s participation in the album.


How does this record compare or differ from past records?


One thing that is sort of unique about this album and is different from any of the other albums I have ever worked on, is that we approached things in an odd way I guess. In a way that is not a stereotypical way to record records. On this album the funny thing is that the album title, the artwork, what song opens the record, which songs closes the record and everything in between…. those things I thought out before we started recording. I already had the structure of the album done. I kept that as the guiding principle to everything. Usually, as far as everyone I have ever worked with, you go into the studio with a handful of songs and record them. Afterwards you go through everything and see how it feels and pick out what songs go where on that album. With this record, I went with a different point of view. So if “It’s Time To Come Home” should open the album then “The Future” should close the album, then you got to figure out all the parts in between. This informed how we approached Lost In Alphaville. Everything from how Ryan played guitar or how the others contributed to the record and thinking about how each song leads into the next. Which is a really cool. It kind of felt like working on a movie. I really like that because instead of just thinking of the song we thought about what came before it and what will come after it.  When things need to breath and when things need to be BOOMBASTIC.


CG: It reminds me of when we used to make mix tapes for people we had crushes on in high school. We would put so much thought into where to place the songs and how the other person would feel when they heard it. Oh, the good ol days.


MS: Yeah! I guess it’s like doing that before there is any music created. Haha!


CG: So true! That’s a lot harder!


MS: This way of recording is something SO different than anything we had ever done. You kind of go on a journey to make the “MIX TAPE!” It’s like starting the tape with a ballad, because a girl broke your heart. Haha!



You always seem to have a stellar group of musicians on each record. How was it working with everyone that contributed to this record? 


You know, it’s not as unique to work this way for some people, but this record was completely working one on one with everybody. There were no group moments. I am a huge fan of all the people that were involved and contributed to the album, individually.  It was great being in the same room as them and get to be a part of what you love ABOUT them, and then see how that is going to fit into the bigger picture. Everyone came in to the recording process at different stages. Ryan was the very first person to work with me on the album. It was a weird feeling when everything is just a thought. It was really sort of strange because he had nothing to play along with. There were no real drums, vocals, keyboards, strings and all the other elements weren’t there so he was having to imagine everything. Having to show him how parts of the songs were an “epic moment” or a more “dreamy place” and he had to imagine what that was going to sound like. As the album progressed more and more people would add to the record and it became easier to add more music. By then end I flew out to New York with Jess and Holly, the whole album was essentially done. They had a lot more to play off of. We also had very little time together. Working with them was a total trip and a blast! In the list of “new experiences” on this album, working with them was on the top of that list. They work in a completely different way than anyone I have ever worked with. Their group, Lucius, is hands down my favorite group right now. The way they work is that they, in a way, treat themselves as one person. They dress the same, they cut their hair the same and their voices are two parts of one person it seems. One has a certain character to her voice that compliments the other. Together it makes this incredibly beautiful and quite large sound to it. Individually they are both great singers, but when you put them together it becomes this thing where its bigger than the sum of it’s two parts. When they sing, they sing the same part, they stand about a foot away from each other and stare into each other eyes. They pick up on what the other is doing, and it’s like they share the same brain. When they make mistakes, they make those mistakes at the same time. When they like the same thing they will both be excited at the same time. At times it’s a little like the Twilight Zone. It was really cool! I have never worked with singers who do that. It was a very long process to get to them. Their part of the album was very important to me. Their voices are the right voice. Not only are they the right voices but they are the right people and I am a big believer in them. Their character and who they are as people is what you want to be a part of. I feel like that shows through. They are just amazing.



Do you have a favorite song on the album? 


The album is out in the world now for everyone to hear. Up until this point you still have a real sense of ownership of it, in a way you can never have once its gone to the public. It’s like watching our creation go off to college! Things are different now. I enjoy those last few days of feeling really prideful and protective of it. Once it’s kinda out there and people have it to do what they will with it, it feels as if you lose that moment. Up into the moment that it goes out into the world I only let people listen to it, if they are coming to my home or studio. We play it so loud in the speakers that ear drums burst and it rips everyone’s face off! It’s fun to present it to them the way you wish for them to hear it. I am proud of it, and the way it was recorded. I feel if you like one song off the album that you will pretty much enjoy the whole thing. As far as everyone who worked on the album, they all seem to have their favorite songs. I know that Patrick (Carney)’s favorite song is Stardust. His top two were ‘Traces Of Our Tears’ and ‘Stardust.’ All the nice folks at Polyvinyl Records had their favorites too!


I know that these new songs have not had a chance to be played LIVE too much just yet, but do you have a vibe on what songs will be your favorite to play on stage? 


We played a couple of crazy shows in Japan recently and we only played three songs off the new record because the sets were really short compared to normal sets. We played ‘Stardust’, ‘The Thought Of Sound’ and ‘Traces Of Our Tears.’ We played two of these shows. The first night we opened with ‘The Thought Of Sound’ and the next night we switched and opened with ‘Traces Of Our Tears.’ ‘Traces Of Our Tears’ sounded really good coming out of the gates! I was worried that song wouldn’t translate well when played live because it is very layered. The album itself all the way through is a very layered album. That song personifies that. It contains so much that is impossible to do live. We had to choose what everyone could do when playing it on stage. It would be pretty epic if we could get a children’s choir all dressed in red. (Laughter)  My favorite part about this album was being able to work with these amazing people. It was great spending time with very special people. I was very grateful for those moments. I then had to take what they had done and have these “mad scientist” moments in my own lab. There are these moments where I got some very funny thoughts, where i had to think about the song in a visual form, almost like a video.


Speaking of videos, some say that music videos are a lost art these days. Do you have any plans for a new Rentals music video? 



Ya know, one of the reasons it takes so long for The Rentals to do anything is that I don’t want to do anything unless I feel really right about it. That doesn’t really work in today’s society very well, because you wanna “give it more shit and get it out there!” There are parts of me that enjoy having that freedom, but when it comes to making records or videos I am a lot more particular. We have talked about it but the ideas that we keep coming up with are just too difficult to make. I like being a part of making the videos but there is just such little outlet for them, and because of that there are very few people who are willing to invest that much into them. You really have to do them in a low key way. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing and can be to your advantage. The “Friends Of P” video cost us about $500 to make. Ron (who was the guitar player), he had his little VIETNAM  camera. We bought some film for it. It was just this old school 16MM camera. We shot the video at my apartment. We couldn’t get those things to sync sound very well so it was like we were holding the video together with toothpicks, but what was in that video was exactly what we had in our minds of how it looked and sounded. On the other side of that, we did a video with Roman Coppola just after “Friends of P” was written. I can’t imagine what the budget was. If “Friends Of P” cost $500, that next video cost 300 times that! It was an interesting thing to be a part of. For the second Rentals record we did fun stuff like flying to London, coming back to do a few things and then flying BACK to London. It was like we have three studios running at the same time. There was a lot going on and no way around it, but it was an incredible experience to be a part of.


I have a questions from a Rentals fan for you! 


MS: Our ONE fan! Haha!


CG : His name is Ben Hogan and he asked, “ A few years ago there was a promotional deal for “Songs About Time” where you could get backstage passes for a Rentals show. However, since the band did not tour for that project the deal was null for a while. Now that the band is back is it possible that these kind of deals will be honored in the future?”


MS: That is something we are dealing with right now. Yes, we are going to be able to take care of those people as much as we can. This record, although it’s very connected to “Songs About Time” it’s definitely NOT that. For the people who don’t know, essentially I did this large art project with a ton of different artist. There were 50 or or more other people on this thing. We were working with film, photography and doing music. It was all meant to be something that would of eventually end up in a gallery of sorts, where we would be playing music and showing still photography and screening short films with many different contributors, video editors, musicians and photographers all being a part of it. We saw the project through but were never able to take it to that place unfortunately. We certainly tried, but we were never able to do that. What our “one fan” is asking about is that in that, the people who really supported the project there were invitations to be a part of those showings. Unfortunately it never materialized. The Rentals name was essentially put on the project to ultimately bring as much attention to it as possible and have as many people listen and watch these people and then support these people that were involved in the project. So if anyone at that time was a supporter and they can speak directly with Polyvinyl and we will figure out how to take care of that as best as we can. Polyvinyl out of the goodness of their hearts, are helping me out. That project for me, was one of the most satisfying projects. We were doing something every single day and essentially working 18 months straight for about 18 hours a day. I was thrilled with it, but ultimately it was a very indulgent thing that didn’t have too much commercial appeal to it. There were very few people supported us and watching it. I am sure that our fan, (aka Ben) was/ is one of those people and we certainly appreciate it.


You joke about having “ONE FAN” although there are so many Rentals fans. What is one thing you would like to personally say to these fans, who are excited about this new record? 


The only thing I can think of with a question like that is THANK YOU! I can’t tell you how appreciative I am. The Rentals don’t play shows or release albums very often, but when we do I always try to make sure that message is conveyed to everybody and how much it means to me that they are into and are supporting what we are doing. I am very grateful for them helping us continue to do what we do. That is a pretty consistent message for me.


You guys have a few shows already booked on the west and east coast. Are there any plans for more touring? 


Ya know, Polyvinyl has been very supportive and amazing all the way throughout the making of this album. They have taken an incredible leap of faith with me and this album. I feel we are hopefully going to give this record a change to be heard by as many people as possible. That means being out there, supporting it more, doing more festivals and shows. It’s always a little tricky with us because we tend to do it with a whole different group of people every time.


What it it like, having a new group of people to work with, and having to play both old and new songs?


I certainly have the feeling of Bill Murray in ‘Ground Hog’s Day’ quite often with a different set of people every time. The last couple years, we have been doing cooler and cooler collaborations with friends and bands. I did some shows with Manchester Orchestra who I absolutely freaking love. We want to continue to work together. I am not sure if that means live shows or to do some recording together or even some TV performances. I think the absolute world of them. The are just incredible. I am thankful that they weren’t around when WEEZER was coming up because they would of crushed the shit out of us. We played a couple of WEEZER songs around the 20th anniversary of ‘The Blue Album” and it was just insane. It’s pretty fucking inspiring what they can create. We also have some shows with We Are Scientist coming up. Keith Murray is playing with us in The Rentals right now, which is pretty insane because I am a huge fan. I will keep saying this about everyone I work with because I am really crazy about them.  I love their work with their own bands. I would love to be able to play some shows with Lucius, if they could manage to sing that much. Haha.



Here is where we begin the silliness. 




 If you were the topic of a tabloid magazine, what would you like it to say about you? 

“The Rentals win the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing peace to the Middle East.”  We would bring the peace through layers and layers of distorted guitars and synthesizers. Israel and Palestine would say “This record is so good, that we forgot about all our differences and this awful bombing. We have The Rentals to thank for that!”  There would be a photo of Obama handing over the prize to the band.

If Hollywood made a movie based on your life, who would you choose to play the part of YOU? 

Louis CK. I would just like to see him, with my bass, pogo-ing up and down on stage. That alone would be worth the price of admission.

 If you stumbled upon a time machine, where would you travel to and what would you do there? 

We really romanticize different eras. But you really have to wonder, without all the amenities we take for granted now, how great that era would actual be. I live in a house that was built in the 1920’s and I personally have my own romantic vision of that house because it was a hunting lodge during that era. Where I live is where the Hollywood folks would go to get away from the city. Right now it’s really not that far from Hollywood, but back in those days you would take a Model T across the plains of LA so it would take you a while to get there. They would come out here to hunt for the weekend and get away from everything. Legend has it that a silent film director built this house. He had a staff and a maid. There is a maid’s quarters downstairs. There is another person who lives on the property and his place was a stable back in those times. There are boot cleaners all along the property from back then. The very few days when it actually does rain in this god forsaken place, those boot cleaners still do come in handy. I love that time, with the flapper girls and gangsters. Personally for me, those hair cuts that they girls had then are the most attractive. It was the first feeling of the “modern woman” it’s very sexy and all that. So it is easy to say that is what time I would travel to and try to sneak into a little shindig that’s going on at my house.

If you could acquire any superpower, which power would you choose? 

I guess I would choose the power to recover from any injury. You could get shot and stand back up. That would be pretty great. You can recover from no matter what it is, like getting your arm chopped off and it growing right back. You could really through caution to the wind and do whatever you are timid about. I could drive a billion miles and hour into a wall. Some may say, “do you really want to do that?” I would say “I don’t know, but who cares! Let’s try it!”

If you could commit any crime and get away with it, what crime would you choose? 

What’s the peak “crime” thing to do? Is it still getting the diamond from the greatest museum? Or would it be hacking into some government system? I could be into wearing the black suit and being lowered above all the laser lights, while wearing velvet gloves to grab the diamond before the alarm goes off.

If you could pick a song to describe your life at this moment in time, which song would you choose? 

Literally, the soundtrack to my life right now is the Lucius album. That is the record that I have the most overt passion for. I have to be very careful when I listen to it in headphones in a big public setting because I may just bust out with my arms wide, start singing and really embarrassing myself. It the album that I find myself running to the most. If I am jogging by someone I will find myself singing out loud where they can totally hear. I had a special connection the first moment I heard music by them. It lit me up. I knew those were the women I wanted to work with to finish this album. You know that feeling when you just discover a band and you love it more than anything else in the world? Everything else just seems insignificant in comparison. I had that incredibly deep feeling about them from the moment I heard their voices. It felt like a day later and we were in the studio working together. I have never had that experience before. It was really cool.

What is your biggest guilty pleasure? 

I’m gonna go all movies right now. I would say the movies Valley Girl, Hackers and Purple Rain. Although I am not entirely guilty about that movie. Those are three award winning guiltily pleasure movies along with Weird Science.

Is there a trend in fashion and/or music you would like to see disappear? 

There is ALOT of fashion stuff, but I am not a fan of big floppy hats on women. The whole Florence And The Machine situation. That is a certain kind of hat that became really popular that I am not a fan of. That could go away and I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. In music, I have heard through a friend that does a lot of festivals, that there some bands out there who have tons of speaker cabinets on stage that do not actually have speakers in them. A lot of bands seem to be doing that now. They are not actually playing amplifiers, but they are plugged into something that sounds like an amplifier. They are just standing in front of these “dummy cabinets” to make it look like there is tons of sound coming out of them but there is nothing there. I am not really a fan of that. That seems pretty weak to me, although it may be very funny to watch when you are standing backstage and you see this going on.

What is the best live show that you have ever seen?

I wouldn’t say this is the best show I have ever seen in my entire life, but I worked with Tegan and Sara a bit. I played keyboards on their album called ‘So Jealous” and bass on the album “The Con” which is one of my favorite records. Not because I had anything to do with it, but because it’s a really beautiful album. I trust that they know what’s right in regards to music that they are making. So when working with them I could just record whatever it was, then just leave and not have to make sure that things were being handled well. I knew that they were going to make the right choice. I really felt that way with their whole career. I was always just a true believer in them. This latest album came out, which is a real turn to being a super pop record, it really rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t know what it was but I didn’t think I could go on that journey with them anymore. Not like they were asking me to, but as a fan I was thinking this is where I get off the train. I just did not listen to the album at all. I heard one song and it had a lot of Katy Perry-ness to it maybe. There was just something about it. Then recently, The Rentals went to Japan and Tegan and Sarah happened to be at the same festival. The day after the festival they played a tiny little club show in Tokyo. It was a cool little intimate show with maybe 400-500 people. I wasn’t  planning on going, but I was exploring the city with our drummer. We walked for hours. Then we ended up in this cool little neighborhood I had never been to. My friend who puts on these shows in Japan was like, “OH! You must be here for Tegan & Sarah!” We realized we were standing right in front of the club. The next thing you know they are on stage. They played a lot off that album that I had dismissed. I was 100% convinced that night that I was wrong. That record is so good. We were dancing and losing our shit. The songs are so incredibly good on that album. I should of known that they know what they are doing. It was such an insane concert. It was a really special moment for sure. I was happy to be proven wrong.

What makes you come alive? 

“Lost In Alphaville” was written almost entirely in Spain. Very much like “Seven More Minutes.” When “Seven More Minutes” was written it was in the peak of the insanity with Weezer and beginning of The Rentals. In that time in my of my life I was on tour with one band and then on tour with another band. I was all over the place. Whenever there was a moment to take a break from that, I would fly to Barcelona to see the girl I was at the time and to be with the friends that I had made there. It was just the most inspiring thing to be there, be with those people and to write songs. It was like and endless reservoir of thoughts. Maybe because you’re not speaking English all the time or not being distracted by a million things? This album was sort of born out of going back to that same place many years later and standing in the places I stood at that time and try and get an understanding of everything. I didn’t go there with that purpose. I was just going back to see this woman that I had a long history with. I found myself standing in those same places and the same thing happening, where there were lots of thoughts. So I started writing them down and I stayed there long enough to get all of those thoughts out. That’s what makes up this album. At least the general thoughts, lyrics and ideas. I guess I could say that place makes me come alive. Just as it did years ago.


the rentals


(All photos borrowed from THE RENTALS )

I want to say a BIG thank you to Matt Sharp for being incredibly amazing and taking the time to chat with me. I hope ya’ll enjoyed the interview and have fallen in love with this band all over again or even for the first time.

You’re life is now way more BOOMBASTIC.




  • Aaron January 24, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    Great read! Welcome back, Rentals!