Legend has it that in 1998, post-Pinkerton, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo gave bassist and founding member Matt Sharp an ultimatum: us or them. Sharp chose "them," sending him and his former bandmates down very different paths.
While Weezer's sound grew increasingly beefier, Sharp and his new-wave-leaning band the Rentals went for a leaner sound. Now, after a lengthy hiatus, dedicated Rentals fans can look forward to the band recording its third album, its first since 1999's Seven More Minutes.
"I've written quite a few things, but I've put it on hold for now to see how everything fits together," Sharp said. "Then I'll approach it and write specifically to see how the pieces fit in the puzzle."
With no particular idea of what's to come, the Rentals have already started rehearsing, writing and trying out members (who they are, Sharp isn't saying). "We're taking it one piece at a time, making sure everyone involved will be in it for the long haul," he said. "We're trying different combinations and seeing what feels like family."
What Sharp lacks in details, he makes up in enthusiasm.
"It's intoxicating and really different, especially the way we are going about this particular incarnation," he said. "We're trying to put it together for the big picture, not just tomorrow or two or three albums down the line. I never approached a band like that, except with Weezer."
Sharp released a self-titled solo album in 2004 but says he missed working in a group and was gratified by the response to the idea of putting the Rentals back together. "The feeling of support I got was pretty overwhelming," he said. "That energy and optimism was something I had been missing and didn't even know it."
Sharp is making the most of that energy. With a Web site and a coveted MySpace account, the Rentals are being discovered and rediscovered by music lovers on an almost daily basis.
"Now as we start work on a new album, the whole landscape has changed, and some of the things I had learned are obsolete," he said. "We just want to be able to reach as many people as we can, and then people can make their own decisions. Technology makes it even more tangible."
Sharp is also keeping decidedly old-school. He is creating an online retrospective on the band's Web site that includes articles, photographs, MP3s and videos collected over the years. He hopes to educate people on just who the Rentals are.
That will have to keep fans satisfied until the band finalizes its lineup and album. And Sharp is just as eager to see how it will all turn out. "The fans have been incredible in their response, and that was one of the parts that was so intriguing," he said. "The feeling that it has the possibility to bring some joy and happiness."