The New Friend of P

As the leading source for local music news, we at the Dallas Observer pride ourselves in breaking huge announcements before anybody else in the metropl... Who am I kidding? The news was all over the indie-rock wire after a post at therentals.com last week--The Rentals, the California band led by famed ex-Weezer bassist Matt Sharp, announced its official reunion after more than half a decade and will not only begin an international tour but will also get to work on a new album by next year.

Hipsters across the nation could be heard busting out old copies of Return of the Rentals, the 1995 Moog-pop cult classic, and exclaiming surprise that Sharp was back to his catchy ways, but we in Dallas just shrugged our shoulders. Yeah, big deal. Sara Radle already blew the announcement more than a year ago.

"I think [Matt] knew I was gonna tell my friends and stuff," the former Lucy Loves Schroeder lead singer says from her current abode in Los Angeles, where she has lived for what may very well be the craziest 11 months of her life. The story began when she helped her friends in California's Goldenboy land a Dallas gig roughly two years ago; they must not have been that close of friends, because "we didn't know [Sharp] was playing with Goldenboy."


The Rentals

But the chance encounter with one of her musical idols was good enough for Radle to open for one of Sharp's solo shows when her own solo band toured through California, and a few months later, Radle returned the concert booking favor in Dallas again.

"I was on the road with some friends, and we needed a show to split the country in half--we were facing driving from New York straight to L.A.," Sharp says from his Los Angeles home. "[The Dallas show with Radle] came together rapid-fire style in a day while we were on the road. We played the show, and by the end, Sara came up and sang a few Rentals songs from the first album; we did 'Please Let That Be You' together and maybe 'Friends of P' or something. She was very nice, set us up that evening and took care of us in her very kind and mothering way. Our relationship began there."

Radle could not have known that the gig was an audition of sorts, but Sharp says the show came during a serious period of transition. Months later, Radle flew to Los Angeles to visit family and used the opportunity to drag her newfound buddy into a studio and record a duet together, "Seven Days" (available as of today at Radle's MySpace site, myspace.com/sararadle). That's when he sprung it on her.

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"It was kinda out of the blue; before we recorded the duet, we were sitting around, playing catch up," Radle says. "The way he brought it up, he was like, 'So, I've been thinking about the Rentals, da da da, what do you think about that?' I'm a fan, of course, so I say, 'That sounds great. You should totally do that, I'd love to hear another Rentals record.' He says, 'No, I don't think you're understanding my question. What do you think about being a part of that?' I was like, 'Uhhhh, sign me up.' It wasn't a question."

For Sharp, however, it was. As reported at Pitchfork Media, Sharp, who had detoured into somber, acoustic music in his solo career, was encouraged by former Weezer buddy Rivers Cuomo to start "writing pop music again." What he didn't tell Pitchfork is that the Rentals probably never would have returned if Radle had said no.

"I had seriously started thinking about some different options in life--making another solo album or possibly rejoining Weezer as a fifth member of their group, or taking this path that we've chosen," Sharp says. "It all started with Sara on this incarnation. As I told a good friend of mine at the time, after spending a little time with her, I had a feeling that if we didn't start from her, we shouldn't go down that path; we should do something else."

Before you blame Radle for being the pre-emptive Yoko Ono to a new version of Weezer, Sharp insists that the big W reunion was just a passing thought: "We collectively decided that shouldn't happen." And any fan of Radle's work knows that her light, coy vocals and synth-pop leanings on solo albums like You Can't Make Everybody Love You are an ideal fit for the Rentals. For those reasons, along with an "effortless" friendship, Sharp's faith in her is pretty deep--"I feel very blessed every morning that I wake up and know that she's in our lives and part of all this"--a faith that Radle admits to not totally understanding.

"One of the biggest elements of the Rentals is female harmony, and he knew that was my thing, something I'm really into," Radle says. "I know that side of it really appealed to him. But...I don't know! He's always said, 'I never had any question whether or not you'd be right for this.' Sometimes I don't really understand the confidence behind it, but it's there, and I'm glad." Radle laughs. "It seems to be working. It seems he was right."

In the past year, Sharp and Radle have slowly built the Rentals back up, auditioning new members, luring founding Rental Rachel Haden back, working out new songs ("They have elements of both [old records], yet there's a lot more collaborative effort this time around...because of that, it has a new sound," according to Radle) and rehearsing like madmen to get the old catalog ready for this tour.

Unfortunately, we probably won't see the hometown hero for a while. Potential European commitments are forcing the band to wait on their full U.S. tour, though Sharp says "there's a slight chance it could fit into this year's schedule before we start working on the new album." And Radle's solo music is going "on the backburner" as the Rentals kick into gear; "When the time comes, I'll put out another record," Radle says. "The gang is really supportive of that."

So guys--whenever she finally comes to town as a member of the Rentals, act surprised, OK?

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