Matt Sharp with Goldenboy at the Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen West), Wednesday (October 13). $10 advance. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
Matt Sharp, former Weezer bassist and Rentals frontman, is a better person than he used to be. That's because he moved to the tiny town of Leiper's Fork, Tennessee, and holed up alone with his music.
"Sometimes you just need to check yourself a little bit, and music is the best thing for that," he says on the phone from the road in Nebraska. "I do that quite a bit through music - just figure out how to treat people better and sort of... I don't know, you know?"
Uh, I dunno either. What was so terrible about him before?
"A whole lot," he says. "I've watched a lot of footage from the past, and sometimes I just wanna give that person 'one up the bracket,' as they say in England."
Maybe Sharp's rekindled friendship with Rivers Cuomo is a direct result of all this self-exploration. Sharp once sued Weezer over songwriting compensation, but lately the two have been collaborating musically, and Cuomo even joined Sharp onstage recently. Don't hold your breath for an album, though.
"I don't know if that had anything to do with being in Tennessee," says Sharp. "I think it had more to do with Rivers continually reaching out and doing what he had to do for himself."
The self-titled solo album Sharp recorded in Leiper's Fork is a collection of languid, lo-fi, ethereal alt country tunes bathed in melancholy and introspection - a far cry from both the emo-pop of Weezer and the electro new wave of the Rentals. He finished recording the disc in 2002 and released an EP in 2003. He toured the songs extensively before finally releasing the album.
"Normally I wouldn't recommend doing that, but because the album was so different from what I was doing with the Rentals, I thought it best to ease people into it."
It was after touring Japan with the Rentals that Sharp began wondering where he wanted to go musically.
"At the end of that tour I felt like I was at a crossroads. We could go down this path and make another Rentals record, or I could break off from all of this and start over, which seemed like the right thing to do at the time."
This wasn't exactly a massive risk, since the Rentals' sophomore release, Seven More Minutes, wasn't doing as well as their debut, Return Of The Rentals. But it was still daunting to chuck everything and start from scratch.
One person who provided some inspiration was Talk Talk's Mark Hollis, who abandoned the pop new wave aesthetic to pursue a more ambient, avant-garde musical path.
"As a musician, I don't think I'm even in the same category," says Sharp. "[Their album] Spirit Of Eden is in one of the highest places you can reach musically. But I always look to him with great admiration for making that choice, for being able to say it's all right to take the most honest approach even if it means sacrificing commercial success. It was just such a bold thing to do."
On this tour, Sharp is playing with Shon Sullivan (who has played with Elliott Smith and Neil Finn) and Brian Bos, aka Goldenboy.
"We're playing a set that moves between their songs and my songs. We'll drift in and out of ideas, and that's something that I've never really done with anyone else."
Sharp also recently played keyboards on the Tegan and Sara album So Jealous. The Canadian twins have referred to him as both "shy" and "thoughtful." Another example, perhaps, of how all that self-examination is working.
"I love them both and I think they made a really great record. It was something I was incredibly flattered to be a part of. If It Was You was probably my favourite record of the last few years."
On the road with the ladies, though, he was robbed.
"Twice! In Montreal somebody swiped a synthesizer from outside our Winnebago, and the next morning I went back to the club to see if maybe I was just being air-headed and had actually left the synthesizer there and locked myself in the club by accident. The alarms went off and they called the authorities, and while all this was going on somebody threw a brick through our vehicle's window and stole a whole bunch of other things."
Holy crap. That is so unlucky.
"I know. In our Michael Moore nation over here, everyone thinks there are no criminals in Canada."