Photo Credit: Dirk Mai
The Rentals are back with their fourth record, Q36. Self-described by band leader and creator Matt Sharp as a “launch series of interstellar communal collaborations including new partnership with HitRecord.” According to Sharp, The Rentals new crew includes Nick Zimmer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ronnie Vannucci of The Killers, and Dave Fridmann of The Flaming Lips, Tame Impala, and The Gentle Assassins Choir.
“This album, by far, all the way through, has been the most satisfying experience creatively for me. Just with the people that I was lucky enough to be able to collaborate with on it, through to the way that we decided to release the album.” Sharp says, describing his passion for the process and the people. “It has brought upon all of these different creative relationships and just like things that you couldn’t foresee and collaborations that you had no idea were around the corner. Just because we jumped into the water and say, ‘all right, let’s see what we can do.’ And then you start song by song trying to figure that out. And just out of necessity, you end up trying to figure out what you can do with what’s immediately in front of you, which of your friends are available and interested in.”
The new sound is in a galaxy far, far away from the band’s original ’90s sound. Return of the Rentals, from 1995, is a heavily Moog-driven record with lots of collaboration guided, sometimes micromanaged, by Sharp with the Haden sisters, Petra and Rachel. With Q36, Sharp let go of the reins leading to full collaboration with Nick Zimmer. Because Sharp gave the project so much liftoff, the record went further into outer space than The Rentals have ever been.
“When I started working with Nick, what interests him are things that are usually more abstract, or aggressive. So, when it came to working on this record, I wanted him to be able to feel completely connected. I let him choose all of the songs that we worked on. So, this is the only album that’s been made where I haven’t been the person that’s said, ‘okay, it’s this song and this song, this song and this order.’ I really wanted to make sure that we weren’t working on anything that didn’t sit well with him, and would fit into his aesthetic.”
In this return, the first in six years, Sharp has “rented” some great talent. Sharp worked remotely with Zimmer, passing ideas back and forth, leaving some ideas on the cutting room floor. Eventually Sharp and Zimmer passed 16 tracks to Dave Fridmann and The Gentle Assassin’s Choir.
“There’s no better people on the planet to take a record to outer space than Nick and Dave Fridmann. When I first brought up the idea of the album with Dave, all I had to say was, ‘I’m making a record with Nick Zimmer and every song takes place in outer space.’ And he went, ‘I’m in.’ He is very succinct with his dialogue. He might’ve just said ‘in.’”
From that point forward, Sharp began to look at Fridmann and Zimmer, along with himself, as the pillars of Q36.
“Nick and I thought about it that way from the beginning. We’re making this music to ultimately end up with Dave. And so, it was constructed with him in mind all the way through.”
These, The (latest) Rentals, are a formidable bunch who have created a double album of noisy rocket ship rock ’n’ roll that’s, as Sharp says, “All tied together through outer space and science fiction.” It’s a highly ambitious, complex, and fun listen that evokes imagination in the listener. From “The Forgotten Astronaut,” about Michael Collins, to “Elon’s Musk Is Making Me Sad,” it’s clear Sharp’s interest in making it into orbit has been achieved with Q36, even if his feet never left the ground.