November 4, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 36  

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Stripped down and mellowed out: Matt returns

By Anna Coutts
Gazette Writer

Gazette file photo
GOODBYE WEEZER, HELLO SOLO. Matt Sharp retools his sound on his latest EP, Pucketts Versus the Country Boy.

Melodic. Subdued. Not words you would normally associate with a former member of the rock bands Weezer and The Rentals. However, now that he has gone solo, musician Matt Sharp has left behind the harder rock and replaced it with the much more relaxed and mellow sounds heard on his recently released EP, Pucketts Versus the Country Boy.

"I wanted to remove the barriers between what the song was trying to say and the listener," Sharp explains of his newfound style. "So I stripped it down to mostly acoustic guitar and a little piano."

After leaving Weezer and taking a break from The Rentals, Sharp not only left the bands, but also the entire music scene. He moved to a small town of less than 200 people (Leaper's Fork), where he bought a nice big house and set up a home studio. It was while living and recording in Leaper's Fork that he picked up the name for his EP.

"There is only one decision you have to make every morning there," Sharp says. "And that is to pick between the two restaurants on either side of the main road - Pucketts or the Country Boy. Both of them are always vying for your patronage, trying to get you to pick one over the other."

Many fans of his former bands may be surprised by his altered solo sound, but Sharp claims it really isn't as different as some may think. "The music may sound different, but inside, the process is still the same. You still start out wanting to make something raw and rough on the edges. But it starts to eat at you, because after awhile you want to make it something beautiful, something beautifully sad."

For Sharp, this solo album has been about soul searching. He decided to remove himself from everything and everyone so he could discover where he wanted his music to head next.

"When you first start succeeding in the industry, you are in this blissful phase. Your sounds are just like what's in your record collection. Then, after a while, you go into auto-cruise and you realize the stuff you are listening to is completely different than what you're playing. It's then you have to remove yourself and re-ask the questions of what you want to be playing."

Sharp's favorite song on the new album is called "Visions of Anna." Unlike the rest of the EP, it was a collaboration which he and some friends recorded live in his kitchen. "Everything else on the album was very sparse. The next time I record I'd like to have more songs like 'Visions.' More collaborative work."

Does that mean he's planning to return to a harder rock sound? It doesn't appear so - at least not in the near future.

"There are a lot of things you can do with this kind of tour setting that you can't with big rock. With The Rentals and Weezer, you only had one goal when you were out touring: to make everyone electrified and ecstatic. And if you didn't, you felt like you'd failed. I enjoy the shows now, because I can take them in any direction, depending on how I feel. It can be subdued or it can turn into a hootenanny, jamboree, campfire kind of setting. Or I can switch my mood in the middle of the set if I want."

Matt Sharp opened for Tegan and Sarah last night.



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