Guidance Counseling: Matt Sharp of The Rentals

Published  May 2015

antigravity_vol12_issue7_Page_08_Image_0001 Matt Sharp launched The Rentals 20 years ago as a side project during his time with Weezer. A few years later, he would split from the group for good and The Rentals would go on hiatus as he focused on cultivating a solo career. The last decade has seen the band continue in an organic on-again, off-again fashion with a rotating cast of talent—including Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney and Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of Lucius—albeit with Sharp always firmly in the driver’s seat. They swing through town this month in support of the 2014 release Lost in Alphaville. Matt was kind enough to bend a thoughtful ear to this month’s reader queries in advance of the show. Grab some real estate at One Eyed Jacks on May 27th to catch their quirky analog goodness, and read on to find out why passivity is the death of productive living.


My job requires me to fly several times per month with my boss to meet with clients. I’ve always been a nervous flyer needing to take dramamine and use calming breathing techniques to get through each flight. When my boss found out about this, she thought it was hilarious, and now she spends every flight trying to trigger my anxiety. “OHMYGODWHATWASTHAT,” she’ll whisper-scream, or she’ll peer out the window and casually wonder if “the engine should really be shaking like that.” Of course, this makes every flight a nightmare for me, but when I mention it to her, she laughs it off, saying she’s trying to help me get over my fear. How can I get her to take me seriously?

I would say just go to your boss and be very direct. Say that if things don’t change, you and her need to be on separate flights in the future or in separate areas of the plane. I think the main thing here is that if you tell a person, “hey, you’re being a d-bag” and give it a day or two to really sink in, most people will get it. I mean, nobody really wants to be a d-bag, right? I get like this way sometimes, especially with sports––I can become really overly competitive and friends will pull me aside and say “hey, you’re really taking this too seriously and it’s just supposed to be a fun thing.” At first I might be taken aback by being called out like that, but ultimately I understand. Coming from the music business, which is rife with poor communication, I’m a big fan of getting straight to the point and being honest.


I’ve been vegetarian for the past ten years. My boyfriend of six months, who describes himself as an unabashed “carnivore,” has always been amused by my choice to abstain from eating meat. Recently, he’s become vindictive, alternating between interrogating me about my principles and taunting me by doing stuff like almost putting meat on my plate. Otherwise he’s a decent dude and I like him a lot, but in this one area he needs a real behavioral adjustment. What should I do?

I’ve been a vegetarian since 1990-ish, but everyone has different sensitivity levels to this kind of stuff. For me, seven years into being a vegetarian I got so tired of eating cheese sandwiches when I was on the road that a pair of crab legs walked by me at a restaurant in Hawaii and, a couple scotches in, I said “I have to have that.” So honestly I have some seafood leniency. But I see the quandary here. I don’t want to repeat the same advice as the last question, but honestly why not just be direct? I mean, why would you do that to somebody? Maybe this dude thinks he’s being cute and playful in that inter-relationship way by tormenting her. But it’s bad form. At the end of the day, you just have to tell this kind of person what you can deal with and what you can’t. And if they ignore you, you can either get out of the relationship or just go eat at a restaurant by yourself every night. But the latter is a really passive move, honestly. Why not just be direct and tell him he’s being an asshole. Nobody wants to date an asshole.


I work in advertising, managing a small team of artists, graphic designers and copywriters, and for the most part we work well together. Recently, our firm has started taking on projects from a few larger companies, and there is a ton of pressure on me and my team to come up with impressive work under increasingly shorter deadlines. As a result, I’ve had to be much more hands-on with my creatives, checking in almost daily on progress and giving notes. They’re doing a great job with the work, but I’m getting more and more pushback on my increased involvement. The thing is, I know the only reason we’re getting good work in under deadline is because I’m pushing them, but they see it as micromanagement. Should I leave them alone for a couple of projects and let everything fall apart, so they learn how hard it is to keep a team under deadline? Or would it be unfair to the company and its clients to let the work suffer just to teach a lesson?

You can’t let them just flop. That’s the passive path. And I don’t think you can worry really about being perceived as a micromanager. My first step here would be to go to the supervisor or upper management and say “look, I know you want all this work done and you’re on a deadline, but the work is going to suffer.” You having to be on their back like that isn’t going to be good down the road. They need a little more air in the room to be able to create. If that doesn’t work and the manager tells you they don’t give a shit that they’re burning everyone out, then I would just explain that to your team in a way that doesn’t throw your boss under the bus. Let them know that you went to bat for them but unfortunately things aren’t going to change. If they do change, all the better, but if they don’t, at least they’ll know you advocated for them and then in a way, you’re all on the same team because you’re all facing these external pressures together.


I work in a small office, and one of my colleagues is extremely—almost painfully—shy. She never speaks during meetings, and even one-on-one conversations are visibly uncomfortable for her; she pretty much avoids all social aspects of the workplace. Next week is her birthday, and I’ve been tasked with planning a surprise party. Most in the office feel that if we jolt her out of her shell, it’ll be easier for her to overcome her shyness in general. I’m worried, though, that something as intense as a surprise party will mortify her to the point of panic. What should we do?

Don’t have the party. No. Just don’t do it. I mean, you can do something very nice and subtle for the person, but you don’t have a surprise party for someone who is “painfully” shy. If you know that a person is like that, trying to break them out of that isn’t wise. Sure, people do come out of their shell sometimes, but usually after time spent getting to know people. Not in this kind of situation. I had a friend who got married a few years ago and his friends wanted to throw him this “classic” bachelor party that culminated at a strip club. You know, the groom-to-be in a chair on the stage with strippers twirling on a pole and their tassels going everywhere and he was just bright red. And not in a nervous or cute way—it was the last place on earth he wanted to be. At that point, who was that party really for? Certainly not for him, as he’s just being tortured. Get your co-worker a nice card telling her that you all love and respect her and maybe, over time, she’ll blossom in a way that no one expects. Then you can throw her a party.


My younger brother is a junior in high school. He’s really smart, but lacks motivation, and so his grades are a little below average. He has become convinced that the best option is to enlist in the military after graduation. I know this is ultimately his choice, but I think he is putting himself in danger for all the wrong reasons. Can I say anything to convince him to reconsider?

Not to malign the military in any way, but I think it’s very hard to give really direct advice about something like this. If someone has their mind set on joining up, it’s going to be very hard to sway them. My sister’s husband joined the Army Reserve when he was a young man in order to pay for college. Doing the whole weekend warrior thing. And when we entered into wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan and numbers got spread thin, he ended up being called up for active duty. So he made this choice when he was 18 or something, but it came back to bite him when he was in his mid-30s, when he was essentially a different person. He ended up doing multiple tours, and eight days before his final tour ended, a suicide bomber crashed against their vehicle. It blew his arm off and killed others in the vehicle. So now he has to deal with this trauma for the entirety of his existence, all based on a decision he made when he was a kid. 18 year-olds can’t even imagine being 35. To them, that might as well be 170. It’s a whole world away. So I would tell him that story. And tell him to look at the fine print. To think about his future and whether it’s a commitment he really wants to make. You just have to say what you came to say and understand that you may not get the response you want. But then you won’t have any regrets about the things you didn’t say.

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