Sunny Day Real Estate reunites for tour, wants to make you cry again
Emerging from Seattle's heady, aggressive grunge scene in the early 1990s, Sunny Day Real Estate did the unthinkable. It made punk pretty.
It didn't hurt that singer Jeremy Enigk looked like an angel, with wide, innocent eyes and a wounded stare. His voice -- high, lilting and perfectly pitched -- was unexpectedly powerful, and his lyrics were dusted with a deep and pervasive sorrow. So was the rest of the music, with its churning, melodic guitars and heavy, pointed rhythm section.
But the magic didn't last long. Internal tensions and Enigk's desire to pursue a solo career split up the band after just a few years and two full-length albums, 1994's "Diary" and its follow-up, "LP2." Still, the group managed to amass a sizable cult following as progenitors of the emo sound.
They were a keen influence on many of today's chart-topping acts, including Fall Out Boy and Paramore; in fact, "Diary" has gone on to sell more than 230,000 copies, making it among the top 10 most successful releases in Seattle label Sub Pop's history.
Now, the original Sunny Day Real Estate lineup (Enigk, guitarist Dan Hoerner, bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith) is hitting the road on a 21-city tour that kicked off last month and includes sold-out shows at the House of Blues in Anaheim today and the Henry Fonda Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday.
"When Nate called me, I had to sit down -- I was gonna pass out," said Hoerner of the day in February that Mendel, who is also the bassist for the Grammy Award winning rock act Foo Fighters, contacted him with the idea of a reunion tour. "I was blown away, floored and very excited."
In the intervening years, Mendel, of course, had remained busy with the Foo Fighters (Goldsmith also played with that band, but later left); Enigk released a prog-tinged solo album called "Return of the Frog Queen" in 1996 and another solo effort, "World Waits" more recently; and Hoerner moved to a farm in Washington state and helped write tracks for Dashboard Confessional.
The musicians did periodically reunite: first, as Sunny Day Real Estate, in 1997, though not with Mendel; then in 2001, Mendel, but not Hoerner, joined Goldsmith and Enigk to release an album under the name Fire Theft.
Hoerner said it was only now that the prospect of a full-blown Sunny Day Real Estate reunion seemed natural.
"It just sort of fell in place exactly as you hoped it would," he said.
The reunion does seem exceptionally well timed -- a majority of tour dates sold out, demonstrating not only the devotion of Sunny Day Real Estate's original fans but also the continued appeal of a band whose sound has proved to be remarkably enduring.
Still, the notoriously press-shy Enigk wrote in an e-mail that he's fundamentally uncomfortable with being seen as influencing today's crop of pop-punk acts.
"It seems arrogant to me to assume that any band's sound stemmed from what we created," Enigk wrote.
"Every single person is influenced by other people," Hoerner added. "If I was able to play the Edge's guitar lines the way the Edge can play them, then I would be in a U2 cover band and I would die happy."
The set list for this tour will be taken exclusively from "Diary" and "LP2," which Sub Pop just re-mastered and reissued with bonus tracks and new liner notes.
Although the group has no intention of using this as an opportunity to make new Sunny Day Real Estate music together, neither Hoerner nor Enigk would rule out the possibility of that happening in the future.
"We don't have any plans to write more material," Hoerner said. "But every time we get together in the room we start jamming and writing new songs."
"During rehearsal we dabbled in a few new ideas for the fun of it and it was as blissful (if not more) than it ever was," Enigk added. "At this point, a new album would be very welcome, but we are taking it one step at a time and focusing on the reunion tours."
Photo: Brian Tamborello