A roommate of mine, who introduced me to this fantastic band, told me that Sunny Day Real Estate was considered the "father" of emo. I've no idea if this is widely accepted or not. If there were one word I would use to describe SDRE's music, it would be "epic." Their songs have a larger than life sound, that makes me feel the gestalt of human existence in a particularly indescribable way. I've thought about it many times, but I cannot seem to pinpoint what exactly it is that makes me enjoy SDRE as much as I do. The lyrics are mostly cryptic, and I've never really grasped poetry. Their sound is unique, and varies greatly over their four albums. They have written everything from quitely minor key songs like "Pheurton Skeurto," to driving anthems like "One." Another thing that sets SDRE apart from the most bands is simply Jeremy Enigk. Personally, I rank his voice in the same category as Jeff Buckley. I'm sure that there are many who would disagree with me, as the two voices are vastly different. Jeff's voice is clear and unbreaking with an impressive set of lungs behind it. Jeremy has, at least in the first couple albums, a much more unfinished voice and a slightly lower range. However, both musicians use their voices as instruments at least as much as they communicate poetry.
Seattle, Washington - 1992
Dan Hoerner and Nate Mendel, roommates, entered a bar late one night. They had heard a band was playing there, and decided to check them out. Little did they know that this night would bring a drummer into their lives. William Goldsmith played his drums as he usually did, but tonight his skill caught the ears of a particular set of roommates who happened to be thinking of starting a band.
Who knows exactly how William reacted to Dan's proposal, but the end result was a trio who called themselves "Empty Set". They played a few shows and things went well, but when they got around to recording a demo they discovered that the name was taken. Thus began the short and not-so-illustrious career of "Chewbacca Kaboom". They tested at least one other name, "One day I stopped Breathing", before coming to the name that they became famous with, "Sunny Day Real Estate". The name apparently originated from a conversation about the exceedingly commercial nature of society; people try to sell everything, even sunny days.
Nate was still working with "Christ on a Crutch" at this time, and left for the band’s final tour in Europe. While Nate was away, William ran into an old high school friend named Jeremy Enigk. After a few conversations, William convinced Jeremy to practice with them. The structure of the band changed a little bit with this addition: Jeremy played lead guitar, Dan played bass and William played drums. They were officially "Thief Steal Me a Peach". During this time they wrote several songs that would become famous later, including “Seven.”
Seattle, Washington - 1994
When Nate returned, the group had to decide whether or not to include Jeremy. After a few practice sessions and the writing of “Song About an Angel” doubts were cast off and they became a band. It was at this point that they were signed to Sub Pop Records, and in 1994 they released “Diary.”
Diary - May 10, 1994
- Seven - 4:45
- In Circles - 4:58
- Song About an Angel - 6:13
- Round - 4:09
- 47 - 4:34
- The Blankets Were the Stairs - 5:27
- Pheurton Skeurto - 2:33
- Shadows - 4:46
- 48 - 4:46
- Grendel - 4:53
- Sometimes - 5:43
If you listened to all of SDRE's albums, you would probably pick either "Diary" or "LP2" as the first album. Both have similar production quality, and many of the songs have the same tone and feel. "Diary" is not my favorite album, but if you particularly enjoy "LP2," you should give this a listen. Like the rest of SDRE's albums, and unlike "LP2," "Diary" boasts a good range of sounds. "Song About an Angel" is probably the most popular song, with a sound that ranges from quiet introspection to unabashed semi-screams (I'm guessing for a lost love). I have two favorite tracks on this CD: "Grendel" and "Pheurton Skuerto."
The tour did not go as well as expected; problems arose and conflicts flared. On top of this, Jeremy became a Christian and wanted to head the band in a different direction. The band couldn’t agree, and recorded a second album “LP2,” otherwise known as The Pink Album, to fulfill their contract with Sub Pop.
LP2 - Nov 07, 1995
- Friday - 2:29
- Theo B - 3:05
- Red Elephant - 3:19
- 5/4 - 3:33
- Waffle - 4:25
- 8 - 5:28
- Iscarabaid - 4:47
- Jnuh - 4:52
- Rodeo Jones - 5:09
I informed my friend once that they were an emo band, and he laughed, "Emo? That's just punk rock." At the time, I didn't realize that many of the bands categorized as "emo" sounded very much like punk rock. In fact, for a while I described SDRE as "thoughtful punk rock." LP2 is the most punk-like album that SDRE has made. Every song has a quick tempo, and lots of guitar. However, the tell-tale beats and simple power chords that are associated with punk music are missing. They are replaced by unusual rythms, most evident in "5/4," and creative chord progressions. "Rodeo Jones" is probably the most popular song on this album, and seems to be about a homeless person.
When the band split up after releasing their second album the members went their mostly separate ways. Jeremy began working on his solo album “Return of the Frog Queen” and recorded it with a 21-piece orchestra. It was released in 1996 and he toured with a 9-piece orchestra. Dan got married and became a farmer. It is rumored that he was offered a contract with Atlantic Records, but this is not confirmed. Nate and William joined Dave Grohl on tour with the Foo Fighters, although they did not play on the recordings.
During the band's time apart, the fan base actually grew. Rumors of a reunion constantly surfaced, and Sub Pop Records eventually offered the band a chance to release a b-sides album. The only one to not be included in this reunion was Nate, who continued his stint with the Foo Fighters. When the band got together to record old songs and write a few new ones, they enjoyed themselves so much that they wrote and recorded their third album, “How it Feels to be Something On.”
How It Feels to Be Something On - Sep 22, 1998
- Pillars - 5:13
- Roses in Water - 4:09
- Every Shining Time You Arrive - 4:03
- Two Promises - 5:08
- 100 Million - 4:57
- How It Feels to Be Something On - 3:42
- The Prophet - 4:13
- The Shark's Own Private Fuck - 5:38
- Guitar and Video Games - 4:39
- The Days Were Golden - 3:57
This album is my personal favorite. Though I grasp very little of what Jeremy is trying to say through his lyrics, listening to this album makes me feel like there is something beyond the simple day to day activities that make up my routine. I can't help but laugh every time I hear "Guitar and Video Games," identifying with the desire to ignore pop culture and find pleasure in simple friendship. "The Shark's Own Private Fuck" is one of the more easily understood songs. Jeremy speaks back to the conversation that spawned the band's name.
"Try to smile as they devour our youth."
Jeff Palmer joined SDRE on tour to replace Nate. However, he left the band after the third tour date due to personal conflicts, and Joe Skyward replaced him for the rest of the tour. They squeezed a second tour out of the album before recording the “Live” album and video to terminate their second contract with Sub Pop Records.
After a brief look at Virgin, the band eventually signed on to Time Bomb Recordings and completed their fourth album minus an official bass player, “The Rising Tide.” This was their best selling album, debuting at #97 on Billboard’s charts with 15,000 copies in the first week.
The Rising Tide - Jun 20, 2000
- Killed by an Angel - 5:13
- One - 4:55
- Rain Song - 4:03
- Disappear - 4:09
- Snibe - 4:29
- The Ocean - 4:50
- Fool in the Photograph - 4:09
- Tearing at My Heart - 5:07
- Television - 4:31
- Faces in Disguise - 6:02
- The Rising Tide - 5:37
There are plenty of people who would argue that this is not SDRE's best album. I doubt, however, anyone would argue that it is poorly produced. This is the cleanest sounding album that SDRE has ever made. And, despite the lack of an official bass player, the fullest sounding as well. Plenty of keyboard and other sfx are added in every track, but they are not added without thought. Each track is carefully crafted so that the instruments weave in and out of the forefront creating genuinely interesting music. I listened to this album at least once a day for at least a week. I still love listening to "Rain Song" for purely musical reasons. It begins with an arpeggio that seems just slightly off. After the second or third repetition, more instruments flood in and suddenly everything makes sense. The previous discord matches perfectly with the rest of the sound.
After a brief tour, the band broke up yet again in June 2001. Within the year Jeremy, William and Nate began to discuss their next project, "The Fire Theft", and officially started the band sometime in 2002.