DEAD BANDS: SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE

by chuck bell

When a great band dies once, it is tragic. When a great band continues to die over and over again, it is just plain frustrating. Seattle’s Sunny Day Real Estate have returned from the grave several times, only to crawl right back in several months later. Starting as a three piece in 1992, the band originally consisted of guitarist/vocalist Dan Hoerner, bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith. The group went through several different names, including Empty Set, Chewbacca Kaboom, and One Day I Stopped Breathing, none of which gained them any attention.

Artist: Sunny Day Real Estate
Song: In Circles
Artist: Sunny Day Real Estate
Song: Theo B


While Mendel went on tour with another band, Hoerner took over bass duties, and Jeremy Enigk was recruited to fill in on guitar. In the following months, the band rearranged their positions, making Enigk the lead singer with Hoerner singing backup. With this lineup in place, they changed their name to Sunny Day Real Estate and released two 7″s, Flatland Spider and Thief, Steal Me a Peach. These EP’s attracted the attention of local label Sub Pop records, who eventually signed the band and released their breakthrough album Diary in 1994.

Diary is the prototype for every post-hardcore album that came out during the 90s, and is responsible for a significant portion of the melancholic indie rock that exists today. SDRE took the loud/soft dynamic that the Pixies invented and made the loud louder and the soft softer. The band recieved play on some of the lesser-known MTV shows, including The Jon Stewart Show and 120 Minutes. However, aside from this, they made very little attempt at reaching larger audiences. For example, on their US tour with Shudder to Think and Soul Coughing, they inexplicably refused to play shows in California.

After the Diary tour, SDRE parted ways for unknown reasons. The most popular rumor is that Enigk’s sudden conversion to Christianity tore the band apart. Mendel and Goldsmith moved on to become the rhythm section for the Foo Fighters. It seemed that SDRE were dead, but before they broke up, they had recorded several songs in the studio. Sub Pop took these songs as well as some B-sides from the Diary sessions, and released them as LP2, also known as “The Pink Album.” When Sub Pop approached them with the idea of releasing another rarities record, they decided to simply regroup and record another album. Mendel was still playing with the Foo Fighters, but Goldsmith was replaced by Taylor Hawkins in 1997.

The resulting album, How It Feels To Be Something On, was a considerable departure from their previous work. Enigk’s once searing vocals had oddly transitioned into an entrancing falsetto, among other layered melodies. The rest of the band explored many different genres, only half of which actually worked. They went on to release another album, the virtually unlistenable The Rising Tide in 2000. While on tour for this album, their new label, Time Bomb Records, went under and they decided to break up as well. In 2002, Enigk, Mendel, and Goldsmith reunited for one album under the name The Fire Theft. Although not quite SDRE, it was certainly a step up from their last album. Dan Hoerner regrettably joined Dashboard Confessional. Enigk still plays as a solo artist, and has recently suggested the possibility of a SDRE reunion. It is hard to say whether or not this is a good thing.

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