Q&A: Sunny Day Real Estate’s Jeremy Enigk
The Seattle band's original lineup is back after 14 years, but the man credited with inventing emo admits he still doesn't know what that even means.
Sunny Day Real Estate’s career was short-they broke up in 1995 before completing their second album, then reformed for two albums sans bassist-turned-Foo Fighter Nate Mendel-but sweet.
Well, sweet‘s not quite the word — their angsty lyrics and tense arrangements earned the tag emo long before guyliner and Hot Topic entered the picture, and the band, led by Jeremy Enigk, whose mid-’90s conversion to Christianity alienated some, never really gave off a party vibe.
But with Mendel back in the fold for the first time since 1995, Sunny Day Real Estate have embarked on a valedictory reunion tour that, so far anyway, is living up to the band’s optimistic handle. Enigk answered some questions for SPIN.com via e-mail.
What feels different about playing these songs now with these guys than it did 14 years ago?
We are all older and have gone down this path a few times, so it seems we have come to it better mentally prepared – we’re not trying not to stack a bunch of expectations on ourselves. Our primary goal is to enjoy it.
What doesn’t feel different, and does that surprise you?
The fact that when we get together, no matter how much time apart, it just clicks. I wasn’t surprised by this, but I was very pleased to know we still got what we had many years ago. A sort of musical synchronicity. We all just missed the music and how it made us feel.
Is it hard to get into the intense emotional mindset of some of the songs that were written when you were younger?
I don’t really have to fully get into that old state of mind because the music does it for me. I just try to sing it with the same emotion that it was written. It’s sort of like what an actor might do when playing a role — I may not feel some of those feelings, but I still feel passionate about it.
Sunny Day Real Estate were considered emo back in the day – what do you think of what’s become of that label since?
I’m not sure what emo was then, or now.
How do you think younger fans are hearing about Sunny Day?
I don’t know. Perhaps since we’re cited as an influence for some bands or compared to, they hear of us through them.
Why are so many Sunny Day songs named after numbers? Just ran out of ideas?
It’s not very creative but “Seven,” “8” and “9” were the 7th, 8th and 9th songs we wrote, and the names just stuck. Our 10th and 11th songs were named “47” and “48.” I guess we didn’t want to be too lazy.
What do you think Sunny Day can do this time around that you couldn’t do the first (or second) times around?
It’s hard to say because we haven’t made any plans beyond a couple reunion tours at this point. However, it seems we are playing bigger venues this time around.
Have you heard the band Real Estate? Do you think people are gonna get confused?
Weird. Nah. I doubt people are that stupid to not figure it out.
Do you think having Nate back in the fold will introduce the band to people who might only know him from Foo Fighters?
I’m sure there will be a handful of fans introduced that way.
Do you have a strong interest in doing new music with Sunny Day, or does this feel like a one-off?
There is certainly interest but it’s hard to tell right now. We’ve made it a goal to leave expectation at the door and take things as they come.We all have established commitments that would involve good balance between them.
What did you discover about the older records when you were going back to them for the reissues that surprised you?
Well, for one, we had all of the tracks isolated so we could learn our parts individually — it was really hard to discern our guitar lines with the others in the mix. When isolated, it surprised me that my playing was utterly terrible and my guitar sounds were atrocious. I consistently made major mistakes that I would never allow these days. But in the mix with the band they sounded beautiful and complete. The producer Brad [Wood] did an amazing job. It’s a testament to the fact that SDRE was about all the individual parts making the whole as opposed to one separate thing creating the vibe. I also re-learned that playing sloppy with soul is better than playing perfect without it.