Undulating (e)motion

Jun 28, 2000 at 12:00 am
The history of Sunny Day Real Estate reads like a very special, very emo, "VH1 Behind the Music."

First, there’s the band’s conception in the alterna-fertile Seattle music landscape of 1992. Next, the release of the seminal and genre-defining album Diary in 1995. After that, the breakup – bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith emigrated to the Foo Fighters, lead singer Jeremy Enigk began a conversion to Christianity and guitarist-vocalist Dan Hoerner took a hiatus on a farm in rural Washington. Finally, there’s the split with label Sub Pop in 1999.

But with the release of its fourth full-length album, The Rising Tide, Sunny Day Real Estate, complete with Goldsmith, Hoerner and Enigk (who performs on bass for the first time), has persevered through a decade of a changing music scene and personal epiphanies. The band has found itself back together, on a new label, Time Bomb Recordings, and with a new tour ahead.

"I think that anything you go through, especially something like that, when you come back and decide that you want to do it, you’re that much stronger for having gone through it," Hoerner says.

"That’s really evident in the way that we’re pursuing the band now. ... We’re quite a bit stronger than we have been in the past. I think that we all really appreciate the fact that we’ve got this thing and people seem to like it."

Though it’s back in the saddle, it wasn’t an easy ride for the band. No sooner were they together and collaborating again than they found themselves in a legal snarl with Sub Pop. This put some stress on where they would land and how their music would get beyond the studio.

"Having all of the problems we had with Sub Pop and working through that and wondering, you know, are we ever going to get a deal with all of this legal hassle hanging over our head? It was a huge thing – we had tons of offers on the table, but where are we going to go that we’re going to get what we want?" explains Hoerner.

"And it was so lucky to find Time Bomb, because they’re absolutely perfect for Sunny Day. The guy that runs the company is 100 percent a music heavyweight and so there’s all of this connectivity that’s a part of it. But, then again, they’re a small label, so we can be a real focus for them, which is totally what Sunny Day needs."

Working with a new producer and a new label can be arsenic for most bands, but for Sunny Day it’s been more like ambrosia. The Rising Tide is an 11-track testament to the fact that a new producer (Lou Giordano, who’s worked with Sugar, Belly and Paul Westerberg) can salve many wounds. With the title track itself serving as an analogy for the complacency of the human race, it’s clear that the band didn’t aim to create a small, quiet album.

"This record is going to be so much fun to play live. We’ve been rehearsing every day and the sound is quite large. We’re sounding really, really big right now," says Hoerner.

"We’ve got this excellent guy playing Enigk’s bass line and a keyboard player this time around who’s really good, and a good singer too. So we’re going to have a really nice, thick sound and it’s going to be awesome. I think that anyone who has liked Sunny Day in the past probably is gonna like this record. ... It’s our best work, obviously, and it’s got a lot of passion to it, because I know what we were feeling when we wrote it."

Sunny Day was touted as the band that further defined and changed the "emo" scene that began in the late ‘80s with emotional catharsis bands like Fugazi and Hüsker Dü (followed by Jawbox, Promise Ring and Jets to Brazil). The band has had a legend to live up to beyond just creating a new album. As Hoerner sees it, any genre is a good genre.

"There’s no music that doesn’t have some element of emotion in it. It’s so funny because it’s like, ‘Oh! Your music is emotional!’ like it’s some great revelation. That’s cool with me. If people want to understand something, they want to have a category that they can either be a part of or hate. I think that Sunny Day plays rock ‘n’ roll. I never call Sunny Day ‘emo’ because I know that we play rock ‘n’ roll. I’d love it to be number 1-2-3 on the Billboard charts. ‘Emo the latest craze!’ Hell yeah, I’m emo! I’m the captain of emo!" he yells.

With or without a genre, Sunny Day Real Estate has proven itself to be a band with many lives and incarnations – transformations that have translated into the music throughout its albums and quite noticeably on the sonically layered The Rising Tide. Shannon O'Neill is a freelance rock writer from the Motor City currently residing on the East Coast. E-mail [email protected]