Sunny Day Real Estate's Smaller Lineup Results In Bigger Sound

Trio's experimental LP The Rising Tide due Tuesday.

For their fourth studio album, The Rising Tide, Seattle rock group Sunny Day Real Estate took the less-is-more approach, paring down to a trio and writing their most grandiose, experimental LP yet.

"It's just easier to write as a three-piece, and we had that for this record," guitarist/singer Dan Hoerner said. "We had total streamlined power in songwriting, and there was an enjoyment to the jams. We'd play for five hours and take a break for dinner or whatever, but it was so much fun it was just, like, 'Let's jam a couple more hours.' "

Harnessing that energy, Hoerner, drummer William Goldsmith and singer/guitarist Jeremy Enigk, who also plays bass and piano on the record, crafted an 11-track album with producer Lou Giordano (Hüsker Dü, the Goo Goo Dolls) that combines the intensity of the band's hardcore roots with emotional, progressive flourishes reminiscent of Tool, Rush and Jane's Addiction.

"We were very experimental on this record, but in hindsight, it seems totally purposeful to me," Hoerner said. "It's definitely the best-crafted record we've ever put together. But in the making of it, there was a lot of experimentation, trying different things and sort of building this composite."

Songs For A Troubled Generation

The Rising Tide will hit stores Tuesday. It opens with "Killed by an Angel" (RealAudio excerpt), which Hoerner calls "probably the darkest, hardest song we've ever written," and closes with the orchestral title track (RealAudio excerpt), an optimistic song that portrays an emotional void in today's culture ("Will you escape your life/ With all the walls you build?" Enigk asks) before affirming: "We will ride the rising tide."

"I think there's something really wrong with kids right now," Hoerner, who contributed many of the album's lyrics, said. "They've been pretty f---ed, and I think they're starting to act it out. There are so many people who have kids and don't take care of them, don't love 'em, and think they can be raised by a television or a corporation or somebody else, and I just don't think that's the way it is. I think it's the hugest responsibility that exists, and if you don't make it your life goal to give this person the chance to experience the world in a beautiful way, then you're f---ing up the world, and you're f---ing everyone else in the world."

Sunny Day Real Estate formed in 1992 with Hoerner on guitar and vocals, Goldsmith on drums and Nate Mendel on bass. When Mendel toured Europe with his other band, hardcore iconoclasts Christ on a Crutch, Enigk jammed with Sunny Day. That trio wound up writing many of the songs for the band's 1994's Sub Pop Records debut, Diary.

"It was just this magical roller-coaster ride," Hoerner said of the jam sessions. "And we immediately decided Jeremy had to be in Sunny Day, and he had to be the singer in the band. We wrote songs like 'Song About an Angel' and 'Rodeo Jones' and 'Seven' and stuff like that as a three-piece."

Back To The Roots

The intensity of making The Rising Tide as a trio reminded Hoerner and Goldsmith of those early days.

"What it's really come down to is me and Jeremy and Dan," Goldsmith said, "and that's how we wrote this record. It had sort of the same energy as when we were writing Diary. I feel very lucky to be doing this band again."

A little more than a year after Diary's release, the group's chemistry diffused. Internal and external pressures weighed heavily on the band, and Sunny Day Real Estate splintered. Mendel and Goldsmith toured the world in Foo Fighters. Enigk, newly committed to Christianity, fulfilled a dream to record with an orchestra on his 1996 solo album Return of the Frog Queen. Hoerner and his wife moved to a farm near Fruitland, in Eastern Washington.

Unhappy in the Foos, Goldsmith left the band in 1997. A year later, Goldsmith, Hoerner and Enigk recorded How It Feels To Be Something On with ex-Mommyheads bassist Jeff Palmer. Mendel is still a Foo Fighter.

"I'm having a great time with Jeremy and William because we've gone through so much sh-- together," Hoerner said. "We've done the whole gamut of rock 'n' roll bullsh-- and we've gone through so much f---ing fire that we're just a unit. I think this record is gonna be a wake-up call."

The same day as the new album's release, the re-energized SDRE will launch a U.S. tour in Seattle with openers No Knife (click here for a report on No Knife). Bassist Nick Macri (Heroic Doses, Blue Man Group) will join the group on the road, along with a keyboard player.