Jeremy Enigk was reminded of the continued popularity of Sunny Day Real Estate when he occasionally played his former band's "How It Feels to Be Something On" while on tour this summer.
"It was amazing to see people's eyes light up when I started playing that song," Enigk said. "I couldn't believe the energy I was witnessing. There was one kid who just started shaking uncontrollably, freaking out."
Sunny Day Real Estate never saw the commercial success of Nirvana, but like their fellow Seattle rockers, SDRE's legacy has aged remarkably well. Since the band's most recent split in 2001 (see "Sunny Day Real Estate Boarded Up Again"), their fanbase has only multiplied, due in large part to their reputation as the forefathers of the still swelling genre known as emo.
The band's debut, 1994's Diary, came out at a time when grunge ruled the radio, but the album's melodic but urgent sound has had a clear mark on groups such as Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Thursday and countless others. "It's a huge compliment, one of the biggest compliments I've ever had in my life, saying that we are a huge part of creating a whole new genre," Enigk said. "But I don't buy into it. I don't believe it. Some of the bands don't sound anything like what we were doing."
Regardless, Enigk sees a "real hunger" for Sunny Day Real Estate to return. "It becomes tempting when I'm on tour and people are talking about it," he said. "At this point, I doubt it, but never say never."
Enigk does plan to reunite the Fire Theft, which included three-fourths of the original SDRE lineup when they debuted in 2003, but he's got other priorities first. In fact, it seems each of the founding members of Sunny Day Real Estate is keeping quite busy.
Here's what the bandmembers are doing now — and no, none of them are selling real estate:
Guitarist/singer Hoerner worked in the A&R department at Atlantic Records for a few years, while also writing poetry and a book of short stories called "The Little Monkey Chronicles" and playing on Dashboard Confessional's So Impossible and Summer's Kiss EPs. In 2000, he launched the Art Conspiracy, an online art community similar to MySpace, and he's also a founding member of AppleBox Films with director Rohit Colin Rao, whose "Someone and Someone, Inc." he scored.
"I only play guitar for fun these days," said Hoerner, whose wife is expecting the couple's third child in February. "Occasionally I'll break out the old four-track, but that's about as far as it goes. I would love to play music with Sunny Day again, but I believe the chances of a reunion are less than zero. I've heard some of Jeremy's new record and I think it sounds fantastic. Perhaps someday soon the world is going to wake up to his talent. Looking at all the amazing, groundbreaking music he's created over the years, I feel very grateful to have had the privilege of playing with him."
Bassist Mendel was the only member not to join SDRE's first reunion in 1997, and for good reason. After their initial split in 1995 he joined the Foo Fighters and remains a core member. He's also played with Juno and the Fire Theft, as well as scored and appeared in the 2005 indie film "Our Burden Is Light." But his priority is with the Foos, who have an acoustic live album due November 7.
Drummer Goldsmith also joined the Foo Fighters, but quit over creative tensions while recording 1997's The Colour and the Shape. He played on Enigk's first solo album, in the Fire Theft and in side projects with Bill Dolan of 5ive Style, but he's currently drumming for Seattle electro-pop band IQU, recording a side project with keyboardist Michiko Swiggs and building a studio in his Seattle-area home.
Ten years after the release of the acclaimed Return of the Frog Queen, former Sunny Day frontman Enigk returns as a solo artist with World Waits, due Tuesday. "The general theme is growing and becoming more comfortable in your skin, as opposed to that young man's angst, which I think Frog Queen delivered, the broken heart or whatever," Enigk said. "It still has the heartache, but it's more about the political situation that the world is in right now."
The album's title is taken from a track Enigk describes as a love letter to the world. "As a human being, I'm affected by the choices our political leaders are making," he explained. "And I feel like people have a good idea of what the problems are, but no one seems to agree on how to change it. My question is, what are we waiting for? This is breaking my heart. Why is it we can't get together and make it a better place?"
Enigk is promoting the record with a monthlong trek beginning October 31 in Tempe, Arizona, opening for Cursive. He's performing solo, unlike the band tour he did over the summer. "The record wasn't out, but it was out there over the Internet, so I'd see people singing and I'd look at them and they'd stop suddenly, like they got caught," Enigk recalled, laughing. "But it doesn't really bother me that much."