Sunny Day Real Estate set the indie world on fire in 1994 with their debut album for Sub Pop Records, "Diary," before disbanding in March 1995. But after a three-year hiatus, during which drummer William Goldsmith and bassist Nate Mendel went off to join the Foo Fighters, the band reformed for a new album, "How It Feels to Be Something On." The September release of that recording led to a flurry of press attention, and Sunny Day Real Estate became the comeback story of 1998.
Only three months after the band's break-up, guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Enigk and guitarist Dan Hoerner were back together writing songs and discovered that the spark was still there. But before the band regrouped, Enigk recorded a solo album with a 21-piece orchestra, "Return of the Frog Queen," which came out in 1997. ;The band members found that the break gave them time to grow as songwriters. New songs came easily, and a project of unreleased Sunny Day material was temporarily shelved to make time for the new album -- and a new commitment to the band.
Sunny Day Real Estate "is now as permanent as a band can be," says Enigk. "Our writing style has changed. We are simpler now and less emotional. Different inspirations have led us in different directions."
All of the band's original members returned for the new album except Mendel, who was replaced by current bassist Jeff Palmer. "I respect Nate's decision and he has accepted Sunny Day moving on without him," says Enigk.
An experience of spiritual confusion while the band was in limbo led Enigk to acknowledge his long-dormant identity as a Christian. As a result, struggles with faith, humility and temptation became the central focus of his solo album. He even considered leaving music and becoming a missionary or a shoe salesman. "But I had just signed a new deal with Sub Pop and I finally came to the conclusion that God gave me this talent," he says. "Music is what I do and who I am."
Despite less-than-impressive sales of his first solo album, a second one is currently in the works. "There was probably a time in my life when I was disappointed with record sales," he says. "But ultimately it doesn't matter. I am totally proud of the project. I am amazed by what came out of me, and I am thankful for it."
As Sunny Day's sole Christian, Enigk has the respect of peers who have arrived at similar points in their spiritual lives. Enigk says that interpretation of the spiritual messages imbedded in his new songs depend upon how one looks at them. "In some songs I believe I am calling to God. And sometimes I am calling to my mom. ... And sometimes I am even talking at the devil."
But there are no overt Christian themes on Sunny Day Real Estate's new album. Songs range from the just plain fun ("Guitar and Video Games") to the perverse ("The Shark's Own Private Fuck"). Others are influenced by the late Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. On "The Prophet" Enigk tries to capture some of Khan's trance-inducing vocal style, while "Rose in the Water" emulates Eastern scale progressions. "It's a busy, dark thing that keeps moving," Enigk says. "The vocals follow the guitar line and vice versa in much the same way that Nusrat would have his harmonium follow his voice. But we are not nearly as cool."
Cool things may be just around the corner, though, when Enigk turns his attention to the shelved collection of unreleased material. "That is still something I want to do. We have some great live stuff I'd like to put out. And then there are the unreleased demos from ‘Diary,'" he adds, "which in many ways are better and more passionate than our studio release."