Sunny daze

Jeremy Enigk’s clear new vision
By MATT ASHARE  |  November 29, 2006

PERSONAL TIME: After creating the influential Sunny Day Real Estate, Enigk simply wants to enjoy being a musician again.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame Jeremy Enigk for the current overabundance of “emo” — a style that entails sensitive guys laying their hearts on the line to a degree that verges on sickening. Yet it’s hard to imagine emo’s resurgence without Diary, the Sub Pop debut by Sunny Day Real Estate, the Seattle band who introduced Enigk’s powerful, wrenching voice at a time — 1994 — when a little emotional bloodletting was in order. And it’s equally hard to pinpoint what made the roaring guitars and raw-throated vocals that dominate Diary different from what Seattle had already offered the world other than to say that there was something stoic and pure about Sunny Day. It was as if by exorcizing their own demons Enigk, guitarist/songwriter Dan Hoerner, bassist Nate Mendel, and drummer William Goldsmith could enable the rest of us to cope with what Michael Stipe once called “life and how to live it.” If that sounds over-dramatic, well, it was. And if it seems like an awful lot of pressure to put on a young band, it was that, too. The strain showed almost immediately. Enigk’s spirituality coalesced in an open letter to fans about his born-again conversion and he went off to make his first solo album, 1996’s Return of the Frog Queen. Mendel and Goldsmith were recruited by Dave Grohl for the first incarnation of Foo Fighters.

It seemed rude to bring any of that up back in August when Enigk and I grabbed a bite at Game On, right up the street from Axis, the club he would headline later that night. So much has happened since Diary — various re-formations of Sunny Day until Enigk with Goldsmith and Mendel (on lease from Foo Fighters) became the Fire Theft in 2003 — that its impact on impressionable young rockers-to-be feels like old news. And yet Sunny Day’s influence has extended far beyond “emo” to various corners of the prog-punk and orchestral-pop world, where high concept and a degree of beauty, sadness, and musical complexity are now commonplace. If there’s irony here, it concerns the drama surrounding the genesis of Enigk’s second solo album, World Waits (Reincarnate), a disc that was yet to be released back in August but is now available as he and his band work their way back to Boston for a show this Monday at the International Community Church in Allston.

Actually, “mild trauma” may be more apt than “drama,” because when Enigk initiated plans for what would be the next Fire Theft disc, he found that he no longer had a label. “The Fire Theft were on Rykodisc. And then I found out that they had dropped us. I looked at it as an opportunity because I had two more records left on Sub Pop as a solo artist. So I thought, ‘Instead of going to look for a new label for the Fire Theft, I’ll go to Sub Pop and fulfill my contract.’ ” But when he did, “They basically said, ‘We’re letting you go too.’ They just couldn’t afford the contract they’d signed with me 10 years ago, which was a completely different time in music. So I was liberated from all labels. For the first week it was so scary because I had always relied on labels as a way to survive, pay rent, eat, and stuff. So I decided to just bite the bullet and start my own label.”

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