Sunny Day Real Estate remains one of the most influential of all the emo bands to emerge in the 1990s — even though the band's members despise the genre name, which didn't even become part of the vernacular until years after they split. All Jeremy Enigk (guitar/vocals), Dan Hoerner (guitar/vocals), William Goldsmith (drums), and Nate Mendel (bass) wanted to do was make some noise, and the result was an emotionally resonant variation of hardcore that made a tremendous impact.
Hoerner, Goldsmith and Mendel formed the band as a trio in 1992 and went by three other names before settling on the permanent moniker. With Mendel on a European tour with another band, Hoerner and Goldsmith passed the time jamming with Goldsmith's high-school friend Enigk, who was just 18.
Enigk's yearning, high-register voice was a direct contrast to Hoerner's primal delivery, imbuing the music with a previously unrealized level of emotion, and when Mendel returned from tour, it was decided Sunny Day would henceforth be a quartet, with Enigk on lead vocals. After just its second show, the band signed with Sub Pop in May 1993 and was paired with producer Brad Wood to record its debut album.
Tracked at his Idful Studios in Chicago at the end of the band's maiden North American tour. Diary was released on May 10, 1994 and, despite substantial rock radio airplay for "Seven" and "In Circles," failed to appear on any Billboard chart. At the time, the band wrapped itself in mystery, granting only one interview (to British journalist Everett True) and distributing a single publicity photo.
Despite that, Diary proved a remarkably consistent seller, eventually exceeding 230,000 copies to make it Sub Pop's seventh-biggest release of all time. Unfortunately, internal tensions were threatening Sunny Day's existence. In addition to Enigk undergoing what he later called "a major spiritual explosion which brought my life to a screeching halt," the band had essentially stopped practicing, and it would barely last another couple of months.
Sunny Day had already committed to recording again with Wood in early 1995, but it didn't have enough new material to constitute a full album, provisionally titled LP2. To compensate, the band revisited one song from the Diary sessions ("Rodeo Jones") and another ("8") that had already been released on a seven-inch single. If anything, the new songs were more inscrutable than Diary and also more jarring. Lyrics had only been written for a portion of the songs, so Enigk often made up words at random while tape was rolling.
By spring 1995, LP2 was finished, but so was Sunny Day Real Estate. Enigk immediately began work on his first solo album. Mendel and Goldsmith quickly accepted Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl's invitation to hit the road that spring on his first tour with his new project, Foo Fighters. Meanwhile, LP2, forever to be dubbed "The Pink Album" because of its cover art, was released on Nov. 7, 1995. Like Diary, it never reached a Billboard chart. But its influence has come to be felt just as strongly as Diary, perhaps because listeners who discovered the album later never had a chance to experience the band firsthand.
In 1997, Sub Pop approached Sunny Day's members for help in compiling a rarities album. Because there were so few usable tracks, Enigk and Hoerner agreed to get together and write some new material to augment the archival songs, but they wound up crafting an entire new album in a matter of days.
Without Mendel, who remains with Foo Fighters to this day, Sunny Day reunited to record How It Feels to Be Something On (Number 132), which Sub Pop released on Sept. 22, 1998. A final studio album, 2000's The Rising Tide (Number 97), was the last anyone heard from the band until it announced another reunion, this time with Mendel, in the summer of 2009, although Enigk, Goldsmith and Mendel did team to record a self-titled album under the name The Fire Theft in 2003.
The reconstituted SDRE was reportedly so happy with the reunion that it has been recording new material in Seattle, but as of yet there are no plans to release an album.