Singer Jeremy Enigk's new trio, the Fire Theft, looks a lot like his old band, indie rock's revered and enigmatic Sunny Day Real Estate. Along with drummer William Goldsmith and bassist Nate Mendel, now also with the Foo Fighters, Enigk reteamed with producer Brad Wood (who worked on Sunny Day Real Estate's first two studio records, 1994's Diary and the following year's LP2) to record the Fire Theft's self-titled debut. Only founding Sunny Day guitarist Dan Hoener is absent.
"The day we technically quit Sunny Day is the day we started the Fire Theft," Enigk says. He sees the band as a chance to learn from his past mistakes and make better music as a result. "It's the pinnacle of everything that I wanted Sunny Day to do," he explains, "develop and create a journey for people from start to finish, instead of ten or twelve songs thrown on the record. Sunny Day would sit down and write an entire album for a week or two, then record it and take it out on the road. It was an incredible way to write good music quickly, but I wish we would have taken more time to develop it."
The Fire Theft have committed to an extensive tour schedule to promote their debut, but no Sunny Day songs are in the set lists. "Dan was such an important part of Sunny Day that continuing to play those songs in that band without him just seemed unfair," Enigk says.
As far as the cryptic band name, Enigk offers up an explanation that is one part personal, one part history lesson. "It's a Greek tale," he says. "Prometheus goes to the sun and steals the fire from the gods and passes it on to humans. That's how the animals got their shapes, sizes, spots and stripes: one would have stripes from running with the flame, another that was burned would have spots on him and so on. I looked at it as bands that have been inspired by other music -- from Beethoven to Robert Johnson to the Who to U2 -- and how we're picking up the flame and now hoping someone else will take it from us. It's also become something else to us too; taking back the fire, trying to steal the fire from things that Sunny Day never did."
Enigk has also been busy working on a score for a new Kevin Spacey movie called The United States of Leland. "It's about a troubled fifteen-year-old kid who's done some bad things, an analysis of what he is thinking," Enigk says. The film was written and directed by Matthew Hoge -- who happed to be a big fan of Enigk's 1996 solo record Return of the Frog Queen. "He tracked me down and asked me for six months," Enigk says. "I kept on saying, 'No, I don't have time, I'm doing the Fire Theft,' until finally Brad Wood just said, "Dude, you talk about it all the time, just do it!' I gave Matthew a call, he came out to Washington and played me the rough cut, and I was blown away. It was tough, but an amazing thing to accomplish."