Sunny Day Real Estate Struggle for Success - Rolling Stone
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Sunny Day Real Estate Struggle for Success

By definition, being in a rock band is tragic. Rarely do groups
with the stamina and talent to swim against the tide of mediocrity
tread water long enough to reach the island of accomplishment.
Never is their course free from sharks nipping at their toes,
trying to bite away a piece of their credibility, originality or
capability. And the ones that do crawl onto the shores of success,
ready to brave the elements, are undoubtedly damaged goods.
Sunny Day Real Estate is no exception.

Just seven months after their critically acclaimed debut,
Diary, hit the racks in May of 1994, Sunny Day was over.
In fact, according to guitarist Dan Hoerner, the
band was history before they even entered the studio to record its
self-titled, hard-to-find follow-up. “Sunny Day ended a long time
before Sunny Day seemed to end to other people,” says Hoerner from
a pay phone at the Hotel Intercontinental in Chicago while in the
midst of the sold-out tour in support of SDRE’s third effort,
How It Feels to Be Something On. “The second record was
made as a broken-up band, so it definitely has a certain tension to
it. It’s got this feeling to it that tells it was made by people
who had given up associating with each other.”

Amongst Sunny Day’s loyal fans, the cause of the break up is
legendary. Singer Jeremy Enigk‘s passion for the
band was eclipsed by his love of Jesus; drummer William
Goldsmith
and bassist Nate Mendel were
called upon by a higher power, as well — namely mega-rock star
Dave Grohl and his band the Foo
Fighters
. Hoerner had just gotten married and was planting
his “living forest” farm on which he and his wife were building a
self-sufficient lifestyle. Sunny Day Real Estate was hardly a happy
and stable place to live.

“There was tension. Everyone was kind of infighting. So the
break-up was definitely necessary,” explains Hoerner. “It was the
best thing that ever happened to us — everybody got to do what
they needed to do.”

After a two-and-a-half year divorce, which saw the release of
Enigk’s glorious solo project, Return of the Frog Queen,
and Foo Fighters’ wild success, Enigk and Hoerner began packaging
an album of SDRE odds and ends for the fans. They decided it was
time to jam together, just once. Gathering Goldsmith and Mendel for
a mini-reunion in their practice space, the temporary separation
proved an unexpected cure to the band’s infirmities. Hoerner and
Enigk had no choice but to reunite the group permanently.

“We got together, and the spark was much more intense than either
of us thought it would be,” remembers Hoerner of that first
session. “And we were pretty confident. We thought that Willie
would quit the Foo Fighters to do it. And then, miraculously,
Willie got screwed over by Dave Grohl, and had to quit. But Nate
couldn’t walk away. We waited for him forever. It became the theme
of our lives — waiting for Nate. It came down to the wire, and we
were like, you’ve got to quit by this date. And he did, but then
the next day he called and said, the anxiety is too great. I gotta
stay where I know that I’m going to get paid. I don’t think he
understood that Sunny Day, musically and financially, was gonna be
something big.”

Attend a Sunny Day show, and you have to question Mendel’s
decision. SDRE’s emotionally charged and powerful performances are
sold out and packed with adoring fans who know all the words to
Enigk’s wounded lyrics. They rock along with Hoerner’s soaring and
crashing guitars, and bob their heads to Goldsmith’s stop-start,
furious percussion. Their fierce fragility is felt in every
volatile chord.

In its first week in record stores, How It Feels to Be
Something On
sold 11,000 copies. “I don’t know what happened
— we broke up, and we got about ten times bigger than we were
before,” Hoerner gushes. For a band that previously refused to do
interviews and perform in the state of California (which is home to
one-fifth of the nation’s population), their spot at No. 132 on the
Billboard chart was a thrilling surprise. Even with the
departure of their second bassist, Jeff Palmer (he
was replaced this week with former Posie Joe Bass
for the remainder of the tour), SDRE’s momentum shows no sign of
waning.

Sunny Day have proven that damaged goods are a prized
commodity.

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