Sunny Day Real Estate Biography
Last updated: 10/15/2007 12:00:00 PM
In 1992, Dan Hoerner (b. 5/13/1969) and Nate Mendel (b. 12/2/1968) lived in a house together. They would play for hours, Dan singing and playing guitar, Nate playing bass. One night at a club, Dan caught a glimpse of a band with an absolutely amazing drummer, named William Goldsmith (b. 7/4/1972). Dan convinced Will to join him and Nate, and the band began playing shows as Empty Set. The singer of the aforementioned band was Greg Williamson, who became their sound tech and manager.
After recording a demo as Empty Set, they found out another band had copyrighted that name. They changed their name to Chewbacca Kaboom, and recorded another demo, which, again, recieved little to no attention. They changed their name again, to One Day I Stopped Breathing, and then to the name that stuck, Sunny Day Real Estate. Several theories have developed as to where this name came from, such as it being a line from a Talking Heads song, another from a T.S. Eliot poem, but the most popular is that after a discussion that Dan and Nate had concerning how everything in the world is bought and sold, Nate made the comment that soon people would be trying to sell sunny days. The band recorded a 7" under this name with their own money on their own label, titled "Flatland Spider" with the b-side of "The Onlies," and released it in 1993.
During this time, Nate was playing in a band called Christ on a Crutch. The band was dissolving, but had commitments to play one last tour through Europe, so Nate joined them. During this time, Will ran into his old friend Jeremy Enigk (b. 7/16/1974), who he had played with in several hardcore bands during their high school years. They began talking about their lives and so forth, and eventually began to play music again. Jeremy began to sing for the group, who changed their name to Thief Steal Me a Peach during Nate's absence, while Dan switched to bass and Will drummed. Jeremy's larger than life falsetto soared high above the guitar wash, providing a more accessible listening experience to Dan's gruff, almost goth-like howls. This band wrote several songs, such as the now-classic "Seven."
When Nate returned from Europe, the group had a decision to make: return to the way they were before, as a tight-knit power trio, or take a risk and throw a fourth member into the mix. The band, with Jeremy, sat down and decided what to do. After practicing several times, they ended up writing "Song About an Angel," and any doubts were lost. This new group wrote at least nine songs, as evidenced by their late-1993 7" release "Thief Steal Me a Peach," which had "Song #8" and "Song #9" on it. This garnered the attention of the resurrected Sub Pop Records, who singed the band on the strength of the 7". The band was sent to Chicago to record their debut full-length for the label.
The album was recorded at Bad Animals by Brad Wood and M. Casey Rice, and had artwork made specifically for it by artist Chris Thompson. It was titled "Diary," and the band then hit the road to support the record in mid-to-late 1994. Around this time, they decided to maintain secrecy about themselves and their music, releasing only one photograph to the public and conducting only one interview; they also never played as a full band in the state of California.
A series of dates were lined up with the band supporting Shudder to Think from Washington, D.C., and Soul Coughing from New York, who were promoting their releases "Pony Express Record" and "Ruby Vroom" at the time. During this time, Sub Pop pressed copies of a split 7" with the band and Shudder to Think, with Sunny Day contributing an edit of "In Circles" and Shudder to Think adding "X-French Tee Shirt," which were sold exlusively on the tour.
During this time, the band was going through troubles that were not well documented at the time. Several stops throughout the tour had given the band bad experiences, internal tensions were flaming the group into overdrive through most of the tour, and when the band returned to Seattle, Jeremy had news for the rest of the band: He had gone through a profound religious experience (which is best described in his own words, in a letter to the fans). Naturally, Jeremy wanted to share this experience through his music and began writing the majority of the songs, which before had been a joint affair with Dan. Not all of the band was entirely in favor of this new direction. This combined with the already existing tensions left over from the last tour led the band to decide it would be best to split up.
The band decided they should fulfill their commitment to Sub Pop and their fans by recording their final album. The subsequenting self-titled album (dubbed LP2 by the fans) was mainly a collection of old songs and new. "Friday" had been featured on a single sent out to the Pushead fan club with the song "Spade and Parade" the b-side; Rodeo Jones was written during the "Diary" sessions; "J'nuh" had been written a few years before and was played live fairly often; and "8" was previously released as "Song #8" on the "Thief Steal Me a Peach" 7". After completion, Will was called about the artwork and said to just make it pink, although the public was told it had such little artwork for strictly environmental reasons. The album was released in November of 1995.
After the break-up, the band went their seperate ways. Dan got married and opened a farm called Coyote Canyon, and was rumored to have been offered a contract working at Atlantic Records, although as an employee or musician it has not been released. Jeremy began writing and composing solo material, and released an album entitled "Return of the Frog Queen," which was released by Sub Pop Records in 1996; he toured in support of the record with a nine piece orchestra, a third of what was used to record the album. Will and Nate joined Dave Grohl of Nirvana fame's new project, Foo Fighters, and, although they did not play on the album, toured with the band extensively and enjoyed the fame. Throughout this time, Jeremy and Dan had still been playing and writing.
In 1997, Sub Pop offered the band a chance to release a rarities compilation. Due to the lack of rarities available, the band was asked to write a few new songs for the record. Writing went well for the band. Writing went very well, even. Writing went so well that in the fall the band issued a one-sheet to Sub Pop, that proclaimed across the top in big, bold letters: SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE REUNITES. The band was prepared to write an entirely new album's worth of material and tour in support of it. However, some bad news was revealed with the good: Nate was going to stay with Foo Fighters; Will had previously left the band due to Dave Grohl's re-recording of his drum tracks on the group's sophomore effort, "The Colour and the Shape." Jeff Palmer, the bassist for The Mommyheads, was called in to record bass lines for the record.
The album, "How it Feels to be Something on," was produced in Seattle by Greg Williamson and released in 1998 to a Billboard 200 spot of #126, rave reviews, and sold out shows across the country with 764-HERO, who Will and Jeremy had played with before. The band also played in California, which they had never done before. The third show into the tour proved to be the last for bassist Jeff Palmer, who was kicked out due to personal tensions. Joe Skyward, AKA Joe Bass, who had played with bands such as Sky Cries Mary and The Posies, joined the band for the tour. The band toured again in the winter/spring of 1999 with MK Ultra and Heroic Doses. This was also the beginning of the end of the band's relationship with Sub Pop Records.
The band had always kept their feelings towards their label secret, but finally the situation got so bad that they made their distaste for the label vocal. The band wanted out of their contract, which specifically stated two new albums from the group. The band recorded a live record and video for release in the end of 1999, and then left Sub Pop. The band eventually signed with Time Bomb Recordings, after a brief mutual interest in Virgin fell through.
The next album was recorded on a high budget, and as a three piece, with Jeremy playing bass on the record. This new album, produced by Lou Giordiano in New York, was titled "The Rising Tide," and was released in the summer of 2000 to another round of positive reviews and a nationwide tour; it was also the first album by the band to chart in the Billboard 100, selling 15,000 copies in its first week and debuting at #97.