Looking at an extended hiatus from The Foo Fighters, bassist Nate Mendel considered a couple of options. He considered playing again with The Fire Theft, a band he was in with vocalist/guitarist Jeremy Enigk and drummer William Goldsmith, or Sunny Day Real Estate, the acclaimed band he played in alongside Enigk, Goldsmith and guitarist Dan Hoerner in the mid-1990s.
The deal was, just a couple of years ago, any possibility of a Sunny Day Real Estate reunion was highly doubtful.
At that point, the band had already broken up twice, and certain relationships between band members seemed irreparable. "I think it was maybe a failure of imagination," Mendel says. "It didn't seem possible back then. It was not where anyone's heads were at."
Thankfully for longtime and new fans, all four were onboard with reuniting once again earlier this year. And what is extra special is that this marks the first reunion of the band with all four original members. When the band first re-formed in 1997, Mendel was very committed to playing in The Foo Fighters, making it impossible for him to play in both bands. So the band replaced him and ended up going through three different bassists by the time they called it quits again in 2001.
While Sunny Day put out two fine records without Mendel, How It Feels to Be Something On and The Rising Tide, Enigk, Goldsmith and Hoerner had to accept the fact that nobody could completely replace Mendel. Mendel was a founding member of the band, who, along with Hoerner, just started jamming in the basement of a yellow house in the University District of Seattle. After recruiting Goldsmith, they were later joined by Enigk on lead vocals. Soon after, the band wound up on Seattle's most visible label at the time, Sub Pop.
When Sunny Day Real Estate released its debut album, Diary, in 1994, the band was seen as a sad indie rock band. But after the band broke up the first time in 1995, bands like Christie Front Drive and Mineral cited Sunny Day as a major inspiration to their developing sound. And for lack of a better word, because the music wasn't hard like metal or fast like punk, people called it emo. By accident, Sunny Day became considered a pioneer of a genre with which it never wanted to be associated.
Now, all these years later, Sub Pop has reissued Diary and LP2 (also known as The Pink Album) with bonus tracks added in. Ask any Sunny Day completist: These tracks have been desired for a very long time.
"It's great to have them be a bit more available," Mendel says. Featuring tracks from their two 7-inches prior to Diary as well as an unreleased song recorded for a soundtrack, these songs were once thought to be on master tapes that were unsalvageable. Luckily, the tapes were salvageable—and, this time around, they made the cut.
What didn't make the cut, though, was an early attempt at Diary that was once thought to be great by the band members.
"We listened to it, and it was terrible," Mendel says now. "It was unlistenable. So that idea went out the window."
Now back on the road, the band's live set focuses more on the first two albums. But Mendel says he has no problem playing songs the band wrote when he wasn't performing with it.
"That's part of the band," he says. "There's a lot of good songs there."
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Plus, the members have a new song in development that they are playing live—although it remains to be seen if this will lead to a new album or just something more simple, like putting out the new songs as online downloads here and there.
"I think we'll try to figure out how we want to proceed based on all these new options that are available with putting out new music," Mendel says of the way the Internet has changed music distribution.
Those kinds of options are great, mostly because the band members are busy with other things in their lives. Hoerner has a large family, Mendel is still a Foo Fighter, Goldsmith is in a new band, and Enigk has a solo career.
So for now, Sunny Day Real Estate is back—but don't take this reunion for granted.