INTERVIEW- Craft warning: Enigk's new sunny days
Legend has it he's the man who invented emo. Does that give us cause for a sarcastic joke? Sure. But hey, what have you done with your lifetime?
In the mid 1990's, Jeremy Enigk was only 20 when the debut of his band, Sunny Day Real Estate, met with substantial critical acclaim as one of the most promising young acts on Sub Pop. That's the influential Oregon-based record label that almost singlehandedly sculpted grunge-era modern rock from the likes of Nirvana, Green River, Soundgarden, and Sonic Youth.
Then, in the grand tradition of Cat Stevens, MC Hammer, and Mase, Enigk found God and ditched his music career. In an open letter, Enigk explained that he had developed more ambitious goals than his bandmates would tolerate. When Zack de la Rocha drop-kicked Rage Against The Machine into the Sony/BMG archives in late 2000 for similar (albeit secular) reasons, the rock world felt like throwing up; Sunny Day had to lie dormant for several years and then announce a reunion to get any attention.
Public interest was rekindled by Dave Grohl's post-Nirvana rebound with the Foo Fighters, the first incarnation of which swiped the Sunny Day rhythm section outright. Attempts to reclaim it for the reunion were only partially successful. Drummer William Goldsmith returned, but bassist Nate Mendel did not. Nevertheless, Sunny Day Real Estate reconvened as best they could for two more albums before imploding once again.
But in spite of their aptitude for turbulence, Sunny Day's last two albums proved to be as influential as the first batch, informing a wave of new millennium rockers.
The Hook: Let's get right to it– what do you think of emo?
Jeremy Enigk: You know, I never really feel like a part of that scene. It's always a flattering thing if someone says that you're a part of creating a whole genre.
The Hook: Do you like any of those bands?
Jeremy Enigk: Not really. It's all the same thing: quiet, and then really loud. That's the only similarity with Sunny Day, and we really did that on only one record.
The Hook: Even if it's not totally accurate, does it feel like an accomplishment at all?
Jeremy Enigk: I don't know, because I don't know that we created anything but the music we made. And that's the accomplishment, making a record and people liking what we did. As I said, it's flattering to be considered the creator of a genre, but I'm not sure we did.
The Hook: The Fire Theft is 3/4 of Sunny Day. Do you really feel like it has a completely different identity?
Jeremy Enigk: Sunny Day always evolved. None of our albums sound the same, and Sunny Day would have evolved into the Fire Theft– kicking Dan out of the equation, though. He was a very crucial part of Sunny Day. He wrote about half the songs. But it's still three of the original members, so it's going to be similar.
The Hook: Your solo albums seem way more mature than Sunny Day ever did. Why?
Jeremy Enigk: Josh Myers is extremely clean as a producer. That gloss had a lot to do with that. And also just time– I've become a more mature writer, I've gotten better at it. With Sunny Day, it was all about letting out that energy of a teenager, of a young man. It was more punk rock, whereas this is more produced.
The Hook: So which is more important, the craft or the passion?
Jeremy Enigk: If I have to answer either/or– passion. Of course.
The Hook: Do you feel like you've been veering more toward craft lately?
Jeremy Enigk: I did the best I could then, and I'm doing the best I can now. It's not just spewing it out like I was in the beginning.
The Hook: So Sunny Day was spewing?
Jeremy Enigk: Diary was definitely an emotional explosion. And How It Feels To Be Something On, the later it got, the more it became what you call craft.
The Hook: Your music is definitely more serene now. Is that because you feel emotionally calmer?
Jeremy Enigk: Yeah. You start out with a bunch of baggage, and the older you get, the more it's about taking off the baggage. I was a stressed kid back then, and certainly my mindset affects the music.
The Hook: Do you ever regret killing Sunny Day?
Jeremy Enigk: No. I can't regret what I feel was right. But I do realize the power of that band.
The Hook: But there was a reunion. Doesn't that mean there's still a spark?
Jeremy Enigk: I just didn't learn the first time, did I?
The Hook: Do you ever wish you hadn't gone public with your reasons for ending it?
Jeremy Enigk: No. I was inspired and passionate. I can't look back and regret that.
The Hook: How do you feel about overtly Christian music?
Jeremy Enigk: I don't particularly like to listen to the Christian stations. I have a tendency, when I think about God, to ask the bigger questions instead of just praising. Praising is great, but I think it's important for anybody– especially if they consider themselves Christian– to question the church and the rituals.
The Hook: Could you ever see yourself making it?
Jeremy Enigk: I write about the topics that are on my mind, whether it be love with a woman or being thankful for my life– I just write about what I'm feeling. If one day I really want to write in that box of Christian music, then perhaps I'll do it.
The Hook: But isn't that why you disbanded Sunny Day Real Estate?
Jeremy Enigk: I didn't want to be a Christian band, by any means, but I wanted to have lyrics that at times talked about those subjects. That made some of the guys uncomfortable.
The Hook: Who do you think does that well? Creed, maybe?
Jeremy Enigk: U2. Bono's lyrics. He's not afraid to be honest about what he's feeling. It's music about poverty, it's music about love for a woman and genuine feelings with God. I don't know this for sure, but I heard that "With Or Without You" is not a song about a woman, it's about God. I love that honesty. A lot of Christians would never say, "I can't deal with the concept of God," because that's wrong, that's bad, nobody would ever get caught thinking it– if they did, it's a sin.
The Hook: So what are the most important Big Questions?
Jeremy Enigk: The idea of one prophet being the only way to heaven, that there's only one way. Would a good father let his children enter by one door if they were out in the cold? I don't think so. Good fathers and mothers would let their child come in the window, or the back door.
Cursive, Jeremy Enigk, and The Cops play the Satellite Ballroom Thursday, November 16. $15, 8pm.