Jeremy Enigk of Sunny Day Real Estate


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I was excited to get totalk to lead singer Jeremy Enigk of Sunny Day Real Estate. Their album How ItFeels To Be Something On (Sub Pop) has been worn out on my CD player. They recentlyplayed my hometown, San Francisco, and we loved the show. And there was allthe controversy that had been stirred up over his religious beliefs. We startedthe interview with me raving about my favorite song on the album, "Rosesin Water," and asking about the inspiration the late Pakistani singer NusratFateh Ali Khan was to the album.
How didyou get into Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan?
Basically through Dan, theguitarist. Dan was just turned on to him, I don't know how, but he justtold me to go and pick up a coupleof albums?and I was blown away. Ever since then I've listened to itcontinuously.
How doyou write your songs?
Hmmm? Well, Dan andI sit down a lot and basically write the skeleton of the song, the basic idea,and after that structure is written and a lot of the vocals, then we'lltake it to the band?to Willie, and Jeff at the time; we have a new bassist,but at the time it was Jeff. What happenedto that guy? He was a member of Porch, on Alternative Tentacles, and my friendsshared a practice space with them. Jeff didn't work out.Unfortunately. He was a great bass player, you know, it's just he kindof wanted a lot more than we had to offer. I think he thought we were at a pointthat we weren't really at.
Do youwant to be a rock star?
I think he had a more businessoutlook on the band where we were a little more spiritual, a little bit moreabout the music end. And he wanted a lot more money than we were even getting.And we really aren't at that point now that we make a lot of money. Andthat affected the relationship. It sucked. Then it just kind of got sour andit wasn't worth doing any more. Even for him. So?
You don'thave a day job, do you?

No? I've gottenby so far. There's definitely been months where I've scraped by. Imake a good enough living and I'm happy. That's the most importantthing. I do pretty well, but I'm not loaded.


Whatdo you do when you're not on tour?


Play music and video games.(laughter)


Someof the Seattle bands are now really rich. Do you ever wish you guys made buckslike other bands have?
Yeah, sure, we definitelywant to make money, we want to live comfortably. But I think it's somethingthat will come over time. It's not...that we're going to sacrificeany of our creativity or beliefs for money, you know, or integrity for money.But yeah, we totally want money. Are youfriends with Pearl Jam or any of those folks? No, I really don'tknow anybody from Seattle except for Sunny Day Real Estate?my band?anda handful of friends that aren't even in bands, some are in bands but notin huge bands. I've never really met anybody.
Yourband never really got into the scene?
No, no we haven't.I don't know if the bands like Pearl Jam or Nirvana hooked up in the past...We do our thing. We have our practices and we have our lives. We don'treally go out on the scene or on the town a lot. I definitely don't reallygo to any shows. Plus, we haven't really made it to a point where we mightmeet those people. William has actually hung out with Eddie Vedder, and he touredwith them. He was in Foo Fighters.
Your SanFrancisco show was great. We were raving like. Everyone talked about how realyou guys were and how genuinely touched by the audience you seemed. How comeyou didn't want to come to California for so long? It's really a mystery.
It was just kind of Dan'sidea. He had reasons not to want to go to California. I don't think theywere really intense reasons. He never really told us, he just never wanted togo.
You justwent along with it?
If a member doesn'twant to go and really makes a point of that and he wouldn't go if we wentanyway, we had no choice. And it was fine. Over time it kind of became a coolkind of thing, after accepting that we weren't going to California. "Yeah,this is kind of cool, anyway." I mean, why would a band not playCalifornia? It's one of the biggest places you should play, if you'rea band and want exposure. So we caught that kind of frame of mind eventually,like a "Wow! We don't have to play it," frame of mind. But thenover time Dan let down his belief that he didn't want to go to California.He said it was just, "Hey, it's no big deal, it's just something I felt years ago, let's bring music to the fans there," because ourrecords have sold in California more than any other place, aside from the Northwest,than Seattle. Lots of our fans are in California, so it's a good thingto play there.
You haven'tdone a lot of interviews for this record, I guess.
Naw, I feel like I'vedone quite a few. I mean, there were two that the band did that I just didn'tfeel like doing, for whatever reason? I don't want to burn out peoplein the band. I don't want it to get old. We used to not do interviews atall?we'd just do one interview until we all got back together. We'vepretty much done every one we've been offered. I mean there's fourguys. If Dan doesn't do one, I'll do it. If I don't do it, Willieor Dan will do it.
Religiousquestions are going to come up. Do you get tired of having to deal with that?

No, not at all. I do whenpeople expect or judge me because of it. I've been judged, my personalityhas been judged, because of the choice that I made, when I became a Christian,and made that clear to whoever cared to listen. I can get tired of that?peoplethat think I'm a certain way because I believe something. So when they'reinterviewing you, they're kind of like? I never get flack from interviewers.I mean interviewers are very respectful. It's more like when I'm playinga show and fans or just random people will come up to me and want to have someethical, spiritual battle. They believe in a totally opposite thing. I'mnot here to fight. I just believe what I believe, I don't know why, it'sjust where I'm at in my life. But I never really get anything from interviewers.
When did you get intosinging? When did you realize you could sing? Well, I've always sangsince I can remember. When I was in grade school I was given one of those teststhat say what do you want to do when you grow up and I wrote singer or astronaut.Two totally opposite things. So I always kind of wanted to do it. I don'tknow why I wanted to do it. I didn't really want to do it bad until I was13. I was in a band with some friends who were in a band, and I had a friendwho played bass and that made me want to learn how to play a guitar. The guitaristwas the genius of the band and he wrote all the music and I just sang the vocals.At times I would get frustrated with him because I had guitar ideas that hetotally couldn't figure out. So I picked up a guitar myself so I couldhave something to sing along with.
Did youstudy, or did you just pick it up?
I just picked it up. I hada chord book that my cousin had. He let me borrow his guitar and I let him borrowmy skateboard. He gave me a chord book, and I just started figuring out U2 songs?andREM songs?which made it a lot easier to learn how to write a song. In someways it was like studying, but it wasn't schooled.
So younever really injured your throat or anything?
Yeah, definitely...it'schanged a lot. I'm a smoker. I quit smoking to help my voice, but whatended up happening was, I destroyed it because my voice was used to that nicotinebuildup, and my voice would go over that nicotine. It was almost like a protectingthroat-coat. After I quit, all that stuff was getting broken up and gettingout of my system. And so it sounded like my voice was going into little crevassesthat weren't there before, that were filled with nicotine or whatever.It was kind of gross. So I totally lost my voice... I could talk, but I couldn'thold a note. I did that for about five months and it didn't really improvethat much. And I started smoking again and my voice got a lot better. It'spretty good now, but it would be better if I could wait for like two years andlet it build up its strength again.
Hearda rumor that ya'll signed to Virgin.

No, we haven't signedwith Virgin.


So you'renot with a major label now?
No, we're without alabel right now.
Whathappened to Sub Pop?
Well, we basically fulfilledour contract with them, which was three albums. HowIt Feels To BeSomething On was our last album on the label. Now we're just lookingfor other labels.
Are younervous about that?

No.


Are yougoing to go to Virgin?
I don't know. We'redefinitely stoked on Virgin, but there are other labels to look at. When wesigned with Sub Pop, we were young and excited about Sub Pop, but we reallydidn't know anything about contracts, so we just signed. Just a weird deal?withoutreally knowing what we were getting ourselves into. I think if we waited a littlelonger we could have gotten a better deal. We were a new band. At the time therewere a lot of labels that were interested in us. And we could have gotten abetter deal and a better signing bonus. We really didn't havea lot of money to record with on Sub Pop. We pulled it off, and we did a goodjob... Don't get me wrong.Sub Pop has always been good about helping us out whenever we needed it. I meanI'm not going off on Sub Pop. At the time we just weren't really known.And Sub Pop was investing in an unknown band, too. If we had been huge I thinkSub Pop would have given us a better deal, but they were taking a risk themselves.
There werea lot of other labels willing to take that risk.
Yeah, but Sub Pop was thefirst in the door, the first that approached us. Then all the other labels came.But I was stoked because Sub Pop got us to a point. They got us to a point thatmade us into a bigger name. We're not huge; we're not big, but peopleknow who we are; but our records are just not out there.
So aboutthe Christian thing?
My grandfather was a prettywell-known preacher, had a radio show. When I lived with him it was very strict.Read the Bible. Memorized the Bible. I street-preached. But he was also intobeatin's and all kinds of things, in the name of Our Lord. I guess in everyreligion there's the pure message of it and there's ways it kind ofgets subverted. People turn it into their own thing. I guess when you'rea public person, and you have a message, say, making it known that you'rea Christian...that brings it out for discussion.When I heardyou were a Christian my first reaction was, "Oh, no!" But then I readsome interviews and I understood where you were coming from a little better.What do you think about some of those Christian bands like Jars of Clay? I don't know if I believein labeling yourself a Christian band. I just know that for myself I don'twant to label myself secular or non-secular because the truth is that God gaveme the choice to sing about whatever I want to sing about, whether it'sabout himself, or myself, pain, love, the beautiful world of nature, whatever.And I think I have the choice, and I think I have good taste as to what I'mto sing about. Plus I've got three other band members who don't believeas strongly as I believe. Whatdoes it mean to you to be a Christian? For me, personally, it'sto believe in the Bible.
Literally?
Sure. I mean, totally believingthe Christ. I mean a Christian is basically a follower of Christ. That'swhat the word means. And just basically believe that he was crucified, and hiswhole life was predicted and was fulfilled. Believing in him as being the Sonof God. And after reading the Bible for a period in my life, it freaked me out.I couldn't deny it. Not only did I believe it, but I want to believeit. There's good people everywhere, excellent people, people that probablyhave kinder hearts than me, but I'm Christian.
Do youthink, as a Christian, do you think it's enough just to say you are a Christian?Or do you have a goal of living some kind of principles?
I think regardless if Idecide to live in a certain principle or not, I still believe I'm goingto do the same thing. And I still believe that I'm going to be a certaintype of person. I believe I'm me regardless, and that I'm a humanbeing and that I basically sin, do wrong or do good, regardless of what I believein... When I'm lost I can be found. When I'm weary I can be rested.
You canturn to Jesus for strength.

Totally!
Doesit inspire you to connect to people in a more spiritual way? At times. At times that'sall I want to do. But then sometimes God is the last thing on my mind. Mostof the time God is the last thing on my mind. I'm in here in my flesh.I don't know if that's right or wrong. I just know that's theway I am. Some days I just wake up in the morning and I just don't wantto do it.
Don'twant to do??

I don't want to preachto the world? Not preach? I never want to preach. I just don'treally want to share. I think that's just my choice.
Do youthink that God put you in the band partially to spread his word? Totally. And I think it'sgonna be used just as it already has been.
So youhave to do it whether you want to or not?
Yeah, kind of. Well, yeah,totally. I think it's a higher part of myself. If I don't feellike doing it and if I wake up and I'm not thinking about God and an opportunitycomes to tell somebody about what I believe, and I fail to use it, I still believemy choices whether wrong or right are still being used. And people who aren'tChristians can convert people to Christianity, from what I've seen. Whatdo you mean? Just through situations.People who don't believe can be talking about God and talking to them youcan realize that you believe. Everybody's got a free mind and everybodyis led in their own way.
If aChristian label offered you guys to sign Sunny Day Real Estate, offering yousubstantial money and tours and all that, more than any other label was offering,would you guys take it?
We wouldn't take it.Because the guys in the band aren't Christian. Wouldyou want to if they were up for it? I don't think so. Idon't want to be put under a category that is already labeled. I mean,what's better [than] to go out into the world, as you are, and talk aboutwhat you believe in or what you don't believe in, or when you want to doit in the first place. And what better to do that rather than go into a place...,Yeah. Preach to a bunch of Christians who are freakin' probably not Christiansin the first place, whatever that means... I mean, people who live in the churchand they're kind of there socially, rather than truly believed in God.I've known people that have been in raised in church, and they hang outand go to church every Sunday, go to all the meetings, and they hang out withtheir friends that are Christians, but they've never tapped into it themselves.It's just where they are in their life, it's where they've beenset. How literallydo you take the Bible? Like, say, "Spare the rod, spoil the child,"or "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correctionshall drive it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15). And "Withhold not correctionfrom the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die"(Proverbs 23:13), which my grandfather used as reason to punish me. And everythingfrom homosexuality to whatever? What are your takes on that? Well, I don't know.The truth is that I do what I do and hope that God is stoked. I am not hereto, and this is true and right where I'm coming from, I'm not goingto judge anybody. I really don't know what is ultimately right or wrong,or what pisses God off or whatever...
I thinkit is important when someone in the public realm, like in a known band, makesa move like you have, declaring themselves Christian. Because when a fan is12, 13 or even 16, and those band members are heroes, and they hear you're Christian, and say they were wrestling with feelings of being gay or whatever:If they thought you condemned that?because there's enough condemnationof that in the world?it would be devastating. You do have a powerful pulpit.I guess my hope would be that your message would be one of inclusion, not exclusion.
What have you heard aboutthe message? Justyou talking about loving Christ. What if someone came to you and said, hey,I'm gay? Which has happened.
And howhave you reacted?
Well, I basically told thisperson that I'm not here to sit here and judge him. He's got his lifeand I've got mine. But he was like a person who was coming up to me andexpecting an argument, and expecting me to disagree with him, and he was preparedto say I'm not going to listen to anything you ever do anymore becauseyou are a Christian. And I was like, what? Who cares? Then don't.He judged me before I judged him.
You mustrun into that a lot.
I do, but? I just believeit, I just caught a freakin' vibe, a spiritual, uplifting thing that Icould not deny. I do not have the answers. God has the answers.
Do youthink this is kind of a test for you, like you're having to deal with trialsand tribulations, you're going to get this constantly, people like me...Do you think it's a test?
Or has a purpose. I don'tknow if it's a test. In some ways it could be something to remind me ofwhat I really believe. What I've experienced when I've really talkedto people I've disagreed with, and where I was lost before, and in disagreeingI'm realizing what they believe, it helps me realize, Wow, this is whatI believe, and it made me even stronger in that belief, 'cause I can'tdeny what I believe. I can't not believe what I believe. I can't takeit back if it was ever sowed into my heart. So ona day-to-day basis with the band I guess it just never comes up?or doesit? Yeah, it comes up, but it'sno longer a big ridiculous discussion where we're just stupid human beingswith these dangly arms and loose legs, where we're having these in-depthconversations about what's right and wrong. You're not going to getanywhere. People believe what they believe. It's more like we're friends,I hang out and I'll talk about my experiences, and God will come up a lotin what I talk about, or sometimes seldom, and they'll just accept it,just like, "Yeah, right on." How does God come up? Just like, "Hey, that'sfunny, I was just talking to God about that situation today, and it was kindof funny." And the guys will say, right on, that's great. Everybody'sgot their time, their own clock and schedule. So didyou try to bring them over? Yeah, I did, in the beginning?but?
Thatmust have pissed them off.
(laughter) It pissed themoff. It really affected our relationship. But the truth is I was wretched, butI was doing it out of complete love. That's one of the things? NewChristians are so on fire and find this joy in this new thing, joy and peace,just a total change of life, and revelations that they want to share with theirfriends, they want their friends to have this joy, to have this happiness, [somuch] that they'll really be overbearing about it.
How longago was this?
Three, four years ago. Whatwere you like prior to the revelation? I was the same guy I justdidn't have this explosive thing happen to me. Did youexperiment with drugs and stuff? Well, sure I did. I drank,and I got Cheeched, smoked pot and whatever? You gotwhat? Cheeched. Cheech and Chong.(laughter) And even when I became Christian I would get stoned.
So youstill get stoned?
No, I don't. But ifI did I wouldn't tell you. (laughter) But aside from that I was the sameguy and did the same things. It was a slow process. I started to change, andmy heart ultimately started to change. I started to realize my actions affectedpeople. I always believed, but I had questions. I had specific questions. Iwould get so specific that the questions were never going to be answered. Justreading the Bible or hearing the things you're talking about?all thisis pretty weird because the outlook on women is kind of weird in the Bible,never really being able to come up with a strong conclusion on that whole situation.But I had this experience that was aside from all that. It was on a higher level.I'm going back and forth here? I always had the belief. It just neededa little bit of water, a little bit of good soil to grow.
I read thatgroupies would be coming up to you wanting one thing and you'd be talkingto them about God? And I actually thought that was cool, because a lotof girls and boys when they go to shows, they want to give away their powerand a lot of rock stars totally take advantage. When the girls come to you andwant to be sexually fulfilled, you try to fill them with Christ. I would loveto see their faces.
That's awesome man,glad you're stoked. That's what happens. I don't do that anymore.That's all I wanted before, but I never? In the first place I'venever wanted that from anybody. If I ever was going to give myself to anyoneit was someone that I was in love with. I couldn't live using somebodylike that. And plus I don't want people to know me from what they hear. I'm a totally different person from what the music is. It's exactlylike you're saying, they don't know me, and they'd be giving themselves to somebody who just doesn't work? I don't want to do thatwith anybody. That's not where I'm coming from and I don't wantto do music for that. I don't want the 80s' freakin' sex drugsand rock 'n' roll. I don't believe in that. I come from a quiet,peaceful little area inside myself?who just wanted to hear pretty music.I don't want to freakin'? I don't like when people lookat me that way. They're not looking at me, they're looking like througha veil that they've put up. They're looking at a weird image thatthey've put up about me.
How doyou deal with it when a girl comes on to you sexually?
It doesn't happen often.I honestly don't get a lot of that. There's a lot more of youngergirls, they're just stoked. They just want to talk to me. I don'tget a lot of obvious sexual advances.
Do youever get letters or people who ask for guidance or what they should do?
Not really. Most peoplewrite that they love the stuff and when's the next stuff coming out.
Do youwrite back?
Yeah, once in a while, butI don't write back much any more. Why? I mean there's a lot of thingsto write. There's a lot of letters, number one. Number two, I end up writingthe same thing over and over. 'Cause it's mainly the same thing thepeople write. Not anything against fans, I'm one guy, against however many.That's just the way it goes. It's not cruel. It'sfunny how the media and folks will really sort of support rock stars doing thesex drugs rock 'n' roll scene, and you come out as a Christian andthere is sort of an anger, a belligerence that you're not toeing the rock'n' roll line. I guess if the rock star is living at the bottom ofthe cesspool people don't have to worry that they're gonna get judgedby the rock star. Someone should be strongenough in what they're doing to not be worried about that. I mean I wasstoked on U2 when I was younger, and I couldn't care less what they thought,'cause I knew I'd never meet 'em. Everybody should have theirown thing and be confident enough in themselves. I totally understand the wholeidolizing thing and I totally understand looking up to somebody. Like the gayfellow who came up to me, he had a set concept of what I was going to say andit affected his world. Totally changed his life, and he doesn't have todo that. He should just hang out and do whatever makes him happy. And I'm not saying whatever he's doing is right or wrong, but I'm not doingany better. I'm not doing any better. 'Cause I don't know. We'rejust this lump of skin.

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