“We are these geeks who have developed our own language,” says Dan Hoerner, guitarist of the recently reunited Sunny Day Real Estate, as he attempts to explain the seemingly nonsensical lyrics and song titles on the recently reissued LP2. “There’s a lexicon to our weird reality.”
The seminal emo band Hoerner co-founded in 1992 is both of these things in 2009: reunited and reissued, with their first two albums, Diary and LP2 receiving the deluxe packaging and bonus tracks treatment from Sup Pop, yet even dedicated listeners will still have trouble grasping a base understanding of the complicated relationship between these four musicians.
SDRE broke up for the first time only a little over three years after coming together. They recorded the aforementioned albums, grew tired and disbanded, with bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith joining Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters. The band reunited for in 1997, for the first time playing without Mendel—he continued with the Foo Fighters even after Goldsmith jumped ship back to SDRE. The band wrote and recorded its third album, How It Feels to Be Something On, replacing Mendel with Jeff Palmer before replacing him with another bassist, Joe Skyward. This new addition didn’t stick either, though: the group called it quits again after recording the follow-up to How It Feels.
Hoerner, however, explains that even after their most recent hiatus, one dating back to 2000, they fell back on old habits quite quickly.
“We have a lot of made-up words that we use with each other,” Hoerner says with a laugh. “We hadn’t seen each other in years and we starting speaking in that language again.”
If anyone is to be held responsible for this reunion, however, it isn’t Hoerner or Goldsmith or even lead singer Jeremy Enigk; it’s the band member with the most high profile post-SDRE music career, Mendel, who still plays in Foo Fighters.
“Nate brought this about,” explains Hoerner. “We were waiting for him to have the time and inclination and for the stars to align. He called out of the blue. If you want to blame one guy, it’s him.”
Fans of SDRE certainly aren’t holding Nate or the rest of the band at fault for the upcoming reunion shows, which will be awash with songs from the first two records, the only two in which all four original band members played on, as Mendel continued with Foo Fighters full time after the first break up immediately following the recording sessions for LP2.
“Because it’s the four original guys, we focused on everything on Diary, minus a few things that didn’t work,” Hoerner discloses when I nervously ask him whether this tour is going to be heavy on later-period SDRE. “Also we worked on everything on LP2 and some stuff off How It Feels to Be Something On and The Rising Tide. The later stuff sounds sick with Nate,” he continues, not offended that I come off as a typical “their early stuff was better” fan.
It’s hard to believe that the band would want to pick the pieces back up after the disaster of their last record, 2000’s The Rising Tide, when their record label, Time Bomb, literally imploded within weeks of the album’s release, leaving the band with no money for promotion, videos or even to tour.
“We were so careful,” explains Hoerner, “we looked at hundreds of labels. We wanted to stay independent, and it turned out that Time Bomb was a shell of a company.”
When I ask Hoerner about the debilitating effect that this kind of disappointment can have on a band, he responds with an analogy.
“Imagine you spent nine months writing a book,” he says. “You turn it into the publisher, and you feel like it is one of the greatest books ever. The next day, they call you and say ‘we burned your book.’ It crushed us. At that point we had to step away and do other stuff.”
Nevertheless, the band is excited about the Sup Pop re-releases and the opportunity to play their old songs in front of new audiences, especially the New York crowd.
“There’s way more passion in New York than in anywhere else,” says Hoerner, excitedly. “ I want to give New York the ultimate show. I’m nervous about that.”
Additionally, Hoerner doesn’t rule out the possibility of newly recorded SDRE material being released subsequent to this reunion tour.
“Right now, the mandate is to get ready for the tour. That’s the main focus,” he explains. “That being said, it’s kind of impossible for us to play without creating new music. I don’t know if it will get recorded. I would love for that to happen; it would be a dream come true.”
And with that, Hoerner speaks for both himself and for the thousands of fans that bought tickets to the upcoming sold-out shows, many of them hoping that their 2000 breakup was the last one—at least for a while.