Enigk, Jeremy

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Jeremy Enigk

Singer, guitarist, songwriter

Jeremy Enigk is the former singer for the influential Seattle band Sunny Day Real Estate, with its blend of angst-ridden hardcore juxtaposed with passionate emotional lyrics. As their lead singer and spokesperson, Enigk was often admired as one of the godfathers of emo music and has become an underground, modern-day music hero. With impact of Sunny Day, the formation of spinoff group The Fire Theft, and two acclaimed solo albums, Enigk has released a steady stream of albums since 1994. The devout Christian, who admires bands like U2 as well as the punk greats, may have never made the kind of money his heroes have, but to the fans who look up to him, he has achieved greatness.

Enigk grew up in Everett, Washington, and when he was 15 his family relocated to the Seattle suburb of Redmond. In 1992 singer Enigk, guitarist and singer Dan Hoerner, bassist Nate Mendel (who later joined the Foo Fighters) and drummer William Goldsmith formed the band Sunny Day Real Estate in Seattle. Enigk quit high school to devote himself to the band, and the groundbreaking group signed a deal with famed Seattle label Sub Pop, who had created a buzz with Nirvana and the grunge explosion of the 1990s. In 1992 Sunny Day introduced their first album, Diary, to critical acclaim. The quartet's exciting new sound was often dubbed emo, and the band came to be considered one of the genre's seminal groups. The new style of emo had it roots in hardcore punk, but in the mid-to-late 1990s musicians began to take the essence of punk and add more emotional lyrics/vocals, intricate guitar work and intense dynamic changes.

With their sizzling debut, Sunny Day were just beginning to ride a wave of popularity when they released LP2 (often referred to as "The Pink Album") in 1995. Around the same time, Enigk sent an e-mail to his friends to announce his conversion to Christianity. And shortly after Enigk's declaration, for unknown reasons, Sunny Day broke up. Enigk, however, quickly emerged the next year with Return of the Froq Queen, an elegant solo album. Pitchfork Media's Ryan Schreiber described the recording as "a stunning solo record that stabs your Stratocaster in the heart and marks its territory with beautiful acoustic and strings harmonies. … the wonderful sound of unforgettable Beatles-meets-Bowie pop melodies." Enigk told Noel Murray on the A.V.Club website, "My music is music that Christians and Catholics can listen to. Muslims. Buddhists. And non-religious people as well," He added, "It's just music. … It's music for everybody."

In a surprise move, Sunny Day Real Estate reunited in 1998 (without Mendel) for the release and tour for a newly recorded album, How it Feels to Be Something On. Two years later the group signed a deal with Time Bomb Recordings to release The Rising Tide. While Time Bomb was an independent label, it was distributed by Sony/BMG, and Sunny Day soon felt the strain of the major label machine, and by 2001 the group had again disbanded. "I felt that we started to go through the motions. Our hearts weren't there," Enigk confessed to Murray about the group's second break up. "It became more about selling records than about writing and being passionate. That's why I ultimately lost interest. I don't want to speak for everybody, but I personally started to lose interest because we were doing it for the wrong reasons. It became monotony and it just wasn't fun anymore."

Following a much needed two-year break, Enigk returned to his solo work and penned several songs for the score to the Don Cheadle and Kevin Spacey film The United States of Leland. While the guitarist attempted to focus strictly on his solo material, it seemed that not everything with Sunny Day had been laid to rest. In 2003 Enigk joined his former Sunny Day cohorts Goldsmith and Mendel and rechristened the trio as The Fire Theft. The group released their self-titled debut for Rykodisc. Entertainment Weekly wrote that the album "moves easily between delicate pop miniatures and grandiose rock epics, all played with more focus than Sunny Day's oft-hazy efforts." Enigk had thought about making another solo album; but it took time to develop. "I just had other priorities and obligations with the bands I've been a part of," he explained to Murray. "The next thing I knew it's 10 years later, and I still hadn't made another solo record."

A decade after Return of the Frog Queen, at the age of 32, Enigk released his anticipated sophomore solo record, World Waits. Finished with bowing to record label heads, Enigk formed his own label, Hollow Records, to put out his album. Co-produced with Josh Myers, Enigk enlisted musicians Nick Marci (bass), Greg Saran (guitar) and Kaanan Tupper (drums) to enrich the sound of World Waits. "A distant cousin to Frog Queen's pocket chamber folk, the new album takes the prog leanings of later Sunny Day and Fire Theft and rolls them out with cinematic abandon," wrote Illinois Entertainer's Steve Forstneger. The album was a long time in the making; some songs dated back to his 1996 debut. Enigk, who descries himself as a perfectionist, took his time in the studio. "I want it to be absolutely right. I take my time in the studio to make sure," he admitted to Forstneger. "If I don't feel inspired at all, I won't work that day. It's really waiting for the music to speak." In an interview with Arizona Daily Wildcat's Davida Larson, Enigk clarified that the title of the album came from a song on the record. "It's about how there is so much negative energy in the world, and how … no one really comes together to change it, including myself. It breaks my heart that people are so blind." As someone who went through the best and worst of times with his iconic band while staying completely faithful to his religion, Enigk succinctly described World Waits as a, "spiritual journey, trying to find hope in life and trying to keep your head above water. Growing and learning and changing."

Selected discography

(With Sunny Day Real Estate) Diary, Sub Pop, 1994.

(With Sunny Day Real Estate) LP2, Sub Pop, 1995.

Return of the Frog Queen, Sub Pop, 1996.

(With Sunny Day Real Estate) How It Feels to Be Something On, Sub Pop, 1998.

(With Sunny Day Real Estate) Live, Sub Pop, 1999.

(With Sunny Day Real Estate) The Rising Tide, Time Bomb Recordings/BMG, 2000.

(With The Fire Theft) The Fire Theft, Rykodisc, 2003.

World Waits, Lewis Hollow Records/Reincarnate, 2006.

For the Record …

Born c. 1974.

Joined seminal rock outfit Sunny Day Real Estate, 1992; signed with Sub Pop, released Diary, 1994; group disbanded; released solo debut Return of the Frog Queen, Sub Pop, 1996; reunited with Sunny Day Real Estate, released How It Feels to Be Something, 1998; Live, 1999; The Rising Tide, 2000; group disbanded, 2001; formed The Fire Theft, 2003; released The Fire Theft, Rykodisc, 2003; released sophomore solo album World Waits, Lewis Hollow Recordings, 2006.

Addresses: Website—Lewis Hollow Recordings Official Website: http://www.lewishollow.com; Website—Jeremy Enigk Official Website: http://www.myspace.com/jeremyenigk.



Arizona Daily Wildcat, October 26, 2006.

Entertainment Weekly, October 10, 2003.


Illinois Entertainer,http://illinoisentertainer.com/2006/11/30/jeremy-enigk-interview/ (February 5, 2007).

"Jeremy Enigk," A.V.Club,http://www.avclub.com/content/node/56407/print/ (February 5, 2007).

Jeremy Enigk Official Website, http://www.myspace.com/jeremyenigk (February 5, 2007).

"Return of the Frog Queen," Pitchfork Media,http://www.pitchforkmedia.com (February 5, 2007).

"Sunny Day Real Estate," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (February 5, 2007).