Look out! Ghosts! Brian Tamborello

As Ian MacKaye recently noted, Maximum Rocknroll began calling his '80s band Embrace "emo" as a pejorative, but it was also humorously redundant, like say-ing "chai tea." Chai is tea; punk is never not emotional.

"Emocore" had been brewing in the early '90s Seattle music underground for a while when Sunny Day Real Estate arrived on the scene in 1993, forming from the ashes of hardcore bands Christ on a Crutch and Positive Greed. Guitarist Dan Hoerner, bassist Nate Mendel, and drummer William Goldsmith began playing together as a trio; while Mendel was away on tour, Goldsmith recruited his younger high-school friend Jeremy Enigk to sing and play guitar. Enigk's more melodic songwriting clicked, and when Mendel returned, Sunny Day Real Estate were born.

Their 1994 Sub Pop debut, Diary, added layers of subtle guitars and an overflow of melody to their hardcore influences. It was a pivotal, illuminating musical moment that would echo through the worlds of punk, indie, and pop. But between Diary and follow-up LP2 (aka The Pink Album), SDRE hit the wall: Enigk's mystical seeking became a born-again Christian belief system, clashing with the antiauthoritarian politics of his older bandmates; Enigk and Hoerner (who always collaborated on the words for their songs) weren't writing many lyrics for LP2; the band had called a total press blackout following a snubbing by surly punk scribe Everett True; and no one could be bothered to help Sub Pop work out the cover art.

Before the album was released, Enigk posted his resignation from the band and an explanation of his newfound spiritual convictions on the internet (a landmark early case of oversharing). Enigk went solo, Mendel and Goldsmith joined the Foo Fighters (Goldsmith quit after their first album), and Hoerner started a farm near Spokane. In 1998, SDRE re-formed without Mendel (who didn't want to leave his cushy FF gig at the time) to release two more albums, How It Feels to Be Something On and The Rising Tide. In 2003, Enigk, Goldsmith, and Mendel regrouped as the more experimental and expansive Fire Theft. This year marks the first time Sunny Day have re-formed with all original members.

Sunny Day Real Estate are more generous with the interviews these days. Enigk and Mendel spoke to The Stranger in between an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (playing their squall of triumphal melancholy "Seven") and a gig that night at the 9:30 Club in emocore birthplace Washington, D.C.

"When SDRE first started, the most obvious bands we loved in common were Fugazi and Shudder to Think," says Enigk. Enigk was also smitten with U2's The Joshua Tree, and "after that, I picked up their back catalog as fast as I could and loved all of it," he says. (A U2 devotion is something he shares with Hoerner.)

"I was finding myself disillusioned with that super-aggressive, political hardcore," says Mendel. "I was inspired by things coming out of Washington, D.C., the Dischord stuff. That was when people started to turn themselves away from politics and into their own heads: 'Let's make music that's passionate and means something and is authentic.'"

The SDRE reunion has a lot to do with passion, specifically Mendel's inflamed desire to put a band back together. But he wasn't necessarily thinking of Sunny Day at first.

"We'd kind of had a dress rehearsal with the Fire Theft," Mendel says. "But it was like, 'Oh, if we're going to do one band that's no longer in existence, why not do the other one? It might be more fun.'"

"I was definitely into doing the band again when Nate approached me," says Enigk. "I wasn't worried about the personal relationships at all. Contrary to the myths, we actually got along quite well, despite a few hiccups, which were the most interesting things [for the press] to write about."

The current tour, which began with a semi-secret show at Hell's Kitchen in Tacoma last month, ends in Seattle on October 16 at the Paramount. And if the reaction from fans at the shows is any indication, the Seattle show should be spectacular.

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"There's been a lot of love in the air at these shows," says Mendel. "It's been really remarkable and flattering and sweet." Enigk adds: "Looking at the crowd from the stage every night is mind-boggling. How did I get here? What a blessing!"

Musically, the band feel like they have their fire back, and they've already written new material. "After our rehearsals, I went home one night completely inspired and wrote the basic structure of a new song in 15 minutes," Enigk says. "The next day, I started playing it during practice, and the guys instantly wanted to work on their parts. Fifteen minutes later, we had a new song. We didn't intend to write any new music when rehearsing, it just happened. We still haven't come up with a title yet." recommended