Quadrophenia mutates emo band
brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Thu May 27 05:55:43 CDT 2004
>From the Richmond Times-Dispatch at:
New name, tunes
Fire Theft blazes different musical trail for
BY PETE HUMES
May 27, 2004
"We needed a blank canvas."
That's the answer you get if you ask William Goldsmith
why he helped kill one of the most beloved bands in
As the drummer for Sunny Day Real Estate, Goldsmith
helped launch "emo," the genre famous for blending
edgy punk with heartfelt, emotional lyrics.
Back in the early'90s, Sunny Day Real Estate was a
teenage band in a booming Seattle music scene. But as
the city swelled during the heyday of grunge, the boys
found themselves shut out.
"We were outside of the whole grunge thing so it was
hard to get a show. All-ages shows were illegal back
then, so we really had nowhere to play," said
Sunny Day Real Estate persevered, cranked out a few
self-released EPs and then landed a deal with the
white-hot record label Sub Pop, which released the
band's full-length debut, "Diary."
An underground rock enigma was born. They refused to
do photo shoots. They snubbed interviews. But it
didn't seem to matter. "Diary" went on to become
Sub-Pop's second highest selling album ever (behind
Nirvana's debut, "Bleach").
For Sunny Day Real Estate, the next decade was a
roller coaster of breakups, reunions, rumors and
The biggest split occurred in 1995 when Goldsmith and
bassist Nate Mendel joined The Foo Fighters (Goldsmith
left The Foo Fighters after two years, but Mendel
still is their bass player). Around the same time,
singer Jeremy Enigk surprised the band (and fans) by
finding religion and making his spiritual conversion
public on the band's Web site.
The band released three more albums but never quite
became a household name.
A few years ago, Goldsmith said that he and Enigk were
ready to move forward with a slimmer lineup. Nate
Mendel returned (after a few years' absence) and was
ready to play. But all three decided that going
forward as Sunny Day without guitarist Dan Hoerner
So one night they killed Sunny Day Real Estate and
created The Fire Theft.
"It wasn't an easy move to make," said Goldsmith. "But
I don't lose sleep over it. I don't spend much time
dwelling on the past."
"Don't dwell on the past" seems to be the mantra for
The Fire Theft. All three consider the band a fresh
start, a new musical identity.
Die-hard Sunny Day fans should brace for
disappointment early. There are only Fire Theft songs
at a Fire Theft show. No surprises, no encores.
"The way I look at it, if we were going to play old
songs, why change the name?" said Goldsmith.
Part of the band's makeover was a move to Rykodisc.
The small but sturdy label gave them the support and
freedom they needed. "Our relationship with Rykodisc
is great. They won't drop us if we don't sell 75,000
the first time out," Goldsmith said.
"We want to make timeless and interesting music.
That's what's important," he added.
Their new sound is a definite departure from the
catchy falsetto and guitar-heavy pop songs of the
past. On their self-titled debut, The Fire Theft has
gone . . . grander.
"The classic rock aspects definitely shine through,"
To arena-sized influences like Pink Floyd, Led
Zeppelin and The Who, The Fire Theft adds the poignant
lyrics of Enigk. The result is great big music that
sounds miles away from their punk rock roots.
"With the evolution of the individuals comes the
evolution of the music," Goldsmith said. "Punk is all
about constantly being in denial that you were a
classic rock kid. But that's where my passion is
Perhaps the defining moment for the band came when
Goldsmith slipped a copy of The Who's "Quadrophenia"
under Enigk's door (the two were roommates until
recently). The singer was hooked.
What followed was an album of grandiose, orchestral
rock with shades of Yes, Jane's Addiction and the more
epic tendencies of The Beatles. The Fire Theft is
equal parts pomp and pop with a piano ballad thrown in
for good measure.
"With Sunny Day, every record was so completely
different," recalled Goldsmith.
He promised that each Fire Theft album will likewise
"We like not knowing where we're going musically," he
For Goldsmith, starting over as The Fire Theft means
less "internal adversity." It means a more focused
band because its members are "a little older and a
"Ultimately, we're just trying to document the lives
of human beings with music. As corny as that sounds,
it's the truth."
-Brian in Atlanta
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