JIMMY EAT WORLD The X-Press Interview

Jimmy Eat World have been wowing audiences for 27 years and are heading down under for a headline show on Monday, March 16 at Metropolis Fremantle, safely supported by Gyroscope. Bringing their 10th studio album Survivor with them, KAREN LOWE spoke to frontman Jim Adkins about that record released in October last year, a special bushfire fundraising t-shirt, and of course, classic 2001 album Bleed American.

You guys are about to head out on tour to Australia for Download Festival and three headline tours. Where are you looking forward to playing the most?

I like playing anywhere that we have a show. What I try to do is wipe my mind clean from the day and my expectations of what the show might be like. I try to walk on stage and let it unfold so the experience has the chance to be newly informed and happens as it happens.

I don’t really prefer a crazy big show or a smaller club show. It’s just all good. One thing that is different though is when a crowd gets too big… I mean, there’s no such thing as too big but at a certain level like 6,000 people or more, the crowd takes on a persona. You’re not playing for individual people. You’re playing for the giant robot head at the end of this Matrix-like giant entity. It’s sort of a trip.

And what are some of your favourite memories of Australia?

I had a birthday in Australia which was really great. I walked Scarborough Beach by myself for the day which was amazing.

Being on tour can be tough on mental health and general wellbeing. How do you guys go with touring and do you have any strategies to keep each other’s spirits up?

That’s a good question. We try to keep each other’s spirits up by continually looking for experience; continually looking for something fun to do. We take our work seriously and we take the opportunity to let anybody who wants to hear what we have to say seriously but we don’t take ourselves seriously. We just try to keep things fun.

At the end of the day, you’re putting a lot of time into this and a lot of effort into it. To do this right, to do it well, there’s only one way I know how to do it and that’s all in. That means you are making sacrifices in other areas of your life so it better be rewarding in some way, otherwise why do it?

You released your 10th studio album, Surviving, late last year. Do you find the recording process easier these days having had a bit of experience under your belt?

We worked with Justin Meldal-Johnsen who produced our last album Integrity Blues and we approached it somewhat differently. The songs themselves – the ideas that we had that we wanted to record – were way more of a band performance. Sometimes we go into the studio and it’s like ok there are no rules. NO RULES. Let’s just do whatever! Like this song – the beef of it is going to be cut-up samples of stuff but this time it was more of a closer, tighter band performance.

For that, we did it a little bit in Los Angeles but for the most part, it was out of our own studio in Arizona. It just felt a little more relaxed, (with) less overthinking. There are fewer options really. When you’re paying for a really nice commercial studio to record, there’s a little bit like, “oh man we gotta use all this stuff.” We’re paying for it so we gotta make sure we are getting the best thing and when you have an idea,  you’ll explore different ways that that idea can happen.

Ninety percent of the time, what happens is you just go into a gigantic circle and you end up someplace not that far from where your initial instinct was, so working at home is like here’s an idea; here’s how I think it should sound; hey that sounds pretty good. Cool! Next thing.

You guys have been together now for 27 years. What have been some of the biggest changes that you have seen within the industry and do you think those changes have helped bands today or created issues?

It’s a little bit of both. There’s definitely pluses and negatives to the ways the industry has changed over the years. We’ve had a crazy ride. The internet existed when we started the band but it wasn’t the internet. Mobile phones were for rich people. Like… genuinely rich people! Not just upper-middle class but you had to be loaded to have a phone and you were probably an idiot too. You were like Christian Bale in American Psycho. That’s the kind of people that had phones.

Fast forward to now, if you have a musical idea, you can get pretty close to hearing what it might sound like with your phone. And with your phone, you can be your own international distributor for your idea. I walk around with a library of congress in my pocket basically.

Bleed American touched the hearts of so many fans around the world when it was first released and still holds a very special place 19 years later. What does this album mean to you all these years later?

I was listening to Bleed American today actually. We’re trying to learn some of the more mellow songs from that record again because it’s been a while since we played all of it and yeah I’m still so proud of it!

I feel like it really captured the essence of us as a band. I think the new album Surviving also gets really close to that too – just the essence of who we are as a band. At our heart, we are a guitar-based rock band and Bleed American is predominantly focused on that type of song.

Many musicians around the world have rallied around Australia during the bushfire crisis and you guys are also doing your part with special tour t-shirts where the proceeds will be donated to those in need. What were your thoughts when you first heard about the fires? 

We’ve had communities around Arizona that have been destroyed by fires too. Not to the extent that Australia’s experiencing but we’ve seen the heartbreak and the devastation and the lives ruined that happened from that and we just want to help out however we can.

What have been some of your biggest challenges and how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge has probably been the most fundamental one of just being comfortable in your own skin and how you work every day at finding that life balance where your energy is focused on the right target instead of spending all your energy on the wrong target.

What local Arizona bands are you listening to right now?

There’s a lot of people doing really good work here. We have the same complaints as anywhere. There are lots of people doing great stuff but it’s hard to rally enough critical support to break out. It happens sometimes though. The dudes in The Format are friends of mine and they’ve decided they are going to play more shows. Those guys are great.

It’s really supportive here. There’s no petty competition and everybody tries to help everyone else. It’s a great place.

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