INTERVIEW: Jimmy Eat World

Published in The Music (WA, NSW, QLD, VIC) | 12.02.14 | Issue # 25



While most would find 20 years in a band an impressive accomplishment, Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins doesn’t believe aging warrants a celebration. He’s more concerned with what’s next and a new side project. Daniel Cribb auditions.

Ever since their debut self-titled record came out in 1995, Arizona pop punk legends Jimmy Eat World have made a name for themselves as a band that pumps out hit after hit. Eight albums in and frontman Jim Adkins still knows his way around a catchy riff or melody, as evident in last year’s Damage. For a man who’s constantly writing, it’s not surprising he can find inspiration in seemingly insignificant subject matter. “My mind was kind of blown there,” Adkins begins, from the band’s rehearsal space. “The hold music was old zydeco, which is not the first thing I think of when I think of Australian hold music. It was kind of bluesy, with a lot of accordion. I think that’s a pretty good band name – Australian Hold Music. That’s going to be my side project.”

On top of penning classic hits for Australian Hold Music, he’s also in the midst of jamming for the band’s appearance at Soundwave. The last time Jimmy Eat World played Soundwave was in 2010, when My Chemical Romance withdrew less than a month out from the tour, and they took their place. “When I’ve seen those dudes around, I’ve been like, ‘Man, I feel bad for whatever you guys were going through to cancel, but thank you very much for cancelling’,” he laughs. “The music world is a really strange community. You run into people all the time that you have the most wild connections to and it’s all the time.”

As far as Soundwave goes, they’ve toured with Green Day, are good friends with Rocket From The Crypt and AFI, and even stay in touch with Perth’s own Jebediah, with whom they released a split EP in 2000.

While the aforementioned bands have been around just as long, if not longer than Jimmy Eat World, and, according to Adkins, “ageing isn’t a choice, so in that regard, it doesn’t feel like so much of an accomplishment”. Apart from changing bass player in ’96, they’ve had the same line-up since playing their first show in February 1994.

“It was in the back of a warehouse of a used clothing store. I’m sure it was horrible,” he laughs. “We thought it went well, but I’m sure it was horrible. It was a big concrete warehouse with a crappy vocal PA and we were probably playing our amps way too loud. It was set up by someone who was our age whose parents had some kind of managerial position at the store, so it was chaperoned – it was a pretty lame party to begin with, and it was our first gig, so I’m sure we were horrible.”

Twenty years later they’re still going strong and are one of few bands who surfaced in the pop punk wave of the late ‘90s that have managed to maintain a steady following with every new record. “When it comes down to it, I don’t see how people mess this up,” Adkins responds when queried on the secret to their success and longevity. “I mean, c’mon man, how do you mess this up? I kind of don’t understand. Maybe we’re just fortunate that we all were relatively sane people deciding to join a band together. If things are going well and you’re having fun, why would you bring in the elements that would mess this up?”

They spent the better part of their formative and prime years signed to a major label, and while bands often relay stories of overbearing labels making it hard for them to be creative, Jimmy Eat World have never really had anyone looking over their shoulders. “We mixed and mastered Damage before we even had a record label, we were out of our deal with Universal and we just decided we’d make a record. I don’t even think [Universal] heard the material for Invented until two days before we were mixing, so we never really felt that pressure to play up to whatever the expectations [were] from a record label. Any label that would sign us would know better than to mess with what we’re doing.”

Lyrically and sonically, Damage is something of a return to form for the band. “There’s a bit on the title track,Damage, the bridge section on that is probably the oldest thing that exists on that record. That came from an idea that I had maybe in ’98 that for just whatever reason never ended up as a fleshed out part. In some ways things have kind of come back to a simpler mindset. I think we sort of focus on what feels right and trusting our judgement and walking away from it when it’s done”

Daniel Cribb