WORDS: GEORGIA RAWSON
Today we find ourselves on the streets of West Kensington, one of the upper-class metropolitan areas of London. Standing around exchanging small dialogues about this morning’s weather is Jimmy Eat World, all unapologetically dressed head to toe in black button up shirts, tucked into a selection of smart pants and shoes, a resemblance closer to other label mates such as George Ezra than that of the more eccentric styles of the modern rock world. It suits them. Jimmy Eat World isn’t a band who’s popularity hasn’t been forged by brand like marketed imagery, but through their music.
“We’ve always just been honest with what we like to do, and nothing is a bigger turn off than having someone chase your approval, and you can definitely pick up on that as a listener.”
It’s this sentiment of self-acceptance that drew an entire generation to repeatedly listen to The Middle. Sporting lines such as, “don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away,” the youth anthem became renowned throughout pop culture, but why is it now more than ever that Jim Adkins insists that the ethos of the song is more relatable than ever before.
“I think having the confidence to just be who you are is a life-long pursuit.” – Jim Adkins
“I think having the confidence to just be who you are is a life-long pursuit.” Muses Jim Adkins as he adjusts himself in the heavy office chair of the Sony records boardroom. “I don’t know, it’s a tricky one because it’s very easy to look back on my younger self and think you didn’t really know, and I know now, and in 10 years I might again think I didn’t know that right now I knew who I was.”
If you were to watch any interview with the softly spoken, yet equally inviting vocalist you’d find there is always a sense of uncomfortableness in comparison to when he’s on the stage, and today there’s very little ease as him and his band mates sit around the breakfast spreads of the major label’s offices.
“We lead a focus group every album. Now would you be more or less likely to request a song that has partying themes, ok no partying?” Laughs Adkins, throwing reassuring glances and smiles during the conversation, his band mate and guitarist Tom Linton catching onto his band’s mate’s humour. “But we do listen to our fans too.” He adds.
It’s a refreshing conversation, one where rather than shying away from the past of the band, and the potential of a ‘one hit wonder’ projecting them into the stratosphere, or in this case into the boardrooms of major labels, instead is reflected upon as an ethos that’s kept this band and their approach to music both youthful and exciting.
“No one gets to suck anonymously anymore. From your first thing that you do everybody can know about it.”
“It’s always been fun, we all like each and get along. We all have a similar view of what is good so creatively there are no fights.” Smiles drummer Zach Lind. “Whatever disagreements we may its often usually about all being passionate about doing the best job, it’s never philosophical differences.” He comments when asked about how over a 25 – year period the band have sustained not just their careers, but operating as the same four musicians, and friends in the creative sphere. “We crack jokes, we laugh a lot. I think it’s that we don’t dread hanging out.”
Whilst there is a youthful element to the band as people, this isn’t to say there hasn’t been any progression. Having just released their 10th record, Surviving, bassist Rich Burch expresses that whilst the records have had these elements, even after 25 years of honing their craft it’s never been a straight forward process. “There’s been times when we’ve been creatively frustrated, and it’s not always flowing and easy.” He comments apprehensively. Without a doubt a lot of musicians, or creatives will hit ‘the wall’, but then again not many musicians have produced records such as ‘Futures’ or ‘Bleed American.
“Sometimes you really need to find it and bring it back,” He continues optimistically. “But those times when you struggle to create in our perception the new thing holds more weight and value because we’ve really worked for it, and there’s a really feeling of great accomplishment in it.”
However, the beginnings of this band came at a time where there was ‘no one watching’ or as Jim describes it, ‘everyone weighing in.’ In a time where constant updates come from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and various other social media platforms, Adkins sighs with a sense of relief. “No one gets to suck anonymously anymore. From your first thing that you do everybody can know about it, and I’m glad we didn’t start in a time like that. Like now even if you’re on your 10,000th thing everybody knows about that first time you sucked! (laughs)”
In a time where musicians are having to adapt in a digital world at the same rate as influencers and online personalities, Jimmy Eat World remain respectively private. You could argue that this privacy, and not allowing the criticisms of the outside world ‘weighing in’ has allowed them to take a limitless and freeing approach to the production of the new record.
“Our motivation has always been the same. We just want to have fun and let it be fun.”
“The last album was very big and we had this quest for a variation.” Comments Zach when asked about the rawer sounds of Survival. “We wanted to do something simpler, simplicity keeps you humble.” And of course, simplicity didn’t just mean stripping back the production of the record, but returning to the basics, including recording on their phones. “I think if you look at it record to record it goes back and forth between big radio rock to stripped variation, and that variation kind of just keep you sane and is good for your sanity.”
So, whilst others seek sanity through a consistent balance of releasing records over a certain time frame, or simply expression through the music itself, for the rock giants it seems that the consistent back and forth dynamic of simplicity coupled with a privacy towards their creativity. “When we were coming up and figuring out how to be a band and were discovering our strength and our weaknesses and what our musical voice sounded like we were alone, we were free to do whatever and figure it out alone.” Reminisces Adkins.
The world of both music and communication has changed drastically over the years, but Jimmy Eat World’s success has been built on something timeless.
“We’ll always continue to be honest.” Smiles Rick. “Our motivation has always been the same. We just want to have fun and let it be fun.”
Surviving is out now.