Interview with Jimmy Eat World: 15 Years And Counting…

—by , April 30, 2008

Jimmy Eat WorldMusic fans in their twenties can probably rely a meaningful Jimmy Eat World experience, usually one that involves one of the songs on their 1999 album, Clarity, which followed the equally powerful Static Prevails. Younger music fans, on the other hand, might just know them as that band currently on tour with Paramore. Regardless of how you know them, the fact is that Jimmy Eat World have grown into a wildly influential band that can still release a record of solidly hooky- and emotionally resonant -songs (see last year’s Chase This Light). Before their set at Bamboozle, drummer Zach Lind discusses the band’s current tour, the new re-release of their 2001 record Bleed American, and why they won’t be playing my favorite song at the festival.

Do you feel like old men being on tour with Paramore?

There are times, yeah, where we feel like old men. Considering the group of bands that we grew up with and the amount of time we’ve been doing it, we go around on tour and meet up with all of our old friends and they’ve all moved on with their lives and we’re still here in a band doing it.

Not only that, but the age difference between the two bands. But in a sense I think they can learn from our experience and we can learn from the kind of energy they have. We’ve been a band for 15 years. I don’t know how long they’ve been around, but I think they can learn from our experience. It’s a two-way street, though, at the end of the day. They have a totally different style and it’s totally rubbed off on us. We want to go out there and match the energy they have onstage.

Maybe get some bright red and yellow pants?

We forgo the pants. We forgo the pants and the hairstyles. We don’t move around a lot onstage but I think it’s about trying to bring an intensity to our performances that matches their’s, in the way that we know how to play.

Does it feel like it’s been 15 years to you guys?

It depends. Sometimes it doesn’t and sometimes it does. We don’t really think about it a lot, but occasionally we stop and think ‘Oh yeah, we played at this place before a long time ago in a laundromat.’ One of the stops on tour this, the time we had previousyly played there before was in a laundromat. That was pretty funny to be playing in front of a few thousand people now. Back then we were in a van, no one knew who the hell we were and we were just trying to play shows wherever we could find a show. Those are the times when it definitely feels like it’s been 15 years.

How does one get booked at a laundromat?

It was this place called Einstein’s. It wasn’t a bagel place; it was a laundromat. It also seemed like it was a hangout coffee shop-type place where they would sometimes do shows. So I guess it wasn’t that out- of-the-ordinary, but it definitely wasn’t a conventional venue. There’s a long list of weird places we’ve played.

Once you’ve been in a band for so long and you’re on a major label and playing big tours, how do you keep from getting a sense of entitlement?

That’s a good question. I think for us we’ve always tried to maintain a low expectations attitude. We try not to expect a lot and treat whatever comes as extra. I think that’s been a healthy attitude and has kept us relatively even keel. Once you start operating as a group of people who deserve certain things that’s the beginning of the end. You’re going to be creating expectations for yourself and those around you that aren’t meetable. For us, I think we’ve always focused on making good music and hopefully people still like it. And when we play shows not expect too much. I also think, too, it’s having people around you who aren’t going to bullshit and tell you things just to tell you and give you the real picture. I think that helps too.

Why did you guys decide to re-release Jimmy Eat World under its original title of Bleed American?

Because when we talk about the record and when we refer to it among the band and the people we work with, we call it Bleed American. We just figured it would be appropriate to put the name back the way it was originally.

And you aren’t worried that anyone will take it the wrong way?

No I’m not worried about that. Right after 9-11, right when our record had just come out, I think it was wise of us to eliminate whatever confusion there was. One thing for us was that we didn’t want anyone to project onto our band or the album feelings that were misunderstood. It was a good thing, but I think now having some distance from it it seems more appropriate to actually give it its original title. That’s just how we felt.

When you made the album, where did the title come from?

The title was the name of one of the songs and we thought it summed up that experience for us. It was a time when we took matters into our own hands. We had just been dropped from Capitol and we didn’t have a record company and we didn’t have anyone really working for us so we just kind of decided to make a record on our own and pave our own way.

The song ‘Bleed American’ is very much about that struggle. Our country has a rich history of people who had been disenfranchised and came back and united, whether it be women’s rights or civil rights or worker’s unions or whatever, and taking matters back into their own hands and making things better for themselves. In a way the record echoes that. Obviously making a record isn’t really comparable to human rights or people working in sweatshops in our country’s history, but it was an inspiration that we drew from. Making that record, in a sense, was us taking control of the situation and trying to make things better for our band. So I think the title summed up that experience. It gets misunderstood and projected into a totally different realm, but the title is really about people unifying for the best reasons that there are.

Are there any other misconceptions about your band that you think need to be clarified?

There isn’t really anything more to us than the music. Whenever anyone tried to project something more than that I think it ultimately doesn’t ring true. We don’t really feel motivated to defend ourselves and I don’t really think we’re being attacked or misunderstood all that much.

Are you taking requests for your Bamboozle set?

Sometimes we take requests, but only if it’s a friend of ours who’s there and requests something. But we typically don’t take a lot of requests, especially at a festival kind of setting.

So I can’t convince you to play ‘Lucky Denver Mint’?

Well you know we haven’t been playing that on this tour and it’s been a song we’ve played a lot in the past. We’re some other songs from Clarity haven’t played in a while. We’re trying to mix up and play some songs that if you’re an old fan you probably haven’t heard in a while.

Do you have any tips for fans on how to survive a festival like Bamboozle?

If it were my daughter or son- I don’t have a son but I do have a daughter- I would tell them to bring earplugs, lots of water and sunscreen. Basically any kinds of outdoor tips would be good. Beyond that I’m not really sure, but ultimately I think all these kids probably know how to handle their own.

Do you want to encourage people to come watch your band over all the other bands playing?

I don’t think I’d say anything. Go see whoever you want to see and if that happens to be us then that’s cool.

Jimmy Eat World are playing the Bamboozle Festival in East Rutherford, NJ, on Sat., May 3. For more visit jimmyeatworld.com

Photo Credit: Jason Odell


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