Since the release of the 2001 album Bleed American, Jimmy Eat World has solidified as one of the most influential acts within the alternative rock and pop-punk scenes. Their number-one, feel-good smash “The Middle” was a staple in countless teen comedies as the band began to rise to mainstream stardom. A decade later vocalist/guitarist Jim Adkins, bassist Rick Burch, guitarist Tom Linton and percussionist Zach Lind haven’t shown any signs of slowing down. With seven albums under their belt, the Mesa, Arizona, troupe is trekking the globe in support of their newest album, Invented, which was released this past September.
Featuring a gritty, raw and overall less produced sound, the album naturally revisits the four-piece’s signature sound on their first three albums: Clarity, Static Prevails and Bleed American. Linton took time out of his schedule to chat about reuniting with production mastermind Mark Trombino, the 10-year anniversary of Bleed American, the future of vinyl and their festival tour of Europe.
It’s been a decade since the release of Bleed American. How does it feel to know how far the band has come, and that Jimmy Eat World is an influence to so many bands?
It’s been crazy. When we made Bleed American we didn’t think we’d put out two records on a major label. We just toured a lot and saved up our own money to finance the recording of Bleed American. So when we recorded it and when it was finished, we didn’t know that it would have the success that it did. We’ve just been really grateful that we’ve been able to play all the places that we’ve played. Overall, we just feel very lucky.
Is this where you imagined you guys would be at this point?
Not at all. It’s been a crazy experience.
You guys teamed up with Mark Trombino for your newest album, Invented. The band first worked with him on Bleed American, Static Prevails (1996) and Clarity (1999). What is it about his production style and the way you all work together that makes you guys keep going back to him? How did you know this was the right fit?
I think just because we’ve done three records with him in the past, we just knew when we were finished with all the demos that it would be a good record for Mark to come in and help us with. We also did a little something different with this record. He wasn’t even there most of the time [for recording]. We would work on a song, give it all to the point where we thought it was good and email him the song. So he would listen, take notes, and get back to us the next day with little keyboard parts. It was a new and different kind of way to work. But overall, it made it a lot easier because we were at home.
Do you think other musicians, and Jimmy Eat World, will use this method more in the future?
I think so. Just because over the years we’ve built up enough gear in our studio that we were able to record the record at home. So I think we, personally, will use that format a lot more in the future.
Work by photographers Cindy Sherman and Hannah Starkey were key influences in the lyrics and overall song concepts for the album. I find this interesting because of their focus on creating characters, and the female perspective. What sparked this influence?
That was Jim’s idea. He actually started it as a writing exercise. I’m not sure how he thought of it exactly, but one day we were practicing and he said, “Hey guys, if you were wondering, this is how I came up with the lyrics to this song.” And he flipped open a picture of a Cindy Sherman photo. He said, “I just looked at this picture and wrote lyrics around the scene of this picture.” In the end, I’m not sure how it came about, but it was definitely a new way to write lyrics.
How do you think the album compares to your last work, Chase This Light, in terms of the creative process and the final product?
I think the main thing is when we began writing and doing demos for this record we wanted to make it a little less produced than Chase This Light. We were really happy with Chase This Light, but on some of the songs we thought we might have gone a little bit too crazy on some of the production parts, like as far as adding more vocals and keyboard parts. So this time, we went with something more stripped down.
For this year’s Record Store Day you released a deluxe three-LP vinyl set for Bleed American, which included some B-sides and rare tracks. What was the primary purpose for releasing this to your audience? Are you fans of the holiday, or was it more to do something special for your audience?
I think the main thing was that it was the 10th anniversary of the album and we wanted to do something cool for our fans. So for the deluxe version of Bleed American, we just put together all of the demos, a lot of live performances, and pretty much anything we could find from around the time the record came out and combined it all for a special release on Record Store Day.
Did you guys pick up anything this year?
No, we were actually playing Coachella that day! I’m sure the other guys picked up something at some point, though. Next year (laughs)!
It’s seems like a lot more bands are releasing their albums on vinyl and the whole “vinyl culture” is reviving. Do you think more bands will be venturing into these kinds of projects in the future?
I do. I think you can do a lot of fun, interesting things with vinyl. It’s something that’s definitely making a comeback. Ever since we started, we’ve put out little 7” records and we’ve always released vinyl, and we always will. It’s just something we’ve always been into.
After you finish up the U.S. leg of the tour, you’re heading overseas to perform at quite a few festivals, including Glastonbury 2011, Optimus Alive 2011 and Rock For People in Czech Republic. What brought up the decision to do this “European festival tour?”
Going over there and playing those festivals is basically the same caliber as Lollapalooza and Coachella. People camp out and there are tons of bands. We had a chance to play a lot of the European tours before, but we’ve never played Glastonbury and we’ve never played Rock For People. It’s just fun for us to see a lot of bands we don’t get to see because we tour so much. A lot of the bands we like are at these festivals and we get the chance to see them play, which is great.
How would you compare the whole “performance experience” of these large festival shows, versus the headlining shows you play?
Well, the smaller shows are more intimate, so we get to be closer to the fans and really play a good, long set for them. With festivals, the sets are shorter, but they’re cool because there are a lot of people that may not have heard of us before, and we get to play in front of so many more people. In the end, they’re both good for different reasons.
What’s the next step for the band after you guys complete that leg of the tour? Will you start recording again, or are you focused on touring for a while longer?
We’ll probably be finished with the tour in the fall after we do the festivals. We’ll start writing new songs, but right now we’re just discussing when we’re going to start recording. Our goal is to just try to get it out a lot faster than we have in the past. It’s usually taken three years to get a record released. We want to do it a bit faster this time around. Three years is a little bit too long, I think.
You’re closing up the American leg of your tour at The Wellmont Theatre in Montclair. What do you enjoy most about the Garden State?
It’s just the fans! The best show we’ve done since this record has come out was at The Starland Ballroom in Sayreville. We still talk about how the crowd was just so crazy. The main thing is that the crowds are really enthusiastic. We don’t get to see that in a lot of the places we play.
Jimmy Eat World hit The Wellmont Theatre June 4. Their newest album, Invented, is in stores now. For more information on the band, news and future tour dates go to jimmyeatworld.com.