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Jimmy Eat World

The indie rock band (donít call them emo) prepares to record their first full-length after a breakup with Capitol Records, all under the shadow of The Boss.

by tim mcmahan








"I tell people we're just a rock band," said Jimmy Eat World founder and singer/guitarist Jim Adkins as he drove his van from Phoenix to Los Angeles last Saturday, occasionally getting lost in a fog of static as he rolled through a mountain pass.

With drummer Zach Lind in tow, Adkins was meeting the rest of the band at an L.A. studio to begin recording their next album before heading out on a tour that will bring them to the Sokol Underground Oct. 13.

He prefers "rock band" moniker rather than the "emo band" tag that's been hung on Jimmy Eat World since they formed in '94. No one seems to know what "emo" means, including Adkins.




"It means everything and nothing," he said over the rumble of the van's motor and the howl of an open window. "If you had a roomful of people and ask them what 'punk' means, you'd get a roomful of different answers. I used to cringe when someone asked us how it feels to play music in the 'emo movement.' I still cringe. I used to care, but nowÖ whatever. People need labels."

Anyone who's heard the Mesa, Arizona-based four-piece, especially on their new 12-track retrospective, Singles, just out on Big Wheel Recreation, would have little trouble pegging them as rockers. But Singles sounds nothing like, Clarity; their final project recorded before Capitol Records dropped the band last year. That album spawned the semi-hit "Lucky Denver Mint," that made it on the Never Been Kissed soundtrack (who remembers that lame Drew Barrymore vehicle?) and ultimately became the theme song for the never-seen Fox TV series The Time of Your Life. If the Goo Goo Dolls-style radio pop of Clarity was the direction they were headed, however, being dropped by Capitol was probably the best thing that ever happened to these guys. Because everything off Singles simply blows that album away, if only for sheer honesty's sake.

A collection of the band's favorite 7-inch and compilation rarities, Singles has a similar drive as, say, current-day Cursive or Jawbreaker. Lots of guitars -- a very loud, raucous, indie noise, with chunky riffs that propel everything forward in rather angular, anthemic ways. You can hear why Capitol might want them to change their style, since you're never gonna hear these tracks on MTV or the radio.

Adkins says the Capitol split with the band was a mutual parting of ways. "We wanted off Capitol before Clarity, but they wanted another record from us," he said. "Clarity did pretty well, but then the label got a new president and within a year, all the relationships we had built there had moved on. We never sold major label numbers. Capitol is in the business of selling millions of records and here we are, selling 30,000."


"We never sold major label numbers. Capitol is in the business of selling millions of records and here we are, selling 30,000."


"It was funny, the whole thing was sort of an inside joke on them from us; anything we got was icing on the cake."


Most bands would have been bummed to hear that their label has dropped them. Instead, Adkins said, they cracked open a bottle of champagne and celebrated. It marked a new beginning for a band that released its first CD in 1994 on the independent Wooden Blue Records. But their indie label careers appeared short-lived. After a show in Mesa, Ariz., later that year, up walked a Capitol Records executive, presumably smoking a big fat cigar and carrying a wad of money. He made an offer the band couldn't refuse.

"We thought it would be fun," Adkins said of the contract. "And it was fun the whole time. Capitol is the reason I'm driving this van right now to L.A. The deal helped us accomplish what we wanted."

But after awhile, Adkins said the band realized it could have found a "more friendly deal."

"We figured we were better off somewhere else, where we could get more attention," he said. "We did get a lot of attention when our song was on the radio, but that didnít last very long. It was funny, the whole thing was sort of an inside joke on them from us; anything we got was icing on the cake. But it got to the point where we wanted to operate with more control over individual aspects of the business. Now we know what not to do; and right now, the band is in the best condition it's ever been in."

So who'll put out the next Jimmy Eat World CD? Adkins says the band is looking around, but the serious shopping won't begin until the recording is in the can. "It's gonna feel real nice to have a record mastered, artwork chosen, a T-shirt designed and a sticker ready, and then be able to approach a label and ask if they want to put it out," he said.

He says the new CD is really a follow-up to their first album combined with a similar sound heard on Clarity. "It's just a bunch of three-and-a-half-minute rock songs," he said. "We're writing and playing the most precise, simple pop rock possible."


Maybe the new direction is the result of Adkins' recent influences. He says he's been listening to a lot of Guided by Voices and -- gulp! -- Bruce Springsteen. He got turned onto The Boss at a friend's going-away party a year and a half ago. As a joke, he put on a copy of Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark."

"I said to myself, 'this is a fucking great song," Adkins said. "I ran out and bought a bunch of his older stuff, The River and before that. It's kind of scary."

Quite a turnaround from a guy who says he was originally turned off by Springsteen during "the whole Born in the U.S.A. thing," but maybe that's because Adkins was too busy listening to Omaha punk bands like Mousetrap. Though he's not from Omaha, Adkins' entire family is from Nebraska (his mother's side of the family from Omaha and his dad's side from Laurel).

"I used to visit Omaha every summer and hang out with a couple of my cousins," Adkins said. "I heard Mousetrap play on a street corner in Ralston. I saw Cellophane Ceiling, Mercy Rule, Ritual Device, Commander Venus, I liked those guys."

But despite his Omaha history, Jimmy Eat World's Oct. 13 show will be the band's first Nebraska performance. "We always wanted to play there, but something always seemed to come up," he said. "This should be a good time."

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Published in The Omaha Weekly October 5, 2000. Copyright © 2000 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.





As a joke, Adkins put on a copy of Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark. "I said to myself, 'This is a fucking great song,"