What else can you say about Jimmy Eat World that hasn’t been said. Earlier this year, I had the chance to chat with Jimmy Eat World while they were on their tour with Third Eye Blind. During our chat, we reflected on their impressive, extensive career and how they’ve outlasted their peers. But towards the end, Jim Adkins dropped a little hint that they were going to be putting out a new record soon — and even explained back then what it might cover,“I would say, the new material is kind of more about the blocks we put in our own way that keep us from realizing our potential. That can take on a lot of different forms, and for some reason, letting go of those is sort of a striking process. It doesn’t make any sense, and I don’t know what evolutionary purpose it serves, but we’re all really good at holding onto things. It’s like the nuances of the situation and what has happened and how to overcome that,” he said.
A lot of time went by, and they finally announced their record just last month — it’s titled Surviving and will be out tomorrow, October 18th via RCA Records. I knew that I would want to chat again with Jimmy Eat World to discuss the record further — after all, this is a band that has mastered heartbreaking alternative-rock. If you thought their best work was behind them a decade ago, Damage and Integrity Blues, would like to have a word with you. Surviving is now almost here to make its case and work it’s way into your playlist of Jimmy Eat World songs.
This time I get the pleasure of speaking to Tom Linton (guitar/backing vocals), who is a one of the founding members left with Jim Adkins (guitar/lead vocals) and Zach Lind (drums) — though it’s worth noting that Rick Burch (bass/backing vocals) joined the band two years later in 1995 — about all things Surviving. We start by discussing the recording process, which has largely been the same for the band through the years. They started work in their own studio in Arizona, and then wound up working with Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who produced Integrity Blues.
As people, just surviving can be hard. Referring back to my conversation with Adkins, sometimes we put blocks in our way and maybe overcomplicate things. Linton mentions that he believes it was Lind who came up with the title, and they all quickly agreed to name the record Surviving. When explaining why, Linton highlights the title-track, “I just think that it kind of sums up the whole record. Just surviving — the song ‘Surviving’ especially — is about recognizing mistakes that we, or people, have made in their lives and trying to fix them,” he states.
When Jimmy Eat World announced Surviving, they released “All the Way (Stay)” as the lead single. When we move to talk about the single, Linton and I discuss how the song very much so sounds like Jimmy Eat World, but with some fresh influence. Most notably, if you’ve heard the song, is the sax solo. He describes it as a “good introduction to the record,” that sort of sets the tones for he record. Linton mentions that it was originally Jim’s idea, bringing up how int the 80’s a lot of songs would have a sax come out of nowhere, and this was something they wanted to do for fun. “We thought that was kind of funny. We recorded it and liked it. We’re happy with how it turned out,” Linton says.
When it comes to the record and what song he is excited most for people to hear, Linton calls out “Five, Five, Five” and “Congratulations.” On the latter, it’s the last song on the record, and is one of the more experimental tracks not he record. He also mentions that, “[“Congratulations”] was one of the harder ones to record, because we went into the studio, like it was only maybe halfway finished, so we were in the studio recording drums like, ‘How the hell are we gonna end this? We’re just happy with how it turned out.”
Jimmy Eat World released their debut, self-titled record 25 years ago this year, and as you might expect, is wildly different than the Jimmy Eat World most of us know today. It’s a pop-punk record that sort of perfectly encapsulates what you might expect a pop-punk record to sound like in the mid-90’s, leaning more towards the likes of Jawbreaker. Oh, and Linton was the primarily vocalist at that point for the band. Things started to quickly change with their major label-debut Static Prevails in 1996, and by the time Clarity came in 1999, things lined up perfectly for what Jimmy Eat World would grow to be.
Regardless, 25 years since our debut record is a huge milestone and it’s one that really sticks out since they’re still alive and kicking with new music. It’s an accomplishment that isn’t out on the band, and when I talk about this with Linton, he jokes that it feels good to “survive this long in a band.” The members of Jimmy Eat World have seen many peers and bands break-up, including some that are really good. They know how tough it is for bands to keep making records and be doing it for a living. “We’re so happy we have fans that come to our shows, keep buying records, that are still interested in us. It keeps it going. We just have fun, I think that’s the main thing. If any of us weren’t happy with the band or what we were doing, we wouldn’t be playing. We still have fun with each other, we still hang out. I think that’s a big part of [sustainability],” he explains to me.
While overall the process of writing and recording the music has stayed the same, much like “All the Way (Stay),” there are are certain things they do different to keep things fresh and exciting. Linton mentions that for Jimmy Eat World there’s plenty of time from demo’ing to the final product where things can change. Overall, experimentation is key for the band. “Sometimes, on the demo, we’ll put things differently, [try] different sounds, and then we’ll go to record it and think there’s too much and pull back a little bit,” he begins, “Adding different elements, even the sax part, [and] things like that make it different.”
25 years into their career and 10 full-length albums (8 that regularly play material off of), you might imagine that putting a setlist together can be rather difficult. You’re going to want to play songs you have fun playing, but know that there are certain expectations for your show. Describing the process of picking the set for a Jimmy Eat World show, Linton shares that, “We’ll look on Spotify playlists to see what’re the most played songs. Going back to looking at the old setlist from the last time we were in that town, and switching the songs up from the last time we were there,” he begins. “It’s a combination of that, but we also know people want to hear songs from each record, so we try to play one or two songs from each record so everyone’s happy.” When it comes to playing new songs live, you can certainly expect “All the Way (Stay),” with the likelihood of more to be added to the setlist. When I ask which he’s most excited to play live, he brings back up “Five, Five, Five” and says that when they played it at their most recent “friends and family” Arizona show, they had a great time performing it and how it went live.
Earlier this summer they went on the aforementioned massive cross-country tour with Third Eye Blind, but they have no plans of slowing down. Now that Surviving will be out tomorrow, they’ve to that new album to promote and keep fans on the edge of their seat. The last few album cycles have made us wait three years between records, so in the meantime, you can expect a whole lot of touring to support the release.
Before we go, I ask Linton to describe the record and sort of pitch it to those who might listen. After hearing the record, I can tell you there’s nothing else I could say to sell you on it It’s a phenomenal record to add to their impressive discography, and as he describes it, “I think it’s a lot more rockin’ than our other records. There’s a lot of guitar riffs. It’s a guitar riff record. I think it’s just a fun record, and I think people will like it. It’s a good dancin’ record.”
‘Surviving’ is the 10th studio album from Jimmy Eat World and will be released tomorrow, October 18th via RCA Records. You can check out pre-order options here.