When Arizona-based Jimmy Eat World burst onto a burgeoning post-grunge scene in 1995, it was to the delight of the indie rock community. Essentially, a new aesthetic was being forged by the group and its contemporaries in bands like Sensefield, Christie Front Drive and Sunny Day Realestate—way before anyone dropped the ‘emo’ term and co-opted the moniker to describe music that had some real sensitivity behind it. The most interesting aspect of the new direction that bands like Jimmy Eat World took was slightly borrowed style from The Pixies, a group that had taken dynamics (quiet melodies into bursting loud choruses) and put an everlasting stamp on the rock world, going as far as Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, who cited The Pixies for his own band’s inspiration.
Jimmy Eat World started with four neighborhood friends playing together during the soaring desert heat in the family rooms of various band members, and of course, up until recently, shared rehearsal spaces. Jimmy Eat World wasn’t so much discovered but rather referred by the members’ long-time Denver pals in the band Christie Front Drive. According to Jimmy Eat World bassist Rick Burch, Christie Front Drive played a show with Jimmy Eat World and then moved on to Los Angeles. There, the members of Christie Front Drive were approached by a representative of Capitol Records and asked if they wanted to sign a deal, but they turned him down. The rep was persistent and asked if they knew of any bands that would be interested, and the boys gave him the names and information of Jimmy Eat World. He went out and caught a live show of Jimmy Eat World, and the rest is history—well, sort of.
Jimmy Eat World recorded its first self-titled album in 1994 and released it on an independent label. The album was more in the pop-punk vein, closer to that of its Singles (Rarities and B-Sides) release in 2000. In early spring of 1996, Jimmy Eat World entered Big Fish Studios with producer Mark Trombino, formerly of Drive Like Jehu, to record its Capitol debut, Static Prevails. Rick says, “We knew of Mark from his work with Drive Like Jehu, and we really liked the way his records sounded.”
Consequently, a strong working relationship was sprung between the four members of Jimmy Eat World and Mark, which led to a lasting 10-year relationship that helped catapult Jimmy Eat World out of relative obscurity into respected notoriety. Four years later—and after several split EP, 7” and appearances on compilations including Deep Elm’s Emo Diaries—the band released Clarity (Capital Records), which was again piloted by Mark as producer. It also gave the band its first official song, “Lucky Denver Mint,” to be included on a film soundtrack for the Drew Barrymore goes-back-to-school movie, Never Been Kissed. “Lucky Denver Mint” was rife with pop and cleverness, but even with its dueling drum kits, crystalline guitars and catchy chorus, it still wasn’t enough to ‘break’ the band from the basement of Capitol Records, and the group was subsequently dropped from the label as a result of huge staff changes and the ensuing mass hysteria for boy bands like *NSYNC.
Luck, success and perseverance have as much to do with a band’s longevity as knowing the right people. After being dropped from Capitol and prior to releasing Bleed American (a title that was later changed due to 9/11), Jimmy Eat World was in the middle of a bidding war with various labels, all of them angling to get the highly talented band on their respective roster. Rick says, “We got out of our contract we had with Capitol, which was a great feeling knowing we were free again. We took about a year and made Bleed American on our own and went into it thinking, ‘You know what? A lot of labels, when they first found out we got dropped from Capitol, were like, ‘If you ever need a label, you’re always welcome!’’ So we knew we had at least a couple in the bag. So we decided to go in and record this thing and pay for it ourselves because we had a little bit of money saved up from touring and stuff. So we were able to pay for it and do it right, the way we wanted to.
“And we wanted to see if other people would get interested after hearing the music, and it turns out a lot of people were liking it. We were able to pick and choose, and we ended up with DreamWorks, which was awesome. There were a lot of great people there who were very patient with us and helped us make that record happen because it took a lot of time and a lot of hard work, and I don’t think a lot of other major labels would have been so understanding.”
On Bleed American, Mark sat in again as producer, bringing his years of knowledge and friendship to a band he’s practically been a member of since its inception, or at least for its first few recordings. “Mark helped us hugely by doing it completely on spec—essentially he didn’t get paid until we got paid, and so he did it for free for six or eight months and that made it possible. It was a lot of fun.”
The forthcoming album, Futures, is somewhat of a third installment of the Static Prevails, Clarity trilogy. Moving from the trimmed down, straightforward style of Bleed American, Futures has similarities to both Clarity and Static Prevails, in that the songs are more expansive, with more intricate vocal melodies and some seriously furious dual guitar work. Although, on Futures, the band decided to have famed producer, Gil Norton (Pixies, Distillers) step in and try his hand. What occurred wasn’t necessarily a better-produced album than the three full-lengths done with Mark but a better combination of the things done on Bleed American and Clarity.
More succinctly put, Rick says, “It’s really cool. We had a great time with Gil. We kind of needed a little kick in the pants, and he was willing to give it. He has a great vision for songs, and he really doesn’t try and change your song to make it a better song—he just takes it and fine-tunes it to make it the best song it can be. He didn’t rewrite the songs is what I’m trying to say.”
How many tuba players become bass players in world-famous rock bands? Rick got his start on the full-body instrument and says he was involved with school music for a few years. “[During] fourth, fifth and sixth grade, I played the tuba. And that was the only involvement I had with school music.”
He adds laughingly, “But I know that Tom [Linton] (guitar, vocals) was heavily involved in it from fourth through eleventh grade and played saxophone. He played the bass drum in the marching band and studied guitar in school and was in jazz band and stuff. Tom was really heavily involved in it. It’s nice when he pulls out the sax ‘cause I’m like, ‘Man, why don’t we have a sax in our band?’ He’s really good.”
Obviously, playing in a band means the people you are playing with are people you can stand being around for long durations of time. It also helps that those people continue to teach you and hopefully make you a better player. Rick says the things he’s learned are basic but important. He says, “The most important bass notes are the rests, [and] being aware of the overall song is key, especially when you think of what’s right for the song. It is really easy to be thinking, ‘Hmm, what if I do this?’ It would sound cool but sometimes that wouldn’t be the best thing for the song. So playing over the years I’ve learned an awareness for that.”
The next two years are going to be busy for Rick and Jimmy Eat World. The band members will be touring behind Futures for the next 24 months, hitting every continent and festival they can tote their instruments to. The first single from Futures, “Pain,” is a scorcher, and the dueling guitars of singer Jim Adkins and Tom are punctuated by the solid bass of Rick and the highly charged drumming of Zach Lind. Jimmy Eat World is currently gearing up for a fall tour and will come to your town. In fact, in some towns the guys will play two or three times in the course of the next year—so you should experience them live soon!