Jimmy Eat World Releases Latest Invention
October 4, 2010
Written by Chrissy Mauck
It’s the day before Jimmy Eat World’s new album, Invented, drops, and frontman Jim Adkins is rolling over to Tucson, Ariz., for a show at the Rialto Theatre.
“It was important to us to do a home base show for the actual release of the record,” Adkins tells Fender News. “Plus, it’s been a long time since we’ve done a proper headlining gig in Tucson, so it’s going to be fun on multiple fronts.”
Tucson is about 115 miles from east Mesa, Ariz., where the quartet formed. Adkins and drummer Zach Lind attended pre-school together. Guitarist Tom Linton and bassist Rick Burch met in the seventh grade. Lind and Linton became friends in high school, and by 1994 the current lineup was set; name swiped from a picture that Linton’s 8-year-old brother, Ed, drew following a childhood feud with brother Jimmy.
“He broke out the crayons and drew a picture of his chubby older brother Jimmy shoving what appeared to be the Earth into his gaping mouth,” explains Lind in a FAQ on the band’s website. “The caption at the bottom read ‘Jimmy eat world.’ Ed placed the masterpiece on the fridge in the kitchen for all to see. We thought that was really funny and decided to name the band after the caption.”
It wouldn’t be the only time Jimmy Eat World would find inspiration from a picture. As the saying goes, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.
An avid fan of fine arts photography, Adkins estimates that about 85 percent of Invented was derived from an objective-writing exercise he began after discovering a pair of photography books: Cindy Sherman’s Completely Untitled Film Still and Hannah Starkey’s Photographs 1997-2007.
“I would randomly flip through the books and take 10-15 minutes to write everything I could about the image; the character; what they might be thinking; what decisions they might be faced with; who they might be looking at off camera; everything about it; just as a way to get into thinking about characters and the mindset of working in a narrative,” explains Adkins. “It just seemed like a fun way to get my brain working. Those writing sessions just kind of started filtering into the song ideas I was already working on and became things that the other guys were excited about musically as well.”
Some songs were inspired by real life, too. Power ballad “Stop,” for example, was inspired one night when Adkins was out to dinner with his wife and a group of friends, and a young woman approached their table and asked if they were Jimmy Eat World.
“She said she was a big fan, and we started talking and she tells us how she was a contest winner on a reality show sponsored by Jenna Jameson to be, like, the next f—ing porn star or something,” recalls Adkins. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s really interesting.’ She was there with her dad and, I assume, her fiancé or romantic interest, and I started thinking, ‘That’s so f–ked up to be in a relationship with somebody whose ambition and job is being intimate with other people in front of an audience. The idea of dealing with jealousy in that situation I think would be excruciating. It just got me thinking about what kind of feelings you might have and how you would deal with someone’s profession like that, or even if their normal behavior was more liberal with their intimacy than you might expect out of the relationship.”
Invented‘s lyrical exploration of such a complex range of emotions naturally led to an equally diverse soundscape. The title track and album closer “Mixtape” are both somber ballads that explode with lush instrumentation. Songs such as “Higher Devotion” and “Evidence” are heavier throughout, emphasizing distorted guitars and synthesizers. “Coffee and Cigarettes” is also centered around a heavy guitar riff but comes off as punchy-pop perfection, while the Linton-sung “Action Needs an Audience” lands closer to punk.
“It’s kind of all over the place,” says Adkins. “There’s some guitar-based rock and there’s also some really mellow stuff. We don’t ever censor ourselves. It’s always about fleshing out an idea as far as we can and, at the end, deciding which ones we think are the strongest songs.”
Although they are often considered a linchpin in the emo world, Jimmy Eat World has transcended its own generation and cut across musical genres — from indie punk to power punk to angst-ridden rock. But in Adkins’s mind, Invented‘s energetic rocker and lead-off single, “My Best Theory,” best encapsulates Jimmy Eat World’s classic sound.
“I think for people who aren’t familiar with us, I would describe us as guitar-based melodic rock, and I think ‘My Best Theory’ sums up pretty much everything we like to do, so it’s a great first foot forward,” he says.
The opening anthemic track, “Hard is Heart to Find,” is just as interesting though, and on the other end of the sound spectrum. With acoustic guitar, strings, bells and good-old-fashioned hand clapping, the song achieves a folksy heartfelt vibe that matches the sincerity of Adkins’s vocals.
“I guess that’s kind of the story of a character who is really at an emotional bottom; trying to take honest stock of where they are at and find some way to pick themselves up,” he says of the soul-searching tune. “It started out with the most basic of things — guitar, tambourines and handclaps, and it just kind of grew. We knew it should stay acoustic; primarily a stripped-down thing, but it was Mark’s idea to incorporate a string section to emphasize the dynamics of the song without turning it into what we felt was the wrong direction — like a rock song.”
|“I used one guitar and one amp for pretty much the whole record,” Adkins says of his gear used on Invented. “You go through phases where you’ll A/B every amp you have and every head and every guitar and try different mics and after a couple of weeks, you are like, ‘I’m just going to use this.’ I pretty much just used my JA-90 for everything, which is coming out in a natural finish that looks rad. It has had many compliments already.”|
That’s Mark as in Mark Trombino, who produced two of their biggest-selling albums, Clarity and Bleed American.
“We ran into Mark when we were doing our anniversary tour for the Clarity record, and it had been a while since we had hung out with him and it was just kind of nice to see him,” says Adkins. “We have such a big history with him and because of that, we don’t waste time explaining ourselves when we are working and presenting creative ideas back and forth. There is not that feeling-out phase; we just totally know. And Mark is really, really good with computers. I’ve never met anyone faster or more musical with the way they work in the box, so to speak.”
Jimmy Eat World elected to stick to home turf to record the album, however, taking a song as far as they could in the comfort of their Tempe, Ariz., rehearsal space and then sending files to Trombino in Los Angeles for further production ideas.
“It’s a trend we’ve been moving toward, and now it’s fully realized that we can make a record for the cost of a hard drive,” says Adkins. “It’s the dream. It really is. Regardless of a budget or if there’s a label involved, we know we can make a record without compromising anything for the amount of money it would take to spend a week at a commercial studio. We’ve got everything we need there. Plus, if it’s late at night and you get an idea, you can zip down there and cut something while it’s fresh.”
And in the event of writer’s block, it’s reassuring to know money isn’t being poured down the drain.
“There are some days where it’s just not happening for whatever reason, and you can try your best to get your head into the space where you recover but it’s not happening,” Adkins says. “It’s such an easy thing to let your mind enter this downward spiral if you are shelling out a thousand dollars for a day rate at a commercial space, plus hotel rooms and per diem. But working out of our practice spot, it’s like ‘OK, I’m going to go get coffee and I may or may not come back.’ You do have to be really motivated and come back and work the next day, though, because it is so easy to bail.”
With 16 years together as a band, these self-motivated pros more often than not found restraint the more challenging task.
“No one is telling you to stop, so you can get keep going and going,” he says with a laugh. “You really have to pay attention to every step of the game. Is what I’m doing right now benefitting the song or am I just playing the ultimate rad video game? Because sometimes the music can get lost in the tweaking on effects and pedals and weird sounds and strange micing techniques. You always have to be thinking about the song and what the song needs.”
After two-and-a-half years of work, the thinking is done and their sixth full-length album is now on the shelves. Shot by award-winning photographer Ken Schles, its cover is as evocative as the Sherman and Starkey photos that inspired the album’s lyrics. Dressed in an old-fashioned pink dress, a woman walks out of a set of doors, leaving us to wonder who she is and where she’s headed.
You decide. And the same goes for the album, which hit shelves on Sept. 28.
“We’re just rolling with it,” Adkins says. “Now, it’s in the hands of Allah.”
To purchase Invented or to find out where you can see Jimmy Eat World live, visit jimmyeatworld.com.