INTERVIEW: Weeping with Jimmy Eat World

So you think they are a 12-year-old girl’s band? OK, we know they’re pretty guys, with sensitive eyes and passionate anthems about lost love. And maybe they’ve been riding the wave of MTV success, catering to the sensibilities of a nation obsessed with pop culture.

So maybe the members of Jimmy Eat World are just another pop sensation, destined for next week’s used record bins. Maybe. But the mass of bobbing heads and stomping feet on the Quad last weekend seem to lend the band a little more credit.

Spawned in Mesa, Arizona’s Community College scene, Jimmy Eat World signed a major label deal with Capitol Records in 1996. The guys – Jim Adkins, vocals/guitar; Tim Linton, guitar/vocals; Rick Burch, bass; and Zach Lind, drums – were 18 at the time. The band dropped a slew of independent releases throughout its years, finding only underground success. Despite the support of a major label, the band spent years striving to make a name. They eventually found success only after skirting the edge of failure.

After two unsuccessful full-length releases on Capitol Records, the band separated (i.e. got dropped) from Capitol. Unrestrained in their ambition, the guys pushed forward, funding a European tour and a new record out of their pockets. The record Bleed American, their most recent release, was their big break.

So now they’ve got hit singles on the radio and a big distribution deal with Dreamworks Records. They might be famous, but that doesn’t mean they’re rock stars. As Linton explained in a recent Hatchet interview, the guys in Jimmy Eat World are still amazed by their success. Even though they’re in the belly of the dragon right now, they refuse to be categorized and they’re still pissed off at the record industry.

Tim Linton: Hey man, how’s it going?

Hatchet: Doing good, you?

(As we sit Tim is accosted by a group of fans unabashedly begging for his autograph. He takes a moment and signs their pictures)

H: Is that weird for you? Having people want your autograph?

TL: It is weird man. But I don’t mind if some kid wants an autograph. I grew up in Mesa, Arizona, where the Cubs do their spring training. I remember being a kid and having baseball cards. The players that wouldn’t sign anything, I’d hate them.

H: How is it for you guys now? You’re on the road, finally headlining a big tour.

TL: It’s been great to go it alone for awhile. We’ve been opening up for like blink-182 and Green Day, and we did it with Weezer.

H: How’s the support been? Why did it take so long for you guys to get a big record?

TL: We got signed to Capitol Records in ’96, when we were like 18 years old. We had like two records there, and they weren’t treating us to well, so we got off. Then we toured for awhile and recorded (Bleed American) with our own money. To see how well it’s doing is just freaking us out.

H: Is there a major difference in how (Dreamworks Records) is treating you?

TL: Dreamworks is a pretty new label. They put out Elliott Smith and the Eels. They’re just really excited to work with bands and they’re really excited about music. With Capitol, no one would come to the shows. No one knew how to set up interviews.

H: So they take good care of you?

TL: Definitely. I mean Capitol Records is just like a big machine. You walk in there and it’s 35 floors. It’s weird. We weren’t their priority at all. If our songs did get to a radio station, they wouldn’t play it because they could tell we were a band that the label didn’t care about.

H: What’s it like being 18 and getting a major label deal right off the bat? Were you scared?

TL: We were really excited. We were young and going to school. We got to drop that to go play music and travel.

H: Was it a tough decision, leaving school?

TL: School’s always gonna be there.

H: So here’s the dangerous question. Are you guys emo? If you’re not then what is?

TL: As far as I know, emo is a gas station in Ireland.

H: What?

TL: It’s a gas station chain in Ireland.

H: Do people there cry while they pump their gas?

TL: Maybe, I don’t know. Anyways, we try to stay away from classifications like that.

H: Do you like playing big shows? I know you spent a lot of time in small clubs and then when you went out with Green Day you were playing stadiums. Is that intimidating?

TL: It’s a chance to play your music in front of thousands who have never heard your music.

H: Is it tougher though?

TL: I don’t know. I think we can do anything, now that we’ve played Saturday Night Live.

H: That was a big moment for you?

TL: Yeah, that pretty much broke us in. I’ve seen like Nirvana and Beck and all kinds of bands I love on there.

H: So were you nervous about being there?

TL: We were all a little scared. It’s live, so if you mess up, there’s no turning back.

H: Are you guys afraid of being caught in a wave of popularity and then getting dropped by your fans?

TL: Not really. We’re just going to put out records. We just want kids to be fans for life. You go straight out and buy a Radiohead record the day it comes out every time. That’s what we want.

H: So do you feel like the fans are loyal? I know when bands go mainstream there’s usually a backlash, and the kids who used to come start saying the band’s sold out.

TL: Yeah, every band gets that. Oh well.

H: What do you say to people like that?

TL: I mean we made the record for them, if they don’t like it, too bad. It’s always going to be like that.

H: Do you feel like you had control over your band’s sudden boom in popularity?

TL: It just kind of happened. We got lucky and started getting some radio airplay. We just kind of went with the flow.

H: Did you do anything different on this record, or was it the label that made the difference?

TL: I think the label and the radio stations saw what we were doing and realized we were working hard.

H: How is it different on the road nowadays?

TL: We used to get on the mic and be like, “Does anyone have a place for us to stay tonight?” We’re used to staying at people’s houses because we couldn’t afford a hotel room. Now we have a huge bus. Its something we never thought would happen. We were always anti-bus.

H: What’s the problem with buses?

TL: We were always like, “It’s a waste of money.” Now we have to have a bus. We have to sleep.

H: So you do get to sleep? I know a lot of guys in your position would be pretty exhausted.

TL: I’m pretty tired. Its work you know. I’ve had a lot of worse jobs.

H: Like what?

TL: When we were on Capitol, I’d still work. I’d call up the temp service the day we got off tour.

H: No more day job now then?

TL: No way. We’ve been on tour for two years. I don’t have time for it.

H: But you’ve paid your due to the working class?

TL: I’ve delivered radiators. I’ve sorted bagels. I used to work at a plastic company where I’d have to count out 100 pens and them put them in a bag.

H: So you planning on throwing away this band thing and getting back to your bagel sorting anytime soon?

TL: Maybe, but I think instead I might just ride this rock and roll thing out, you know, see how it goes.

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