Interviewing one of your favourite bands is always a potential battleground. You may prepare your questions with the tenacity of a demon with severe OCD, but you can never be sure that a band is what you always hoped they would be. Jimmy Eat World are this music writer’s Everest; they are the band that got her through many a cold night and thawed her equally cold heart an immeasurable number of times. But what if the world is forever changed because they are a big bunch of cunts and everything you thought you knew about the world goes flip side? When a band boasts a ten year life span; the questions you most want to ask your idols is how did it all happen and where did it all begin? From ‘Static Prevails’ through to current album ‘Chase this Light’ (released last month), you want to know how the records you love came about and what happened in the aftermath. And so Gigwise asked Jim Adkins just that!
With ‘emo’ stumbling around the halls, having lost its sense of identity, and what the hell it was doing getting naked with Fall Out Boy, we thought we’d ask JEW the obvious: were they ever an ‘emo’ band? After all, ‘Static Prevails’ was probably known as their ‘emo’ album contributing to the school of thought as practised by Christie Font Drive, Fugazi and Sunny Day Real Estate. Jim is nonplussed, “I think that any discussion about emo is about seven years behind the times… most of the time I would refer to this kind of music as ‘hardcore’. But I realize if I had grown up anywhere else ‘hardcore’ could have meant a different sound.” A silly question, or a scathing answer? It’s hard not to ignore the fact that JEW has influenced many of the bands that are caught a drift with that term meandering them down stream; whether the terminology is justified or not, we’d kind of hoped for some insight from a band argued as one of the most influential bands of this movement. Jim retaliates, “I would blame the NME for us notably being blamed for anything ‘emo’. I am so glad the ‘return of rock’ got traction and the hype machine forgot about us. We were just one band in a sea of incubating rock bands. We got a lucky break and a successful album. It isn’t a movement of any sort… just kids going for it.” Ahh there it is: ‘The hype machine’ - the over enthused druid that induces kids to buy records. But were JEW ever just a bunch of kids having a good time that some machine spat out like bubble gum gone pop? Were they the original authentic musical musketeers, or just a band caught in their own hype?
It’s no secret that JEW are influential, Fall Out Boy are not the only band to be chasing JEW’s light; the OC’s Something Corporate lifted a lyric from the single ‘For Me This is Heaven’ on rare B side Konstantine; is this kind of appropriation flattering to the band? Jim acknowledges this, “I steal stuff all the time. I suppose I have it coming if someone wants to lift one of my lines”. Are they simply just superstars these days, unfazed by their influence? The pop punkers started their tenure signed to Capitol; ‘Clarity’ was rumoured to be shelved for a year after JEW’s producer left the label. The band then released an EP on Less Than Jake’s Vinnie Fiorello’s record label (‘Fueled by Ramen’ -yes FOB’s label); was this an attempt to coax Capitol into releasing the album? Jim is stoical, “There was a time when they were deciding what to do with us. We did put out the EP as a way to get something happening. KROQ added the song and then POOF! We get a release date. Every cliché you have heard about the record industry is true. Spinal Tap is for real.” Spinal Tap is for real? Oh dear.
When ‘Clarity’ was finally released, things really kicked off for the band and saw them playing large venues at full capacity. Looking back was this an exciting time for them? Jim replies, “It was all exciting. Clarity was bigger at rentals than it ever was at the box office.” We presume meaning that people loved it but didn’t necessarily buy it. They were dropped from Capitol shortly after that release. Jim notes that before ‘Bleed American’ they had sold less than 30k of records. “Those labels are made to pump out an album that is selling 30k a week, they have no idea what to do with a band with the combined total sales of two thousand… which was where we were at the time we made our first deal… from an outsider perspective it would seem like a confidence blow to get dropped from your record label. From our perspective, the label had become background noise. Everything was happening for us. When we toured we would go back to bigger city and play a bigger place for more people…we were realising that we should never have been on a big label to begin with.” Having parted ways with Capitol and moved to Interscope (now merged with Atlantic/Universal), isn’t it a tad ironic that a band who say they should never have been on a big label, find themselves once again in that position?
Jim reminisces about the early days of touring, having the most fun with The Promise Ring, JeJune, No Knife, Christie Front Drive, The Get Up Kids and Sensefield. “You learn something from everybody you do road with. I have learned a lot from touring and local crew. You have to treat everybody with respect. I know it may sound silly to hear that, but these people are busting their arses like you are.” It may be an unwritten rule that once you hit prime time you can be a wanker to those helping you out, but surely the ability to treat people you work alongside with respect isn’t a big deal?
‘Chase this Light’ is their fifth studio album and is the one that Jim is most proud of, “I can say that we are the best band we have ever been right now. And happier too! We are excited to be back to rock!” Their February tour has now been announced but who would Jim most like to tour with? “There are lots of bands I would love to tour with. Shakira would be my first choice.” Ha bloody Ha!
It might just be that we are coming from a galaxy far, far away but we find ourselves scratching our heads; attempting to untangle intricately weaved webs of sarky comebacks. What did we do? We only wanted to ask one of our favourite bands about their career to date! If you’re quicker than a jumping jack flash you can still get tickets to the February tour dates; the album ‘Chase This Light’ is now out. We'll probably still be here searching our frazzled brains for answers.