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August 2020

More than two decades in, and Jimmy Eat World are unstoppable

Frontman Jim Adkins reflects on the band's tenth album, 'Surviving'.
Published: 11:34 am, October 22, 2019Words: Steven Loftin.
More than two decades in, and Jimmy Eat World are unstoppable

Blink, and you'll miss it. The strides into realising you're getting older, and life is outpacing you, can seem humongous and confusing. But it's not until you're distilling this notion, let's say, to someone over the phone that it all kind of begins to make sense.

"A younger me would've listened to me now and thought I was just reading inspirational posters," Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins chuckles. "With pictures of kittens on them with captions saying 'Hold On' or 'Take it Easy'."

This revelation has taken place at quite the milestone for the Jim and the band. Their tenth album, 'Surviving', is not just a monument to growth, understanding and reflection, but it's also proof that Jimmy Eat World are unstoppable.

"When you're younger, you just act. You don't quite understand it. You feel like it's something you absolutely have to do, so you just do it," he muses. "And [then] it's out there. You don't spend a whole lot of time on reflection because you're onto the next thing that you just have to do."

Having spent more than two decades crafting an arsenal of emo bangers that have soundtracked countless formative years, the Jimmy Eat World of 2019 are certainly showing no signs of slowing down. If anything there's a newfound purpose to the moves they make, no moment wasted since nothing truly lasts forever.

"As you get older, you feel like 'Why am I doing this?'" Jim posits. "'Do you have an answer for that?' I feel like that's important because you've made albums before. What, personally, do I get from making another album? How many albums are there? Am I doing this to fuck around, or do I have something to say here?"

"I feel like it's important to know what you want to say. I mean yes, it's important to explore, but if you're going to put something out in the world and have your name on it - who are you?! It's a way of exploring who you are and having something to say about that. That's different, from being younger, where you're just reacting to the feeling that you have to create something."

"Am I doing this to fuck around, or do I have something to say here?"
Jim Adkins

And it's all of this which has all led to 'Surviving'. Littered throughout Jimmy Eat World's back catalogue, there's been a recurring theme - the idea of growing up. Sure, they've soundtracked many a heartbreak, disenfranchised youth and generally lost wanderers but it's all rooted in growing. That's why they're on their tenth album. That's why it's so timeless. We never truly stop learning.

As for how that's affected a band like Jimmy Eat World, who's more than aware of the impact they've had, along with the ever-growing pressures of being 'A Band' in the modern age; apparently, it's just "a lot like the previous nine," Jim smiles.

"Playing music is just part of who we are. It's part of our foundation as humans. We love doing it, and I can't imagine existing without it. You never really clock out. The creative process is unending, which is kinda great; it's just there. You just have to listen for it, and tap into it and learn things about yourself, and challenge yourself in creative ways."

Over the years, Jim has learned a few things about himself. The biggest being that he can write a pretty good rock jam. But it's the life lessons which have shaved down the cobbled road to make this path of his a perfect patchwork of understanding. Giving him the ability to share this experience, which is the most pivotal.

When Jimmy Eat World began their journey back in 1993, Jim was just eighteen. Now forty-five, with a family, and all the other bits and pieces that come along in life, he still "identifies sometimes as a fourteen-year-old metalhead guitar player guy", but it's the life he's led which has afforded him the ability to hold it all in retrospect with ease.

"I'm constantly asking myself questions. I'm constantly exploring ideas and feelings I have, and trying to reinterpret old expressions of feeling and thought on a nightly basis. The experience of the band has definitely conditioned me to be more aware of things as they pop up. I can identify thoughts and feelings for what they are better now because of my environment. I grew up asking myself questions and exploring. It's a whole other story as to if I choose the right response to them - but I can identify them," he laughs.

In response to his growing older, and his youth quite firmly cemented in the legacy of 'The Middle', amongst the other truckload of Jimmy Eat World staples we all know and love, the word ego could get floated around.

Not on any external level mind you, Jim is quite possibly one of the nicest gents in rock, giving a certain Dave Grohl a run for his money. But it's impossible for that idea to not, with the light-fingered crawl of a spider hiding from spring rain, burrow its way in amongst all the warmth.

Has that ever outwardly cropped up, especially now he, and the band, have reached such a massive milestone?

"I don't think so..." he starts, before pausing for a near-uncomfortable amount of time. "I had to think about that for a second because the popularity that song has reached is impossible to live up to; it's probably not gonna happen!" he breaks with a laugh.

"I mean really, how many of those do you get in a lifetime? I don't think for a minute I'm as naturally gifted as someone like fuckin' Paul McCartney, but I've always had a pretty good sense of how to let that in. It's flattering, but it doesn't mean that what's in front of me next is guaranteed.

"I still only have the power to be proud of what I'm doing at any given moment. Will someone like what I do next as much as 'The Middle'? Not likely, but I gotta let that go instantly. It's toxic. You'd never do anything! If you're constantly thinking 'will people like this as much as 'The Middle'?' Then you'd never do anything."

"There has to be something you're doing that makes you laugh a little bit"
Jim Adkins

In every guitar chord, fervent beat and yearning emotional lyric, Jimmy Eat World's DNA may have started as the four guys in a small room, but now it's a nostalgia far bigger than them.

That's not to resign them to any yearbook status, to only ever be immortalised as the band that may have been playing in the background of a teen drama or emo club night. There's a pulse that still beats deep within them. One that keeps them at the core of the world in which they've helped build.

On 'Surviving' you'll still find Jimmy Eat World, that's for sure. But there's more to delve into below the surface than on any other Jimmy Eat World album. '555' is a dark, pulsating cut that harks back to Jim's love for the music he grew up with, particularly eighties pop. Rattling off a list of obscure acts, this isn't the only stop on 'Surviving' and its anchoring in Jim's musical beginnings.

The first single 'All The Way (Stay)' felt like not only a rejuvenated Jimmy Eat World, but it also came out of leftfield with a sax solo. "I had this idea I was listening to a lot of eighties music. If you were a session sax player in the eighties, you were set. There were sax solos on everything! And [it was] a gag that we'd been talking about."

"There has to be something you're doing that makes you laugh a little bit," he explains. "And that laughter has to come from struggling with your self-perception. [I prefer] if I'm working on an idea and I start chuckling to myself that there's no way I can pull this off. You don't wanna be sitting with an idea and be like, 'Yep, that's exactly what I would do!' Or 'Yep, that's totally solid, that'll fit right in with everything else!' Sure, you might come up with something passable, but I think our best stuff is us pushing our self-perception a little bit."

Self-perception is one thing, but as a band just as important is the outward perception. After all, it's those hordes of ears that are glued to whatever noise you're making that, quite brutally, are the decider between making it or breaking it.

When it comes to the Jimmy Eat World gang, the passage of time has not only gifted them their mainstay status, priceless knowledge about growing, but also the ability to now live in the moment. To take it all as it comes, no matter the weather.

"The funny thing is though, that's what you're always doing," Jim says. "Whether you have years and years of experience, or you're just getting going, all you have is right now, and what you do in the next moment, that is a choice that's yours.

"I do feel that as I get older, it's easier to find gratefulness in smaller and smaller things. I see opportunity more than I see struggle, and I definitely see more gratefulness more than I see self-pity."

Indeed, the level Jimmy Eat World are at now may seem like it's all set out before them. But they still find the road a harsh judge even to this day. Recalling playing Reading & Leeds, Milton Keynes, Jim knows it's just as important to acknowledge and respect the times that they'd maybe rather forget.

"It's [still a] total gambit of ups and downs. But I think through it all unless you're maintaining a level of gratitude that you are connecting with anybody, you're just not gonna make it. Speaking about people in bands specifically, if things are going great, you might be popular, you can't honestly expect that that's how it's going to stay.

"You've just gotta take things as they come and be grateful for whatever happens because people liking you, people accepting you - you don't control what other people think. The only thing you can really do is put out your work in a way that you feel proud of, and stick to your guns and be satisfied with that."

"In a lot of ways you're still that lost kid," Jim sings on 'Surviving''s titular euphoric opening track, and the retrospect screams from these words, but this album is far more than what its title suggests.

"It's seamless. I don't often think of myself as the real person that I am right now in my forties," he says. "You know, who has three kids and is in a rock band. I don't think of myself as old as I was when I was younger and looking at older people."

Far from a band merely surviving, it would seem Jimmy Eat World are thriving more than ever. 

Taken from the November issue of Upset. Jimmy Eat World's album 'Surviving' is out 18th October.

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