Interview: New Tricks: Jimmy Eat World

The emo stalwarts talk DIY through their new obsessions - musical and otherwise.

Twenty three years into a genre-defining career, Jimmy Eat World show no signs of slowing. With new album ‘Integrity Blues’ still proving they’ve got the chops for change, they’re ever-evolving, taking the emo-rock template and fashioning it into new shapes time and time again.

We thought it was high time for a catch up - given Jimmy Eat World’s ever-expanding influence, we thought we’d turn the mirror round, and ask them what new musical discoveries are making them tick. Turns out they’re big fans of Mitski (great choice) and, er, tight-fitting sportswear…

What was the last record you bought or streamed that blew you away?

Jim Adkins (vocals/guitar): Something just came to mind - this artist named Mitski. Her new record’s great - that’s the first one that jumps into my head. I’d never heard of her before this record, too, but that ‘Your Best American Girl’ song is getting played on satellite radio in the States, and I was like, ‘What’s this, man?!’
I just found out she has a bunch of records, too, so that’s cool.

What was the last new instrument you picked up?

Zach Lind (drums): Last year I started learning how to play the bass a little bit, and I’m just starting to learn how to play guitar. That’s been kinda fun.
Jim: Look out, Grohl - Zach’s coming for your ass!
Zach: [laughs] No, I think Dave Grohl is safe… I don’t think a lot of people know this, but the drummer who’s a really good guitar player is Pat from Weezer. Arguably maybe the best guitar player in that band! He’s really, really good.

Mitski - ‘Your Best American Girl’

When was the last time a new band blew you away?

Rick Burch (bass): They’re not new musicians - they’ve been making music on large stages for a long time - but the Iggy Pop ‘Post Pop Depression’ band was just an incredible live gig. So much energy, and the amount of fun being had on that stage is awesome.

Were there any newer influences or new instrumentation that fed into ‘Integrity Blues’?

Jim: The producer that we worked with - his name is Justin Meldal-Johnson - bass is his main instrument, but he’s also a really good keyboard player and he’s really enthusiastic about synthesisers, and the world of synthesisers. While we’ve incorporated that on some albums before, that’s not how we think. If I wanna hear this kind of a sound, or this kind of mood, I’ll reach for a guitar and put a bunch of pedals on it to get that mood. Justin thinks more in terms of synthesisers. Texturally, building up the foundation of things, there’s a lot of keyboard sounds happening.
Analog and modular synthesisers can be routed and modified and programmed, and there’s really no limit. We picked up some things - it’s kinda like trying to follow along in an Advanced Masters class which you’re a 101 student! [laughs] There are some things we picked up, but other things were just kinda witchcraft.

Are there any bands that you could see headlining festivals in years to come?

Zach: A band like Royal Blood comes to mind, where they have that rock, Led Zeppelin, White Stripes sorta thing - that’s really cool. I could see them doing that, for sure.
Jim: He’s already pretty big, but I could see Father John Misty taking a step up - I don’t know about festival headliner, but I could see him definitely taking a step up.

Jimmy Eat World - ‘Sure And Certain’

What advice would you give to a band starting out, if they wanted to ‘make it’?

Jim: Two words - leather chaps.
Rick: The definition of ‘making it’ - what is ‘making it’? Lasting fifteen minute or lasting fifteen years?
Tom Linton (guitar): Don’t rely on others.
Zach: Try to pick up the things that you can learn to make your band independent - like Tom’s saying, the more you can learn and absorb and pick up… whether it’s writing your own songs, or recording your own music, or becoming a student of knowledge when it comes to playing your instrument… all those things that you can actually participate in and do, you’re more educated.
Jim: You’ve gotta have the direction. If the idea comes from you, you’re much more likely to get what you want out of the process. Even if what you want to get out of the process is exploration, you define the parameters of the exploration. If that happens, then you’ll be continually in control.

Do you see a ‘new breed’ or a ‘scene’ coming through in the younger generation of bands?

Jim: It’s tough to say. When we were starting out, our peer group felt really small. Yeah, it was kind of a niche, but it wasn’t defined by a particular sound - it was more about like-minded individuals. We’d do gigs that Zach would book, all around the country, and we’d show up and it’d be like five hardcore bands and us. Or seven ska bands and us! It was just people that were coming together to support each other and connect.
Now, it seems like it’s very easy to find your niche and live in it, and not have to break out of it ever. That’s fine, but it seems like a lot of small niches all over the place and less of a shared experience; less of a shared kind of scene. I’m sure there’s a tonne of that happening, but I never see it.

Is there any particular album that you loved at a teenager that you’d like to make essential listening for younger generations?

Rick: Pixies, ‘Doolittle’.
Jim: Fugazi’s ‘13 Songs’ would be a good one. Like, ‘Hey 14 year old boy, who’s trying to experiment with parenting themselves and independence - direct your aggression this way!’ [laughs] Leave mom and dad alone! Direct your angst in a more intelligent way. [laughs]

Outside of specific bands or albums, what do you think is the most exciting thing happening in music right now?

Jim: It seems like it’s getting easier and easier to collaborate with people. Things like Dropbox are making it very easy to be anywhere and access large bits of information. They’ve been trying streaming collaboration for a while, and I don’t think anyone’s really nailed it, but I think that’s the next thing. If we could collaborate with anyone, in real-time, anywhere… I think it’s gonna get close soon.

Who would be your top collaboration?

Jim: Shakira… but for that I wanna be in the same room.

Outside of music, what are your current obsessions?

Jim: Yoga pants… Not for me!
Zach: It just aired in the U.S., on HBO, a series called The Night Of. It’s about a kid who gets wrongly accused of the murder of some girl. It’s sort of a look into the criminal justice system - it’s really interesting.
Tom: It’s an American remake of Criminal Justice.
Rick: Yeah, we don’t have any original ideas anymore…
Jim: ‘Right, let’s do Sherlock Holmes again!’

Jimmy Eat World’s new album ‘Integrity Blues’ is out 21st October via Dine Alone / RCA.

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