“This record is about the difference between living and just existing…” - hmv.com talks to Jimmy Eat World
Most bands would be celebrating the arrival of their 10th studio album with great fanfare, but for Arizona rockers Jimmy Eat World, it’s just another notch in a consistently great career.
The foursome mean the world to a generation of bands and multiple generations of fans with their heart-swelling melodies and evocative lyrics. Their 1999 record Clarity and its 2001 follow-up Bleed American are timeless classics, with You Me At Six, Paramore, The 1975 and so many more citing them as a key influence.
But they want to keep working. And they are. Their new album Surviving arrives in stores today and they’re back on the road for the next 18 months. Still working, still pushing on.
With the album now on shelves, we spoke to frontman Jim Adkins and bassist Rick Burch about how finding new inspiration when you’re 10 LPs deep…
10 records! Was the fact that it was a 10th record something you thought about before going in?
Rick: “It matters. That’s for sure. It’s a milestone, it’s something to be proud of, but it wasn’t something we dwelt on. You just want to do something that makes you feel good.”
Did you want to do anything differently from the way you worked on Integrity Blues?
Jim: “It’s never as simple as that. You never sit down and think about what you’re going to do. But, subconsciously, there is always a desire to distance yourself from the thing you just did. We really accomplished what we wanted with Integrity Blues and we had no desire to do it again. You need to make a record that challenges you, a record that makes you work hard, or else, what are you doing?”
Do you feel like you need a reason to keep writing and recording?
Jim: “Making a 10th album, you do ask yourself ‘Do we need to do this?’. We knew we needed a good reason to make a record and that it had to be our best work. There are nine other records sat there and it needs to match up to the very best of them.”
You’re back with Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who produced your last record, what did he give you that made you want to stick with him?
Jim: “It wasn’t quite the same. He had a couple of other projects going at the same time and he was in Los Angeles, so we’d meet with him every once in a while rather than him being in the studio with us. Mostly we worked on our own with an engineer.”
You didn’t need a more hands-on production experience?
Jim: “In a weird way, the material didn’t need much. Sometimes more is definitely more, but these songs really felt like they needed to have fewer things happening that meant more. If a guitar sounded good, it sounded good, it didn’t need over-analysing. We’d second-guess ourselves in the past and go on these huge journeys, sometimes that pays off, sometimes it’s a giant waste of time. We felt like this material didn’t need it, we embraced the restrictions and the space and time we had.”
A lot of bands either go looking for a sound or an adult in the room…
Jim: “You always want quality control. One of Justin’s qualities is his work is so varied. He has a perspective, but he wants you to make your record. His musical palette is very different to ours, but he’s so light-touch.”
Rick: “He’s a facilitator. He gets you where you want to go.”
Jim: “There’s not a lot of similarities between Wolf Alice and M83. We liked that about him. We weren’t looking for a sound, we needed help fully realising our ideas.”
How many songs did you have for the record?
Jim: “We had about 16, at the ideas stage, a couple fell off as we worked and went on the back burner. We actually wrote as we recorded this time, that’s new, but that’s the benefit of working at our pace.”
With your own space to work in, the temptation must be to keep working and keep tweaking, with no time pressure…
Rick: “You do eventually want to put out something and you have to have a focus.”
Jim: “You can do so much in recording now. It’s paralysing. Any sound can do anything and it’s hard to scale back and ask ‘Is this any good? Are we just playing a video game now?’ You can tweak until you’re old and grey. That said, one of the songs on the record, ‘All The Way’, that dates back to the Futures era. Things are never wasted.”
Do you think the record has a lyrical theme?
Jim: “If you could it narrow it down, it’s the idea of why there’s such resistance to confronting change, within yourself. If you’re not satisfied and you’re unhappy, but you know to do something else is scary. You might hate yourself and your life, but you think ‘I’ll keep doing this’. Why is there so much fear in making change, even if where you’re at sucks? This record is about the difference between living and just existing.”
Was it always going to be called Surviving?
Jim: “Always. It was either that or Rick’s Big Ass Dance Party. We’ve had that title for every album and it always seems to lose. But he’ll keep trying.”
How’s 2020 looking?
Rick: “We’re still filling in some holes, but we’ll be on the road. We’ll be here and everywhere.”
10 records, you can play Springsteen sets if you want to…
Jim: “We’ll be playing a lot of the new ones, they’re just so fun to play. They’ll fit in nicely. We might go back and figure out a few older ones, especially ones we didn’t do on the last run. We try and move things around constantly. There are about 45 minutes of songs we have to do. You can’t touch those, they are the ones that really work.”
You’ve played records start to finish before, are you considering doing that again?
Jim: “I don’t think we’d do a tour like that, but now and then, we might cook up something special. It’s fun every once in a while, but I don’t think we’d make a big deal of it.”
Jimmy Eat World’s new album Surviving is out now in hmv stores.