After a band have been together with the same lineup for nearly twenty years, it's understandable (even expected) they'd lose some of the vigor that defined their salad days. But that's not the case with the members of Jimmy Eat World, who have been together since their teens.
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Ahead of their eighth studio album, Damage, which dropped last month, the Mesa, Arizona, natives returned to the small clubs in the musical outposts of their home state, in cities such as Casa Grande, Wickenburg and Flagstaff, to showcase their new material. Not that it was necessary, but playing these rooms that hold no more than a few hundred people reinvigorated the group and gave them a greater appreciation for what they've accomplished.
"These are places where a lot of bands don't play and that we haven't played before," guitarist Tom Linton explains. "We played in a really small place in Yuma, and it was a totally different experience to be playing those rooms that were so small and hot. It reminded us of our start."
Last summer, the band headed to Los Angeles to work with producer Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures) on Damage, which was a shift from how they'd done things on their previous two records, when they would send tracks back and forth with a producer as they developed. On Twitter the band said that they benefited from working with Johannes on a daily basis, that it gave the project the spark it needed, just because everyone was in the same room.
"There was so much new stuff we did, but the main thing is that [Johannes] let us be ourselves," Linton confirms. "There was no filter since all of us had the same goal in making a really good record."
The themes tackled by singer/lyricist Jim Adkins are unlike anything the group have worked on before. Adkins has been quoted as saying that the songs that comprise the album are inspired by the struggle of adult relationships.
Jimmy Eat World's third album, 1999's Clarity, has morphed from discarded afterthought into contemporary classic. Granted, this is a classic piece of revisionist history; the band is now considered one of the forefathers of the emo movement that spawned countless angst-ridden acts. But the album's lack of commercial success got them dropped by Capitol Records. Fittingly, though, Clarity was the album in which Jimmy Eat World began to find its voice.
Clarity may have built them a core fan base, but it was 2001's Bleed American that smashed in the proverbial front door. Jimmy Eat World became the subjects of a bidding war between labels that suddenly expressed an interest in their music. The album was a critical and commercial success; the outfit landed on mainstream rock radio on the strength of the title track, "Sweetness" and "The Middle," which was Jimmy Eat World's biggest single.
"It was the right place at the right time," Linton says. "There were a couple of ones that people really liked and still like. It's pretty crazy that when we play those songs -- those are the ones the crowd reacts to the most."
Twenty years in, Linton says that he and his band mates often talk about how far they've come. They're still passionate about writing and playing music together, which has allowed them to solider on while many of their contemporaries have disappeared.
"The main thing is that we were all friends before starting the band," the guitarist says. "Jim and Zach have known each other since preschool, and I've known Rick since we were twelve. We started playing really early and among friends. Making music with people you really like helps you have fun and keeps it going as long as it has."