Band born of desert boredom finds success an amusing surprise
By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Staff Writer
|Mesa, Ariz.-based bandsmen Jimmy Eat World from left, Zach Lind, Tom Linton, Jim Adkins and Rick Burch will perform Monday at the World Cafe.
Jimmy Eat World
7 p.m. Monday
Small wonder, then, that the band known for its emo-core stylings (essentially quick-paced pop and punk rock with melodic and romantic undercurrents) first got together eight years ago thanks to some simple, old-fashioned desert-based boredom.
"I would just go over to (drummer Zach Lind's) house and we would just d--- around playing stuff off of, like, (Metallica's) 'Master of Puppets,'" said Adkins, of jamming with his pre-kindergarten best bud. "The other guys ... we all kind of got together around junior high or high school."
The band took on the name Jimmy Eat World (based on an old drawing of guitarist Tom Linton's overweight pre-teen brother Jim swallowing the Earth whole) out of semi-desperation in 1994, right before its first paid gig in the back of a clothing store called Name Brand Exchange.
"We were serious, but not so serious," Adkins said of the band's nonchalant quest for stardom beyond Mesa. "The loftiest goal that we thought about was, like, maybe one day getting a couple of songs pressed on a seven-inch. That was, like, the biggest thing in the world to us back then."
A year's worth of hometown gigs and a few independently-released singles eventually attracted the attention of Capitol Records, which signed the band in 1995. Original bassist Mitch Porter left then, replaced by current bass player Rick Burch. At the time, signing with a major label like Capitol seemed sweet. But outside of lending the band needed financial backing for more touring, the label hardly knew what to do with Jimmy Eat World or their music.
"It was just really hard to mobilize support there," said Adkins. "There was a handful of people there who got what we did and were supportive, but it takes more than just the college radio department liking your record to get important decisions greenlighted there."
After a couple of tepidly promoted Capitol albums, band members were hardly surprised when Jimmy Eat World was unceremoniously dropped from the label's roster in August 1999.
Refusing to wallow in self-pity, the band instead continued its breakneck touring schedule, self-financing a long-desired European tour and financing the recording of its current CD while on the road. Eventually snapped up by Dreamworks Records, last year's self-titled "Jimmy Eat World" has become at 200,000-plus copies and counting the band's biggest-selling album to date.
"Anyone that came to one of our shows in 2000 and bought a T-shirt or something indirectly funded our record," said Adkins, without a hint of sarcasm.
The album has also provided the band with its first true hit singles, with last year's chunkily poppy "Bleed American" and the hopelessly melodic sing-along "The Middle." The latter, currently the No. 7 track on Billboard's modern rock chart, also has spawned its own relentlessly upbeat and altogether charming MTV Top 20 "Buzzworthy Clip."
Although Adkins finds Jimmy Eat World's so-called "overnight" success something of an amusing surprise after eight years together, don't expect the band to flee the sanctity of its hometown desert oasis for the temptations of Right Coast/Left Coast metropolitan splendor anytime soon.
"We're kind of trapped here for now," said Adkins. "That's OK, though. We've got a lot of good friends here."