MUSIK SANS FRONTIERES
JIMMY EAT WORLD TOUR
“There is none of the self-absorption and empty aggression of so many other contemporary bands; J.E.W. is a fresh and dynamic musical force which induces its audience to move without thrashing. Buzzing from the benevolent charge, I understand why the band was flying on a natural high that afternoon. A crowd of thousands at the Bizarre Festival had heard this sound the previous afternoon, and got happy, and it had rebounded back on the band from a sea of satisfied customers.”
by Vincent Abbate
Copyright © 2001, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
(It turns out you were looking for a club in the section of the city known as Nippes, fellas.)
The first ten minutes of my backstage interview with Jimmy Eat World are like the title of their second album. Static prevails. Never having met them and knowing little of the band's bio beyond what I have fished out of the Internet, I ask bland questions from a prepared list and get fittingly dull answers. We're based in the Phoenix area. Right now, we're busy writing for our next record. No, "Lucky Denver Mint" wasn't the theme song of Jennifer Love Hewitt's TV show. My question about the name Jimmy Eat World, and more specifically, its acronym, blows its cover before it's within a hundred yards of them. Not that they're rude about it. Tom Linton, the tanned, t-shirted guitarist, answers with a story of growing up in a house full of brothers, and of a picture drawn by his little brother Ed of his big brother Jimmy, the bully, the beater-upper, the eater of Ed's world.
By rights, Tom and his bandmates (guitarist Jim Adkins and bassist Rick Birch) should be jet-lagged, cranky and ragged from travelling eight thousand miles and playing two shows hundreds of miles apart the day before. But these guys are nothing if not chipper. Thrilled, still, from the previous day's gig at the Bizarre Festival, Germany's annual alternative rock summit. The biggest crowd they've ever played to. "Crazy," says Rick. The worst part was having to pack up immediately and head off to the next show, missing out on headliners Placebo and Beck. But even the gig in Hanover was cool.
A bad sign: we wind up talking about the weather next. How glad they are to be escaping the midsummer Arizona heat. "Anything over 110° Fahrenheit sucks. It was like 113° when we left," says Jim. I mention their two-album stint on Capitol records, now history. They discuss it with no visible signs of bitterness. Why they got dropped after Clarity, they're not sure exactly. Not moving a million albums, probably. Capitol never did anything for them as far as promotion was concerned. But other major label perks, like a new touring van and time in the studio on other peoples' money, were fun while they lasted.
Finally, Tom Linton moves to a well-stocked fridge and hands out a round of Plato 13, a brown, porterish brew in Red Bull-sized cans. Pop pop pop. At last, things loosen up, reflecting the haywire existence that is rock and roll and the band's enthusiasm for this "easy" five-date European tour.
Beer is discussed. Good German beer and the swill they got at an MTV event. Drummer Zach Lind enters briefly. What do you want to say to the world, Zach? "I dunno." I throw him an admittedly unfair impromptu question: who's your favorite drummer? Neal Peart and Stewart Copeland are in his top five. "Peart's every drummer's favorite!" yells Tom. A debate ensues, and other"gnarly" drummers are mentioned. John Bonham. Max Weinberg. Animal from the Muppets. A first burp sounds. Jim hands Zach a can of Plato 13. Tom asks me if I've heard of a club called Nipples, where a friend of theirs is supposed to be playing tonight. Believe me, if there's a Nipples in Cologne, I'd know.
From there, our talk meanders for another twenty minutes. It's all on tape,
but as the door keeps opening and snippets of Readymade, the soundchecking band, squash our conversation, the zigs and zags are hard to follow. We talk about a career highlight: opening for Duran Duran in Los Angeles. ("The 'Reflex' video is probably what made me want to be in a rock and roll band," says Jim Adkins. "'Girls On Film'!" counters Tom.) And MTV ("Pretty much useless as a musical outlet." Jim again.) And the excellent treatment they get in Europe, the mineral water and fresh fruit backstage. "Here, it's like people are actually happy to see you. It's not like, this is my job, alright guys, don't give me any shit, here's your fuckin' pizza." Adkins is, today at least, the most talkative band member.
But finally, the "what" of our meeting loses relevance. The "how" is what matters. The "how" is loose and west coast laid back, with tipped-over glasses as background noise. The band is, in Tom's words, "Doing good. Having a good time on the road. Broke, but I don't care." Clearly, it is sweet to be in Jimmy Eat World's shoes on this Saturday afternoon in August. I'll have to wait another seven hours to understand exactly why.
On the way into that night's show, J.E.W. topping a five-band bill, I run into a well-traveled former colleague who has already seen Jimmy Eat World perform at a South by Southwest showcase in Austin, Texas. Besides assuring me with big eyes that this is a killer live act, she turns green with envy when I mention that I've had an audience with them that very afternoon. I offer to introduce her, and she goes all bashful on me. At this point, I'm still not connecting the dots. I can't imagine Jimmy Eat World as rock superheroes. They are modest, clean cut young men. Nothing to get all worked up about. Easy to like, but nobody to be in awe of.
Once the houselights dim and a few hundred fans gather round to worship, I receive my indoctrination. Jimmy Eat World enters through the soles of my feet, shoots up my legs and smacks me right in the Muladhara chakra. There is warmth and calm on the floor, even as Jim Adkins windmills over his guitar above us, the band churning around him. It is good. There is none of the self-absorption and empty aggression of so many other contemporary bands; J.E.W. is a fresh and dynamic musical force which induces its audience to move without thrashing. Buzzing from the benevolent charge, I understand why the band was flying on a natural high that afternoon. A crowd of thousands at the Bizarre Festival had heard this sound the previous afternoon, and got happy, and it had rebounded back on the band from a sea of satisfied customers.
It would carry them for days.
Jimmy Eat World's current release is a collection of their pre-Capitol limited pressing singles and splits. Called Singles, it's on Big Wheel Recreation and includes one Duran Duran cover.
The band's website is at:
Next time around, MSF takes a walk down Soul Street with New York's Holmes Brothers.
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