When you read the band name “Jimmy Eat World,” what comes to mind?
When you read the band name “Jimmy Eat World,” what comes to mind? Did you just blurt out “it just takes some time…” from “The Middle” in a perfect cadence like an awkward musical reflex? Or did you start head-banging your way through “Sweetness” which undoubtedly got you some very odd looks from the people around you? Or are you like me and just have them all running through your heard from “Lucky Denver Mint” to “Big Casino” to “The Heart Is Hard To Find?”
Sure, most people out there know Jimmy Eat World from the unexpected success of “The Middle” in late 2001 and the momentum that “Sweetness” rode onto the airwaves shortly afterwards, but the band is so much more than that. Believe it or not, Jimmy Eat World is not only one of the most important bands of the 90s for American music, but also one of the most consistently great bands of the past decade and a half.
Sure, you might be a little incredulous, but it’s true. In the 90s, Jimmy Eat World helped innovate and make a name for the burgeoning emocore (or just emo) scene long before Fall Out Boy and the like watered it down for the masses. When the influential compilation series ‘The Emo Diaries’ began in 1997, which band did you think was the first track on the first release? Well, it wasn’t Taking Back Sunday. Clarity, Jimmy Eat World’s landmark 1999 album, may have been overlooked by critics, but it’s now pretty evident that it influenced the next crop of bands.
When the alt-rock axis started shifting in the mid-2000s from the post-grunge movement to something new, those bands at the forefront were all pointing their finger back to the Arizona quartet that made them want to make their own Clarity. The band, which formed in 1993, changed up their sound for 2001’s Bleed American, but still delivered some of the best music of that turbulent year and one of the best power pop records of the past twenty-five years. Futures (2004), Chase This Light (2007), and Invented (2010) followed and while they weren’t able to capture the same level of commercial success, they were undoubtedly on the same level quality-wise as the band’s senior release and some would even argue that they were better.
Now, the band’s changed up their sound again slightly with their eighth studio album, Damage, which came out this past June to strong reviews. At this point in their career, most bands would have rode the success of their past into nostalgic festivals where they’re second on the bill to that band that scored two number one hits and then dropped off the face of the Earth. Instead, Jimmy Eat World is delivering exceptionally novel tunes in 2013 and showing people why “The Middle” wasn’t their peak. It was just what it said: a middle. Jimmy Eat World returns to Richmond for the first time since they electrified The National in February 2011 with one of the best shows that venue has ever seen. Bassist Rick Burch was gracious enough to talk to us about everything from recording Damage to covering Taylor Swift.
February 2011 was the last time we saw you guys. Are you excited to be back to Virginia’s capital?
Yeah, I am for sure. Looking forward to being back. We’ve always had good times in Richmond and we have some good memories of the city. Friend of ours, Cam [DiNunzio], he played a long time ago in this band called Lazycain. Those guys are from Richmond and I just remember doing a ton of gigs of them a long time ago. Really hot, sweaty gigs, but lots of fun and pure rock and roll.
Lazycain is definitely a blast from the past for some of our readers here. Well, when you come back to Richmond on Saturday, you’ll be supporting your eighth studio album, Damage. Now with bands that have been around as long as you, I guess the question is what makes this album different than your last release and the rest of your catalogue?
Well, we recorded it a little bit differently. We did it in analog starting with putting the drums to tape and going from there. I mean, we used a computer, but when we did, it was as a documentation device and not an editing tool. It’s much more performance-based that way and I don’t mean the other albums weren’t. For this one though, we were just focused on getting the right feel and not worrying so much about the technical proficiency.
So do you think going straight to tape made it a lot more organic?
Yeah, definitely. We would do multiple takes and go back and listen to them. Whichever felt right, we went with that one. We recorded to tape. A lot of times, you record to computer and then to tape to get that tape sound. We’ve done that too, but when you record to tape, the sound that’s already there influences the sounds that you find to match it. So you have the drums that are on tape and when it comes to getting a bass sound, you want to get something that fits with that well. So on and so forth. It’s a lot softer sound. Well, softer isn’t quite right. Organic is the right word with this record. Organic and natural.
How satisfied were you with the final product?
We’re really excited. It was a lot of fun to make and it sounds really great. It might be because of the different way in which we did it. I think it’s apparent to me when I listen to it about how fun it was because I just remember having the time of my life making it. When I hear that, it just reminds me of those good times which is really interesting since that doesn’t really match up with the lyrical content. Jim [Adkins] chose to focus on what he calls “break-up situations” as a theme for most of the songs on the album, but despite that difficult feeling, I had a great time recording. The songs are just great & varied and we’re having a ton of fun playing them live. Can’t wait to bring them to Richmond for you guys!
All right, really random question, but I saw on the credits for Damage that your mixing was done by someone named James Brown. Any soul on this record?
Ha! Not that James Brown that we’re all familiar with. This one’s a white Englishmen and pretty much the exact opposite of the famous James Brown.
Seriously though, you had Alain Johannes behind the scenes as a producer. What was that like?
Alain is one of the nicest, greatest people I’ve ever met and have ever spent time with. He’s also extremely musically creative and talented so it was just an honor to work with him and collaborate on this album. He’s a wizard when it comes to getting the right sound and that was so important for us here. We recorded the album at his studio which is actually in his home and his level of dedication is above and beyond a lot of others. For him to go to sleep at night, he had to literally climb over stacks of guitar amplifiers just to get into his bed. They were just everywhere, he was surrounded by music when he was awake and asleep.
Now, you guys have worked with some of the best and most celebrated producers of the past quarter-century like Butch Vig and Gil Norton. Is there anyone else out there you’d like to work with?
Oh, that’s a tough one, man. We have been so lucky to be able to work with some amazing producers. They’ve all been such educational and awesome experiences. There’s a bunch of guys out there we’d love to work with, but what about the guy that no one knows about? Maybe next time we go with someone that’s completely unknown. It might just help us create something new and different which is extremely important.
You’ve had some label changes between these past two records. What’s the story behind that?
Well, it’s totally different now which we love. We found ourselves on Interscope after being on Dreamworks. Honestly, we were just kind of shuffled over there. On Interscope, it was a struggle because they’re a great label with a lot of amazing acts so it was really hard to get their time because they’re strapped so thin, you know? When we left, we wanted to take time to find a label partner for this album. I mean, we had already finished the album – it was a done deal – so it was just about finding the right spot for it and the right way to release. We met with a bunch of people and RCA seemed to have the right ways of doing things right now. So we signed for one record deal so it’s not as long term as the old record deals we’ve had. No complaints so far. They’re just doing it right, you know?
Sounds great for you guys. Now, for you personally, what are some of your favorite songs that you guys have done over the years?
Well, I love “Blister” [from Clairty] and “Evidence” [from Invented], but other than that, it’s hard to pick. I really like to play “Disintegration” from the Futures era. That’s something we haven’t played for a while since it wasn’t on the album itself. It’s definitely a super fun tune to play. I also like “Get It Faster” [from Bleed American] which is just an amazing rock song to play.
After putting out all these albums, how hard is it to decide which songs make the cut each night for your sets?
Well, we always want pick something from every album or try to, but it is becoming more and more difficult though. As time goes on, there’s just more and more songs which is a good and bad thing. Sometimes we’ll be stumped on what to put on so we’ll throw out a tweet or Instagram asking our fans what they would want to hear from whatever album and we just kind of go with that. Makes it more fun. [Note: The band did something similar on their Facebook page last time they were in Richmond when they announced they would be playing a forgotten song in “Polaris” shortly before the show began…so keep an eye on their Twitter and Facebook.]
Any other songs that you personally love, but you guys just never play anymore?
This song from Static Prevails called “Rockstar” is one. It’s a song that Tom [Linton] sings and we used to play it all the time, but we just don’t play it anymore. It kind of fell by the wayside. I really like that one though. Tom’s got a great voice and he sings really well, but it’s tough when you only have an hour and a half. You just have to think, “Well, what are we going to cut?”
I’ve heard that if you weren’t doing music as a career you might have ended up working in a brewery. Is this just something of a casual interest for you or something more?
Yeah, it’s definitely a passion. One of my favorite aspects of it is that it’s something we’ve been doing for thousands of years and it’s still fully untapped. You can do something that has never been done before. The openness of creating something new is just so exciting. There so many beers to be done.
Have you ever tried any of Richmond’s local breweries like Legend or Hardywood?
I have not been lucky enough to do that yet. Which one would you recommend?
Well, can’t go wrong with anything from Hardywood and they just released a blackberry ale over the weekend. We’ll have to sneak you one backstage.
That sounds ridiculous! I’d love to try it.
So after you enjoy one of Richmond’s finest ales, what should we expect from your show this Saturday?
We’re just going to go up there and give it our all which is just a solid rock show. This time around, what’s different is that we’re not travelling with lights so no lighting rig or lighting person. We left that out so we can really just focus on our performance itself and playing well. It’s all about the sound and creating the perfect audio experience.
Any chance we’ll hear your cover of Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together?”
Maybe! We’ve been doing that quite a bit lately and it’s always a lot of fun. The transformation of the crowd during it is very interesting. Ours is not exactly like hers so it’s funny to see the changes on people’s faces when they realize what it is and the reactions that follow. It’s great.
If you guys do it, I’ll definitely have to keep an eye out for the crowd. All right, Rick, just one more question. You’re going on nearly twenty years with the band. What would you say is the weirdest thing a fan has ever shouted at you during a show?
Oh, there are tons of weird moments. Someone held up a sign recently where it read, “Jimmy Eat World, we have been dating for fifteen years – can we just get married already?” That was really sweet, but on the same token, extremely strange. I wish it was the only strange occurrence, but it was just the most recent!
Well, thanks for your time, Rick. We look forward to your show this Saturday. If last time was any indication, it will surely be a “can’t-miss” show.
Anytime and we look forward to seeing you guys this weekend!