INTERVIEW: Jimmy Eat World Talk Taylor Swift, "Integrity Blues" & Pranks With Green Day
24 October 2016, 16:55 | Updated: 8 May 2017, 17:09
As they drop their ninth album, the pop punk legends discuss their new album, touring with Green Day & Blink and making their own line of beer!
"Nice to meet you James. That's a good name. Solid". Thanks Jim, right back at ya.
The Scotch Of St James is one of the more grimy yet glamorous drinking and dancing dives you can find in the centre of London. Squirrelled away in a back alley next to various more sedate businesses, it has never the less had many UK rock'n'roll legends grace its sticky floors over the years, from The Who and The Animals to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
But today it is America's turn as Jim Adkins, lead singer with Jimmy Eat World, strikes poses on the stairs, gently strumming at an unplugged electric guitar. Drummer Zach Lind heads upstairs, searching for the correct tambourine in a rucksack seemingly stuffed full of them, as instruments, snacks and books are pulled out of it Mary Poppins style. Together with guitarist Tom Linton, they are in town to promote their upcoming ninth studio album Integrity Blues, a band rejuvenated after three years away from the spotlight.
Their army of devoted fans are as loyal and excitable as ever with Bleed American and Futures now regarded as classics of the pop punk/emo genre. Although while we are now aware of the origin story of their unusual name (a fight between Tom's younger brothers Ed and Jim resulting in an aptly captioned caricature), this hasn't stopped a level of confusion and misspelling among the wider public at large.
Jim: Once we pulled up to a place and it said "Jimmy Eat Eggrolls".
Zac: That was probably intentional though...
Jim: Yeah, like, "what's this band called? Ah, let's just do this. This can't be real, let's do this".
PopBuzz: The new album, Integrity Blues, is about to drop - where did that title come from?
Jim: I could say that the record is about a lot of different things, lot of nuances. But the overreaching theme I would say is that it...Integrity Blues is about the personal struggle of coming to accept life on life's terms and the somewhat contradictory terms that can come in pursuit of doing the right things.
PB: It certainly feels like the singles ("Get Right" & "Sure And Certain") have a nostalgic feel to them, were you aiming to move back to a classic era or did it just work out that way?
Jim: I think that when we're making a record there might be the most general goalposts we're shooting for. Like, we want a song to feel a certain way when we listen back to it. And that's something we just sort of let happen in the process. We're discovering as we're recording. We're responding to what we hear as we go. And it just leads itself to where it's gonna go.
PB: Jim, you were trying out some solo material last year - how did that affect your approach to the band? Or were they just completely separate projects for you?
Jim: It's completely separate. But it was refreshing to be outside of what I normally do. And somewhat terrifying because when it's just you and a guitar and it sucks, it's kinda on you. It was just a really rewarding experience. For me, anyway, doing that and then coming back to work with the group just solidified the idea that when you're pushing yourself...when you're feeling uncomfortable, then you're doing your best work.
The rest of the boys busied themselves with other projects, Zac even recording songs in his house with his wife, releasing 6 throughout the year. While the band kept in touch, this was some much needed downtime after two decades together.
Many of their contemporaries have taken similar working strategies of late as Blink 182 and Green Day both emerged this year from a hiatus of sorts. The three bands of course hit the road together in 2002 on the aptly named Pop Disaster Tour. Sadly, the ultimate pop punk show only ever hit America but we had to know just what went down when these three iconic acts of the genre were all rolling as one.
Pop Disaster Tour
PB: Were there any good stories from touring with Green Day and Blink back then?
Jim: I think the biggest memory that sticks out in my mind is the last show we did on the tour with them. Green Day is notorious for pranks...and they all teamed up against us. I remember earlier in the tour I had made some comment to one of the Blink guys about the pyro they were using, specifically the "concussion bombs". The things that just like...you end a song like *dana dana dana* *BOOM*. I was like, that'd be cool ya know? So they had this elaborate plan like maybe four songs into our set, nothings happening and there's like a quiet part of the song and *BOOM* (laughs).
PB: And what did the audience do? How did they react to that?
Jim: We tried to hold it together, everyone was shocked. But that was just the start of it. The whole show! It ended up with people covered in glitter and dehydrated potato flakes falling on us from the rafters and people on stage dancing around, it was pretty hilarious.
PB: That's like the most expensive prank as well, I love the effort...
Jim: Pyros not cheap dude!
These older mainstays of pop punk are having a bit of a "moment" in 2016 and Jimmy are no exception, most recently finding themselves the subject of renewed press attention due to the use of "The Middle" in Taylor Swift's Apple Music commercial. The sight of TayTay lip syncing to one of the band's biggest singles is said to have caused a 298% increase in sales. But many fans won't realise that the band have been on Taylor's radar for years...
Jim: In maybe 2010, she came through Phoenix and she invited me to sit in with her and play "The Middle"...It was really weird in an overwhelming kinda way 'cos she's a huge star. And then just after we decided to cover one of her songs just for fun. And that was us doing "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together".
PB: So then how did the Apple Music thing come about? Were you aware it was going to be happening?
Jim: We had somewhat of a heads up that she was gonna be doing that but I don't think any of us took it too seriously. I mean, those kind of things you just believe it when you see it. And then we saw it! It's a big deal. It's flattering, I think, when anybody...with the competition for your time these days as a listener when anybody will spend the time and live with your music and develop your own associations with it and make it special for you. And the fact that a song like "The Middle" which has been around for 15 years now is still connecting with people and still finding an audience, it's just the most flattering thing I think for a musician.
PB: Your phone must have been blowing up!
Jim: Yeah, there was a lot of like "Hey man, did you see this". I'm like "yeah, I saw that" (laughs). Can't miss it, saw it.
Zac: What's crazy about that is the tweet that she sent out...when I look up our Twitter notifications, that tweet is still getting liked today. It's getting retweeted and liked several times a day and that was, like, months ago. People are going way back in time to find that, it's kinda interesting.
PB: Maybe there'll now be loads of Taylor Swift fans suddenly appearing at your shows this time around.
Jim: Yeah maybe, it's too early to say. We'll find out.
But Taylor isn't the only pop princess who has an association with Jimmy. Kelly Clarkson was widely accused of using elements of "The Middle" in her single "Heartbeat Song", many internet comparison videos springing up from disgruntled fans.
That case was all resolved perfectly amicably but now, as the "Blurred Lines" court case drama unfolds, the boys have an insight into this issue that many of the hundreds of musicians who signed the recent petition against the initial court ruling may not.
Zac: I think it just depends on the situation. There are times where even we've done a song and someone later on said, I think Jim's dad said "hey this sounds like a song by so and so"...We went down the road of approaching that person and having a musicologist listen to it. You gotta be kinda responsible. Of course there is certain conventions and you are gonna maybe reuse a chord progression or something like that but I think the thing that would bother us, or I think anyone, is when someone is taking two separate parts of your song and including it in their song. It's sort of hard to ignore. That's not necessarily accidental.
Jim: I don't think it's a huge deal if you just handle it the right way. I think there's a lot of creativity that comes with appropriation. The poetic license of doing whatever you want. I don't think that should be stifled. But you gotta do the right thing. Kraftwerk and Coldplay is another good example. I think they just included them as songwriters. No issue after that...There's nothing wrong with that if you just do the right thing.
The band are making the most of their brief trip to the UK, playing two intimate London shows before returning in November for a full tour, clearly a fan of playing to the "less conservative" crowds across Britain and Europe. Zac has a theory that it may be to do with the lower drinking age - a perfect opportunity to test out their latest line of merchandise...
#futures10 collaboration beer for charity will be available at the Tucson Rialto and Tempe Marquee gigs! All profits go to @mssociety and @littlekidsrock We are working with @arizona_wilderness to create an indigenous saison recipe that supports a bright future by incorporating locally grown heritage grain from @haydenflourmills and hand picked prickly pear fruit we found at our neighbors house with a bunch of other cool stuff from @agritopiafarm too! Stay tuned for more info.
PB: Did I read somewhere you guys had your own beer?
Jim: Our bass player has a distillery and he makes his own gin and whiskey. It's called Cask Works. For the Futures anniversary show in Phoenix there was a local brewery called Arizona Wilderness and they'd made a special all Arizona farmed ingredients beer.
Zac: It was a farmhouse ale. It was really good actually. It had prickly pear in it from Arizona cactus. It was a good. It had a lavender colour. We're trying to line up something for the new album. The same brewery's gonna maybe do a beer for the album release.
As we wrap things up, we arrive at the most important question of all - tackled by Panic! and Blink before them with always interesting results...
PB: Sum up the new album in 3 emojis.
Jim: How about 3 fist bumps? Like pounds, pounds, pounds.
Zac: How about one fist bump, the rock horns and a unicorn.
PB: Why a unicorn?
Zac: I feel like it's the unicorn of our records...
Tom: Because they're beautiful!
Integrity Blues is out on October 21st. Jimmy Eat World tour the UK this November.