Jimmy Eat World Frontman Interviewed: "Some Of Our Funnest Shows Have Been In The UK"

The alternative rockers talk about the release of their new album, Twitter, touring and recording on tape...
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The alternative rockers talk about the release of their new album, Twitter, touring and recording on tape...

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There’s only one place to start – the new album, Damage, out on the 11th of June. You guys were very independent in how you went about putting the album together – what was that like?

It was a great experience. We decided to work with somebody new. Basically the whole thing was kind of a return to how it used to work, but also it felt kind of new because it’s a new time, returning to that style of work. The last few records we’ve made with kind of remote producers, people who’d be around for a little bit and then go away, and we would be mostly on our own, in our studio, and getting feedback sporadically. We wanted to work in a different manner this time, so we’d be with the producer all the time, in a more traditional working environment I suppose.

What else is different about Damage compared to previous things you’ve done? 

We used tape for the first time in a really long time, that’s something new. I think analogue and digital recording both have their advantages, and both take a certain musicianship to really bring out the benefits of each style. So we tried to take the best of what we thought both could bring to the process, and put them together. We ended up recording some of the basic tracks to tape, and finishing off everything else in the digital world.

You’ve called Damage an ‘adult break-up record’. What else were you looking to achieve with it?

Effectiveness in a song-by-song setting, kind of like what we’ve always done. Trying to get the best version of the song that the song can be, based on what type of tune we feel it is. That’s sort of what we’ve always held ourselves to, though, so it’s not exactly a difference. It’s tough because with only the last album, Invented, and with Damage, at least fanatically, we’ve been trying to root the writing around some sort of basic theme or basic idea to have it based in, I suppose.


Has that always been something you could relate to yourselves?

In the past there hasn’t been a whole lot of attention paid to cohesiveness, with a theme for the album. It’s like: “Here are the absolute best songs we’ve come up with in the timeframe since our last recording."  The theme or the subject could be anything, it’s more a document of our time. With the last two albums, obviously we feel like they’re the best songs we think we’ve come up with since we recorded last time, but there’s a basic general idea it’s rooted around.

Whenever I mention Jimmy Eat World, people always say “Oh, ‘The Middle’ is a great song”. Why do you think people respond to that, even when they’re not really hard-core fans?

That’s interesting. We just did a gig in California this weekend and there were some hard-core fans in the audience. You know there’s the casual people on the peripheral of the crowd, and then hard-core fans near the front. But then when we played 'The Middle', everyone just sort of stood up and paid attention at that point. It’s cool. It’s no lie to say it’s our hugest song to date. Hell, how many bands don’t even get one ‘...Middle’? It’s an amazing compliment, it’s a very flattering thing that this far along, people still find something, anything, in what we did or do that they can relate to and care about.

I read on the internet that you guys played at Tom DeLonge’s wedding – is that true? What’s the story behind that?

It’s true! His wife, his fiancée at the time, he’s a fan of ours, and she was a fan. So she asked us to play as a sort of secret surprise for him, so we said “Yes, why not?” We’d never done a wedding before so we’ve crossed that off the list.

You’ve been really embracing social media, recently doing some Q&A sessions in the van using Vine. How important to you are things like Twitter, in terms of keeping in touch with your fans?

I think it’s awesome, we try to approach everything that we do from a perspective of a music fan, like us, in particular, as a music fan. It’s important to us.

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You guys have toured in England before, and you’re back next month, you’re playing at Download. What are you most looking forward to about visiting the UK?

Man, seriously, some of the funnest shows we’ve done have been in the UK. On a purely concert way to answer that question, it’s like people have made up their mind that they’re gonna have fun when they leave the house, as opposed to some other places around the world that you have to win over the cool police a little bit for it to break out and for people to respond to what you’re doing.

Speaking of tours, are there any countries you’ve not yet been to that you really want to play, or any that you want to revisit?

Oh yeah, there’s loads. We’ve never done South American gigs. I’d love to. We love touring, we love travelling, so we’d love to go see Chile and so on. So South America we’ve never done, I’d like to cross that off the list. I’d like to do Iceland.

Here’s a tough one: if I told you that you could play only one more song, what would you choose?

Of ours? I think as a musician you’re always excited about playing the stuff you just wrote, your newest material. I really like playing all of the new songs. A slower song that we’ve been playing out that I really like to do is a new song called 'Please Say No'. That’s a fun one to play.


I suppose you’ve played things like 'Firefight' lots of times because they’re older, whereas you haven’t had the chance to play the newer ones as much.

Yeah, that’s the thing, we played 'Firefight' a lot when Chase This Light came out. And that was at the expense of older songs. So now I think we’re doing a good job of rotating a mix of older songs with new ones. I think if you’d seen us play multiple times in the past, you’d probably hear something you’d never heard before.

Who were your individual inspirations? The band have listed people like Def Leppard as influences, but what about yours as a guitarist and a vocalist?

I think as a guitarist, that’s kind of where my list came from. Duane Denison from Jesus Lizard, John Reis from Rocket From The Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, The Night Marchers, the list of bands that he’s in. I started out playing guitar pretty young, started out playing music pretty young, and I gravitated toward the virtuoso-style players, dudes like [Joe] Satriani and [Steve] Vai, and Yngwie Malmsteen, people that just, hands-down, shredded, because that’s like: “Whoa. That’s the most impressive thing I’ve heard”. But then, I kind of got to the point where I realised I would never actually be a player like that, like it’s just not physically going to happen to me. That came about sort of around the time I heard the way Duane Denison plays, or the way that John Reis plays. Or the guitar-work on any Forgotten song. The conventions that ruled, normally, that you learn – that’s out of the window.  The foundation of a song can be this crazy guitar line hook. An intelligent hook can be something completely off the wall, as long as the musicianship around it can make it work in the song. It sort of changed my thinking on how guitar playing can be, for rock.

So were the vocals something of a bonus? Tom for example sang on 'Rockstar', so he sang in a couple, you didn’t have a monopoly on it.

I don’t know exactly how it happened, it was really sort of a natural thing that I ended up singing more. I got really into, in the early days, around Static Prevails, recording demos on my own, four-track stuff. I got to the point where I couldn’t write something unless I had an idea for the vocal melody, and I ended up having a lot of ideas, so I ended up singing more. That’s just kind of how that happened, I guess it’s a bonus.

Jimmy Eat World's new album Damage is out now on RCA, you can get it here