Jimmy Eat World interview (James Adkins)

"'Emo' definitely doesn’t mean the same to what I knew it meant the first time I heard the term"

05/06/2013 @ 13:07
As Jimmy Eat World is about to release their eight studio album, "Damage", we had the opportunity to have a little chat with the band’s frontman, James Adkins, about all things new with "Damage", old tags dying hard and the importance of record stores. Enjoy...

Jimmy Eat WorldHello James, it’s Theodore from Rocking.gr. How are you?
Hey, I’m doing really good!

Nice! Well, let’s start, since we’ve got limited time. First of all, congratulations on getting ready for an album No. 8. There are only a handful of bands of your generation we can say that to.
Haha, yeah, we feel lucky that we are able to do this for so long.

Jimmy Eat World - DamageIt seems that the follow-up to "Invented" was tougher than expected. Care to talk us through some of the mishaps that occurred over the past few years?
You know, before "Invented" we were touring quite a lot. Some people go on tour and write a lot while they tour. We’ve never been that kind of band. When we tour, we always have ideas for things, but for us, we need isolation and time, in order to turn those ideas into songs. So, it always has taken us a long time to make records. I don’t know, we would like to make them faster, quickly, but it doesn’t always work out that way. We always thought, as a band, that the most important thing is the music. All other decisions have to be secondary to being proud of the music. If it takes three years to make a record, then so be it. This is something we have always agreed on.

Jimmy Eat WorldSo the record deal was not too important for you. Your goal was to make the record first.
Yeah, absolutely. The business part of music has always been something that we felt was is secondary. I mean, it is important, in a way that you can make bad decisions that will haunt you, but without music that you are proud of… I mean you can have the best situation in a music business side and just be miserable. You have to be proud of your work. We weren’t really worried about records deals and things like that. Since we started the band, I think we always had it in the back of our minds that we would end up releasing our own records, by ourselves, so we feel lucky that we are able to have people that will do it for us.

Jimmy Eat WorldYes, I See. How was working with Alain Johannes? In my mind he is somewhat of 'back-to-basics' kind of musician / producer. Did that come out at all during the recording of "Damage"?
Well Al, we haven’t worked with him before, we met with him and right away we got along pretty well. He is a really great musician; he was really strong, developed, sense of musicianship, which is really important to us. I think, when you are choosing someone outside of your group to work with, either being in a production role or anything else, ideas are the main thing for us. His ideas… You know sometimes you rely on someone and his own ideas, and sometimes you want someone to help you out with your own stuff, when you’re stuck. With Al, everything just worked pretty well for what we wanted to do, and he is also a super nice person.

Jimmy Eat WorldSo, what was that that you wanted to do? Is it a new era for the band beginning with "Damage"? What makes it different to things you've done in the past?
It is different because with a lot of our previous records, we did have people outside the group working with us, but their input was rather limited, and we made them at home, at our rehearsal space. This time we wanted to release a little of the control over the sound and the direction to someone that we trusted. We wanted to shake things up a little. So, instead of working at home we came to Los Angeles and made the record at Al’s house! It was similar to the way we made our previous records at home, in the sense that it was not your typical, commercial recording studio, it was Al’s house. Me had drums in his living room, you couldn’t even walk through his bedroom there were so many amps lying about. I’ve got to say that he has very understanding neighbors because we made a lot of noise. I think it was more laid back then previous time. I know this is kind of a contradiction to say, but it was more laid back and more focused than our previous stuff. I think one of the drawbacks of recording at home is that you can take a break whenever you want or even quit for the day whenever you want, cause you are at home. When you are locked in a studio, then you have no choice but to make that decision and do the work right away because you have limited time. We wanted to have that sense, that urge. It was different also because we were using tape for the first time in a long time, so it took quite some time to record certain elements of the music. The recording was a lot less focused on perfection, and more focused on performance. If something felt right, we left it like that. We weren’t looking for absolute perfection.

Jimmy Eat World"Damage" is your 8th stop in your discography. What do you think your 19 year old self, when you were first starting  out, would say about you doing this for so long?
Well, I think, since I was very young, I knew I would be involved in music for ever. I have no illusions that I will be playing in a rock band forever, there is a certain point where you can’t do that anymore, but I would never have believed that half the things that have happened to me have actually happened. It ιs interesting that you ask that, cause it is something that I have been thinking about. I think that if I had been 19 and realized that I would be here now, I would have appreciated the smaller things as they were happening more. I mean now, I realize how lucky we are to still be able to play music, talk to new people, go to new places. I think we are much more appreciative and grateful for the experience that we have right now playing music. It would be nice having that perspective when I was 19 instead of taking things for granted as they came up.

As this is the first time you are talking to Greek music media, let’s go to some more general questions about the band's past.

Jimmy Eat WorldGreat. 'Emo' was a tag that was associated with many bands in the mid-00's that helped them gain a lot of popularity, even though the bands didn’t feel associated to it. As one of the most referenced bands under that tag, how do you think it has affected you as a band?
It has affected as in a sense that we talk about it in interviews (laughs). But really, I don’t think that it has affected as at all. I don’t think that we have been/were doing anything that is/was entirely ground breaking or new. There have been 'emotional' rock and roll music for ever. You can argue that "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" is an emo song, but no one called Bruce Springsteen an emo artist. I don’t know, its completely out of your hands how someone interprets what you do. I guess we are just flattered that people were paying attention at all. You know, the 'emo' thing is interesting. For me, it references a really specific niche. It kind of reminds me when you hear the word 'hardcore'. A kid growing up in Long Island, New York, is going to have a very different idea of what hardcore sounds like to a kid that grew up in Southern California. 'Hardcore' could, you know, mean 'techno' to someone growing up in France or the UK. Emo is sort of the same way. For me, it references a specific niche in underground punk / hardcore. A California based, dynamic genre of music, with a lot of screaming that shift to really long, quite parts. The most extreme types of dynamics in music, but to me it is definitely affiliated with more punk-rock / hardcore bands. I mean now, it can mean 'fashion'. You could have a lot of tattoos, eyeliner and you’re emo. 'Emo' definitely doesn’t mean the same to what I knew it meant the first time I heard the term. I don’t know. I understand the need for people to try and categorize music, but for me, like I said, I’m flattered that people talk about me at all, but the word doesn’t refer to anything concrete anymore.

Jimmy Eat WorldYou recently released the self-title track off your new record along with a Radiohead cover as part of the special Record Store Day. How do you feel about Record Store Day? Do you think it is fighting a lost cause?
There are a few records stores in Arizona, where I grew up, and I always used to buy records from them, and they were kindah the hub of the scene. They are still around, and it is an institution worth supporting. We like to support Record Store Day, and the similar stores to those that I had when I was growing up, that were the center of the scene, the place where people could pick up a record that wouldn’t necessarily get mainstream exposure. It is more about supporting the idea, the record store as a cultural center.

Jimmy Eat WorldYeah, I agree. You come from Mesa, Arizona. Considering that you don’t come from the big centers of music, had it been harder for you to expand as a band or not since Mesa is a big city near L.A.?
Well, I’ve never thought that you have to move to Los Angeles, New York or London, or any other city. You don’t need to do that. What are you going to do there? You are going to be the small fish… Do you know how many move to these places to 'make it'? I think it is the most misguided thing you can do. Living where we do, we have lots of family, friends. It helps us stay grounded and feel like normal human beings when we got off of tour. I think it helps as a lot, just being the people who we are.

Jimmy Eat WorldYeah, I understand that. Well James, that was all. I think it was nice for the first interview to the Greek Media.
I know! You’re the first person we’ve ever talked to! Awesome!

I hope to see you sometime in Greece...
Yeah, me too, me too!

Thank you very much for your time.
Yeah, yeah! Thanks a lot man.

Take care!

Theodore Xouridas