The sad reality of starting a band is that it won’t last long. The life span of a band, especially in high school, is just a few months — one year is a milestone and rarity. For a band to stay together for, oh, 17 years or so, is nearly unheard of — unless the band is Jimmy Eat World.
Jimmy Eat World’s genesis goes back to preschool, literally. Jim Adkins and Zach Lind first met in public school while growing up in Arizona, where Lind’s mother was an elementary school teacher. Years later, as music-loving teenagers, Adkins took up guitar and Lind took up the drums, and they started their own band along with Tom Linton on guitars and Mitch Porter on bass. The four-piece took its name from a crayon drawing by one of Linton’s younger brothers.
The music industry took notice of the young band’s mature sound, which at the time was often saddled with the dreaded emo-core label, and when the band members were not even 20 years old, Jimmy Eat World released Static Prevails on Capitol Records in 1996 with Rick Burch having replaced Porter on bass. The album didn’t make much of a commercial splash, but it did bring a solid underground fan base, which the band only expanded with the release of Clarity in 1999. Despite a growing following and rave reviews, Capitol and the band parted ways. On their own dime and in between day jobs and short tours, band members went about recording the next record, Bleed American (later changed to just Jimmy Eat World after the 9/11 attacks). The masterful record, which included a healthy dose of hooks, was promptly the subject of a bidding war among multiple major labels, including Capitol.
DreamWorks ultimately picked up the record, now considered by many to be one of the best of the last decade, and it proved to be a massive commercial and critical success. The album’s second single, “The Middle,” reached Billboard’s Top 10 and was a hopeful and infectious song at a time when everyone could use some encouragement. The band that once seemed destined to be an indie cult act was plastered all over MTV and became a darling of modern rock radio.
Its young, indie and emo audience was suddenly at shows bumping shoulders with Top 40-listening soccer moms. Somehow, despite the success, they managed to maintain appreciation among even the most jaded of indie music fans and critics.
In 2004, the band released the less pop-driven but equally well-received Futures, and then in 2007, Chase This Light.
Despite producing no single tracks on par with “The Middle,” the record was the band’s highest charting effort. This fall saw the release of its seventh full-length, Invented, and now, 17 years in, it’s safe to say Jimmy Eat World is a career band.
As for advice, for longevity in the music world, there’s probably no one better suited to speak on the matter than Jim Adkins, whose band has experienced only one lineup change and made a healthy living recording and performing for more than half his life.
“We were friends for years before the band achieved any commercial success. That’s a big reason why we’re still together,” explains the soft-spoken and polite front man who recently turned 35. “But I don’t know, if we started now, that we could have the same success. It’s a completely different world. The opportunities that were out there when we started, aren’t out there as much now. The only thing you can really control is being proud of your work. What you put into it is what you get out of it. That still holds true. Be with your friends and be ready for the long haul.”
Jimmy Eat World will perform Friday, Dec. 10, at the Ventura Theater, 26 S. Chestnut St., Ventura. 653-0721 or www.venturatheater.net.