The road to success is not an easy one-but some handle its hurdles better than others.
In 2001 Jimmy Eat World was a widely adored but criminally underappreciated band capable of drawing capacity crowds all over the world, but unable to find a record deal to their liking. Having just been unceremoniously spit out of the major label machinery, the band opted to record a new album entirely on its own dime and let labels come a-calling-or not-after the fact. The gambit more than paid off, with the resultant Bleed American (later re-titled Jimmy Eat World), yielding the hits "The Middle" and "Sweetness," an ultimately selling over 1.3 million copies in the U.S. By the time two full years of touring had wound down, they'd made triumphant breakthroughs everywhere from Saturday Night Live to a sold out Brixton Academy, been nominated for an MTV Video Music Award, seen their name on Blender and Alternative Press' Best Albums of 2001, SPIN and USA Today's Best Singles of 2002, and been awarded an Album of the Week by People and a spot on Rolling Stone's annual Hot List.
Not bad for a little band from Mesa, Arizona. But then came the problem once all your rock dreams come true, what do you do for an encore?
The band's new CD, Futures, is the answer to that question. It's a sprawling, gorgeous, heavy-yet-quiet epic. And it took a long time to finish. "We've always felt you're putting your name on something, you have to make sure it's the absolute best work possible," says Jimmy Eat World's Jim Adkins, "This time it took a while to achieve what we wanted. We had to get our heads into the zone where we were ready to kill ourselves to finish this. And did."
Adkins credits the band's home state for providing them with enough inspiration to finish the record. "It's a grounding force for us, living here," says the singer. "The music scene consists of people who care about satisfying themselves through their creative ambitions, and not trying to be anything more than that. We wanted to get back to that idea, where you just forget about everything except writing songs."
With the songs written, Jimmy Eat World decided to work with a new producer for the first time ever, Gil Norton (The Pixies, Foo Fighters). "Gil didn't know us well, which was good," says Adkins. "It made us step up and really make an effort. We had only made albums with one person in ten years. It helped to have an outside perspective. "
Futures is perhaps the best sounding record in Jimmy Eat World's career. It's also the most eclectic, with songs ranging from ambitious hard rock ("Futures," "Pain") to epic ballads ("Drugs Or Me," "23") to every kind of crystalline pop/rock formation in-between ("Work," "The World You Love," "Kill"). There are a few new wrinkles to the band's sound, including more intricate vocal harmonies, more prominent keyboards and strings, and a surprising number of guitar solos. "You just get to that point in a song and it sounds cool," says Adkins, laughing. "But we had a reason to do all of this. Our last record, we purposely cut all the fat. But this time, we wanted to let the songs breathe a bit, give them more space. I think this album is kind of like a sequel to (1999's) Clarity in that way. It's just more ambitious."
An early Futures standout comes with the third track, the guitar-pop stunner "Work" featuring Liz Phair on back-up vocals. "The demo sounded like 'Divorce Song,' that old Liz Phair track from Exile in Guyville," says Adkins. "So I sort of jokingly thought, why not just co-opt the song completely and get her to sing on it?" Phair readily agreed, and the end result is an absolutely perfect summer radio song that stands up to "The Middle," "Sweetness" and "Lucky Denver Mint," as one of the most indelible melodies of the Jimmy canon.
From its first lines-the seemingly politically charged "I always believed in Futures/I hope for better/In November"-Futures is possibly the most lyrically cohesive Jimmy Eat World record to date, with nearly every lyric wrestling with pivotal life choices and their repercussions. "I usually don't talk about lyrics, because that's unfair to the listener," Adkins says. "But I can say that, thematically, this album is about making life decisions, and sometimes not realizing the full picture of what's ahead. When you're younger, everything seems like such a big deal. Then you get older and you kind of laugh at how seriously you took everything, but you're kind of crushed by the fact that everything meant a lot to you back then."
Following the release of Futures, the band intends to spend the next "two and a half years" on the road. The group has also contributed a song to Future Soundtrack for America, a compilation put together by the political activist organization MoveOn.org in collaboration with the literary journal McSweeney's and indie label Barsuk. "We've never felt qualified to stand on a stage and espouse our political beliefs," says Adkins. "But now, I don't think you can escape having a heightened awareness of current events and government policies. Maybe that comes from being older, where you see how decisions actually affect people."
With a new record, a new found sense of purpose and a two-plus year trek ahead of them, Adkins does take a little time to reflect on what it all means. "If there was a goal for this, it was to make a record for people who've always liked us," says Adkins. "We wanted this to be their favorite Jimmy Eat World record. We'll see how that goes."
--- from the official Jimmy Eat World website