The Lighter Side of Jimmy

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Music

by Andrew Clayman

As most music snobs will regularly remind you, a genre isn't recognized as a genre until it starts sucking. Nirvana certainly didn't intend to be a â“grungeâ” band, Joy Division didn't label itself â“post-punk,â” and yes, in all the ways that matter, Jimmy Eat World is not and never was an â“emoâ” band. Nonetheless, as is usually the case in such matters, public perception is truthâ"and truth is all about timing.

In Jimmy Eat World's case, the pigeonholing planets aligned in 1999 with the release of the band's breakthrough album Clarity â"a smart, introspective rock record that came along just as the word â“emoâ” was starting to apply to any form of rock music not associated with Fred Durst. Two years later, the monster single â“The Middleâ” landed Jimmy on TRL , where musical savants like Carson Daly only helped reinforce those earlier, e-word misconceptions.

The band never listened to the hype, however, and these days, Mesa, Ariz.'s favorite sons are looking to continue an admirable process they started with 2004's Futures LPâ"evolving as musicians, sidestepping expectations, and shaking free of unnecessary labels.

â“I think our tastes have changed,â” says Zach Lind, Jimmy's longtime drummer. â“If you listen to the earlier recordsâ"especially Static Prevails (1996)â"compared to now, it's pretty different. I guess it's just a part of getting older. When we were making those records, we were just beyond our teenage years, and now we're all in our 30s. I think we're a lot more capable of making records the way we want to make them now.â”

The fruits of the band's latest labors will be revealed in September, when its fifth album, Chase This Light , arrives in stores.  

â“I would describe this as more of a light album, in a way,â” Lind says, clearly not intending a pun. â“You know, Futures was a bit darker in its vibe, and I would say that this album is a bounce back from that. But it's also not as heavy as Bleed American (2001) was, in terms of huge, loud guitars and things like that. There are definitely a few really good rock songs on this one, but in a lot of ways, it does feel like our lightest record.â”

Lind is careful to note, however, that while the sound might be â“lighter,â” the mood of Chase This Light is still consistently up-tempo and far from mellow. In other words, the trademark Jimmy Eat World energy remains intact; with singer/guitarist Jim Adkins still exploring emotions in a full spectrum, rather than the myopic perspective of most of his supposed emo brethren.

For the making of the record, the band enlisted the help of two studio superstars: executive producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Garbage) and engineer Chris Testa (Dixie Chicks, Switchfoot). More times than not, though, it was the band members themselvesâ"Adkins, Lind, guitarist Tom Linton, and bassist Rick Burchâ"who took the helm during the recording sessions.

â“For the most part, I would categorize the album as produced by the band,â” Lind says, â“but we definitely got a lot of help from Butch, and Chris was the only person outside of the band that worked with us the whole time, since he was engineering the record.

â“I think, as a band, you're always kind of in this bubble when you're recording a record, and it's always good to have different voicesâ"other than the four of usâ"to get their take on things. Chris was definitely someone who filled that role for us in a lot of ways, and Butch, being a little more removed from the process, helped us in that way, too. So, it was nice to have a few people there to give us input on what we were thinking and what we were trying to do. Chris is a really talented guy and a great engineer, and Butch, you know, I don't have to say much about his ability to help bands make great records. So, we were lucky to have them.â”

Regardless of the reception Chase This Light ends up receiving, Jimmy Eat World has clearly made its mark as one of the more influential rock bands of the past decade. On any given day in any given music rag, the band's name can be found as a point of reference for the latest gaggle of drama-heavy pop upstarts, and it will probably be that way for a while.

â“I don't really keep track of that stuff,â” Lind says. â“Obviously, if people like to use us to describe other bands, that's totally fine, and I don't have a problem with it. I guess it depends on the band involved if it's a compliment or not.â”

After a decade in the business, Lind and his bandmates have heard it all and lived to tell about it. They've also watched a long parade of their pop contemporaries breakup or disappear each year, weighed down by the stress of maintaining success. In Lind's view, Jimmy Eat World's longevity is a testament to the trust its members forged long before the band even existed.   

â“I think we have had the advantage of all knowing each other and being friends before we started the band. So, in a lot of ways, when we approach problems, or if there's any tension or difference of opinions, it's always in the context of us being friends,â” he explains. â“Like, if Jim really wants to do something and I don't want to, there's a certain amount of leeway that we give each other because we're dealing with each other as friends first. We've always tried to look at the band that wayâ"as a collective. You have to trust in the views and instincts of your bandmates.â”

With any luck, Jimmy Eat World's fans will show a similar level of trust as their favorite band continues to grow into something pleasantly uncategorizable.

WHO: Jimmy Eat World w/ Maria Taylor WHEN: Saturday, July 28, 9 p.m. WHERE: Bijou Theatre

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