Interview with Jimmy Eat World

We love doing all of our interviews here at Independent Philly but every now and again we speak with someone that makes our inner fan boy(s) do back flips. Such was the case when we recently spoke with Jimmy Eat World’s Tom Linton. We have been rabid fans of the band for the better part of two decades and our younger selves would be jumping for joy right now knowing we had spoken to an artist that had such a lasting impact on us throughout the years.

Independent Philly: Your band name was taken from a crayon drawing that one of your younger brothers made. If we were going to make a ‘Jimmy Eat World’ box of crayons, what color would each of you be and why?

Tom Linton: Rick [Burch] would be brown, because he likes the desert so much. I don’t know why, that just reminds me of Rick. Jim [Adkins], I’m going to have to say blue because a lot of the clothes he wears are blue. Zach [Lind] would be red, because he gets all of the business done. I’ll go with yellow, I don’t know why.

Independent Philly: Alright, all the primary colors and brown.

Tom Linton: I’m not sure I made much sense at all but let’s just go with it.

Independent Philly: That’s quite alright it was a nonsense ice breaker question. Non sequitur time…You guys released your ninth studio album, ‘Integrity Blues’ about six weeks ago, how has the fan reaction been to the new album thus far and what is your favorite song from the new release to perform live?

Tom Linton: The fan reaction has been, I think, the best we’ve ever seen for one of our records. We’ve been playing around six new songs on this headlining tour we just got finished doing over in Europe and that’s the most we’ve ever done from a new record. I think in the past when we’ve done new songs, you kind of see people just not really moving and with the new songs we’ve been playing live, it seems like people are really into them. I think my favorite new song to play is probably ‘Pass the Baby’, just because it’s a song that’s much different than anything we’ve ever done. It goes into a riff at the end that’s probably one of the heaviest thing that we’ve ever done.


Independent Philly: ‘Pass The Baby’ [Track 5] is a truly unique sounding composition for Jimmy Eat World, opening with a sparsely accompanied electronic beat that blends into the more typically layered and beautiful Jimmy Eat World rock we have come to know and love, before devolving into a harsh wall of rock riffs and drum fills. It was the first song to really grab our attention off the new LP. It’s the perfect closer to the A side of the album! Where did the inspiration for this track come from and can you expand on it a little more for us?

Tom Linton: That song was one of our oldest demos that we had laying around. The original idea, I think came from 2006, and what we did is when we went in to make this record, we gave Justin [Meldal-Johnsen] a big batch of these songs that we had. We had like 30 demo ideas that we just in their basic stages, and ‘Pass the Baby’ was the one that showed the most promise. The original riff was just like the drum machine and I think Jim had a little bit of the vocals laid down on there, but when we went into the studio, we kind of knew the direction we wanted to take that song but just didn’t know how we would get to that end part. I think that was something that kind of formed with Justin and us in the studio, in terms of taking three separate songs and combining them. It was a really fun song to make in the studio as well.

Independent Philly: You guys have released an album every three years since 1996. That can’t be a coincidence. What is it about that length of time that has worked so well for you on the production side?

Tom Linton: We always say, “You know this time it’s going to be two years,” but I think we end up going on the road for about a year and a half, and then we’ll usually hit the studio right after that and work on new songs, so in reality, it usually takes about two years to record. Records usually wait about six months before they get released because there is album set-up time and stuff like that. I think that’s how it just ends up being now.

Independent Philly: With nine albums you guys have such an extensive catalog of songs. Is there a song that you really thought was going to be a big hit that didn’t take off the way you expected it to or get the attention or reaction that you thought it deserved when you first recorded it?

Tom Linton: ‘The Middle’ was a song that was kind of the opposite. The whole band didn’t think, when we were putting ‘Bleed American’ together, that it was even going to make the record. We were really surprised when that even ended up being a hit. We are really bad at picking what’s going to be a single and stuff, so that’s kind of on the opposite end of that, that we were really surprised by. It’s hard, because we are really proud of all the songs that we do. There is a song called ‘Cautioners’ that is on Bleed American too, that I thought was going to be a possible single that never was a single. I guess it would be that song.

Independent Philly: An often overlooked gem from the Jimmy Eat World back-catalog is your take on Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter,’ the B-side to your cover of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas.’ We’ve always wondered: how did this crazy record come to be? What’s your personal favorite Jimmy Eat World cover song?

Tom Linton: That’s probably my favorite cover that we’ve done. I remember we were in Philadelphia at the radio station there, and I think it was ‘NME’, a magazine in the UK, was like, “Yeah, pick a cover, anything that you want, here’s a list of songs that you can choose from,” and I think it was Jim who was like, “Let’s do Prodigy’s Firestarter and write our own music to it and see what we can come up with.” I think the whole creation of that song took about three hours, and we recorded it at the radio station there. It’s just so much different than the original version that I think that’s my favorite one. We did a Duran Duran cover that we did that with where we just wrote our own music and then we used their lyrics and it’s just a fun way to approach it.


Independent Philly: It’s been 20 years since the four of you, the current band, has been together. If you could go back in time and offer yourself, or the entire band, a piece of advice, what would it be?

Tom Linton: There is nothing that I would want to change. I think everything bad that’s happened to us, like getting dropped from labels, we’ve learned a lot from all that stuff. We learned to rely on each other, trust each other, and just make the best songs and records that we can make, no matter what happens with the business side of things.

Independent Philly: In the midst of your tour, you guys are playing a charity show for the ‘Movember Foundation’ here in Philly on December 15th at Xfinity Live for Radio 104.5, which is a smaller, more intimate venue than some of the larger rooms in Philly. Do you prefer this setting or playing to much larger crowds? 

Tom Linton: They are both a lot of fun for different reasons. The smaller club shows are a lot of fun where the fans are pushed right up against the stage. Those are always some of the most fun because the fans are so close to you and you can really feel the energy coming from the crowd. When we are playing the bigger places, there are a lot of people there and it’s pretty crazy too. They are both awesome for different reasons. I don’t really prefer one over the other.

Independent Philly: Tell us something about yourself, or Jimmy Eat World, that would surprise or even shock our readers.

Tom Linton: Jim is an Eagle Scout. I don’t know how shocking that is.

Independent Philly: Do his scout skills ever come in handy when you’re on the road?

Tom Linton: A long time ago, we slid off the road in Idaho, and we got kind of lucky because a cop came around about two hours after the accident. Jim would be the first guy who would start the fire or build an igloo for us to get into so it’s always good to have his skills around if that ever happens again.

We can’t wait to see Jimmy Eat World at Xfinity Live on December 15th! There is a ticket contest running until December 11th at 8:30 PM so you still have time to win free tickets to the show! The band will also be rocking out at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ on the 16th and at Webster Hall in NYC on the 17th.

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[Interview by David Miller & Aaron Ruxbin]

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