Capitol Gains

Jimmy Eat World braves the major-label waters one more time and delivers a daring new album

Jim Adkins grins and looks up from his Pilsner while perched on a stool at a local brew pub. "Seriously, the last four months have been the best time of my life."

Anyone familiar with the life and times of the 22-year-old singer/guitarist for Tempe-based Jimmy Eat World wouldn't be surprised by this statement. Four months ago his band took off on a tour with Milwaukee's Promise Ring, current darling of the independent music world (recently lauded by both Playboy and Teen People magazines), playing to packed houses across the nation. Immediately after the tour, Adkins and his bandmates, guitarist/vocalist Tom Linton, bassist Rick Burch and drummer Zach Lind, headed to Los Angeles to spend two and a half months recording their second album for Capitol Records.

The album, titled Clarity, will be released in October or early November. It's the band's second album for Capitol, following 1996's Static Prevails. Although Static's sales numbers were hardly impressive for a major-label release (SoundScan puts the recording slightly under 10,000 units sold, but that doesn't include mom-and-pop record stores), it showed Jimmy Eat World to be an incredibly talented contender in the rock 'n' roll business. Though Static immediately placed the Jimmies in the ever-vague "emo" genre, the recording was defined by its pop sensibilities and rock dynamics. The dual vocals and guitars from Adkins and Linton melded gloriously over Lind and Burch's mathematical rhythm section, demonstrating a chemistry rarely witnessed in our modest Valley scene.

"We're happy with how it's done as far as numbers are concerned," Lind says at a recent interview in Adkins' living room. "I think the response is better now than when it came out. It's kind of slowly picked up, but it hasn't done a whole lot."

One obvious reason for the lack of unit movement is the lack of promotion from Capitol. As a young, no-name band with a very small following, Jimmy Eat World faced a label that gave the band its album but expected the group to peddle it itself. Adkins explains, "We had a lot more expectations out of Capitol than they had out of us."

Lind agrees. "I think they were indifferent. We had the impression that they were going to be more excited than they were about it, and I think the president of the company had the impression that we were a guinea pig. The record was like preschool, which kind of made us mad, 'cause it's like wasting our time."

Despite Capitol's lack of enthusiasm and Static's sluggish sales, the label decided to take its option on Jimmy Eat World's next album. The band had signed a one-record contract, with Capitol having options on the next five full-lengths. "We were trying to get off the label, but they decided to go with it anyways, before they even heard the demos," Adkins says.

Lind says, "That's what really confused us, 'cause their excitement for the first record was so low and we thought they'd probably be wasting our time. Honestly we feel that we'd probably be doing better, as far as selling records, if we were on an indie rather than a major. But that's all speculation."

"And kind of a pointless discussion, too, because we wouldn't be in a position to get on a good indie if we hadn't done the major-label thing," Adkins adds.

The Jimmy boys aren't entirely unappreciative of their position, fully aware that being on a major label has its advantages. "The one great thing about being on Capitol is the experience of recording the record. For the most part, if we want to do it, we can do it. The money isn't an issue; we aren't really limited by a budget. That's the most satisfying part," Lind explains.

"There's a lot of bad things, but there's a lot of good things. Like they bought us a van that's probably gonna last us a long time; that's invaluable to us. They sell our CDs to us for pretty cheap; we know bands that have to buy their CDs from an indie that has to pay more than Capitol charges us. But the jewel of the package is the fact that we can record the way we want."

"Pretty much the only way outta here is on a major," Adkins says. "There's not really very many opportunities for bands here; the music scene is pretty apathetic. I'd do it again. I've gotten pretty much everything I wanted to ever get out of a band except a trip to Europe," Adkins says.

In the interim period between Static Prevails and the recording of Clarity, Jimmy Eat World kept busy touring and sporadically releasing singles and songs on comps. The two-year gap was the result of time spent honing the band members' songwriting and motivational skills. Lind says, "It took a long time to get the songs. We had certain songs, and we were writing songs that I don't think were all that good, then as time went on, we started writing better songs. I think it was our fault; we kinda slacked. We were touring here and there, and that kept us busy, and after we were touring it was a really good excuse not to practice, 'cause we'd been on tour."

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