Brave New World

No makeup. No gimmick. No shtick. But does Mesa's fast-rising Jimmy Eat World really stand a chance against the likes of Britney and the Backstreet Boys?

"We soon realized that at that level it's survival of the fittest," says Lind. "It's really hard to get people in a record company to even listen to what you're doing -- especially if you're a young, developing band. 'Cause nobody wants to listen to a young, developing band, they want to listen to the Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters and Frank Sinatra -- and that's who we were vying [with] for attention within the company."

Among the deaf ears the group had fallen on were those of then-label president, and now the band's manager, Gary Gersh. Gersh -- who left Capitol in '98 -- admits he felt the band had been signed prematurely. "Yes, that's true," he says. "But I believed we should and could have helped them develop on their own. As it turned out, that's kind of what happened."

By major-label standards, Jimmy Eat World was a fairly cheap band to keep around, so Capitol handed the group another modest budget and insisted it begin work on a sophomore album. The resulting disc, Clarity, was miles ahead of its predecessor. A lush, thoughtfully crafted affair, this was the album that the band felt confident would finally garner it priority status within the company. But again the Capitol brass -- now headed by the bottom-line-minded Roy Lott -- didn't want to hear it.

Clarity of purpose: The group's live shows have the feel of a teenage tent revival.
Kevin Scanlon
Clarity of purpose: The group's live shows have the feel of a teenage tent revival.
Adkins onstage: Performing with enough intensity to strip paint.
Kevin Scanlon
Adkins onstage: Performing with enough intensity to strip paint.

"We thought we'd made a good record, and that it had a couple [of] legitimate singles the label could work with," says Lind. "And it was like coming home from college with a good report card and your parents not giving a rip. That's kind of the feeling we had."

Though Clarity was considered D.O.A. within the record company, the band still had a daring gambit left to play. Allowed to issue an independent EP while Capitol held back the release of Clarity, the group leaked a copy of the track "Lucky Denver Mint" to Los Angeles radio station KROQ. The song -- an infectious bit of teen anthemism -- became an instant hit on the tastemaking FM powerhouse.

"It's sad to say, but when 'Lucky Denver Mint' got played on KROQ, it was probably the first time a lot of people at Capitol had heard us," Lind says. "The only time anyone from the label ever came down while we were making the album was the day there was a photo shoot for Billboard."

In the wake of the unexpected success of the song, Capitol was forced to rush-release the album. However, without a solid marketing plan in place, the single soon fizzled and the record died an ignominious death not long after its spring '99 release. Even promotional efforts like getting "Denver" onto the soundtrack of the Drew Barrymore flick Never Been Kissed were too little, too late.

While they might've have started out as wide-eyed innocents, the band members had been given a crash course in the record business, and the painful truth that even good records get ignored. By the end of the year, the group was determined to break from Capitol, even threatening to break up as a last resort.

"We had to get off Capitol," says Lind. "We just had to."

Swathed in harsh blue light, a stern-faced Jim Adkins is onstage at the Glass House contemplating what he's just heard -- and he's not happy.

"We're here to drill it into our heads," he blurts into the microphone. "Let's do it again."

The band has spent the past hour fine-tuning a deceptively complex number called "Table for Glasses." The band's sound is unusually rich, thanks to the efforts of two new utility players, vocalist Rachel Haden -- daughter of jazz legend Charlie Haden -- and multi-instrumentalist Brian McMahan.

Once they finally nail the song's aching three-part harmonies, a blissful euphony engulfs the stage. As the last barmy notes ring out, a poignant hush fills the club.

"I think," says Lind, in a rare moment of salaciousness, "that's the new panty dropper."

"The panty droppa," ripostes Adkins with mock girlish glee.

A solemn-looking Burch fiddles with his bass amp. Meanwhile, Linton is absent for much of the rehearsals, away at the dentist in Beverly Hills.

The full lineup runs through the infectious candyfloss of "Authority Song" a half-dozen times, honing guitar tones, before relentlessly tackling a handful of older tunes from the catalogue. Adkins directs most of the action, with Lind periodically chiming in suggestions, pausing between songs to check his phone for messages.

This workmanlike intensity is leavened by more light moments: Haden doing a spot-on impersonation of shrill Rush singer Geddy Lee; the group serenading Linton with a sour-faced version of "Happy Birthday." Later, Lind and Adkins strike pseudo-metal poses, camping it up as they toss off a torrent of arena-rock riffs and fills.

As the pair collapse amid the humorous cacophony, it becomes clear that it was their unyielding personalities -- Lind's competitive nature and Adkins' obsessive focus -- that diverted the band from the major-label crash-and-burn route it was on just a couple years back.

By late '99, Jimmy Eat World had become completely frustrated with Capitol and wanted out. After a fair amount of maneuvering, the group was finally given its walking papers. Wanting to make a clean break from all its ties, the band's next step was to divorce itself from its management. That decision was made easy after the group's handlers balked when the band -- sensing its international potential -- suggested a tour of Europe.

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