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?

"They were like, 'How can you even think about Europe when we don't have anything going in the States?'" says Burch. "But we didn't care. We wanted to try it and at least see."

"We had surrounded ourselves with the wrong kind of people," says Lind, shaking his head. "Looking back, they didn't really even understand us, who we were. We needed to be on our own for a while. No label, no management. We needed to do it ourselves."

On paper, the decision to leave their music-biz family was a risky one. They knew their plan -- fueled in equal measure by obstinacy and naiveté -- could've easily backfired, rendered them broke and back in Phoenix, four college dropouts with little to show for their efforts. Undeterred, they pressed forward.

Jimmy Eat World: From top, Jim Adkins, Rick Burch, Zach Lind and Tom Linton.
Jimmy Eat World: From top, Jim Adkins, Rick Burch, Zach Lind and Tom Linton.
Jimmy Eat World: From top, Jim Adkins, Rick Burch, Zach Lind and Tom Linton.
Jimmy Eat World: From top, Jim Adkins, Rick Burch, Zach Lind and Tom Linton.

The band reverted to its D.I.Y. roots, buying several hundred copies of its own CDs from Capitol at cost, taking a loss on the shipping and sending them overseas to independent record stores. In effect, they created their own modest distribution network in Europe.

When the band got to Germany for the first date of its tour, the boys expected, at most, a handful of curious onlookers. Instead, what they got was a room packed to the rafters with 600 kids swaying, shouting and singing along to every note -- all this even though Capitol had never released any of the albums in Europe.

The unexpected response that night signaled a rebirth for a band whose fledgling career had nearly been snuffed by an unfeeling industry.

"It was like playing our first show all over again," enthuses Lind. "I had such a nervous feeling in my stomach about the show, and then seeing this huge crowd -- it was like a dream to me."

The grassroots response the band had seen in Europe was a mere inkling of the swell of below-the-radar support carrying it stateside. Months after leaving Capitol, the group was shocked to find that Clarity was shifting a surprisingly respectable 500 units a week.

"It was mostly word of mouth," offers Adkins. "And a lot of things like Napster and the Internet. At that point we didn't really have any kind of official promotion. It was a weird phenomenon."

Galvanized by its dark-horse success, the group decided the next logical step was to record a new album itself.

In contrast to the Capitol-funded platters, the sessions for what would eventually become Bleed American were a long, arduous process. Forced by their budget to complete the project piecemeal, the band members were only able to record basic drum tracks before running out of money. With every bit of band income being set aside for the recording, the group members suffered through a frightfully lean period.

"Oh, man, I was so poor. I was dying," says Linton. "I don't even know how I made it. For like almost two years I was totally broke. I was just barely scraping by."

In between tightly budgeted tours, Linton worked construction, while Adkins sold art supplies, Burch shipped auto parts and Lind shuttled customers at a car dealership.

By the time the band was finished recording Bleed American earlier this year, its bankbook was dangerously thin.

As a nervous Lind wrote out a final check for mixing expenses, he wondered aloud if they hadn't gotten in over their heads.

"I was doing the math and it was really close. I wrote the check but I was just hoping, praying that it wouldn't bounce."

"Hey, man! What's your fucking problem?"

The veins in Rick Burch's neck are bulging. Raising himself from behind the wheel of a van, he sticks his sturdy jaw out the window and screams at a car that's just whipped around to steal a parking spot.

The band has been circling a crowded lot at the Santa Monica Pier for some 15 minutes, and tensions are running high as the group is late for a beachfront photo shoot for Alternative Press magazine.

"Jeez, what the hell was that guy doing?" asks Tom Linton angrily, as the offending driver meekly pulls away.

Despite the outbursts, Linton and Burch -- both Mesa Mormons, and Westwood High grads -- are the quiet, easygoing ones in the Jimmy Eat World camp.

Linton -- a scruffy character with warm, twinkling eyes -- walks to the lip of the ocean, where the AP shutterbug is setting up. Trudging through the sand, he scans the printed pages of the band's daily itinerary. "It won't be too bad today," he says, to no one in particular.

After the photo session, the group winds its way through West L.A., heading for a studio to perform a short set for Later, it's on to a party being held in their honor, an afternoon barbecue at manager Gary Gersh's Brentwood home.

Just up the road from O.J. Simpson's old place, Gersh's palatial hillside manor is the stuff California dreams are made of. As the band passes under vaulted ceilings, necks crane in an effort to take in the opulent digs. Someone nudges Linton, "I think you should give up playing music and get into management."

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