Jimmy Eat World's new album, "Damage," is all about breakups and heartache, so a cover of Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" made perfect sense for the band -- especially when they could add a hard-rock touch to the track. The band has been playing the song on recent tour dates and filmed a web exclusive of a live performance this week for Conan.
Jimmy Eat World singer Jim Adkins called in from a beach vacation to talk about the cover, new album, and just what he thinks of Swifty, who he played with when she hit Jobing.com Arena and asked him to join her on-stage for a performance of JEW's "The Middle." Catch the band when it hits Marquee Theatre Sunday, September 29.
Why did Jimmy Eat World decide to do a cover of Swift's song?
When the record came out, [music journalism publication] NME asked us to do a popular music cover of something. I had just seen [Swift] play, and reviews of her record were that it was a breakup record. I had to change a couple things to approach it the way I would do it, so we worked it out to how we do it.
It turned out the NME session they wanted us to play was on their couch sitting in their office, and the whole thing of ours is how heavy it is, so we kind of abandoned that. We got an opportunity to do an iTunes session, so we decided to record it for that. That was the same day we were playing for Conan. We had been playing it out live, and Conan has always been great for us, so we thought it'd be cool to do it.
What were your thoughts with how you arranged the cover?
It's all about the chorus, really. It's a great chorus, so it was just sampling everything else around it and taking what I would sing as the lyrics with the phrasing and tempo and vibe change. Her version is pretty wordy. She's almost rapping, and that didn't work for me, so I had to tuck some phrasing some around. It was finding what I was into and making it fit.
Why did you decide to make your version heavy?
That was just the first thing that popped into my mind about it. If you slowed it down and made it heavier, it would really bring out the rage and fist pump out, instead of the head bop.
What was it like playing with Swift in Glendale?
She had this gag where there was this long catwalk in the arena, and underneath, there are all these things where people are being shot out of. She asked me if I was cool with the elevator, rising from the floor with smoke all around me. The heavy metal kid in me was like, "I have to do that."
What do you hope people take away from the Conan cover?
Probably the same reaction we've been getting from shows. I tell people it's a cover song, and when we start playing it, people don't get it at first, and then when it gets to the chorus, people are just cheering. Then by the end, everyone in the room is admitting they know the song.
What can fans expect from your new world tour you're embarking on in August?
If you like the new record, we're playing a lot of material from that. If you know our catalog at all, we're playing some songs we've never toured before. We're a band that has played for 25 years, and we sound better than we ever have before.
Why did the band decide to go with "Damage" as the first single off the album?
The idea of picking singles for stuff, I'm glad I don't have that job. What I like is rarely the same thing as what's commercially successful. I look at singles as being, someone who doesn't know your band at all, what would you show them that would reflect your band? I do think there is something to be said for having a hookier song be that song for people, that idea of casting a wide net.
I think "Damage" would be my first choice. It's a little bit of everything on the record, maybe a little bit less heavy. It might surprise people who think we only have one dimension.
What is the response you're getting for the new album so far?
The new songs have been getting a really good response live. What I've seen so far at our headlining shows is hardcore fan people are coming out, for sure. It's not a passive audience contingency, which is good. I noticed that more than ever now, because people are latching on to it.
The album is really heartbreak-heavy. What inspired all the lyrics about broken relationships?
Chicks, man. As a basic jumping-off point, I thought love songs would be a good place to start, but love songs that I think are interesting. I don't know if most people would call the songs on this album love songs because they're so much more about adversity. Godspeed to those people who are singing happy love songs and really believe them, but it's just not that interesting to me.
I wanted to listen to more of a story. It's a tricky point for people in my peer group. There are a lot of complexities. It's not the same as being 20 and saying, "Fuck you, I'm out of here," (when it comes to relationships.) There is way more gray area to try to figure out what you should do. Less and less, it seems there is less room for a clear moral high ground. That opens up more stories around you.
Are the lyrics autobiographical at all?
You can't really escape yourself. I don't think my life is that bad as what I've been writing about. There are friends, there are people I see. No one's path to happiness is a straight line. I think the more you regard happiness as a destination, that's not the way to be. It's a constant vigilant effort in being grateful for the things that you have.
Your writing about love is so sad. What are your thoughts about true love?
I believe in it, but just because you're in a relationship doesn't mean you've crossed some magic finish line. Just because you're married doesn't mean you win -- you're far from it. It can work if you put in the work. There are some things that are universal, but I think everyone is different. The idea of communication and the idea of constantly checking your ego is important.
What relationship advice do you have?
There is always room to kind of self-evaluate the things that are problems. I think you always have a greater role in the problems than you might be giving yourself credit. Honesty is super-important with things that pop up like that. No one tells you this stuff, it's something I learned over time. I still have to work on it, but I think if you're honest with yourself with where you can point fingers where things went wrong, and can look at the situation and look for your role in that, I think you might avoid a whole lot of problems.
There seems to be a theme that sometimes not confessing infidelities is the right way to go, such as the song, "No, Never." Could you clarify?
I don't necessarily agree with that. I don't think I meant to say it like that, but I think there might be a gray area where actions are kind of still within most people's definition of monogamy, but mind end up being kind of hurtful if the other person knew. For example, the idea of romanticizing the past and seeking out people you might have had connections with in the past. Take your pick of social media, I'm sure that happens a lot.
There are better ways to work it out than just stumbling on it, and some things that in the long run are not such a big deal. There are ways and wrong ways to work it out. I think I've grown up a lot just kind of getting into my own head about this kind of stuff. It's not easy for anybody.
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It doesn't seem relevant any more. Some of the investigative journalism pieces they do are interesting, but news is so a la carte these days, there is not the same stock in an issue of a periodical like there used to be, because there are so many other options and so much good writing going on. With reviews, I've found very little constructive digging into reviews on the negative or positive side.