"The longer that we are a band, I think, the longer that we will be playing music together," says Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins. "Because we appreciate the goals that we reach even more the longer it goes on."
Now into their 20th year, the Mesa rockers are expressing their gratitude through a series of Arizona dates in places that haven't seen the boys since the Clinton administration, if ever.
"It's been about 15 years since we've played Yuma, and even longer since we've played Sierra Vista. We've never played in Casa Grande or Wickenburg," says Adkins. "We're really excited for it. Some of the craziest, wildest shows we've played have been in places that a lot of people tend to skip over. So I'm not sure what to expect, but it's a way to kind of say thanks to people that have commuted for hours to see us play."
Though it's traditional to celebrate a platinum anniversary with china, Jimmy Eat World has opted instead for a new album. Unlike the band's past several efforts, recorded at its practice space/studio in Mesa, Damages was recorded in the Los Angeles living room of producer Alain Johannes (Arctic Monkeys, No Doubt).
The informal atmosphere of the recording process, along with a greater use of acoustic guitars, help invest these anthemic rock tunes with surprising intimacy.
"There's something intimate about acoustic guitar. I think we're wired as listeners when we hear that," he says. "A lot of the material started off as acoustic ideas. But you're always reacting to what you're hearing, especially in the recording. You put down the acoustic guitar as a placeholder and, more often than not, it doesn't sound right if you replace that with anything else. So it just kind of stuck."
The album's title reflects its focus on relationship issues, and — befitting the band members' ages — the tone's changed from those first few albums. It's no longer about the thrill of the chase, but surviving the rest.
"As a listener, I don't think I'd have empathy with someone in their 30s talking about the discovery of relationships," says Adkins. "It's just not interesting for me to write about anymore. And I don't think it would be believable."
Instead, the album struggles with long-term commitment. Adkins thanks his lover for "reminding me how long you can stare at someone and never see" on the chunky power-chord opener, "Appreciation" and then asks, bitingly, "How'd You Have Me (And I Only Got You)." The album ends with the chiming, almost forgiving, resignation of "You Were Good," closing in an upbeat, sweet and sour way that negotiates Kübler-Ross' final stage of (bitter) acceptance.
"I've always gravitated more toward talking about adversity where there's conflict, [where] there's a struggle and it's not clean or pretty. There has to be something about it that helps me build empathy," he says. "The most ineffective songs are when you stack happy on top of happy. I just want to slap someone."
Though the album's characters suffer, much of their suffering comes from avoiding the truth and clinging to comfortable illusions. Getting older is sometimes about letting the scales fall from your eyes, and as they embrace their longevity, the same thing has been happening for Adkins and company.
"On our last album, Invented, we did these tours that were massive. We'd done them before, but this time it just felt different. It felt like 'Wow.' We really enjoyed and appreciated it," he says.
"Before, we were, 'Holy shit, it's crazy. All right, we have to go on now.' You know? It's like you protect yourself from feeling happy because you think at any moment it could go away, so you don't really appreciate it. Now suddenly we appreciate it more."
That's life, as they say.