Brave New World

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Fresh off a series of East Coast dates on the Vans Warped Tour, this is the farthest west the band has been in nearly a month. The occasion brings out a small entourage of wives, girlfriends and family.

Onstage in the Glass House's main room, Jim Adkins is conferring with road manager Rick Marino. A genial, if slightly intimidating, figure -- an unlikely cross between a mob heavy and Baby Huey -- Marino is a blur as he multitasks: consulting with Adkins, chatting up an equipment rental company and directing a crew of sound and light techs.

Back in the club's lounge, bassist Rick Burch is sunk into a couch next to his girlfriend, a giggly blonde whose Betty Boop voice matches her coquettish demeanor.

Sitting opposite is guitarist Tom Linton, nursing an abscessed tooth that will require a partial root canal the next morning.

And prowling the room, barking orders into a cell phone, is drummer Zach Lind. A burly, blunt man, his thick, freckled forearms tense as he clutches a notebook and pen. A slight gait appears as he paces, while the squawks of booking agents and promoters filter through the line.

Jimmy Eat World's plans are in an unexpected state of flux. The band had been considering canceling its upcoming club tour to join a three-way package headlined by Weezer. The deal quickly falls apart when the group is denied the middle slot and asked to open up for an odious rap-metal outfit called Cold.

As Lind paces and negotiates, he stops only to pat the cheek of his wife Holly, a statuesque beauty in the final weeks of pregnancy.

Though the group is ably represented by the heavy hitters at G.A.S., Lind is still serving as the band's point man and de facto manager, a role he assumed almost two years ago when Jimmy Eat World severed nearly all its business ties and ventured out on its own.

"It seems," he complains while leafing through a stack of the latest sales figures, "like I spend an hour a day playing drums, and the other 23 on the phone doing business."

Of course, it wasn't so long ago that Lind's only concern was wondering if his childhood buddy Jim Adkins would be able to get a ride to come over and jam.

The two met in preschool, maintaining a casual friendship through the years. Their bond grew closer by the time they started at Mesa's Mountain View High School in the late '80s. During their senior year in 1993, they coalesced -- along with neighborhood pals Tom Linton and Mitch Porter -- into a noisy four-piece called Jimmy Eat World. (The name, incidentally, has nothing to do with Adkins, but is a reference to Linton's younger brother.)

Much of the group's appeal was there from the outset, as the band energetically tore through a clutch of three-chord originals. The difference in those early days was that Linton claimed center stage as lead singer, while guitarist Adkins was the spastic, chubby figure flailing away in the shadows -- something that would soon shift as he developed his songwriting and stage presence.

The group recorded a demo, a single and a full-length in quick succession, and appeared to be making the slow rise from sleepy all-ages venues like Mesa's Art Cage to opening gigs for national acts at more prominent East Valley clubs like Boston's.

Around this time -- through a strange and labyrinthine set of circumstances -- the group caught the attention of Loren Israel, a talent scout for Capitol Records. Soon after he tipped his bosses to the band, Capitol execs flew to Arizona, saw the band perform and offered Jimmy Eat World a deal a week later.

While most struggling bands in a similar position would have jumped at such an unlikely offer, the boys were unmoved. It was an understandable reaction, considering that their limited knowledge of the music industry had come from the virulently anti-corporate lyrics of punk bands like Propagandhi and NOFX and 'zines like Maximumrocknroll.

"Getting a label deal was the furthest thing from our minds as a goal," recalls Adkins. "We were pretty anti-label. But it just seemed like too good of an opportunity not to take. You could go to school anytime, but here's this crazy fucker offering us a record deal. It really felt like we were getting away with something."

Another problem was that Porter, a Mormon, was being pressed by his family to go on his mission. He quit just before the label deal was signed, and it was Burch -- a classmate of Linton's and a member of fellow Mesa pop-punks Carrier -- who stepped into his spot.

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Bob Mehr
Contact: Bob Mehr