Brave New World

Page 5 of 9

"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 MTV.com. 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."

Outside, the sun is dipping low into the ocean. In Gersh's manicured garden, an orgy of self-promotion and one-upsmanship is taking place as the assembled show-biz cognoscenti indulge themselves on the gourmet catering and free bar.

Band members make their rounds glad-handing guests, dutifully chatting up the party's notables. It might seem that a group of Mesa suburbanites would be ill-suited to schmooze with world-class professionals like these, but caught in a den of music industry vipers, they acquit themselves quite nicely. By evening's end, a tipsy Adkins is behind the bar in Gersh's game room-cum-wine cellar, sipping vintage Beaujolais and engaging a handful of comely record company interns. Well aware that the following morning begins with an 8 a.m. recording session, Adkins goes back to his hotel room alone.

"This is the only rock band I've ever worked with where the crew is wilder than the band," notes tour manager Marino of the group's chaste, disciplined ways.

The fact that the members of Jimmy Eat World aren't glamorous, bacchanalian wild men hasn't hurt them among their growing contingent of fans ("If you want juicy rock debauchery," Adkins says, "we're not the best place to look for it").

Though the band is keenly aware of its lack of a "traditional" rock image, its management seems intent on playing up that very point, fostering the group's boys-next-door persona. But in an era marked by bad-boy confrontationalists like Eminem and Limp Bizkit and makeup-wearing goons like Marilyn Manson and Slipknot, can a band without a gimmick really make it big?

"Their gimmick is good songs," says DreamWorks' Luke Wood. "I look at them in the tradition of a band like R.E.M. [When R.E.M. started] they were like a countryish, alternative-rock band. Over time they developed these larger-than-life personalities. But when you actually sit down and look at that band, they're just like Jimmy Eat World. They're just normal guys."

"I've always believed that great songs, great singing and a great live show will work to a large audience over the long term," observes G.A.S. co-head Gersh. "Not having a shtick could easily be to their benefit in having a career that isn't just [about] a moment in time."

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Bob Mehr
Contact: Bob Mehr