Local Wire

Let It Bleed

About an hour into the conversation, Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins finally slumps back into his seat and lets out a long, deep sigh.

"You can't take this shit seriously, man -- especially if you're in the middle of it. You can't take any of it seriously. I mean... it's a fucking rock band."

Framed against a large window pane, Adkins is sprawled across a white sofa in the living room of the south Tempe home he shares with a handful of fellow musicians.

There are hints of both exasperation and embarrassment in his tone, much of it understandable given the circumstances. There is something untoward, if not wholly unsavory, in an artist recounting the often crass machinations of the music industry experience. It's something that Adkins -- despite being a shrewd and ambitious talent -- would clearly rather not be discussing.

Despite his reluctance, the singer confirms that after a brief courtship, Jimmy Eat World has signed with DreamWorks, marking the band's second major-label deal, after a fruitful but difficult four-year stint with Capitol Records. DreamWorks has also slated a late July release for Bleed American, the band's third full-length, with the title cut and first single set to hit radio in June.

Adkins chuckles as he notes how the group's two major-label experiences have been a study in contrasts. JEW were unknowns -- even within the Valley's incestuous scene -- when they were plucked from obscurity in the mid-'90s by Capitol. Over the course of two long-players, 1996's Static Prevails and 1999's Clarity, the group managed to build a dedicated following despite an almost pathological resistance on the part of the label to support the band -- this, despite selling nearly 100,000 albums and scoring a radio success with the single "Lucky Denver Mint." Conversely, their re-entry into the big time has been marked by a surprising measure -- locally and nationally -- of hype and anticipation.

The road to DreamWorks began after the band split with both its management and label in late-'99, deciding to venture out on its own. Last year saw JEW release a pair of discs (an odds-and-sods compilation and a split EP with Jebediah) on indie imprint Big Wheel Recreation, crisscross Europe and the States, and amass enough new material to begin work on a follow-up to Clarity.

"We got to a point where we thought that we should just make the record," recalls Adkins. "So we decided to pay for it ourselves."

Using money saved up from touring, their deal with Capitol and advance foreign-licensing agreements, the group set about to finance and complete the album themselves.

Reuniting with producer Mark Trombino (who helmed both Static and Clarity) the group laid down basic tracks at Hollywood's Cherokee Studios and Hard Drive Studios in the San Fernando Valley throughout late 2000 and early 2001. The 18 original cuts were pared down to about a dozen during the album's mixing process -- also overseen by Trombino -- before being turned over to noted mastering expert Bob Ludwig for the final touches.

Having completed what all concerned believed to be JEW's creative high-water mark, the band began looking toward its commercial future. Though it had been without management or a label for some 18 months, the group found that its popularity and industry cache had grown exponentially.

On the business end, things began to heat up in earnest when the group signed on with John Silva's L.A.-based G.A.S. Entertainment Group at the beginning of the new year. Silva, who first made his mark managing Nirvana and Beck, currently handles a roster of talent that includes Sonic Youth, the Beastie Boys, Counting Crows and the Foo Fighters, among others.

G.A.S. immediately began shopping the completed JEW disc in February, resulting in a minor bidding war for the band's services. Among the labels showing the most interest were RCA, DreamWorks and Warner Bros., with the choice eventually coming down to the latter two.

Warner's established muscle was certainly attractive to the group, as was the luster of being under the tradition-heavy WB banner -- something that would've made JEW labelmates with Built to Spill and the Flaming Lips. "Yeah, we would've been on the Flaming Lips' label. But we would've been on Linkin Park's label too," observes Adkins dryly.

Ultimately, it was a combination of factors that led to the group's decision to opt for DreamWorks instead.

"It was a kind of gut feeling as far as how excited [DreamWorks] was to work with us. There are pros and cons with everyone, so it kind of came down to that."

For its part, DreamWorks currently claims a clutch of critically heralded artists including Elliott Smith, the Eels, and Creeper Lagoon, as well as mainstream successes like Papa Roach and Lifehouse.