Jimmy Eat World Is Still Hungry

After 25 years together, the pop punk quartet has yet to lose its appetite.

In 2001, Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins demanded to know if we were listening.

The sugary anguish of “Sweetness” — which later finds Adkins extolling the virtues of “spinning free” — would ultimately be but one of many singles to emerge from the Arizona band’s seminal fourth album, Bleed American. It wasn’t long before Adkins had his answer: a resounding yes. Bleed American enjoyed critical and commercial success, peaking at No. 31 on the U.S. Billboard 200 before achieving platinum certification, for a million copies sold.

Jimmy Eat World’s ascent into mainstream also arrived as snot-nosed pop punk was reaching its apex. It was a moment where acts like blink-182 and Green Day began to play stadiums while the Vans Warped Tour (an operation, it should be noted, whose founder Kevin Lyman once dismissed sexual harassment as “part of the culture”) welcomed a renewed surge in popularity.  Many bands at the time were formed with the intent of cashing in on the commodified rebellion trend, but Adkins — along with bassist Rick Burch, rhythm guitarist Tom Linton, and drummer Zach Lind — was more interested in meaning than mucus.

That’s because sincerity has always been one of Jimmy Eat World’s most potent powers. Their approach to songcraft — accessible yet genuine, infectious yet eloquent — eventually set them apart from their peers. In a career that’s seen the group release nine albums over the past 25 years, their penchant for crafting catchy tunes that expertly straddle the line between bubblegum and melancholy — a skillset perhaps best exemplified by Bleed American’s biggest hit, “The Middle” — has never waned.

According to Adkins, the secret to his band’s longevity is to always remember that nothing is permanent.

“We’ve always looked at it like this could disappear at any moment,” he explains, “so all you really have is just being stoked on what you’re doing right now.  It’s the reward you get from challenging yourself to do your best work. That’s what’s carried us through this entire thing.”

On Saturday, June 15, Jimmy Eat World plays Bill Graham with Third Eye Blind — another group that managed to survive the music industry’s culling of early-2000s alternative-rock acts. Somewhat surprisingly, the 43-year-old Adkins says this will mark the first time the two bands have officially hit the road together. 

Dubbed the “Summer Gods” tour, one could be forgiven for harboring suspicions that this outing might be preying on the nostalgia of millennials who came of age in the era of Now That’s What I Call Music!. At a moment when taking comfort in bygone days has become somewhat of a national pastime, Adkins says he doesn’t see why nostalgia should be framed as a negative.

“I’m nostalgic for us!” he laughs. “When you’ve been a band for 25 years, it’s just going to happen. We make records constantly and I’m always, always working on new material. Whatever brings our fans to the table is fine. If they want to call it nostalgia, that’s great.”

Furthermore, Adkins confirms that the crowds at Jimmy Eat World shows these days are not comprised solely of individuals who fondly recall Bleed American as the soundtrack of their high school tenure.

“It’s across the board,” Adkins says. “On our last tour, I met a lot of people who had never seen us play before. There are younger people who discovered us from our very last record, and there are people who saw us play in a basement in 1996. There are even some parents who come to our shows because their kids got them into it. It’s pretty wild.”

One thing that Adkins has a bit more trouble with are the fans who assumed his band broke up many years ago. 

His complaint is fair when one is reminded that since their major label debut, 1996’s Static Prevails, Jimmy Eat World has released a new record every three years. They also tour frequently, with Adkins noting that touring places they’ve never been to remains one of the group’s top goals.

“It would be awesome to go to India,” he suggests, “although we might have to do a house remix album first.”

Mostly, however, Jimmy Eat World is a band whose biggest ambition appears to be simply continuing to do what they know best. On that front, Adkins confirms a tenth studio album for the group may arrive as early as this fall. Naturally, this tentative time frame would put Jimmy Eat World on course to keep their streak of releasing a new record every three years alive.

“It’s kind of strange,” Adkins explains, “but the longer that we do this, the easier it is to keep going. The fact that there are so many different types of people who can still find a way to connect with what we do is just the huge-est compliment. That’s really all anybody can hope for: that a listener makes an effort to find something that they connect with. Sometimes it’s only for a summer — sometimes it’s a lifelong thing.”

Jimmy Eat World, with Third Eye Blind, Saturday, June 15, 7 p.m., at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, $59.50-$79.50, billgrahamcivic.com

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