Jimmy Eat World not stuck in 'The Middle'

By Carole Giambalvo, tbt* writer
Published November 30, 2007


Shortly after Capitol Records dropped Jimmy Eat World from its label in 1999, the group went on to sell more than 1 million copies of its self-titled album.

But JEW (yes, they do use the acronym) has never seemed the type to brag. Instead, the Arizona rockers have built their 15-year career on playing good, honest rock songs with conviction, like The Middle, Sweetness and Lucky Denver Mint.

Oh, and they also play weddings.

Expect much more than the chicken dance when JEW plays as one of the headlining acts at the 97X Next Big Thing concert on Sunday. Tbt* caught up with bassist Rick Burch by phone.

Just about seven years ago when The Middle was getting heavy play, I first heard the word "emo" being used to describe your genre. Now in 2007, I'm not really even sure what the word describes. But if it means simply "emotional" music, then would you say that's what you play?

No, we just play rock and roll. It's totally unfair to have a certain genre labeled "emotional" music, because isn't all music emotional? It's kind of a silly thing that I think some journalist came up with because they wanted a catchphrase to describe something they didn't fully understand. And it kind of stuck.

Angels and Airwaves will be playing alongside you here at NBT7. Singer Tom DeLonge says Jimmy Eat World has been one of his biggest musical influences since high school. And as I understand it, you even played at Tom's wedding?

Yes we did! Tom's a great guy. We've been fortunate to be able spend time on the road with them. The first time we actually met was in like '97 or something - we played the same show in Denver in some warehouse. We've kept in touch ever since.

You were scheduled to play on Letterman recently, but the show was canceled due to the writers' strike. As a songwriter, how do you feel about the situation?

We totally understand. They have rights, too. When a lot of them did sign their contracts, it was before all of these methods of distribution were established, so they had no idea that they needed a clause. We need to update everything so everyone's compensated properly.

Can you tell me a little about your new album, Chase This Light?

We recorded in our own home studio. It was a lot of fun doing it that way. It was just really relaxed and comfortable, not worrying about the studio time clicking away and that every minute costs so much. And we were able to go recharge our batteries in our homes as opposed to living in a hotel for six months or so. Plus we had absolutely every instrument and noisemaker that we owned plugged in, turned on and ready to go. It was really cool.

How did you come to choose the production team of Chris Testa, best known for his work with the Dixie Chicks, and Butch Vig, the drummer for Garbage?

We actually met Chris when he was working with a band in another room of the same studio we were in. We became good friends and he's a great engineer ... but it was different because we produced this album ourselves. We had Butch Vig as an executive producer - his role wasn't in the studio everyday. We would send Butch samples of what we were doing every couple of days. It was really cool to have that outside opinion, because sometimes you're so in the trenches of working on something that you lose sight of that original goal that you had set out for the song. You get lost in it. And having him being on the outside, he was able to be like, "No, you guys are totally chasing something that's not even important to the picture," and put us back on target.

You've toured with a lot of bands over the years. Can you share any personal highlights?

Yeah there's been a lot. The Weezer tour - it was really cool to play with those guys. And Tenacious D was awesome to see, really hilarious. That is who they are even hanging out. It's on all the time. (laughs) Being able to meet and play with Green Day was awesome, too. I've been big fans of theirs since I was a little kid. Just playing for fans - even the shows that we're doing right now, it's so much fun. It's an honor - people could be doing anything, but they choose to spend their night with us.