The Story of Indie Rockers Jimmy Eat World: Angels Led Them In

The story of Jimmy Eat World could almost be mistaken for a fairy tale. The story is that of four childhood friends who formed a band and went on to fame and millions, all while maintaining respect from their early peers.

In 1994, then 20-year-old, Jim Adkins (vocals/guitar) of Mesa, Arizona, teamed up with friends-since-kindergarten, Zach Lind (drums), Tom Linton (guitar/vocals) and Mitch Porter (bass) to do what many kids their age were doing in a world still mourning the untimely deaths of River Phoenix, Kurt Cobain and, fellow Arizona native, Douglas Hopkins (Gin Blossoms); they started a band.

At the time their influences included Fugazi, the Velvet Underground, and the Jesus and Mary Chain and their sound was mostly heavy-handed punk rock, similar to AFI and Rancid, two other bands who were inching up on the heels of the Seattle grunge movement.

Jimmy Eat World (better known to fans simply as JEW) produced several EP’s on the Tempe-based, indie label, Wooden Blue Records, and even put together a few split EP’s with fellow “emo-core” bands such as Christie Front Drive, Emery and Blueprint, and toured the U.S. underground until being noticed by executives from Capitol Records in 1995.

Upon signing with Capitol, JEW lost bassist, Mitch Porter, but the decision to replace him was easily made with Linton’s longtime best friend, Rick Burch. With the addition of Burch, the Jimmy Eat World “dynamic was officially in place” (MacKenzie Wilson, All Music Guide, as quoted for MTV.com).

Gary Gersh was placed in charge of all matters JEW and decided to approach their situation a little differently than he would most. Rather than pushing them through to the masses, Gersh produced and promoted their first major label LP, Static Prevails, but the contract he signed with the four Southwesterners permitted them to continue work with indie labels, bands, and venues of their choice, allowing them to maintain the respect they had earned in the underground emo-core scene.

JEW produced two albums with Capitol, Static Prevails in 1995 and Clarity in 1998. Their Clarity album gave them a quick glimpse into the world of fame and fortune, with the album’s first single, “Lucky Denver Mint,” making a huge splash in the college radio scene and hitching a ride on the soundtrack for the Drew Barrymore vehicle, Never Been Kissed, and the album’s success earning them a coveted spot in the Austin, Texas, South By Southwest festival.

When the release of their third LP was postponed indefinitely, they chose to leave Capitol to pursue their career in their own fashion, and Capitol executives offered no dispute. In the time between leaving Capitol in 1999 and signing with David Geffen’s DreamWorks Records (a subsidiary of DreamWorks SKG), Jimmy Eat World easily returned to their underground, indie roots, having maintained their credibility through their major label successes.

They also planned and self-promoted their own, and first, European and Asian tour, produced an EP which they titled simply, Singles, and began work on the album which would rocket them into the independent record hall of fame, Bleed American, which was picked up and released by DreamWorks in July, 2001. Bleed American, which may as well have been recorded in Adkins’ basement, went on to sell 1.3 million copies.

Following September 11, 2001, the name of the album was changed from Bleed American to Jimmy Eat World to avoid any undue allegations of anti-Americanism from fans and critics, however it can still be obtained under the original title from Japan Universal Records as a somewhat costly import (listed on Amazon.com at $55.49). Today, following their 2004 Interscope Records release, Futures, Jimmy Eat World is still going strong.

They enjoy every minute of their fame but if it all ended tomorrow, it is this writer’s prediction that they would once again, seamlessly, return to their Mesa, Arizona, underground origins and continue to produce their incredible sound, possibly on their own label, helping to get other groups of childhood friends out of Arizona and on the road they, themselves, once followed.

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