Jim Adkins has been here before. His band, Jimmy Eat World, have been pumping out guitar-driven “emo” rock since 1993. Adkins himself is reluctant to adopt the emo tag, calling it “a caption of a snapshot of all the bands that were around when we were first coming out”. He’s quick to add that, “some of them are still doing stuff, some of them aren’t.”

Indeed, while many contemporaries have fallen by the wayside, Jimmy Eat World have stood the test of time. The aptly named Surviving, released last week, is their 10th studio album.

Jimmy Eat World Album
Jimmy Eat World’s 10th album is out now

“At this point, I guess you could call it a career for us,” Adkins tells Tone Deaf, “but why are we doing any of this? It can’t just be an academic exercise, it has to be something you feel has given you a challenge.”

It raises an interesting question: how does a band that have been writing and performing for over 25 years continue to challenge themselves? Surviving was yet another opportunity for Adkins and his bandmates to attempt an answer.

An old adage popularised by a great American novelist provided a place to start.

“There’s a writing analogy,” he says, “I think it was William Faulkner who came up with it: the concept of ‘kill your darlings’”.

Adkins explains that “maybe it’s the thing you’re holding onto (that) you should actually let go of to have the whole thing work. Once you come to accept that, usually it does work.”

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Jim Adkins
Jim Adkins in concert with Jimmy Eat World

Adkins admits pushing himself to keep his fondness for thick, heavy musical textures in check. He sought “to try and make something that felt like less things were doing more. In the past, I think we’ve definitely gone full-on overboard with using the studio and production and general as a writing element.”

“When you know you have an unlimited amount of track, that sort of affects the choices you make when you’re writing.”

That’s not to say that Surviving lacks the weighty guitar riffs that endear the band to their fans. In fact, lead single ‘All The Way (Stay)’ boasts an opening hook that is vintage Jimmy Eat World.

But by the same token, the band did not want to lean on past successes. Instead, Adkins and his bandmates attempted to deliver their trademark heaviness as economically possible. In the majority of cases, they’ve succeeded.

“How can we get something really feeling impactful and heavy in a way that doesn’t require ninety tracks?” Adkins recalls thinking.

“The solution to that, in a lot of cases, was taking things away.”

Check out ‘All The Way (Stay)’ by Jimmy Eat World:

YouTube VideoPlay

This “bare bones” aesthetic is more evident on some tracks than others. ‘555’ (funnily enough not the album’s fifth track) is Jimmy Eat World as we’ve rarely heard them before – sparse and bare, but no less affecting. Adkins mentions ‘All The Way (Stay)’ as a particularly proud moment.

“There are parts of that song when you’re listening to silence, you’re listening to nothing,” he says.

“You’re listening to the snare drum decay in the room where we recorded it. There’s a lot of that, but it feels heavy!”

To ensure they struck the balance between heavy and spare, the band re-visited some classic artists for inspiration.

AC/DC are masters of that,” says Adkins, “You’re just waiting for the backbeat. And it’s heavy! Even though it’s just like one guitar.”

Classic punk rock bands were also at the forefront of Adkins’ mind throughout the production process.

“They were trying to cut an album in the four hours they had the studio from, from like midnight ’til four in the morning. The restrictions kind of put in place creative choices for the writing of the song.”

It was looking to the legends of the past that also led the band to make an unusual instrumental inclusion – the saxophone. It’s the first time, to Adkins’ knowledge, that Jimmy Eat World have used the instrument.

“If you were a session sax player in the ‘80s, you were set!”, laughs Adkins, “that was a huge part of us, it was a formative time, listening to stuff in the ‘80s.”

The band called on James King, sax player for Fitz & The Tantrums, to emulate the sound of The E-Street Band and their contemporaries.

Sax solos aside, Adkins feels that his killing of darlings has allowed the band to continue Surviving on this record. In reality, they go one better, and manage to sound vital after almost 30 years.

“Once you sort of re-train your way of thinking to appreciate that mindset, touring and performing…it’s not a grind anymore. It’s just pure adventure.”

Surviving is out now.

Check out Jimmy Eat World’s ‘555’:

YouTube VideoPlay

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