After paying for two videos that ended up in the scrap heap, Lind figures, “Fuck it, it can’t get any worse.” So it’s understandable they blindly let frontman Jim Adkins run with his idea for their latest single, “555”: “a science-fiction postapocalyptic nightmare filled with clones and an evil galactic master,” played by Adkins, looking like he fell face first into a bag of bleached flour.
A week out from the release of Jimmy Eat World’s 10th full-length studio album Surviving, I spoke with drummer Zach Lind about how the band makes albums now versus 10 or 20 years ago, working with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen, crafting a setlist with 25 years of music to choose from, and ranking the band’s beloved discography.
At least on the surface level, the title for Jimmy Eat World ‘s 10th full-length album feels like a proclamation. Surviving. Not many bands know quite as much about surviving as Jimmy Eat World. They’ve weathered a lot over the years: getting dropped by their first major label; being (incorrectly) considered a one-hit wonder by many; being a part of a genre and a music scene that most critics have always written off; touring with Third Eye Blind, apparently. Perhaps the most impressive thing they’ve survived is time. When I first started seriously listening to Jimmy Eat World, they’d been a band for ten years and were about to release the follow-up to their breakthrough LP. Fast-forward a decade and a half, and the band is celebrating 25 years and ten albums. They’ve kept the same four-person lineup since 1995 and have released a new album, like clockwork, every three years since 2001. And they remain as beloved today as they ever have been—a go-to “favorite band” for seemingly every person who follows them.
On the acoustic part of the intro to [Surviving] song “One Mil,” I really wanted something spontaneous that wasn’t your typical studio setup. I went into the garage of our studio, set my phone down, did the part, and when I dumped it into the session, it sounded really good. The microphone on your phone is probably $300 or more — the research and cost is insane. I had to mess it up after I dumped it in, because it sounded too good.
So when Davey [Havok] was stressing about getting to a studio I was like, “No, no, no. Put headphones on, set your phone down, sing it, and just send that to me.” That’s what he did and that’s what’s on the record… I can totally see how there are Soundcloud rappers who have never seen an XLR cable, pumping out platinum hits now.
You did some songwriting with Sam Hollander (Panic! At The Disco’s “High Hopes,” Fitz And The Tantrums’ “HandClap”) for this album. Even though those songs didn’t make the cut, was that a way to avoid stasis—to get in a room with a stranger, be vulnerable and try to approach writing from a different creative place?
I wouldn’t entirely count those songs out yet, but we didn’t end up finishing them for this record. It’s fascinating to me: I love the craft of it. Everybody approaches it a different way. Everybody has a different kind of aural tradition of how they figured it out or was taught to them. The same thing goes for people who produce records: Everybody makes records a little bit differently. When you get the chance to work with somebody else, you learn so much.
For me, what I felt was something interesting to explore was how every moment of your existence you have a choice between continuing what you’re doing, and doing something different. There is always resistance in doing something new. If you feel anxiety or depression or general dissatisfaction in whatever your personal condition is like, it’s really strange that there’s still resistance to deviating from that. To explore that, you really have to come to a present choice – that’s the difference between existing and truly living. Like I say in the song, ‘You can survive but not exactly live’. It’s like anything would be better than what I’m doing right now, but I’m too afraid to change it. It’s not a natural response for us to change
And this is the first time he’ll be doing so with anyone anywhere about the evergreen quartet’s new album, Surviving (due out on October 18 via The Orchard/rca). You can’t half tell, as the frontman excitedly rattles through the inspirations, meanings and the secrets behind the latest collection of songs he and the band have poured every ounce of their everything into. It turns out there’s a lot to learn, as Jim gets into the core of the record’s politics, its themes of hope and hopelessness, the underlying insecurities that inform its outlook and everything from high-concept philosophy to saxophone solos. The black coffee is very much required for this one…