Jimmy Eat World on “Surviving” | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, March 28th, 2020  

Jimmy Eat World on “Surviving”

Thriving Over Surviving

Dec 12, 2019 Photography by Oliver Halfin Web Exclusive
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"I was a passenger in my own body for 36 years and never realized it."

The opening line of Jim Adkins' personal statement issued with Jimmy Eat World's newest album, Surviving, reveals the personal nature of the material within. Adkins, the band's frontman and lyricist, has been wrestling with identity and fear, expectations and pressure. The older he gets, the more he realizes how silly most of our fears really are (yet how much we're stifled by them).

Surviving is the documentation of a journey toward personal freedom, of a newfound identity given confidence and power by the silencing of toxic voices around him. We recently asked Adkins about the making of the album and what it was like to document songs during such a profound personal season.

Matt Conner (Under the Radar): The personal statement put out about the new album, Surviving, is very personal, about finding yourself and shedding expectations and silencing voices of fear and so forth. Is this all new to you as a songwriter or have you touched on these things before?

Jim Adkins: It might be slightly gradual because I think Integrity Blues definitely touches on some of the fundamentals I'm talking about now in Surviving. Integrity Blues might be one layer removed from the actual pure fundamentals I'm talking about on Surviving. You start digging and you're going to discover that the low-hanging fruit there isn't the fundamentals of it all. It's the nuances, but it does take a minute to actually dig and get to what I call the pure fundamentals.

When you say pure fundamentals...?

Everything comes down to a choice-a really simple choice. You're either going to do the same thing that you're doing or you're going to do something different. That's it. That's the crux of every single problem in your life. [Laughs] That's it. That's all there is. I don't like where I'm at. I'm not happy with my job or my relationship is unfulfilling or I don't know if I want to keep studying this field in school. Well, you're either going to keep doing the same thing or try something different. That's it. That's all there is.

It's a scary proposition sometimes because different is unknown. It's crazy because you don't like where you're at but the unknown is so much worse. But why? It's so dumb. But that's the fundamental struggle behind everything. When you're on the other side of it all looking up at what seems like an impossible problem, when you finally face that and you don't die, you realize, "What the hell was I actually afraid of here? This is not that big of a deal." It is revelatory. It does feel shocking. It's a huge momentum-builder.

Do you think you're able to find these perspectives because of the nature of your work? Or do you think having to write and research and then present can actually hinder discovery in some way?

It might have helped it. You're right, my entire adult life has been built around asking myself questions and getting answers and then questioning those answers and then questioning those answers and then writing a song about all of that. I guess I am conditioned to find something if I can bring up the courage to look. You're going to find something. So maybe it has helped.

How has the response been so far from fans?

I'm not really one to read the comments. I think once we get out on the road and we're able to connect with fans in person, then I'll have a better answer. The first wave of feedback has been positive for the most part.

Given the personal nature of things, does this release feel differently than others?

It's not something I consider when I'm working. I just have to feel like it works for me. I have to feel like a song does what I want it to do. Not everyone is going to like it but that's not up to me. People liking it is not up to me, so it's pointless to worry if anyone likes it. I think if nobody liked it, that would get to me, but the response is usually pretty varied and that's fine. I'm under no illusion that even our most hardcore fan is going to love everything we do. Of course not! But the right people will find the material that they like.

Have you learned that the hard way or has that always been true for the band?

I've done a pretty good job of avoiding chasing the approval of some imaginary listener. The listener will pick up on that. There's nothing more of a turnoff that someone just trying to chase your approval.

You say that but there's a whole industry built upon chasing that listener approval.

Well, sometimes they hit the nail on the head. Sometimes they'll actually deliver what people want, but for every one of those, there are 10,000 flops. [Laughs] You know what I mean? You can go from Blurred Lines to the follow-up. What was Robin Thicke's follow-up record? It was some really wacky diss track to his ex-wife. I don't know why that popped in my head but Robin Thicke's journey of Blurred Lines to whatever is far more common than someone continuously delivering hits. Maybe Max Martin is the only guy who can continue to do that, but... at what cost to his soul? [Laughs]

When you're writing the songs on Surviving, was there a mission in a way to want to write about this time of discovery you were in? Or was it more organic than that?

I think it was more organic than that. It just ended up being focused around these themes because that's what I was interested in and fascinated by anyway. I don't think I could ever really say, "I'm going to write an album that's going to be this." We don't really work that way. The re-occurring themes show themselves as you're working. Everything I have to say about Surviving is something that I learned after the songs were written. I guess in its entirety, this is what my subconscious is trying to tell me.

Are you processing this with the other guys in the band at all?

No. As far as lyrics, the guys definitely give me a lot of freedom to do what I'm excited about. Lyric revisions don't happen often. There might be a question like, "What do you mean by this?" There might be a little bit of that if something doesn't seem like the point is being made that I'm trying to make within the song. But we don't sit around and huddle and game plan about what a song is going to be about. The guys give me the freedom to go with what I'm excited about.

Does this one feel more vulnerable than album releases of the past?

I wouldn't categorize it as vulnerability. It's just who I am. It's what I'm excited about and what interests me. None of that feels vulnerable, like an exposure. It's just shit I'd be talking about with anybody. [Laughs] I'd be talking it in line with strangers at the grocery store while we're waiting to check out.

www.jimmyeatworld.com

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