‘Something loud’

Jimmy Eat World look back on 30 years and share their favorite Colorado haunts ahead of Red Rocks performance

Credit: Jimi Giannati

Last summer’s comeback single from time-tested rock institution Jimmy Eat World — the first new music from the Arizona-born outfit since before the pandemic lockdown — hangs on an urgent, arena-ready question: Do you still feel part of something loud?

If you ask 47-year-old frontman Jim Adkins, who co-founded the band with drummer and lifelong friend Zach Lind in 1993, the answer is a deafening yes. “There’s a part of me that I think will always identify as the 14-year-old metal kid going to hardcore shows for the first time and having my mind blown,” says the creative force behind some of the most definitive teenage anthems of the 21st century. 

The most inescapable of those anthems came in the fall of 2001, when “The Middle” smashed into the culture during the last gasp of the MTV era. With its bouncy palm-muted guitars, crashing cymbals and life-affirming chorus — It just takes some time, a generation still buzzing from the sugar rush of ’90s pop-punk collectively wailed into their hairbrushes — the track sailed to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Suddenly the band who had blazed a new trail through the basements of the previous decade’s burgeoning second-wave emo scene found themselves on the top of the airwaves, plunked between Eminem and Vanessa Carlton, as the last insurgent indie hitmakers of the pre-streaming landscape.

“When things took off for us in the more commercial, mainstream space, we just kept operating the way we always did: being focused on the things within your control, and being proud of your records,” Adkins says. “We’ve done months-long tours playing for nobody, and we’ve opened up for Green Day at Giants Stadium — but we’re the same band, playing the same songs. So a lot of this stuff isn’t really up to you. And you won’t make it very long if you take those things that aren’t up to you, and make them all about you. Because they’re not going to go your way most of the time. So if you just focus on things like chasing creative ideas that are exciting to you, and making music that is rewarding and challenging for you, then it’s a win.”  

Jimmy Eat World’s breakthrough ‘Bleed American’ LP went RIAA-certified platinum on Aug. 7, 2002.

‘Don’t write yourself off yet’

Jimmy Eat World had been a staple in the DIY scene for nearly a decade by the time their millennial sleeper hit thumped the band into the radio-rock stratosphere. The accompanying Bleed American LP, which would reach certified platinum status just over a year after its release, came on the heels of the band’s 1999 major-label masterpiece Clarity — a critical and commercial turning point for the group after years of grinding in the emo underground alongside acts like Sunny Day Real Estate and Colorado’s own Christie Front Drive

Now, three decades and nearly a dozen albums later, the hardscrabble quartet pauses for a rare moment of reflection as they mark 30 years with a 30-city anniversary tour — coming to Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 25 — alongside co-headliners Manchester Orchestra and Australian upstarts Middle Kids. According to Jimmy Eat World co-founder Lind, whose dad once coached the Denver Zephyrs minor-league baseball team and whose muscular percussion has propelled the band since Day One, the milestone offers a chance to take stock after the whirlwind of the band’s relentless and remarkable career so far. 

“I don’t think we really stop and look back too often. We’ve always been kind of future-oriented. We’re thinking about the next thing we want to tackle,” Lind says. “You put one foot in front of the other for so long, and then you finally turn back and look around and say, ‘Wow. We’ve accomplished a lot.’”

Credit: Lupe Bustos

But when it comes to measuring those accomplishments, the band’s yardstick isn’t eye-popping record sales, stadium-filling tours or front-of-the-pack chart positions. To hear bassist Rick Burch tell it, there’s a simpler motivation for chasing the light with his bandmates all these years — and it hasn’t changed much since he joined the ranks in 1995. 

“For me, the band was initially about having fun with friends and seeing new places. And coincidentally, that’s still one of the main things I enjoy about it,” says Burch, who took over on bass ahead of the band’s formative sophomore LP Static Prevails. “That’s how it has become such a massive part of my life. It’s that thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.”

‘The middle of the ride’

Adkins shares a similar appreciation for the basic formula that has kept Jimmy Eat World from careening down the path of too many long-running music acts who outlive their sense of urgency. He says it’s about cultivating gratefulness around the fundamentals. 

‘Something Loud’ by Jimmy Eat World was released on June 10, 2022.

“If you’re alive in your 40s, to have something in your life that’s been a consistent thing for most of it — if not the main thing — is kind of wild. And it’s definitely not an opportunity that a lot of people get to take advantage of,” he says. “Gratitude is the first thing I go to. It’s rare, so you better enjoy what you’re doing. Not everyone gets to do it. So if you’re not actively seeking out something rewarding every single day that you’re doing this thing, then what are you doing? Your time is the most expensive thing you have. It’s priceless. Don’t waste it.” 

This keen sense of our numbered days is key when it comes to maintaining Adkins’ sense of the urgent and ever-present now, that “something loud” he still feels part of with the mighty little emo band he started in the Arizona desert those 30 years ago. For the frontman of what has since arguably become the most defining pop-rock act of the century, that mindfulness helps keep his feet on the ground during each short step of an epic journey.

“Not everybody is going to come along for the ride with you every time. I’m under no illusion that even our most hardcore fan is going to love everything we do — that’s not gonna happen,” he says. “So it’s about keeping things in perspective: Celebrate the small victories and don’t let this stuff go to your head, because you’re just lucky to be here.” 

BONUS: Jimmy Eat Colorado
Arizona’s favorite sons on the charms of the Centennial State

“Colorado was an important place for us because we could drive there to start a tour circuit. We made friends early on with the guys in Christie Front Drive, who all lived in the Denver area. Almost every tour or eastward loop, Denver — or Boulder, actually — would be on our list of early places to hit. We played all the time at the old Arapahoe Warehouse [in Denver], where some of the Christie Front Drive guys lived, and Club 156 in Boulder. 

It’s funny: Stuff like that, I can recall instantly. People I met last week? My kids’ friends’ parents’ names? No. But Club 156 in Boulder — yeah, I still remember everything about playing there.”

Jim Adkins, vocals and guitar

. . . .

“My grandparents lived in a tiny town called Timnath, Colorado. It’s just outside of Fort Collins. They’re no longer with us, unfortunately. But in the early days of the band, we would go and stay with them when we didn’t really have any other place. They had a fifth-wheel camper they parked on their property where we would stay and hang out. They were awesome grandparents. I have vivid memories of going to visit them after landing in Denver and driving up to Fort Collins. I always have a soft spot for that — it’s one of the prettiest drives. Whenever we do it [now], I try to make sure I’m sitting at the front of the bus by the window to take it in.”

— Zach Lind, drums

. . . .

“I visit Colorado any chance I get. I’m an avid mountain bike rider, so one of my favorite places is Mary Jane over by Winter Park. You know: Ride the lift up, and have gravity take you down. I spent a few summers going up there riding bikes and just enjoying being up at the top of the Rockies. Just beautiful. 

I’d like to do more hiking — particularly around the Boulder area, and around Red Rocks. I just haven’t had the opportunity yet. So I’m hoping we get out there early enough to be able to head out on the morning of the show and do a little exploring.”

Rick Burch, bass

ON THE BILL: Jimmy Eat World with Manchester Orchestra and Middle Kids. 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 25, Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Tickets here.


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