Jimmy Eat World enjoys 20 years together, reflects on changing sound

A pop-rock band from Mesa, Ariz., with a long and successful career, Jimmy Eat World will reach its 20th anniversary in February.

Jimmy Eat World formed when singer-guitarist Jim Adkins and drummer Zach Lind were still seniors in high school. Guitarist Tom Linton had only recently graduated from high school.

“We started when we were kids,” Linton said from the Phoenix area. “It’s crazy that we’ve been able to play together and stay together this long.”

Most bands, even successful bands, don’t last, but the key to Jimmy Eat World’s longevity is simple. “We get along really well,” Linton said. “And we’ve been through a lot together as a band. We’ve been dropped from labels. We’ve saved our own money and recorded our records ourselves and then got re-signed. That helped us stay together.”

In the beginning, Jimmy Eat World released indie records that helped the group build a following. One of those indie releases came to the attention of Capitol Records.

The members of Jimmy Eat World were still in their late teens when they signed with Capitol in 1995.

As Linton recalls it, the label was not pleased with the band’s major-label debut.

“They were saying, ‘Oh, this doesn’t sound like the record that you recorded before. You changed.’ But we were developing our sound.”

Jimmy Eat World originally thought of itself as a pop-punk band.

“We listened to all sorts of stuff,” Linton recalled. “Sonic Youth to the Pixies to the Cure. But for our very first records, we were young and we just tried to play as fast as we could.”

Jimmy Eat World got labeled as a band that played emo music, i.e., rock music containing personal, emotional lyrics.

“That’s just something people tagged us with,” Linton said. “We stay away from that. A trend will become uncool really fast.”

A second Capitol album, “Clarity,” arrived in 1999.

“We made a couple of records for Capitol that we were really happy with,” Linton said. “We were able to tour. We saw that we were developing a fan base.”

After leaving Capitol, Jimmy Eat World released more albums through Dreamworks SKG and Interscope. RCA Records issued the band’s seventh major-label album, “Damage,” in June.

The new songs from “Damage,” Linton said, caught on fast with the audiences.

“With the previous couple of records, it seemed like it took a little time for the audience to react to the songs. But right off the bat, we see people singing along with the ‘Damage’ songs.

“And a lot of the shows that we’ve done this year have been the biggest shows we’ve ever played. So it’s pretty crazy for us.”