For those of us who were around during the early to mid-2000s, there was barely a week in which you didn’t hear Jimmy Eat World’s ‘The Middle’ blasting from a City Beach shop.
The ubiquitous and beloved song, as well as the album it came from, 2001’s Bleed American, would largely define the Arizona band for years afterwards. Bleed American is now regarded as a classic of the era, marked by its punchy pop-punk sound and Jim Adkin’s steady and earnest vocals. The album’s success placed them firmly at the centre of emo’s rise, even if that label made them roll their eyes at the time.
Jimmy Eat World – ‘The Middle’
The band – made up of lead singer and guitarist Adkins, bassist Rick Burch, guitarist Tom Linton and drummer Zach Lind – could’ve been consigned to the scrap heap of 2000s history like many of their peers. But Jimmy Eat World were built differently, and over the years have continued to release successful albums.
They’re also beginning to be afforded the critical respect they missed out on in the early 2000s – Pitchfork, which tore the band apart in a review of Bleed American at the time, recently returned to their 1999 album Clarity and doused it with praise.
This month, Jimmy Eat World join their old mates My Chemical Romance on the road in Australia – a tour that was meant to take place before the pandemic threw everything up in the air. Late last year, Music Feeds caught up with Rick Burch to reflect on the last 20 years and discuss where the band find themselves in 2023.
Music Feeds: You have a long and shared history with My Chemical Romance. How does it feel to be getting back on the road with them?
Rick Burch: It’s really exciting. It’s a very long history and there’s so much that’s happened between then and now. It’s almost like getting to know an old friend all over again. We’re in very different places than we were, but we’re excited to be out playing music together.
MF: You are very different bands. And yet at one point – and even now – you were both described as “emo.” There was a time when you guys weren’t really comfortable with the emo label. How do you feel about it now?
Rick: You’re absolutely right. Early on, it felt like any artist could be boxed into a very simple realm, and that’s not something you’d want to embrace. We like to be free to create whatever it is we’re going to create. We didn’t want to limit ourselves by identifying ourselves in that way.
But as time has progressed… I don’t view the term as a limiting factor. It’s more of an identifier of a time and a place, I think. And, you know, we’re really honoured to be a part of that. It didn’t exist before and now it’s part of the musical landscape. It’s quite an honour.
MF: We’re in an emo revival at the moment. It must be interesting to have experienced the rise of that genre and now watch it come up again.
Rick: It is interesting. We really didn’t pay too much attention to it early on as the genre was developing and finding its identity. But now it’s a huge thing and it includes a lot of different bands and a lot of different fans of music. It’s a sensation to have witnessed the formation and then be still around to see a little bit of a revival.
It’s both nostalgia and also discovery. I meet people at gigs that were there back in the day and have been with us all along. And then also I meet people that this is their first season of gigs.
Jimmy Eat World – ‘Something Loud’
MF: ‘Something Loud’ dropped a few months back, and it’s all about reflecting on those early years and being sad that you were in such a rush to grow up. Have your feelings changed towards that part of your career?
Rick: Yeah, that’s right. ‘Something Loud’ came together rather quickly. I think Jim really had the concept after we found out about the When We Were Young festival and that we were going to be a part of it. It launched us into remembering the past.
Looking back on those times, we were so focused on progression and moving forward that it was easy for us to not really appreciate where we were at the time. The song’s a bit of a look back on that and also an acceptance that it’s no longer and it will never be again.
MF: You followed up with ‘Place Your Debts.’ Can you tell me how that one came together?
Rick: I’m a big fan of that song, too – it’s kind of like the other side of the Jimmy Eat World coin. It’s not so much about live energy. It’s more of what we get into when we’re in the studio and working with sound to create textures and an environment and a new place, a new world. It was fully immersive.
It was really fun working in the studio to bring that song together. We did those two songs with Justin Meldal-Johnsen in the producer role. His energy and creativity and guidance and motivation were fantastic. He helps motivate us to do what we do at our best.
MF: I read an interview with Jim a couple of months back and he said you guys had briefly abandoned the album in favour of releasing singles. Is that still the case?
Rick: It’s really hard to say. We’re really not trying to predict anything. We’re just going with what feels right in the moment. Maybe a result of what’s happened in the last couple years. There are so many things that are out of our control. If we’re excited about something, we’ll put it forward and share it with the world, whether that’s one song or five songs or an album.
We’re always creating, we’re always writing and we’re definitely still fans of the album format.
Jimmy Eat World – ‘Place Your Debts’
MF: A lot of artists that I’ve spoken to recently say that, although COVID was horrible for the industry, it also allowed them to have a break for the first time in years. Did you feel that at all?
Rick: Yeah. In speaking with colleagues, there’s definitely a sentiment of like, a reset button being pressed. “What do I really want to do with my platform or my life? Is this really what I want to be doing?”
We definitely went through those phases. Some of us were fortunate enough to be with family when the lockdowns happened, and some of us were kept apart from our families. It focuses the lens on what’s important to a person.
MF: Bleed American turned 21 in 2022. What’s it like to look back on that album after all these years?
Rick: It’s like being a proud parent. When we put that album together we didn’t know if we would still be a band in six months. There was so much uncertainty about how Jimmy World was gonna move forward because we didn’t have a label. We didn’t have management teams around us.
It was just the four of us in the studio making music. And we knew that that’s what we wanted to do, and so we did it. We didn’t know how it would be released. We didn’t know if it would be released [or] if anyone would ever hear it.
But it was released. It connected with audiences and it’s just… a real feeling of admiration and pride. And those songs are still out there putting smiles on people’s faces. It’s one of my favourite parts of performing songs like ‘The Middle.’ We’ve played the song more than any of our other songs. But every time it’s just a lightning bolt of positive energy. I’ll never grow tired of that.
My Chemical Romance Australian Tour 2023
w/ guests Jimmy Eat World
- Thursday, 16th March – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne VIC
- Friday, 17th March – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne VIC
- Sunday, 19th March – Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney NSW
- Monday, 20th March – March – Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney NSW