Jimmy Eat World: Rockstars in Time
Photo by Paul Drake
By Alex Rice
“You’re going to find yourself a mastermind in time.” - Jimmy Eat World, “Rockstar”
Like a prized high school pitching phenom being whisked away by the majors with a seven-figure bonus, Jimmy Eat World were signed to Capitol Records as teenagers and tapped by the iconic imprint as one of its next big things. Whereas an 18-year-old lefty with a 95 mph fastball can add a big-league curve in double-A, though, there was no minor record label — no developmental system for honing these southwestern kids’ raw melodic chops.
The record company executives’ long-term projections were of course correct, but this was the mid-‘90s alternative rock boom and the fresh-faced foursome from suburban Phoenix were, in terms of pop music instincts, light years from tapping into the new millennium’s TRL zeitgeist with Bleed American and “The Middle.”
“In a straight up economic sense, we had absolutely no business of being on a major label,” singer Jim Adkins laughingly explains. “Major labels are primed to really kick ass for a record that's selling 20,000 to 30,000 copies a week. They will fly that to the moon and around the world and back. They have no idea what to do with a band like us, who no one knew outside of the 4,000 people that had bought the combined total of all our releases at that point… most of those being our parents.”
Photo by Tom Linton
If a jejune Jimmy Eat World didn’t quite fit in as label mates alongside mega-marketable acts like Beastie Boys and Foo Fighters in 1996, it’s mostly because they hadn’t even self-actualized yet. The group's 1994 self-titled LP was fronted by guitarist Tom Linton, but as the sessions for Static Prevails began the following year, Adkins started bringing more and more of his own original material. So much so that he and Linton split lead vocal duties evenly on their ’96 sophomore effort and Capitol debut, with six compositions each. By the 1999 follow-up Clarity, Adkins sang all but one tune and with 2001’s Platinum-certified Bleed American, the most mutual coup d’état in rock history was complete.
“It was never a point of contention,” remembers Zach Lind, timekeeper for a lineup that — rounded out by bassist Rick Burch — is celebrating a quarter-century together in 2021. “Jim had really started to come into his own in terms of singing and writing melodies. It’s pretty remarkable how quickly he progressed.”
Looking back 25 years on, the cooly clamorous Static Prevails indeed found Jimmy Eat World at quite a fascinating juncture. All the hallmarks of the emo pioneers’ sonic footprint are there in nascent form, filtered through the lens of the DIY post-hardcore scene that birthed them and early contemporaries like The Promise Ring, Mineral and Christie Front Drive. The urgent screams of “Thinking, That’s All” foreshadow Bleed American’s titular opening salvo, while the delicate “Claire” hints to where the quartet was headed on the genre-defining Clarity and “Anderson Mesa” - a mountain of a closer - serves as the blueprint for future thrilling finales like “23” and “Pol Roger.” Not that anyone noticed when Static Prevails was quietly unveiled in July 1996.
“When Static Prevails came out, the scale of our world was very, very small,” says Adkins. “The day it was released, we were playing a gig at the Arapahoe Street Warehouse in Denver that our friends in Christie Front Drive had set up for us. It just happened to correspond with the record release date and there were probably 30 people there. I remember saying something onstage like, 'We've tricked you guys into being at a major label record release party!'”
The joke was on everyone else. Nearly 30 years and 10 albums in, Jimmy Eat World prevails. Just like static.
Bandbox is thrilled to offer Static Prevails on clear vinyl with blue/tan splatter, housed in the album's original artwork for the first time since 1996! The Jimmy Eat World Bandbox also includes a 16-page band zine, featuring track-by-track album commentary, rare photos and more!