Jimmy Eat World has been on the music scene for over 20 years- with no plans to go anywhere. Their breakthrough came in the early 2000s, releasing catchy rock anthems with an emo edge such as ‘Pain’ and ‘The Middle’, which are now modern classics within the genre.
After taking a long overdue and well deserved break from the band for a year, they’ve returned with their ninth studio album, Integrity Blues. Known as one of the most reliable and consistent rock bands around, I chat with Tom Linton of the band, ahead of their sold out show in The Limelight, Belfast.
Gigging NI: Hey Tom – first of all, thanks for coming to Belfast and agreeing to chat with me today. So how does it feel to be back on tour?
Tom Linton: “It feels really good. We took a really long break – we took a year off, so being able to get back on the road was something we all were craving.”
GNI: I’m sure. You guys played Dublin last night. How was that?
Tom: “It was really good. That’s one of our favourite places to play. The crowd’s always really good and the theatre that we played in was really cool.”
GNI: Irish crowds are known for being quite loud and lairy. Hopefully we can do the same for you tonight…
Tom: “[Laughs] Well that’s why we came back here too!”
GNI: Do you get much of a chance to go out and see things when you tour or are you just playing, travelling and sleeping?
Tom: “Um, it depends. Sometimes we’ll have a day off and we’ll be able to walk around a lot and see a lot more than the days where we have a show. Today we did something really cool – we were able to go check out the Game of Thrones set, which was really cool.”
GNI: Oh nice, are you a fan?
Tom: “Yeah, we’re all big fans of the show, so that’s something that doesn’t really happen that often – seeing stuff like that.”
GNI: That’s cool – it’s not uncommon to see the actors walking around Belfast.
Tom: “Oh yeah? Nice!”
GNI: You guys have been together forever. Is it difficult to decide on a set list when you tour? You have so many well loved songs, it must be hard to narrow down.
Tom: “It’s getting harder! There are so many songs we wanna play but if it ever comes down to trying to figure it out… or we’re fighting about it, we’ll go online and ask the fans. We’ll ask – “What’s a song we haven’t played in a while that you guys wanna hear?” That helps us get out of a fight that we’re having about that kind of stuff.”
GNI: You can’t please everyone, can you?
Tom: “Yeah, there’s always one! We try to play the ones that people are asking for.”
GNI: Definitely a good way to decide. Is there a particular aspect of touring that’s your favourite? I’m sure you’ve had some highlights over the years.
Tom: “Just getting to go to new places and meet the people…yeah – you can’t really complain about anything.”
GNI: Sure – so there’s no downside as far as you’re concerned?
Tom: “The only thing you can complain about is when you get sick, because it tends to stick around a little bit longer when you’re on tour…because you’re not getting much sleep and stuff. But it’s okay, there’s worse things…jobs – if you could call this a job!”
GNI: Before making your latest album you just mentioned that you all took a year out – what did you get up to?
Tom: “I uh…I started to box! [laughs] I took boxing lessons.”
GNI: Oh really? That’s different..
Tom: “Totally different! I was really out of shape when I got back from tour so I just decided to whip myself into shape. Rick started brewing gin, and Jim did a solo tour where he went out acoustic and did some shows. Zach made a solo record…”
GNI: Was the intention to completely switch off from the band… is that even possible?
Tom: “I mean…yeah – as much as you can, because you’re always kind of working. I was still practicing at home- playing piano, guitar. I was still doing music stuff. I think we kind of get into this cycle where we get off the road and go straight into the studio, and it was nice getting away from that and trying something different.”
GNI: Did it give you a bit of perspective, perhaps?
Tom: “Yeah – When you have that much time off you realise how much fun you have when you’re on the road and when we’re together. So it was just a break that we needed.”
GNI: To give you a chance to miss each other?
Tom: “Yeah! [laughs] You know, we’re lucky enough to where we get along.”
GNI: So do you think it had a positive impact on the album, coming back well rested?
Tom: “Yeah – big time.”
GNI: There’s no denying you have a loyal following having been together for so many years, but you guys continue to produce great music that’s fresh and relevant. You have no need to rely or bank on the nostalgia that comes with your older material. When you go into the studio is that an organic process, or do you always write and produce with your audience in mind?
Tom: “Yeah – for this record, that was one of the reasons we took the break. When we got back together we were like “Alright, we’ve got to make a record that’s completely different, and get a producer that’s different and is gonna challenge us.” We’ve never been challenged before. So yeah – when we made this record we really pushed ourselves to do something that was different. I think you can see that in the record that we’ve made.”
GNI: If you had to recommend one track from Integrity Blues, which would it be?
Tom: “My favourite song is “Pass the Baby” – it switches things up. It’s an experimental song.”
GNI: It really builds, right?
Tom: “Yeah – it has a slow build, then the ending is like the heaviest riff that we’ve ever done. We’ll be playing it tonight – it’s a fun one to play.”
GNI: Great! The show tonight is sold out, I’m very excited. What can we expect by way of material? Is it a mixture, or are you trying to get more of the new album out there?
Tom: “It’ll be a mix of everything. We’re not gonna do any Static Prevail songs, but we’ll do stuff from Clarity, and pretty much every other record onwards. It won’t just be new stuff…[laughs] We know how it is when you’re a fan, to go watch a show and the band plays the whole new record.”
GNI: I’m sure it’ll be great- thanks so much for taking the time to speak to me today.
Tom: “Yeah – no problem. Enjoy the show!”
Jimmy Eat World played at the Limelight 1, Belfast on Tuesday 8th November 2016. Read our gig review here.