Tom Linton of Jimmy Eat World
Released on September 28th, Jimmy Eat World’s seventh studio album Invented is a collection of songs inspired by the conceptual photography of Cindy Sherman and Hannah Starkey – a most unexpected turn of events as frontman Jim Adkins describes the process as a simple writing exercise that quickly morphed into song ideas for their new album. Each song weaves a new tale, creating a backdrop and story for the characters in the photos.
Constantly finding new ways to inspire and provoke through their music, Jimmy Eat World continues to lead at the top of their genre even after sixteen years together. The album title – also a song on the release, refers to both the mood of the album as well as the band’s deepest approach into character writing.
Calling on their friendship and their fans as their greatest strengths, it’s no surprise that the band’s loyal fanbase was eagerly awaiting the release of Invented. The album marked the return of producer Mark Trombino who had assisted the band on their earlier releases (1999’s Clarity and 2001’s Bleed American) – two quintessential albums in the band’s seven album arsenal and when fans heard he was on board expectations were at an all time high.
Preferring to be called a guitar based rock band over the emo title that has followed them throughout their career, there is one thing we can all agree on – Jimmy Eat World continues to be at the top of their game and Invented will speak to both to fans that have grown up with them throughout their career as well as new generations who have no idea the jackpot they’ve just discovered – dig deep kids and thank us later!
Currently out on the road in support of their new release we caught up with guitaristTom Linton who talked to us about the making of the album and all things Jimmy Eat World.
Interviewed by: Jinx Patton & Mary Ouellette
(With special thanks to Steve Colyer from the band Your Best Friend who contributed a few (*) questions.)
For Invented, you joined forces again with producer Mark Trombino who you’ve worked with in the past. What made you drawn to work with him again?
When the demos were finished we just felt that he would be the best person for the songs, or for the group of songs that we had recorded.
So even though it had been many years since you worked with him and you’ve likely all grown in many ways, it just felt like a natural progression to work with him again? Or did it feel like a new experience, like it was the first time entering the studio with him?
A little of both – it was a natural progression, but it was a new experience also. We did two other records without him so it’s been like, six or seven years since we last worked with him, so it felt really fresh. But we knew him for so long having done three records with him in the past so it was a refreshing change from how we worked with him in the past.
You and Jim (Adkins) have been together now for 16 years and Jim has said that it’s never stopped being fun. What do you guys do to keep the writing process fresh and flowing without hitting that brick wall?
You know, we’re all pretty mellow guys, and we get along, and I think that’s probably one of the big things. We were all friends before the band, so I just think we just like to hang out with each other, we enjoy the interaction with each other while we’re playing shows. It’s hard to say exactly what it is, or what our secret is to being able to play together, be able to survive for this long, because a lot of bands that we’ve toured with in the past have broken up, but we’ve just lasted. I don’t really know what it is.
A lot of the songs on Invented were inspired by photography books–can you tell us a little bit about that and how being inspired by photos transformed into songs?
Yeah! It was Jim – he did something different than maybe he’s ever done before. There’s a photographer named is Cindy Sherman and he would open up and look at her photography books and look at a photo, and write lyrics based on the photograph, like the facial expression of the girl, and the background of the girl, etc. It was an interesting way that he went about it.
Jimmy Eat World has really paved the way for a lot of bands who came after you and I read an interview where Jim said that as a band, you really know what your strengths are and are able to work with them–do you agree with that, and what do you feel your strengths are as a band?
You know, I think one of our strengths is being able to get along! Another I think would be the great fans that support us and come to our shows. And because of them I think there’s just a lot of things that we’ve been able to do that maybe not every band is able to do, like going on tour, going over to Europe, that kind of thing. So I think that’s one of our biggest strengths.
There’s a reoccurring female vocal throughout the album –what inspired this and how will that play out in a live environment?
In the past we had a girl named Rachel Haden sang on our record for a couple songs, so we’ve always kind of had a female vocalist when we recorded our record. On this record we also had a girl named Courtney Marie Andrews; she’s a folk singer from Phoenix. We met her at a show, actually, and she sang on a lot of the tracks, and she’s actually coming out on tour with us–well, she’s been on tour with us, we’ve been out for about two weeks now. She’s playing keyboard and singing all the backup vocals that she did on the record. And it’s been really nice to have an extra person that we’ve never had covering those things!
You sing lead on one of the songs on the album (“Action Needs An Audience”)–a lot of people may not know that you were originally the lead singer for the band. How did it feel to be singing lead again, and do you think it’s something you’ll want to delve into more in the future?
Yeah! It was fun, you know? It’s been a while since I sang lead. How it happened was, towards the end, when all the songs were almost finished and there was just the music for “Action Needs An Audience” just sitting there, Jim was working on another song. Someone had the idea that I should try and write lyrics for it, so I did, and it ended up making the record! But yeah, in the future I’ll probably sing lead again on a track or two.
Do you think we’ll ever see the day when you and Jim switch off lead vocals throughout a song?
Who knows? Maybe! (laughs)
Your band has long been heralded as starting the “emo” revolution, which raises a couple of questions that I’d like to hear your thoughts on. What does “emo” in terms of music mean to you personally, and do you feel that Jimmy Eat World falls into that category, or do you feel that you’ve transcended that at this point in your career?
You know, it’s something that people have labeled us and we feel really weird about it! To say we’re an emo band – we don’t know what it really is!? Some people just always have to put a label on something. We just consider ourselves a guitar-based rock band.
*How has the success of your previous albums like Clarity and Bleed American influenced the writing of your latest albums? Is there a tension to follow up with the same level of success, or do you go into everything fresh and whatever happens, happens?
For the most part we just treat it as a brand new thing, a brand new record. I mean the only thing that really changes is we have more experience in the studio. With each record we learn something new, like we learn how to get different drum sounds or different guitar sounds. Mark engineered this record so he’s been really good with keeping me up with all the latest computer software and things like that. I think that’s the biggest thing we learned this time.
AbsolutePunk.com called Invented “Practical beauty, world peace in your eardrums, all the greatest sounds on earth being in one room,” which I think shows that your music still speaks quite loudly to the younger generation. As you grow older, do you feel your writing has changed with you as far as the audience that you’re speaking to, or do you feel like it’s able to cross generations?
I think there are some songs that are kind of written from a teenager’s perspective, and there’s some songs that are written from and older perspective, where we are now. So I think it varies song-by-song.
One of our favorite songs on the album is “Mixtape,” and we were wondering if you could give us your take on the song and how it all came together?
The original demo for “Mixtape” was really kind of an acoustic, guitar-based song, and it went through four different changes. We tried to create a rock version of it with all of us with loud guitars, amps. Then we tried a version that was kind of like a mix between that, like a guitar-based, but with keyboard and it became almost like a techno song, I wanna say? It’s very keyboard-based. Mark Trombino had a lot to do with that!
Are there any songs on the album that you didn’t have to demo out like that, they just all came together in the studio?
They were all demos, that’s how we usually work.
Do you feel like there’s one song on the album that somewhat defines the album as a whole?
No, I think each song is kind of it’s own thing. I don’t really think there’s one that I could point to that defines the record as a whole.
I know that the songs collectively tell different stories, but to you feel that there’s an overall message you’re trying to portray on Invented?
No, it’s still pretty much an individual song-by-song thing.
The deluxe release of Invented has a few cover songs and acoustic versions including “You & I” by Wilco and “Precision Auto” by Superchunk. How did you narrow down what songs you wanted to cover? And with that in mind, how do you feel when you hear bands covering you own songs?
Superchunk was a band when we first started playing music, and they’re a great band, and that song was just really fun for us to do. The Wilco song is just another great song that we all loved and wanted to do. And as far as people covering us? It feels really good! You know, it’s really cool to us to see bands do that, it’s really fun for us.
*What’s your take on the music industry currently? Do you think it’s failing, taking a new direction, or booming?
I think it’s definitely booming but it’s definitely getting harder for a band to sell a record these days, just based on like the amount of people who are able to download music for free.
Yeah, pirating, I think the record business, just like any other business, has to change just like everything else–every other business–changes. Every business kind of needs to keep up with technology and until they do that, who knows what’s going to happen?
You mentioned that you’ve been out on the road again for about two weeks now, how long are you out with this album?
We will probably be out for a year now. When we did our Bleed American record, we were out for about two years, so it’s a while. We’ll stay out on the road for a while.