Published Oct 20, 2016When it came time for Jimmy Eat World to begin work on their ninth full-length, Integrity Blues, the Arizona quartet opted to do something they'd never done in their 23-year history: they took a break.
"Let's take a year off from the group entirely," Jim Adkins tells Exclaim! of the decision. "Just turn that switch off."
The band had just come off the road supporting 2013's Damage, as well as a handful of shows where they played fan favourite Futures in its entirety. After all that, Adkins says, "We wanted to go in and make a record right away. But the beginning and ending of that story is 'new Jimmy Eat World album.' We've done that. We just know what that brings us and if we do the same thing, we're going to get the same result."
Adkins says he "has to play music" so, without a band to front, he used the break to try the "dude with a guitar shtick," playing a number of solo shows and releasing a handful of digital singles — a process he found both "terrifying and fun."
Leaving that musical comfort zone was still fresh for Adkins when he and his bandmates reconvened last November. Teaming up with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, Nine Inch Nails), band members offered up a pile of demos — from full songs (what eventually became "Integrity Blues" began life as a swing number Adkins played during his solo excursions) down to scattered riffs and melodies hummed into a phone.
"We picked the ideas that seemed like the most intriguing and said we're going to make an album out of this," he says.
The approach required a major mental shift for the band, who generally like to demo tracks "four or five times" before anyone outside the group hears them.
Rather than fall back on "shorthand" the band have always used, a series of checks were put in place. Adkins explains, "We asked ourselves at every spot, 'Is this just a familiar way to present this idea or is it the best way we can present it?'"
Most of those ideas revolved around the singer-guitarist's newfound propensity for taking stock of his life.
"To pin your idea of self-worth or personal happiness on finish line goals is somewhat setting yourself for disappointment," he says. "It's about coming to the acceptance that it's your effort that you get your true reward from."
Adkins does manage to inject some much needed drama into his own search for balance.
"I write about the idea to the point where I feel I know everything about it," he says. "A strong response arises in you from some external stimuli. And you just ask yourself questions about that. You get answers and you ask yourself more questions and you build this huge tree of data. The songwriting is finding your line on how you fall out of the tree.
"There's still just a lot that's completely compelling and fascinating in the world. There's a lot of music in that that I'm excited to find."
Integrity Blues is out Friday (October 21) via Dine Alone/RCA. Jimmy Eat World have a series of tour dates lined up in support of the new album, and you can see all those here.