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Jimmy Eat World is in the middle, and it’s alright

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 14, 2021

When Jimmy Eat World’s Jim Adkins wrote “The Middle” 20 years ago, he had no idea how close to home the song was or that it would remain resonant decades later. His pop-rock band is in the middle and has been for much of its nearly 30-year career.

“I really do identify with ‘The Middle’ on a lot of levels,” Adkins said while calling from his Phoenix home. “The gatekeepers of cool never accepted us. The gatekeepers of punk never accepted us. I can live with that. The critics initially panned Led Zeppelin. We do what we want to do. It’s not about chasing approval. If you do that, you become the hamster on the wheel.”

Much like what Adkins penned in “The Middle,” “just do your best / Do everything you can / And don’t you worry what their bitter hearts are gonna say.”

While growing up loving punk rock, Adkins has been wise enough to ignore external forces to blend alternative rock, emo and power pop with soaring harmonies and big hooks.

The best example and catchiest song in the Jimmy Eat World canon is the infectious ‘Sweetness,” which like “The Middle,” is from 2001’s “Bleed American,” the most consistent album the band has made. “Sweetness” is also powerful due to the use of space in the song.

“Sometimes a little space can pack more of a punch than 90 guitars hitting you all at once,” Adkins said. “Nobody accomplished that better with space than AC/DC.”

“Surviving,” the band’s latest release, which dropped in 2019, is a solid, straightforward album with some new wrinkles, including a surprising saxophone solo during “All the Way.”

“During the ‘80s, there were so many sax solos that faded out,” Adkins said. “We were going to do the same thing, but we liked what (saxophonist) James (King from Fitz and the Tantrums) did that we kept everything he played.”

After forming 28 years ago, there has just been one personnel change in Jimmy Eat World’s history. Adkins, guitarist Tom Linton and drummer Zach Lind are original members, and bassist Rick Burch has been part of the group since 1995.

Adkins and Lind have been friends since preschool. “Zach’s mom was the teacher, and we’ve been close ever since,” Adkins said. “When we were kids, I would jam with Zach since I played guitar and he played drums. It wasn’t like we were dreaming about being rock stars or thinking about being in a band. We got together to just play. We loved it.

“Back then (1980s), it wasn’t cool like it is now to be in a band. We just were doing what we were passionate about, and it was so much fun. As far as everybody being in our band after all these years, we all just get along. When we’re not together, I’m still hanging around with Zach. I think there’s something cool when friends are in a band together and not like (hired guns).”

Jimmy Eat World, who perform Friday at Pavilion at Riverfront with Taking Back Sunday, is working on new material.

“We won’t have anything new out this year, but we’ll have something out next year,” Adkins said. The next release will mark or be on the edge of the band’s 30th anniversary.

“It’s crazy to think it’s been that long,” Adkins said. “But we love It. I’m not sure what else I would do since this band has been my life.”

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