An interview with Jimmy Eat World’s Tom Linton

Damage, the newest album by musical stalwarts Jimmy Eat World, has been described as portraying contemporary heartbreak for a changed world. The 8th studio effort by the band, Damage preserves their stellar track record that spills over into their energetic live shows. Prior to their festival appearance at Summerfest in Milwaukee, guitarist Tom Linton was kind enough to speak to Seeds Entertainment about the new album, festivals in Europe, and how each Jimmy Eat World album seems to grow on listeners.

Seeds Entertainment: Tell us a bit about your new album, Damage. Did you approach the songwriting or guitar playing any differently now that this is your seventh studio album?

Tom Linton: The album started off when [lead singer and guitarist] Jim [Adkins] came in, just acoustic. We built up all of our own parts around that.

The last couple of records we recorded were in our studio in Arizona, and it can be really easy to–during home recording–just say ‘we’ll go home and come back tomorrow.’ On this record, we said we’ll go to LA, find a producer we really liked, Alain Johannes, and [go] to his house. He has a recording studio there.

We had, I think, a month of time with him. We were really prepared when we went in to make the record and I think that helped a lot because we didn’t put that kind of pressure on ourselves. You know, when you’re staying in LA, living in a hotel, it gets kind of expensive.

SE: You also recorded the album on analog tape. Did it make a difference not being able to change things?

TL: We did all the drums on tape. Of course, we tried recording it on the computer. Then we tried to listen to what it would sound like on the tape. And the tape just had the warmer sound that we liked more, and we went with the tape for the drums, some of the guitars, and some of the vocals.

SE: You mentioned the producer, Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, Eleven, Them Crooked Vultures). Did he really influence this record, or did he facilitate when you came in with solid ideas of what you were doing?

TL: He had lots of good ideas; arrangement parts. He played a little bit on a couple of the songs. That’s kind of why we picked him, he had the direction of where we wanted to go and he’s just awesome when it comes to ideas.

SE: Speaking of ideas, you guys have put out a lot of albums in your 20-odd years. Where do you get your ideas and main inspiration, particularly on this album which is sort of a breakup record, but not angsty?

TL: Like the last record, what Jim did for Invented (2010) was look at photos and he would write songs looking at the photographs. On this record, he started off just trying to capture the feeling of heartbreak and the worst part about breaking up. I think that’s where a lot of the influence for the writing on this record.

SE: Last album, you sang lead vocals on a song. Was there a particular reason you didn’t do so this time, or did it just work out that way?

TL: It just happened. Usually there’s one song that lays around, and a couple songs that don’t have lyrics on them. I had one for this record that just didn’t really fit with the rest of the record.

SE: Is it particularly stressful or limiting to put albums out so regularly? Are you ever rushed, or are you comfortable with that strict timeline?

TL: I think three years might have even been too long. I know with this record we tried to have everything done and have it out in two years. I think the record was finished and mixed by October. We kind of did what we did and toured America, and used the money to pay for the record. The record label wanted to put it out now.

SE: Having just returned from European tours, you’re going to be playing Summerfest soon in Milwaukee.  Do you notice a difference between American and European festival crowds?

TL: There is a difference. European crowds get a little crazier; they have a lot more festivals than here in the States. And I don’t know what it is. It depends on where we are. Some people are more reserved, and other places people move more. It sort of depends on where you are.

SE: Do you have a favorite stateside festival?

TL: Coachella.We played there a few years ago. There was a great lineup, and I was just so happy to be involved. It was perfect timing.

We played Summerfest a long time ago, [but] I don’t remember what year. I want to say 2000. Around when the third record [Clarity, 1999] came out.

SE: When you play these festivals, do you have to vary your approach when the people aren’t necessarily there to see you specifically?

TL: We were supporting on all the European festivals we did. Third to last, or something like that. We would get 30 to 45 minutes to play. We just try to play everything we can from all the records. One or two new songs, and the rest are older from Bleed American;  Futures. We just mix it up.

SE: Is it weird to play songs from 10 or 15 years ago?  Do they have the same meaning? Some bands get sick of playing x song.

TL: Honestly, we don’t mind it at all. It seems like those are the songs that, when we start playing, the crowd rallies. Even though we played them hundreds of time. They’re still fun to play. Songs like “The Middle,” stuff like that. One of the biggest songs we’ve had we don’t mind playing.

SE: The album has been well received by fans, but I know there were a couple tepid reviews from outlets. How, as a band, do you deal with a generally good reception?

TL: It’s weird, because this happens every record. Like when Clarity came out people liked that, when Bleed American came out people didn’t like it because it was different. People hated Futures, and now some say it’s their favorite record. I think different bands need to give it a little more time. We want this record to stand out, and be a little bit different, than the record previously. The best thing I guess I could say is give it a little bit more time.

Things are going well, and we’re lucky enough that people are coming to watch us play. It’s hard for bands…a lot of bands start out playing and they’re not around any more. We’re pretty lucky that we all get along with each other, we’re all friends, and enjoy playing music with each other.

SE: How does touring compare to recording for the band?

TL: We love touring. Its fun being in studio, it’s fun watching the songs get finished. And it‘s awesome to get out and play the new songs. How to figure out to play each part, sometimes we have to overdub. It’s fun to figure out how to play songs live, and watch people try to transpose guitar parts.

Jimmy Eat World plays Denver, CO on July 20th. Damage came out June 11th on RCA Records.