Emerging as a trailblazing name in the mid-'90s emo scene, Jimmy Eat World eventually found a larger audience by embracing a blend of alternative rock and power pop that targeted the heart as well as the head.
The band's influence widened considerably with 1999's Clarity -- an album that has since emerged as a landmark of the emo genre -- but it was the band's follow-up, 2001's Bleed American, and the infectious single "The Middle" that broke them into the commercial rock mainstream. The emo label proved difficult to shake throughout the 2000s, even when subsequent Top 10 albums Futures (2004) and Chase This Light (2007) did little to evoke the hard-edged sensitivity of Clarity, but Jimmy Eat World still remained a league above the generation of genre torch-bearers they helped spawn. Settling into comfortable veteran status in the 2010s, the band continued to issue reliable Top 20 efforts, rounding out the decade with their tenth album, 2019's Surviving.
Jimmy Eat World formed in February 1994 in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, Arizona. Jim Adkins (vocals/guitar) and Zach Lind (drums) met while attending Mountain View High School; years of playing in local bands had also introduced them to locals Tom Linton (guitar/vocals) and Mitch Porter (bass). The four musicians joined forces and derived the band's moniker from an argument between Linton's younger brothers, Ed and Jimmy. The two siblings were prone to fighting, with the heavyset Jimmy usually emerging as the victor. One day, a revengeful Ed resorted to drawing a picture of his heavyset older brother shoving the entire world into his mouth. The caption "Jimmy Eat World" was printed beneath, and the band deemed it a perfect fit. Citing influences like Rocket from the Crypt, early Def Leppard, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Fugazi, and the Velvet Underground, Jimmy Eat World outfitted themselves as a punk rock act and began playing small shows in the Phoenix valley.
Over the course of 1994 and early 1995, Jimmy Eat World released several EPs and singles on Wooden Blue Records, an imprint based in the nearby town of Tempe. Limited-edition pressings of "One, Two, Three, Four," "Back from the Dead Mother Fucker," and split EPs with Christie Front Drive, Emery, and Blueprint would later run out of print, as would the band's self-titled debut album. The band's audience was steadily growing, and Capitol Records responded by signing Jimmy Eat World in mid-1995, when bandleaders Adkins and Linton were only 19 years old. Porter soon exited the group; Linton's best mate since seventh grade, bassist Rick Burch, was enlisted as a replacement, and the band marked its major-label debut with the release of 1996's Static Prevails.
Three years passed; by 1999, Jimmy Eat World had officially transformed themselves into an emo outfit with the release of their intricate sophomore album, Clarity. The record marked Adkins' first time as the group's lead singer and principal songwriter, two roles that Linton had previously handled. Unfortunately, Capitol Records had also experienced some significant changes, ultimately culminating in the departure of president Gary Gersh -- the same man who signed Jimmy Eat World in 1995. Capitol's new management balked at Clarity's sensitive sound and started to shelve the album; it wasn't until several key radio stations (including L.A.'s influential KROQ) started airing the song "Lucky Denver Mint" that the label relented and released Clarity in February 1999. "Lucky Denver Mint" proved to be popular on the radio and in the movies, where it scored a spot in the Drew Barrymore comedy Never Been Kissed. Jimmy Eat World's fan base continued to grow, but their relationship with Capitol progressively soured. After the label shelved the band's third LP, Jimmy Eat World decided to leave the label, and Capitol was happy to let them go.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Eat World's music was attracting an audience overseas, where Clarity had become a hit in countries like Germany. The band responded by financing and promoting a tour throughout the European continent. Singles, a collection of unreleased B-sides and rarities, was released that same year on the independent label Big Wheel Recreation. A split EP with Australian rockers Jebediah was also released, and the band scraped together the profits from those ventures before entering the studio to record Bleed American (whose title would later be changed to Jimmy Eat World after the events of September 11, 2001). Enlisting the help of Clarity's producer, Mark Trombino, the band independently created the record that would effectively launch their high-profile careers. Jimmy Eat World then used the completed product to land a contract with Dreamworks, who released the album in July 2001. While the hard-hitting title track did moderately well, it was the record's second single, "The Middle," that landed Jimmy Eat World a spot on the pop/rock map. Featuring a video filled with scantily clad teenagers, the song also enjoyed heavy exposure on MTV, where a younger audience latched onto the band's summery appeal. A year after its release, Jimmy Eat World was still a fixture on the Billboard charts and modern rock radio. A third single, "Sweetness," was released in summer 2002, and "A Praise Chorus" followed soon after, allowing the album to go platinum.
After the Dreamworks label closed its doors in January 2004, Jimmy Eat World shifted their operations over to Interscope for the release of their fifth album. Futures was released in October 2004 and debuted at number six on the Billboard charts, eventually going gold on the strength of the Top 40 hit "Pain." The Stay on My Side Tonight EP appeared one year later, featuring a Heatmiser cover and several tracks that had been axed from the Futures track list. Jimmy Eat World continued to tour in support of the album before entering the recording studio with Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage). With Vig behind the controls, Jimmy Eat World recorded their sixth studio LP, Chase This Light. The leadoff single, "Big Casino," was released in August 2007, and the album followed in October. Before the release of their next album, the band embarked on a ten-year anniversary tour celebrating Clarity.
In 2010, the band issued its seventh album, Invented (Dine Alone), which saw the return of Trombino as producer. This release marked the first instance since their self-titled debut with original vocalist Linton taking over primary vocal duty (on "Action Needs an Audience"). Singer/songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews provided backing vocals for a handful of tracks on Invented and joined the band on tour.
The band's ninth album landed in late 2016. Produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Nine Inch Nails, Paramore), Integrity Blues featured the singles "Get Right" and "Sure and Certain." Well-received, the album reached the Top 20 of the U.S. Billboard 200, and peaked at number four on the U.S. Alternative Albums chart. In 2019, they returned with their tenth set, Surviving, which was also produced by Meldal-Johnsen. More uptempo than Integrity Blues, the album dealt with themes of self-acceptance and sobriety, including tracks such as "All the Way (Stay)" and "Congratulations," featuring vocals by Davey Havok (AFI, Blaqk Audio). ~ Andrew Leahey, Rovi