On Saturday night, rain or shine, Anchorage music fans will take to the streets outside Williwaw for a set from alt-rock mainstay Jimmy Eat World. Since their debut in the mid-1990s and their breakthrough to mainstream stardom with songs like “The Middle” and “Sweetness,” the band has played stages around the world — but this will be their first show in Alaska.
We caught up with Jimmy Eat World lead vocalist and guitarist Jim Adkins as he was getting ready to make the trip north. He had a few things to say about keeping a band together, dealing with critics and living a life you’re happy with, whether or not you’re a rock star.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
ADN: Hi, this is Tom Hewitt from the Anchorage Daily News.
Jim Adkins: Awesome. This is Jim Adkins from semi-professional rock band Jimmy Eat World.
ADN: Good to talk to you. Is this your first trip to Alaska? I’m pretty sure it’s your first concert in Alaska. I just didn’t know if you had visited before?
Adkins: Yeah, no — personally and professionally, it’s the first time.
ADN: That’s great. Are you going to be able to spend any time up here outside the show?
Adkins: Oh, yeah, definitely. Not coming up all that way for the first time just to turn around.
ADN: Anything you’re particularly looking forward to?
Adkins: Just being outside and not dying — of heat stroke, potentially (Adkins lives in Phoenix). I’m excited for that.
ADN: It’s about 60 degrees here and it just got done raining.
Adkins: Yeah, I don’t want to hear that right now.
ADN: One thing that really distinguishes Jimmy Eat World is you made it big pretty quickly and you’ve maintained essentially the original lineup for your entire run. That feels rare among bands. How do you keep things fresh and keep challenging yourselves?
Adkins: I think we got lucky, in a way, that the mindset we had when we formed the band, and just the way we had to operate to be a band in our growing-up days, just sort of happened to be the exact mindset you need to stay a band. You know, don’t sweat the things you can’t do anything about and focus on the things you can — and just be honest with what’s exciting to work on and do that. Because nothing is going to turn people off like us sounding like you’re chasing their approval. … We’ve always done a good job, just creatively, working on the things we’re excited about. And not really caring what some imaginary listener’s gonna have to say about it.
ADN: Jimmy Eat World has been described as an “emo band.” I feel like that’s kind of a bad fit — kind of a weird, small box to put the band in. How do you feel about being characterized that way? If you feel like that’s inaccurate, how do you combat that — or do you not care?
Adkins: I used to try to fight being associated with that because it was a trend. … Like, adopting that was a trend, and you know, like all trends, when that’s not cool anymore, neither are you — if you’re branded too closely to the trend. But now I just don’t care ... and now I feel it’s like it more describes just people that came from a certain generation and a certain time and a certain scene, I guess, rather than describing anything else. So it’s hard to really get upset about that.
ADN: I’ve seen you once before — it was at Coachella in 2011. And it was a great set. Maybe the highest-energy, most well-received set I actually saw there all weekend long.
ADN: But there was this weird response from critics afterwards where they acknowledged that the set was super fun and everybody there was having a great time, and then they kind of had this attitude — like, “If you like that sort of thing,” tone to the praise they were giving. How do you deal with that sort of critical perception that your music isn’t capital-S “Serious” and somehow that’s a bad thing?
Adkins: I don’t care, is the short answer? (Laughs) I really don’t care. It’s one of those, it’s one of the things, if you were to take that kind of criticism to heart, what are you supposed to do? There’s nothing actionable about it. …
Yeah, it’s dumb. It’s dumb to think that even your most hardcore fan is going to like everything that you do. Like, just get over that right now. So it’s even more pointless to think that everybody with a job writing opinion pieces about something so subjective as music — it’s just really, really pointless to think you’re gonna win over all those people. So don’t even try.
ADN: Have any of your songs grown on you — ones that you didn’t expect to be favorites at first?
Adkins: I don’t know. It’s tough to say. I feel when you start performing, when people have time to listen to a record and time to build their own associations with your music and that material, it’s a big deal.
I feel like there were songs that I feel have built more of a following, I guess, that I didn’t expect. And it’s cool to see, when we perform them, that people are either still into it or more into it than I thought they would be. … Even something like “The Middle,” it’s fascinating to see how much people still connect with that song.
And some people who weren’t alive when it came out, they’re going nuts when we play it. It’s still finding an audience. It’s still finding people. And it’s not lost on me how rare that is, in the grand scheme of things, and how rare it is that we get to be around and experience that connection firsthand with people as they’re experiencing it. It’s a huge deal.
Jimmy Eat World in Anchorage
With Delmag, Blackwater Railroad Company and The High Pets
When: 5 p.m. Saturday, July 23
Where: Williwaw Social, 601 F St.
Tickets: $65 in advance at williwawsocial.com, $70 at the door