Interview: Rick Burch of Jimmy Eat World

Jimmy Eat World have now been playing for over twenty-five years and have ten studio albums to show f or all their hard work. Probably best known in the mainstream world for their song ‘The Middle’ off “Bleed American” – the album that shot them to new heights – Jimmy Eat World are a poster band for rock success, while still maintaining their unique sound! “Surviving” is fresh, honest and pretty damn motivational!

Spotlight Report got to talk to bassist Rick Burch to discuss the album, their journey, their future visit to Australia, and their cameo on One Tree Hill.  

SR: I just wanted to say congratulations! This is your tenth studio album – that’s amazing!

RB: Thank you! Thank you very much! The tenth album – I think for any band – is quite a feat. We’re really proud with what we’ve put together for it.

SR: It seems like you guys just keep growing and getting bigger and better as a band. Does it feel that way for you guys as well?

RB: It does feel that way for us. We don’t have very many long-term goals; we work most efficiently off short term goals. And that’s kinda the foundational short-term goal that we work with: “always progress, always move forward and grow”.

SR: Great answer! And while you are growing, you still keep the Jimmy Eat World sound. It’s so familiar and comforting. Even as you grow, we can still tell that it’s you guys. And I think that’s very unusual in a lot of cases.

RB: Hmm … yeah, I guess … One thing that we’ve always done – from the beginning as well – something we realised we wanted to focus on, coming together as a band to create music, is to be true to ourselves and almost be selfish. And make music that we like [laughs]. No matter if anybody else likes it – if no one else likes it, at least we’re satisfied. We did the best we could at that moment.

SR: You say that, but I think it’s obvious everyone is happy with it. So it’s working out pretty well.

RB: Yes, the reception’s been fantastic.

SR: Okay, so for someone who’s been living under a rock and might not know you guys, how would you describe this album?

RB: Jimmy Eat World’s tenth album “Surviving” is a true representation of who the band is at the moment.

SR: Nice!

RB: And it’s rock ‘n’ roll! It’s a rock album! [Laughs] That’s for sure!

SR: Oh, it definitely is! And can you tell me a bit about the process for creating this album?

RB: Ah, yes … making the album “Surviving” started nearly two years ago. It was after the release and touring for our previous album “Integrity Blues”. We almost went to work straight away. All the time while we were touring, we were gathering ideas – ideas happen continually, but if we’re on the road we really don’t have time to get into a studio and really analyse the ideas we’re having or kind of sit with them. So, we just kind of collect all of them together in a notebook and once we’re on a break from touring we’ll get together in our studio in Tempe, Arizona and listen through and sit down as a band – the four of us – and kind of feel what we’re engaged by, what’s interesting to us. And we’ll focus our efforts down into those ideas, whether it be a lyric, melody or a guitar riff or a drum pattern. That’s where it starts. And it just goes on from there. We choose ones that we’re excited by and develop them.

SR: Awesome! To me, “Surviving” is all about discovering who you are and being your best and most honest self … what does it mean to you guys?

RB: Well … and that’s a definite theme to the album: being honest and true to yourself. And doing the best that you can. We try in our daily activities and with our music, we try to do things that are honest and true; we’re not hiding behind anything. And also to be kind to our fellow man and play good and real music!

SR: Sounds like that’s the key to your success: being honest, playing good music and being kind!

RB: Right. There’s no persona that you need to remember to put on [laughs]. Basically, you’re not putting on a persona [laughs] so … if there was a gimmick or a thing: okay, go into work and put on whatever attitude or whatever costume it might be … if you don’t have that, if you’re just yourself, it’s far less stressful [Laughs]! It’s so much easier living honestly [Laughs]!

SR: I like that! And it’s very true!

RB: It’s true, yeah! I sound like an old man – oh, I am! [Laughs]

SR: Do you have any favourite songs off the album? I know it’s like asking what’s your favourite child, but I’m just curious.

RB: It’s true; it’s not unlike asking that question … but for me it depends on the mood I’m in or what environment I’m in. Sometimes it’s the album closer ‘Congratulations’ – it’s very immediate and powerful; it gets to a really rockin’ place by the end of the track. Or, a bit of introspection with the song ‘555’. And they’re very different tracks but I think they sit well together on the album.

SR: Nice! My favourite is probably ‘Criminal Energy’ at the moment. But I’ve been switching back and forth a lot.

RB: Another immediate rock track! Yes! I love that one! And I will have to say ‘Criminal Energy’ is a lot of fun to play live. It’s incredibly fun to play live! Good rocking times.

SR: Speaking of touring live – are there any plans to tour the album down in Australia?

RB: There are, there are.

SR: Yes!

RB: Nothing’s been confirmed so I can’t unfortunately announce dates right now, specific gigs. But we are looking at – and it changes from time to time – in the middle of March 2020 we’re looking to be touring in Australia and that part of the world [update: Jimmy Eat World have been announced as part of Download’s line-up].

SR: That’s fantastic! So, there are so many of us who have grown alongside your music; you’ve been the soundtrack to our lives. But how has Jimmy Eat World grown as a band over the years?

RB: The journey? We’re talking about the journey from there to here? It’s quite a long one: twenty-five years and ten albums [laughs]. Just like any journey of such magnitude: a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Sometimes you feel like you’re not being heard. Sometimes you feel like everyone’s on your side. And everything in between. It’s been an incredible learning process. But also a lot of hard work and also incredibly gratifying. We’ve been able to take part in a lot of incredible tours, travel the world, see new places, meet new people … that aspect right there is one of our founding goals – one of the short-term goals I spoke about. That was one of our motivating factors: hey, it would be great to play in California and we’d do whatever it took to get a gig in LA or San Diego and that was the best –it was incredible to finally get that. And then once we’d been there it was like okay, let’s play on the East Coast of the United States. Just continuing to grow that map of places we’ve been and performed is kind of our main engine, I guess.

“…Sometimes you feel like you’re not being heard. Sometimes you feel like everyone’s on your side. And everything in between. It’s been an incredible learning process. But also a lot of hard work and also incredibly gratifying…”

SR: Did you ever expect to be where you are today?

RB: Um … no [laughs]. No, we had no idea that we’d still be doing this. But all along there was nothing else that we could imagine that we would be doing. So it’s a weird thing. It’s always something we wanted to do. But here we are – somehow, we’ve made it this far.

SR: To continue on down this nostalgia tour, “Bleed American” was the big breakout album for you guys, and you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing ‘The Middle’ …

RB: I know …

SR: And it took you less than an hour to create the song!? Really!?

RB: It is true about ‘The Middle’. It came together without a lot of struggle. It just kind of was born. It wasn’t laborious. It kind of just happened. And while making “Bleed American” there were many other songs that we spent days on! A lot of time, a lot of effort; this way, that way – what’s the right way to put this song together? And it was a huge effort to get some of the songs to the place they needed to be. So putting forth this effort … those are the songs that feel they have more worth, they mean so much more because they took a lot of effort, focus, and attention. And songs that come together like ‘The Middle’ did – very quickly and effortlessly – they kind of aren’t on the front of our minds, because they’re just done and they feel right – that’s how they should be – and then move on to the next, focus on these other, more challenging issues. It is true, ‘The Middle’ came together quickly, but we’re also very proud of it!

SR: You obviously had the winning formula right from the beginning.

RB: [Laughs] I guess. Right place, right time. With the right vision, I guess.

SR: So what was the song that took the longest to put together. Just out of curiosity.

RB: On “Bleed American”? Oh, jeez … The song ‘Bleed American’, the title track. That was a medium effort, it wasn’t the most difficult if I remember, but it definitely took some arranging before it was in the right arrangement. That’s all I have right there, sorry [laughs].

SR: That’s alright, I was just curious. And just to stick with this theme for a little bit longer … ‘Hear You Me’ is still to this day one of my favourite songs ever. This isn’t really a question, but I just needed to tell you that.

RB: Fantastic! Thank you for sharing [laughs]! It’s a special song for us too. I’m very happy to hear that you like it as well. Thank you.

SR: The closest I have ever come to seeing the song played live though was probably that episode of ‘One Tree Hill’ – showing my age here – however long ago that was …

RB: Yes, yes, that was quite a while ago now. That was a super fun experience! Very different world, the TV world [laughs].

SR: Was it weird for you guys: acting but being yourselves at the same time?

RB: Right, right, exactly! Just: alright, come in, just do your thing [laughs]! There’s a stage, you’re familiar with those [laughs] … alright here we go! [Laughs] So, that’s what we were going into it, understanding what we would be doing. But the pace of filming is quite different in that there’s a lot of down time and then okay, it’s “go time” and it’s very active and a lot happens in a very short amount of time and then the cameras need to reset to a new position and lighting changes and so there’s a lot more downtime while they’re finetuning that. It’s a very different pace from what we’re used to, actually playing a live gig [laughs]. In a live gig it’s just “go!” [laughs] there’s no stopping the train [laughs]!

SR: That’s one of the best things about live gigs. Anything can happen! There’s no going back, no take two!

 RB: Anything can happen! That’s true! I love that about them as well! It’s fantastic! You never know … and even doing it for twenty-five years, having been touring and things, that’s the case for us as well! No two days are the same. We can be playing the same playlist as we did the night before – it’s different. You’re in a different place, you’re in front of different people and the people, the environment is as influential on the experience as the band is! They’re all unique! It’s fantastic!

SR: There’s that universal feeling though … you kind of love everyone in that moment, because you’re all there for the same reason.

RB: Sure. There is. Yeah, you’re all part of the same thing. It’s pretty cool!

SR: It really is! I have about 9 million more questions, but I’ll just leave you with one last question. Do you have any messages for your fans here in Australia?

RB: First and foremost: I want to express how excited I am to be returning to Australia, to be playing gigs in support of our new album, “Surviving” – we’re very proud of it – we look forward to performing tracks from the new album as soon as possible. I guess that’s going to be the middle of March [laughs]. And thank you for listening!

SR: I think we are all looking forward to seeing you!

RB: Thank you!  It’s going to be a lot of fun! Yeah, we need to do a proper tour! There’re booking agents and all these other people that help us within our business. It’s not as easy as we want to come, there are all these other factors that need to be considered and that’s why it’s taken so long, but it’s not soon enough.

SR: We’re also so far away! I know that makes things difficult!

RB: Yeah, it’s a bit of travel!

SR: We’ll be excited when you get here. I’m really looking forward to seeing you guys and seeing this album played live.

RB: Thank you! Can’t wait to see you at the gig!

Jimmy Eat World will be playing Download Festival in 2020. Tickets go on sale at 12pm 13th November local time (Sydney/Melbourne). Head to the site for more details: www.downloadfestival.com.au

And before you see them live, pick up a copy of “Surviving” out now via The Orchard / RCA Records.