American Beauty

Jimmy Eat World should have broken up two years ago. But they're just getting started.

In the aftermath of September 11, radio station program directors did remove the band's lyrics and took out its guitar parts: "Bleed American," the disc's first single and erstwhile title track, was almost universally dropped from playlists, and even the few holdouts stopped saying the title on-air. Though the lyrics look questioningly at American life, the only real reason the song was pulled out of rotation was because no one wanted to hear someone say "bleed" or "American" in the same sentence--and it's never uttered once in the actual song--unless they were watching CNN. It looked as though the band, finally enjoying a hit song, would once again have its career stalled by unfortunate timing, factors beyond its control.

It had happened before, though not under such extreme circumstances. "Lucky Denver Mint," a song from Clarity, became a minor hit when Los Angeles' powerhouse radio station KROQ-FM (whose playlist is something of a crib sheet for stations across the country) decided to put the tune into heavy rotation. Only problem was, Capitol Records, the band's then-label, had not yet decided to release the album. Once Capitol finally got around to doing it a few months later, it was too late to capitalize on the success of the song, and even its appearance on the soundtrack to the Drew Barrymore vehicle Never Been Kissed couldn't save Clarity or the band.

It was just the latest in a long line of disappointments the band had endured during its stint on Capitol. "It's sad to say, but when 'Lucky Denver Mint' got played on KROQ, it was probably the first time a lot of people at Capitol had heard us," Lind told Phoenix New Times earlier this year. "The only time anyone from the label ever came down while we were making the album was the day there was a photo shoot for Billboard...We had to get off Capitol. We just had to."

The kids are all right: Jimmy Eat World found new life  where most bands usually find the end of their careers.
The kids are all right: Jimmy Eat World found new life where most bands usually find the end of their careers.

Although most bands would take the news that they were being released from their recording contract as a sign that their career was spinning out of control, for Jimmy Eat World, it was the first sign that their career was finally back in control. More important, it was back in their control. They spent half a decade watching how the business worked--and all too often, didn't work--and now they were in a position to make it work for them. Lind became the group's de facto manager, and they began working on a new record with longtime producer Mark Trombino, paying for it themselves. It was a long learning process, but those lessons had suddenly made Jimmy Eat World the smartest kids in class.

"Before that, we didn't really know a whole lot about how things went," Lind says, referring to the band's first couple of years with Capitol. "Once we got off Capitol, it was the first time we were able to deal with it on our own terms and make decisions where we didn't really have to consider anyone else, and just consider our own well-being."

Soon enough, the group had some industry heavy-hitters considering their well-being as well. Specifically, G.A.S. Entertainment, the management team responsible for guiding the careers of everyone from the Beastie Boys to Sonic Youth to Beck. G.A.S. is headed by John Silva and Gary Gersh, who was president of Capitol Records when the group signed with the label. (As for why they decided to partner up with a man they once partly held responsible for their disastrous relationship with Capitol, Lind has said, "They make sure that their bands can have careers beyond one song or one album.") And Gersh wasn't the only one who eventually rethought his original position on the band: During the bidding war that erupted around the band when G.A.S. began making the rounds with copies of the new album, Capitol pleaded to meet with the group. Not surprisingly, that meeting never happened.

The band eventually signed with DreamWorks, and now, with almost 200,000 copies sold of Jimmy Eat World and several more high-profile tours on the way, Jimmy Eat World is finally right where it should have been all along. But Lind and the band don't think much about that sort of thing. What happened in the past is in the past, and the future is too far away to think about. All that counts is the present. And they're happy with that.

"Definitely, it's gone really well so far," Lind says. "We definitely don't have any complaints. You try not to really worry about that. On one hand, you sort of have to worry about it, because it's kind of like, you know, it's definitely better for our career the better it sells. At the same time, you don't really have very much control over it. You just keep on working hard, and whatever happens, happens."

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