Jimmy Eat World Remember 'When We Were Young' With The Linda Lindas

Jimmy Eat World Remember 'When We Were Young' With The Linda Lindas

In terms of '90s music, you'd be hard pressed to find someone unfamiliar with Jimmy Eat World, who've been a consistent staple of the alternative rock scene ever since the release of Bleed American and its iconic single, "The Middle." After all, the Arizona-grown quartet has only continued to dominate the alternative charts and top-line huge festivals for the past twenty years and, within that time, learn a thing or two about growing up and moving forward — both personally and professionally.

For two weeks in October though, the members of Jimmy Eat World have been able to go back in time thanks to When We Were Young Festival, the highly anticipated two-weekend celebration of the alt bands that got us through our teens, from Paramore to Bring Me The Horizon to Bright Eyes. So it's only appropriate that they were joined by a handful of rising artists that grew up listening to and taking ample inspiration from them, including JXDN, Royal & the Serpent and Huddy, as well as pandemic breakout stars, The Linda Lindas.

Ranging in age from 12 to 18, the DIY punk four piece is made up of bassist Eloise Wong, drummer Mila de la Garza, and guitarists Lucia de la Garza and Bela Salazar, who are probably best known for their song "Racist, Sexist Boy." Written about Mila's racist experience with a schoolmate during the COVID-19 outbreak, the pointed track ended up going viral thanks to a video of The Linda Lindas' performing at a library, with their raw talent and politically charged message quickly catching the attention of musical legends like Tom Morello and Kathleen Hanna.

Since then, the band's gone on to release their debut record Growing Up and play in front of thousands of people, though never amongst such a huge, nostalgia-laden lineup. And so with the final day of When We Were Young on the horizon, we decided to have The Linda Lindas talk to Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins and drummer Zach Lind about everything from navigating the industry, the evolution of the scene and keeping the true spirit of punk alive, which you can read all about in our Q&A below.

For starters, what made you want to play When We Were Young Fest?

Jim Adkins: It just seemed like an insane, exciting thing to be a part of coming off of doing nothing for a while... Especially because we've been playing here and there [since the pandemic], but this year we've sort of been making up a lot of the festivals.

Eloise Wong: We kind of blew up during the pandemic, so our first festival was probably last November. That was actually when we got offered this festival too, so we've kind of been getting used to doing more, which is really fun. It's a very different experience where we can have this connection with other bands and see so many of them play.

So do you remember the first time you heard the other band’s music? How did it catch your attention?

Eloise: Probably just in the car, and whenever Jimmy Eat World came on, we'd sing along. Because that's what you do when you're little.

Mila de la Garza: Yeah, we were in the car with Bela, and her dad was singing along.

Jim: I think I checked you guys out when I heard that you were playing with Jawbreaker, and I was curious. So the first time I saw you guys play was Riot Fest.

Mila: That's so cool! That was a really fun festival.

Lucia: I was wondering though, you've been a band for so long and you've made so many records that are all so cool and new from each other, so how do you get the inspiration to put out like 10 different records that's just all new ideas? Like, we've just started and only put out one record! But when you one, do you come up with something you want it to be based around?

Jim: It sort of depends. I think when we were starting out, the songs were more like journal entries, and the albums were kind of a compilation of that period. It was basically just a collection of what we felt were the best ideas. I don't think it was until much later that we started trying to go towards the direction of having some kind of overarching concept or even just a basic kind of theme.

Lucia: Do you like having that document of your life? Or is it weird listening to it now?

Jim: I guess I kind of wish I had another shot at some of our earlier stuff now. But you can't really beat yourself up for that, because I feel like we always really did our best work at the time. So I don't have any regrets about it.

Zach: It's very much like looking at old yearbook photos of yourself. You can see something knowing what you'd change now — like if you're wearing some style that was just really embarrassing — but that's kind of part of it. Because when you're young and you're in a band, you're just figuring things out like, "What music do we like?" And then over time, that might change a little bit.

I kind of like having the albums as a snapshot of that time in my life though... Sometimes you look at old photos of yourself and think, "Man, I look pretty good," but sometimes it's like, "Oh, I could change that." I think it's very similar to recording music, because every time you make a record, you'll learn something new. And whether you've made one, two or 10, there will always be the challenge of making an album and incorporating all the new things you learned along the way.

Lindas, what does it feel like to play alongside all these bands you grew up listening to?

Bela Salazar: It's definitely mind-blowing and very surreal.

Jim: I can only imagine... We did get a little bit of a taste of the craziness when we started working with labels and touring around [our senior year of high school], but no one knew who we were and no one really cared. So I can only imagine what we'd do if we got invited to like Lollapalooza or something back then. I probably would have just done a standing backflip.

Lucia: It's weird to be asked to process everything in such like a short amount of time though. I feel like I'm trying to take it day by day at this point, but it's kind of nerve-wracking also, because there are a lot of "what ifs" and "what will it be like after this opportunity?" It's like, "Oh, there's so much more time left, but what's going to happen in the next year for us?"

Eloise: Yeah, because we are very young. But we're around so many bands that have been doing it for so long, so I think it also just encourages us to believe that we can do it for as long as we want to, you know?

Jim: I think you can do it for as long as you want too! Especially if you're just trying to be proud of the things that you're doing.

I think a lot of people get burnt out and discouraged, because they expected something way beyond their control. So they take that personally and are like, "We thought we were gonna make it, but it didn't work out. I guess I'm not going to play music anymore." But with music, you can just do it forever.

Eloise: And the thing about music is that you can always get better, and it's also just really fun to get better, you know? There's a lot of excitement and joy when you've accomplished something, especially art. It feels like every milestone is such an achievement.

Jim: Yeah, that's what you have to hold on to. You got to protect that, because you're at a point right now where I'm sure there's a lot of things around that really don't matter, but they're bright and shiny, and you got to do your best to not chase them.

Jim and Zach, what’s it been like to feel your influence in a lot of these newer artists’ music? And to hear the Lindas say they were listening to you in the car when they were young?

Jim: It's pretty neat, because just listening to The Linda Lindas, they're so good and they're so young. It's exciting to me to watch them play and to put things together — to see them making the statements they're making and sharing who they are.

Zach: Any small part we play in inspiring anyone else to do anything is really cool. It's obviously a huge honor for us when someone says, "Oh yeah, we listened to you guys and were inspired in some small way to play music, or try this or try that," because we've had so many bands, and artists and people who've also inspired us from afar.

But you're also not in the studio thinking, "Man, all these all these young bands 30 years from now are going to love this and then get started," and I think that's the thing you were saying about how it's really fun to get better at making albums and learning new things. Because that never goes away, and that's the thing that we enjoy the most. And when you're focusing on that and the creative process, you can just really dial into "What's stopping us right now? What kind of music do we want to pursue creatively? And how will it make the process fun for you guys as a band?"

Lucia: Do you think the way that you've approached music, songwriting, touring or shows has changed throughout the years?

Zach: For sure. I think some people like to use the phrase "the beginner's mind." It's like using what you've already learned, but then being open to and excited about learning new things that are cool. But I think when you're open to new things, it already kind of sets you up to evolve in a really nice, natural way, because you're still going to be you. Like if you guys go into the studio, say 10 years from now, and make an album, you're still you guys, but you're going to be different. You're going to be older, and you're going to have other life experiences and you're going to learn things.

What's the most striking change you've seen happen within the scene as a whole since Jimmy Eat World started?

Zach: I think the scene evolving in the last handful of years has been great, because it's becoming more diverse. It's not lost on us that we're just a band of white guys that have been around forever — and we probably have a lot of built in advantages because of that — but just seeing it change and how people are excited about it, I think that's helping the scene musically, big time. It's a huge creative shift and an exciting time, and I think diversity's been a huge factor. So that's hopefully something we see more of, because we need more of that.

Lucia: It's interesting because, obviously, the music from this time period isn't necessarily our time period. Music is such an everlasting art form, so it's interesting to see how meanings can change... But we're also really excited to see these other people play. Who do you recommend seeing?

Jim: Oh man. It's tough, because I know about a third of the people playing, so I'm gonna make someone mad. But probably AFI.

Zach: You should definitely check them out, because they're really fun live. I think they'd be inspiring to you guys too, because they're also a great live band and a lot of energy.

It's cool when you listen to AFI and The Linda Lindas, because both bands have this conviction that nails you right on the chin when you listen to them. So I think you have a similar energy in that way, even though the music is totally different. But you guys are both still punk bands, and you definitely have that sort of punk identity or feeling to what you're doing. It's done in totally different ways, but there's like an intensity that you guys both have that are expressed in different ways.

Okay, final question for Jim and Zach. The world has obviously changed a lot since the Warped Tour era, so I was curious to hear your thoughts on its evolution, especially since this particular scene has also faced a lot of retrospective criticism related to its treatment of women and people of color.

Zach: Yeah, it's a tough question. I just think that when you go back and think about how things were in the mid- and late-90s — like when we started compared to now — it's just cool to see people learning and understanding. Especially because back then it wasn't something that was on the front of our brains, you know?

We all grew up as young bands in the art scene and certainly viewed ourselves as more progressive and cheering on diversity, but [it only matters] if you actually get up and do something about it. Like, are you actively thinking about how you can create opportunities, and how we can make it more diverse? Even by just who we pick to open our tours or stuff like that. It's becoming more important for people to really acknowledge like, "Hey, we need to be conscious of this, and be supportive of that."

The Linda Lindas are such a great example, like when ["Racist, Sexist Boy"] came out, and everyone fell in love with the song, even though it was explicitly attacking this issue. And I think that was so powerful, because you were just being yourselves. You were just thinking about something that made you mad, and it connected. And I think that a long time ago, maybe that wouldn't be as likely.

Lucia: I think the thing is that there's always room for more good music in the community, because it's never going to be like, "Oh, too much good music." And I also think it's so cool how much more inclusion there is, and how more people are supporting what's happening. It's so cool to just like witness change happening, and it's good to feel like a part of that. Like how we saw more people coming out and just supporting us after the "Racist, Sexist Boy" library video, instead of backlash. That's the main visible change you can kind of see that's obviously a very different kind of response than what might have happened two decades ago.

Obviously, it's been happening slowly over time with many, many people fighting for this, so it's been cool to have met some of our heroes that brought forth this change like Kathleen Hanna. I just feel like we're very lucky to be a part of that, because we're also very passionate about making sure that continues.

Quotes have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Photos by Jimi Giannatti & Zen Senkizawa / Courtesy of Jimmy Eat World & The Linda Lindas