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On this week’s Talkhouse Podcast we’ve got two old friends whose bands started around the same time, and who’ve had very different albums hit the 20-year-mark recently: Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World and Davey von Bohlen of the Promise Ring.
I had the idea to pair these guys after seeing a bunch of “best of emo” lists floating around the internet ether lately, and it reminded me of the heady days of the late ‘90s and early 2000s, and how many fond memories I have of those times. I saw the Promise Ring and Jimmy Eat World plenty of times back then; full disclosure: I was then and am now friends with the guys in the Promise Ring. It occurred to me that while the two bands had been on similar trajectories back then, that they diverged right around 20 years ago in a really interesting way. I figured it’d be fun to reconnect them and see what they had to say about it.
The Promise Ring were at the top of the emo heap in the late 1990s, though everybody hated that word with a passion back then. They were early fans of Jimmy Eat World’s music, and the bands toured together a few times over the years. By the end of the century, The Promise Ring had hit a weird rough patch: Von Bohlen had surgery for a brain tumor, and the band was naturally forced to slow down considerably. When they returned with their much anticipated fourth album, Wood/Water, it represented what felt at the time like a pretty intense left turn: The songs were slower and more melodic—not necessarily what fans were expecting, though the album has gotten a rightful reappraisal in the 20 years since its release. The Promise Ring split up soon after its release, and Davey went on to form the band Maritime with Promise Ring drummer Dan Didier, and they released a string of great records.
Jimmy Eat World also found themselves at a crossroads 20 years ago; having parted company with a major label, they self-funded a new album. That album, 2001’s Bleed American, spawned a leftfield hit for the band, a song called “The Middle.” It launched Jimmy Eat World into the mainstream before they knew what hit them, and it’s one of those songs that to this day you might hear on the radio. It was a blip, of course, in a consistently fantastic career: Jimmy Eat World kept making records and touring—their latest is 2019’s Surviving.
So it was an interesting point in time for both of these guys, who as you’ll hear remain fast friends after all these years. Playing music isn’t a huge part of von Bohlen’s life anymore, though he does point out that Maritime is technically still a band. These two chat about their 20-ish-year-old records, fatherhood, drinking, touring in the ‘90s, and lots more. Davey tells a great story I hadn’t heard before about the Promise Ring’s insane pact with each other in their earliest days. Sadly, Jim and Davey never get around to talking about Davey’s guest vocals on Bleed American, but maybe we’ll just have to have them chat again sometime. Enjoy.
Thanks for listening to the Talkhouse Podcast, and thanks to Davey von Bohlen and Jim Adkins for chatting. If you liked what you heard, please follow Talkhouse on your favorite podcasting platform, and check out all the great written pieces elsewhere on this very site. This episode was produced by Myron Kaplan, and the Talkhouse theme is composed and performed by the Range. See you next time!
(Photo Credit: right, Steve Thrasher; Edited by: Keenan Kush.)