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Random Rules: Jimmy Eat World

The shuffler: Jim Adkins, singer and guitarist for the modern rock act Jimmy Eat World. The band is currently touring behind its sixth album, Chase This Light.

Nickelback, "How You Remind Me Of Someday"

Jimmy Adkins: This is actually two Nickelback songs, one on the left side and one on the right side. I think the "How You Remind Me" song is on the left side, and then "Someday" on the other. I can't remember how I got this, but it's pretty funny—those two songs right next to each other, and they're identical. Right down to the arrangement, the drum fills, the dynamics… I guess if it ain't broke, you don't fix it.

The A.V. Club: Would you call yourself a Nickelback fan?

JA: Um, no. Not at all, actually.

AVC: Do you have any kind of baseline level of respect for a band that can sell so many million records and have so many fans?

JA: I do. I mean, they're going for it, and it's working. What they're doing is like business, it's calculated, and it's not easy. People try to do it all the time, and it doesn't work. For some reason, whether it's imaging or whatever musical motifs they use, it's working for them. It's on my iPod, so I guess there's something about it I find interesting.

Philip Glass, "Etude No. 2"

JA: This is a really good song, basically like solo piano. I think there's supposed to be 20 etudes in all. I'm trying to teach myself how to play the second one. I used to play piano when I was really young, and it's something I've been trying to get back into. Whenever we're on tour and there's a piano around, I try to figure this one out.

AVC: How did you encounter Philip Glass?

JA: From soundtracks. Like Kundun. I think The Illusionist is a really good one too. Yeah, from soundtracks, and then I looked into more of his other work.

AVC: What's the appeal for you?

JA: The music builds in a really interesting way. I didn't get that far in college music theory, so I can't do the academic kind of listening that I'd probably get a lot more out of, at least with classical music. But yeah, the way it builds. And the structure of Glass is always accessible. It's interesting and accessible at the same time. Challenging but not elitist.

Pig Destroyer, "Torture Ballad"

JA: You couldn't get any more opposite than that, huh? I think any guy my age has a metal soft spot, and Pig Destroyer is pretty brutal. If you're gonna listen to metal at all, Pig Destroyer's a good thing.

AVC: When you're just goofing around with the band, do you guys ever lay into a serious metal riff, just to see how far you can go with it?

JA: Sometimes. [Jimmy Eat World drummer Zach Lind] and I know a lot of Metallica songs, so sometimes we can go on for a while. God help anyone who happens to be hanging out at sound check.

AVC: Do you have a lot of metal in your collection, or is it just a few pieces here and there?

JA: The stuff I listen to, it's probably just a few pieces here and there. I pick up the pieces that I think are the most challenging.

AVC: So the more extreme, the better?

JA: I guess so. You could look at metal from the shredder side of things or the aggression and noise side of things. Different stuff works for me in different ways.

Spoon, "The Fitted Shirt"

JA: Those guys just don't stop, man. It's just classic record after classic record. Girls Can Tell is the first record where I really got into Spoon.

AVC: With a band like Spoon that's your contemporary, do you listen and study and let them inspire your own music, or do you just listen as a fan?

JA: I listen as a fan. I think we're playing some shows with them at festivals later on this year, but I don't really know them. The bands that I'm friends with, I listen to a lot, but I kind of know them too well to really… Well, there's a difference when it's your friend's band.

AVC: Back in the '60s, Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney were competing and driving each other forward musically. Are there any bands that could push you like that?

JA: Like the Kanye versus 50 thing? [Laughs.] Uh… no. I don't really look at records as a competition. It'd be kind of fun, though. Every once in a while, us and the Sparta guys think that we should totally start a feud, but it never gets off the ground. We'll try being mean to each other, and then we just end up cracking up.

AVC: So for the record, you're saying that Sparta sucks.

JA: Yeah! Fuck Sparta! [Laughs.]

Feist, "My Moon My Man"

JA: I'm getting a lot of current stuff here.

AVC: When did you find Feist? Have you been a fan from the beginning, or just recently?

JA: Recently, I think. When The Reminder came out, there was a thing on NPR about it. I had known who she is, but I'd never really given her a chance, for whatever reason. No one I rolled around with had any of her records, so I was never exposed to it, I guess. But this is a great song.

Explosions In The Sky, "First Breath After Coma"

JA: From The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place originally, though I think this might be a live bootleg. I'm not sure. I like Explosions In The Sky, though.

AVC: This is the second piece of music to come up that's entirely instrumental.

JA: Yup. It's true. I have a lot of stuff on my iPod that's "put my headphones on and walk around, check out where we are" on-tour-type music. Explosions In The Sky is a good one for that.

AVC: Sort of the soundtrack to your life?

JA: To my pedestrian life, yes. [Laughs.]

AVC: When you're in the van or whatever you guys drive around in, do you have to have a general consensus about what kind of music to listen to?

JA: Everyone would pick probably a different record to play at any given moment, but we all see eye-to-eye on what we think is good.

AVC: Are you all listening on your own separate headphones?

JA: Sometimes. Or a lot of times, I'll put my iPod on random and just let it be our own personal radio station that plays all day. Also, Zach just bought a new record player, so he's been playing a bunch of old Tom Petty records.

AVC: You have a record player for the bus?

JA: Yes.

AVC: It doesn't skip when you go over bumps?

JA: We drive at night, when we're sleeping, so you don't have to worry about your records getting too messed up.

Mark Kozelek, "Carry Me Ohio"

JA: Another live version. I really like how Mark Kozelek is constantly looking for different ways to make his older material new. Richard Buckner does that a lot, too. They make it interesting for themselves, and reinterpret the songs as they're playing.

AVC: This is another song that would be good for walking around, because it's about eight minutes long, right?

JA: Yeah, 8:40, 8:50.

AVC: Do you like long songs generally?

JA: Sure. But it's really about the song feeling complete. If it works in eight minutes or if it works in 15 seconds, it's good with me.