Pop-Punk Band Finds It Can Go Home Again

Shaq and Kobe worked out their differences, and it turned out pretty well.

Now Arizona band Jimmy Eat World and manager Gary Gersh have overcome some past turbulence to make a new drive for success together.

Gersh and partner John Silva are managing the band and a new album, "Bleed American," is set to come out in September through DreamWorks Records, with the blazing title song already finding favor with rock radio programmers.

Just the fact that the band is represented by Gersh and Silva is enough to almost guarantee attention from radio programmers and the rock press.

Separately and together, the two have impressive track records for breaking quality acts, with Nirvana, Beastie Boys and Beck among their past success stories. And through their G.A.S. Entertainment partnership's merger last year with the Beasties' Grand Royal Records, they made a deal with Virgin Records and released one of the most acclaimed rock acts of the year in At the Drive-In, whose momentum stalled when the band took a sudden hiatus earlier this year.

Also noteworthy, though, is that Jimmy Eat World and Gersh are working together at all, given some past history. Gersh was president of Capitol Records when the punk-pop quartet--fresh out of high school and with a growing buzz for its energetic, earnest tunes--came to the label in 1995 via scout Loren Israel and A&R; executive Craig Aaronson. Jimmy Eat World had seemed just the kind of discovery for which Gersh--who as a Geffen Records executive had signed Nirvana--had been hired by the company in 1993.

But it didn't work out as planned.

"Gary had to spend a lot of time dealing with Sinatra duets projects and things," says Jimmy guitarist Zach Lind. "With our experience at Capitol we felt we weren't paid a lot of attention to. We felt like Jan Brady in a way."

It didn't get any better when Gersh, as well as Aaronson, left Capitol in 1998, and no one at the label had a stake in the group. The band was unceremoniously dropped from the roster in 1999.

The irony is that being dropped turned out to be the best thing for the band. Lind says it wasn't a set-back but an opportunity, and the group was determined to make the most of it, building steady touring and merchandise business without even the help of a manager. By late last year, the members felt they were ready to give the major leagues another try--but this time on their terms.

The band financed the album sessions itself, and only after it was done sought management and a new record deal. For the former, Lind says, Gersh and Silva--whose other clients today include Counting Crows, Foo Fighters and mock-rock duo Tenacious D--seemed the most appropriate candidates.

Gersh and Silva were impressed by the band's artistic growth and business maturity. They also found a lot of excitement among record company executives, who remembered the promise the band had shown early on and were now impressed with the new music and attitude. Ultimately, DreamWorks A&R; executive Luke Wood, a longtime fan, offered a deal that treats the artists and label as partners.

"The reason the band got a second chance was they decided to go out and take matters into their own hands," Gersh says. "Had they not done that, they'd still be sitting on their hands. But they've never been that kind of band. They always built their own audience since the day it started. They said, 'This is our band and we need to take control.' "

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DRIVE TIME: The future of At the Drive-In, which went on hiatus recently citing exhaustion after six years of almost continual touring, is still uncertain. But there will be new music coming from its members, who have for the time being divided into two camps.

First up will be the teaming of singer Cedric Bixler and guitarist Omar Rodriguez--the two whose ever-expanding hair mops became the band's visual signature. Under the name Mars Volta, they've recorded a single that will be released in the fall by Grand Royal. They continue to work on music for a possible album.

Meanwhile, guitarist Jim Ward, bassist Pall Hinojos and drummer Tony Hajjar are also working on new music together, although release plans haven't been set yet.

While there's no official word on a possible ATDI reunion, sources close to the band say that the split is being viewed as a hiatus, not a breakup.

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FOSTER CARE: David Foster has a vision of a talk show session with Cher, Celine Dion and Bill Clinton all gathered informally around a piano, swapping songs and stories--with Foster hosting from his seat at the keyboard. It's not too distant a fantasy. Foster has been a longtime producer of the two singers and is on good terms with the former president.

But don't expect that lineup for his first talk show, a radio session expected to debut Saturday on Los Angeles station KLAC-AM (570) in the 3 to 5 p.m. slot. While he hasn't officially booked this week's guest yet, he expects to have show-biz friends based in the Malibu area, site of his home studio, from which he'll be broadcasting. "Eventually, maybe I'll have [that dream lineup]," he says. "You want to be important enough that they want to be on it. Right now it will probably be people doing me favors."

Still, that could be an impressive bunch. Foster's one of pop's most successful producers, and has been active in social and political causes as well.

"Ultimately, what I would really like to do is a TV show," he says. "And radio is a great steppingstone. Though if it ended up staying on radio as a success, that would be fine too. And if I fail [right away] it will be without many people knowing."

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