Third Eye Blind’s new music won’t have any ‘smoothed-out edges’
A couple of years ago, Stephan Jenkins, frontman of Third Eye Blind, announced that the group would no longer make full-length albums. It’s a thought that’s occurring to plenty of music acts these days, given the way the major-label music industry emphasizes singles and how streaming encourages putting out music in small batches.
Jenkins was ready for the EP to become the primary format for Third Eye Blind music – that was, until the band’s next helping of music began to come together.
“Isn’t it funny, because I said I’m not going to make LPs anymore, and here I am about to put out an LP,” Jenkins said in a mid-May phone interview. “So yeah, it’s really (saying) I don’t want to be limited to LPs, but this one did turn into an LP.”
That LP is going to be called “Screamer,” and Jenkins expects it to be out sometime during his band’s summer tour with Jimmy Eat World. The bands have a July 20 date at Stage AE on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, with Ra Ra Riot as the opener.
More work to do
The singer/guitarist had actually hoped the album would be ready before the tour launched on June 14, but that isn’t happening. In fact, there was still a little work to be completed in the studio before Third Eye Blind headed out on the tour.
“It’s the last 10 percent that is like the 90 percent most difficult part every single time,” Jenkins said.
Obviously, that meant the vast majority of the “Screamer” album was in the can, and Jenkins offered some hints on what fans can expect from the new release. On a musical level, the album figures to be more raw than other Third Eye Blind efforts – no small statement for a band that has often rocked hard, even though its songs also have boasted considerable melody.
“Nothing’s safe, no smoothed-out edges, nothing like that at all. It’s like the whole thing was ‘keep the edge, keep it weird,’” Jenkins said. “I just feel like everything is so safe and like so much music, it sounds like artists don’t want to have their choices impugned, or, like they’re relying on something that works.
”I want to make what makes a dent. But I also think I’m always looking for something that’s revelatory,” he said.
“I’ve come to learn that I’m kind of always doing two things in songs. One is I’m trying to create this landscape that you can live inside, but that doesn’t matter without that revelatory moment,” he explained. “You have to have something in there, in the song, where you are telling a truth that was uncovered. There has to be something where you are permeable, where you are vulnerable, and that’s what rock and roll is, the courage to put that out there.”
Timely and provocative
The lyrics for the songs on “Screamer” seem like they could be timely, provocative and also quite personal – ingredients that should enable “Screamer” to meet Jenkins’ standards for Third Eye Blind music.
“This is kind of an album about passion and friction and vitality and aliveness in the space of dystopia,” Jenkins said. “I see us moving into this really kind of dystopian world, but at the same time I’m so inspired by the energy of so many people, just really the young activists right now are the things that give me the most hope.”
Jenkins began his journey into creating meaningful rock and roll in San Francisco in 1993, when he teamed up with songwriting collaborator and guitarist Kevin Cadogan. With bassist Arion Salazar and drummer Brad Hargreaves completing the original Third Eye Blind lineup, the band released its self-titled debut album in 1997.
That debut turned the group into stars. Fueled by the hit singles “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Jumper” and “How’s It Going To Be,” “Third Eye Blind” went six times platinum. The 1999 follow-up, “Blue,” while not as popular, still moved more than 1 million copies.
Ups and downs
Since then, Third Eye Blind has had its ups and downs. The first big episode came after the release of “Blue,” with the firing of Cadogan, who sued for wrongful termination and back royalties. The suit was settled out of court in 2002.
Further lineup changes followed, and Jenkins and Hargreaves are now the only remaining original band members. And the band has been somewhat sporadic in releasing new music, with only three full-length albums following “Blue” (the most recent being “Dopamine” in 2015), and four EPs interspersed among those records.
Despite having gone without a top 20 hit at any radio format since the 2003 song, “Blinded,” Third Eye Blind has managed to sell 12 million albums overall and remain a reliable concert draw. The fact that the band is playing amphitheaters this summer with Jimmy Eat World (and Ra Ra Riot as the opener), says something about Third Eye Blind’s continued appeal.
What to expect
Jenkins said fans can expect to hear Third Eye Blind – which currently also includes Kryz Reid (guitar), Alex LeCavalier (bass) and Colin CreeV (keyboards/guitar) — play some of the new music this summer, along with a cross-section of songs from the back catalog.
“This one is about just moving forward,” he said. “It’s a little bigger, this tour, and somehow it’s selling more tickets, which is cool.”
The forward-looking focus of the tour is a shift from the group’s 2017 outing, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of Third Eye Blind’s debut album. Of course, the hits from that popular debut figure to remain in the set this summer. Despite that record’s age, Jenkins said, the debut remains relevant not only to newcomers to Third Eye Blind, but to long-standing fans as well. But he can only guess about why that 20-year-old-album continues to resonate today.
“(Y)ou see kids who are at our shows who are 17, 20 years old, and this isn’t something old for them. This is right now for them. It’s an amazing thing to see. It really keeps my music alive, and it allows me also to push forward into the future.”