I, along with the rest of America, spent the better half of the late ’90s cheerfully bouncing along to the catchy strains of “Semi-Charmed Life” and committing its somewhat macabre lyrics to memory. And who was to blame? A certain San Francisco band named Third Eye Blind that dazzled the music scene in 1997 with a self-titled debut album, which sold more than six million copies and led to two successful follow-ups. Daze recently had a chance to interview lead singer Stephan Jenkins while he was busy working on album number four in the studio on his birthday, no less.
Daze: Happy birthday by the way. How’s it been so far?
Stephan Jenkins: It’s been alright. I’m actually in the studio right now making my record.
Daze: Oh so you’re working on a new album?
Stephan: Mmhmm. What are you doing?
Daze: I’m sitting on my bed right now.
Stephan: That’s cool. I spent much of my college years sitting on my bed.
Daze: You went to Berkeley right? I’m actually from San Jose.
Stephan: I had a girlfriend from San Jose. I never went down to visit her.
Daze: Really? You made her visit you all the time?
Stephan: Well, I got her a gas card. Isn’t that romantic?
Daze: It was very economical. Is it okay if I ask you what might be on the new album?
Stephan: I’m just trying to make something that I really love and that doesn’t have any compromises and is very simple where every note is dying to be heard. And it’s kind of hard to keep a hold of that. I think I’m used to being really desperate and impoverished – impoverished that’s maybe a bit too much, but definitely hungry. It didn’t take much for me to be satisfied. Satisfaction – there’s no place for that in rock and roll, I don’t think.
Daze: Where do you get the inspiration to write your songs?
Stephan: They’re just about my state of mind, like what’s going on. I just sort of go out, live life. I think you have to have periods where you’re percolating, just sitting there in the cafe, reading something and you’re kind of quiet. And then things just enter your head as you entertain yourself and those things turn into songs. Fascinating shit like that. No, actually I go snort blow off of a 15-year-old’s thighs and live the high life and then go for it. That might be a better answer.
Daze: Oh, really?
Stephan: (laughs) No, it’s very writer-ly actually and comes out a lot from being quiet. Like a lot of times, I don’t listen to a lot of music – as in, I don’t have music on all the time because it just gets in the way.
Daze: So would you say life is your inspiration rather than the work of peers?
Stephan: Yeah I think so. I mean, I’m not particularly inspired by very much stuff although I do think there’s a lot of good music out right now.
Daze: What’s on your playlist right now?
Stephan: You know, just that hipster crap like Coco Rosie and I love the Arcade Fire record. I can’t wait until they make another record because that was just a solid album. I also listen to a lot of hip-hop too, a lot of DJ stuff.
Daze: I think you’ve said that, that was one of your earliest influences.
Stephan: Yeah but I find hip-hop now to be just repulsive.
Daze: I was able to talk to Reverend Run last week and he’s actually coming out with a new album in October.
Stephan: I actually did the last single on his last record. Jam Master Jay was such a nice guy, just a really sweet person and so is Run. D is just nuts and he only likes things like Bob Seger, really. That’s for real. But Run? Run’s got this great simplicity to him and when he raps it sounded like Run-DMC which is pretty major.
Daze: Would you say you like touring more or experimenting in the studio more?
Stephan: I don’t know, I enjoy both. I like to play live a lot. I like the exchange with people. I like it when people are really into it. And I like it when we really get dynamics going because that’s what I care about. It reminds me of bands like Led Zeppelin who have such great dynamics when they play.
Daze: I know Third Eye Blind is known for playing music with melodies that are upbeat but paired with lyrics that are a little grim. How do you think this contradiction of sorts affects the music?
Stephan: I just kind of go with the tunes that stick in my head and it’s kind of like a lullaby, a way of making it all better. Music as a salve or something like that.
Daze: Do you think the band has evolved?
Stephan: No, not really. I’m sorry to say but I don’t think so. (laughs) We’re so evolved we’re in a whole other place. No, we’re not actually. I think live, we have. We’re better live than we were. I think we strip things down a bit more.
Daze: What might be on the horizon for you guys?
Stephan: Well we’re building a new studio and it’s really lovely. And I just want to make more music. This year and last year were kind of disappointing for me, actually. I didn’t get very much done and I’d like to get out there more. I’d like to make a really big, lovely, gorgeous album and go out and celebrate it with people. That would be the brightness on my horizon, I think. And it’s sort of possible to do that because, its weird, but I feel like we’ve been gone for a while but nobody’s really come and taken our place. I don’t feel like anything has come along to reshape what Third Eye Blind is. There’s a whole bunch of bands who play but don’t do what we do and the ones that are really successful are trying to do something that’s kind of retro.
Daze: Yeah bands who are trying to go back to core rock and roll like The Strokes or The Killers.
Stephan: Yeah I mean those are the ones who are kind of in a retro phase. I mean I love that Killers records, I think it’s great. I think it’s so inspired and so fun. And I heard the bootleg of the new Strokes and I think its slamming. I just love both those bands but they’re both kind of retro bands.
Daze: Do you like the way that this trend is going? This trend of going back and exploring what used to work.
Stephan: It’s made some really good records but a lot of bands like Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene and – I was going to say The Bravery but those guys sound a lot like The Cure – but a lot of bands going on right now like The Postal Service –
Daze: I love them!
Stephan: Some of their songs are just so precious, how can you deny it? They’re great. I like it too. I think that music is timely, about what’s going on and how people are feeling. I think people feel like our country’s gone insane and even 15-year-old kids who are so right wing now, just very conservative, even they can’t articulate or apologize for what this country has done and become and how much its gone down and how much its damaged itself. And I think bands like that [ones mentioned above], why [their music] resonates is kind of like, “Look, we’re just going to hide out. We’re going to have a very small world that we can control.” And that’s where they’re kind of at. My band’s not really like that. We’re more about the big, grand gesture and I think we’re going to continue to make big, grand gestures.
Third Eye Blind will be playing at Barton Hall on Sunday, Oct. 2 at 8:00 p.m. in a concert organized by the Cornell Concert Commission.
Archived article by Tracy Zhang
Arts and Entertainment Editor