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.”
The new LP is going to be called “Screamer,” and singer/guitarist Jenkins expects it to be out sometime during his band’s summer tour with Jimmy Eat World, which begins June 14. (The tour will stop at Rabobank Theater on June 13.)
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 of “Screamer.” “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 don’t give a f*** what 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. 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.”
The lyrics for the songs on “Screamer” seem like they should 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. So I see somebody like Emma Gonzalez (a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, and gun control advocate) or Greta Thunberg (young climate change activist), David Hogg (also a survivor of the Parkland shooting), and I’m like ‘Alright, alright.’ I don’t write anything political. I only write from an emotional standpoint. But there’s a song called ‘The Kids Are Coming to Take You Down,’ and that song is kind of inspired by them. So yeah, I realize that that’s kind of like part of the energy, the narrative energy, of the record. But it’s still mostly what I do about internal politics, the friction between, the impact human beings have on each other.”
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 one million copies.
Since then, however, Third Eye Blind has had its ups and downs, working through multiple lineup changes that have left Jenkins and Hargreaves as 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 between those records.
Despite having gone without a top 20 hit 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.
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 older songs.
“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.”