Blind Ambition

Despite his recent triumphs -- such as the video for "Semi-Charmed Life," which shows Jenkins running gleefully through San Francisco -- the singer remains bitter about the cold shoulder he got from his local media. Accordingly, Jenkins used our conversation to deliver a few long-awaited and satisfying punches.

"We talked with the guys in Smashing Pumpkins, and they had the same situation," Jenkins relates. "They had the whole desire to go out and be a big rock band. And the hometown press absolutely reviles that. Look at your colleagues! They are a bummer. The whole vibe of the music press is to go and trash things, and there's nothing more hateful to them than a local band that's gotten together and wants to do something. Green Day got roundly dissed, Rancid got shit on, and now Third Eye Blind. And then people eventually came around.

"We're going to be platinum in a week, and we haven't had any help from the SF Weekly. And I'd like to thank them for their nonsupport."

Though Jenkins insists that Third Eye Blind's fame didn't come quickly, he speaks like a man who is not yet acclimated to stardom. He finds some of the attention gratifying: "Birmingham, Alabama -- never been there. Sold out. Fifteen hundred kids who wanted to go the show. They bought the tickets in advance at a time when bands are not selling any tickets." But some of the attention is, of course, unwelcome.

Any band with a smash single will be suspected of selling out. To all those altrock bands who turn up their noses at commercial success, Jenkins would like to ask, "Don't you wish this was paying your rent? You don't want to take this around the world? You don't want to tour Australia? You want to stay right here? We get to tour Malaysia: 'Let's go there, that sounds fun.'"

Accusations of being a one-hit wonder or a quick-buck industry creation wound Jenkins even more deeply. "This is something about Third Eye Blind that's not understood," Jenkins says, keeping his anger in check. "We've paid every due. We've sat in the bus in the rain many a time. There's a presumption that when you have a hit and you haven't been picked by the press first -- unless you're Sleater-Kinney -- that somehow it's all been handed to you. And that's not true at all. Nothing has been handed to us."

Jenkins hasn't changed much since we sat and talked in that Lower Haight Street bar two summers ago. If passion alone could sustain a career, Jenkins would have no cause to worry. Yet he knows as well as anyone that bands can fall as quickly as they rise and that many observers predict a short life for Third Eye Blind. "Just listen to the record," he insists. "Don't listen to all the things that go on around it. Does it hit you on an emotional level? Does it hit you in that certain place?"

Third Eye Blind opens for the Rolling Stones, Smashing Pumpkins, and Dave Matthews Band at 4 p.m. on Friday, December 5 at the Orange Bowl, 1501 NW 3rd St., Miami, 305-643-7100. Tickets cost $81.

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