In 1997, Third Eye Blind was arguably the biggest band in the world. Led by Stephan Jenkins, the band's popularity exploded in the wake of its first single, "Semi-Charmed Life," and the steady stream of hits that followed. Despite being marketed under the umbrella of "alternative," the band's paradigm could not have been any more conventional in terms of accessibility. Which is to say, Third Eye Blind were (and are) masters of pop. The dust had settled from the epic Brit-pop-versus-grunge war of the '90s, and Jenkins rose from the rubble dabbling in a little of this and a little of that.
Though it has never approached the wild acclaim of that first album, 3EB has chugged along steadily, slowly releasing records and constantly touring. We spoke with Jenkins about alt rock and the gods of rock.
New Times: You haven't released anything since 2009's Ursa Major, but there's a lot of talk on the internet about long-lost records and maybe a new album?
Third Eye Blind, 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 19, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $25 plus fees in advance and $27 day of show. Call 954-449-1025, or visit jointherevolution.net.
Stephan Jenkins: We've been working on it on this tour. Some of the songs we're going to play in the studio as one, to get that band chemistry. That's the difference with this record. A lot of records in the past we've kind of written in the studio. And this one we wrote more in rehearsals and jamming together. I think it's going to reflect that kind of sound, which is much closer to the first album.
It was going to be Ursa Minor, but everything is so different from how it was in that Ursa period that a new title is gonna have to emerge. And if I told you what it was, it would change anyway.
What differences between now and then have contributed to that need for a new title?
New guitar player, new bass player, and new sensibilities in my mind. I like to try to make records that seem to reflect my sense of what now is in the moment that I'm in it. The songs that we have on that album we'll put out someday. But it's not the next thing I'm going to do.
Wait, which songs?
A whole new album got shelved. And then we wrote about 40 songs after saying we're not going to put out Ursa Minor. The songs for that might just come out at another point.
In comparing Ursa Major with the album that came before it, Out of the Vein, the crux of what makes the albums different is hooks. The former didn't have any, whereas the latter seemed to signal a return to form. Does that sound like a fair assessment?
I don't know. I'm terrible at assessing our own music. That's your job. It's just not an analytical process for me. It's more an emotional process.
Are you religious or spiritual?
So "God" in a more abstract sense?
The gods of rock 'n' roll!
Not the God that tells you what to do and always wants money.
Third Eye Blind is almost synonymous with alternative rock. But that term feels empty in 2013. Was it more than marketing? What was alt rock actually an alternative to?
It was the alternative to the rampant consumerism of hair metal and things that were just feel-good. We were actually trying to evoke where we were at, what our emotional landscape was. To me, that's what it is.
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What's different about the first record from the rest of your discography?
It might be the most un-self-reflective record that we've made. Because we had no expectations of ourselves. And this album we're trying to get back to that. Just getting in to a room with songs and being excited. You kinda just let God in the room and get down.
Where did you get the "doo doo doos" from "Semi-Charmed Life"? Did they just pop into your head?
It's from "Walk on the Wild Side" by Lou Reed. "Semi-Charmed Life" is kind of an answer to "Walk on the Wild Side."