Rewind to 1997!!
“I want something else to get me through this.” As much as the band struggled to decide on their first single, they weren’t prepared to pay the price success would bring. Speaking to Arion Salazar, it’s clear the band has realized the price of a semi-charmed kind of life.
If you dismiss Third Eye Blind based solely on their sugarcoated pop song, “Semi-Charmed Life,” you’ll miss out on a really good rock album. It “was a kind of scary thing coming with [Semi-Charmed Life] out of the box,” said Arion. “Because we all knew that there was a chance of getting dismissed as a disposable pop band…That is really the only song that sounds like that on the record.” The other songs on the album are a rock-punk hybrid, with catchy choruses galore. But in a year of songs like Sugar Ray’s “Fly” and Smash Mouth’s “Walking on the Sun”, you quickly feel burned when you buy their albums and discover you’ve became a victim of the old bait and switch. Sugar Ray’s not a ska band, and Smash Mouth is. Third Eye Blind isn’t a pop band, rock is more this band’s flavor. But for the sake of radio and MTV, bands elect to give the masses what they want. Arion agrees, “Everybody wants a little MTV.”
Third Eye Blind has been thrown into a group of pop-rock bands that are constantly churned out by record labels. Most fans let these bands slide by, dismissing them as a made band. Still, more often than not, these bands outsell any band that fans see as real. Third Eye Blind is in a unique situation: they have a huge hit, a great story, and are a real rock band. “I think we have a Third Eye Blind sound and I don’t think we have a lot in common with the bands we get clumped together with. I don’t understand it, but I’m at the point where I believe in our record and I’m proud of it and if you don’t like it, it’s no big deal.” Arion spoke with a real passion, one that only comes with putting a lot of hard work into something and then having it taken apart and criticized piece by piece, based solely on one aspect.
So what made this a strong album? “The album is a combined effort,” Arion began. “We worked hard as a band to get all these songs together. I guess I attribute [the fact that there are no throwaway songs] to the fact that we had label interest on and off for the past four and a half years. We had showcases that were our big chances to get signed with mister bigwig in the audience and we fucked them all up. And that was really good because at that time we didn’t have those fourteen songs yet.” During that time, the group put together a strong demo tape that consisted mostly of the songs that appear on their self-titled album. This demo was the driving force behind Electra Records CEO Sylvia Rhone’s interest in Third Eye Blind, not to mention the interest of many other record labels. “She was a really big supporter. She flew out to see us in LA and then flew us out to NY to showcase for her people. I’ve got to say…that’s the biggest reason we went with Elektra.” It’s not every day that the head of a major record label goes out of their way to sign a band. But more than that, Arion said it was Sylvia’s real approach with the band that won them over.
On the road and along the way they have opened for some of the world’s biggest bands: Rolling Stones, U2, and Oasis.
So how’s the tour going? “Really, really, really good. Outstanding,” Arion seemed reassuring, but added, “It’s been really tough this last week.” The weeks really start to add up when you’re on tour for almost a year straight. So what about the Stones? “We met them.” A meeting was arranged on the last night that Third Eye Blind was to open for the Stones. Arion continued, “We were herded into their dressing room moments before they were going to go onstage. So… we all lined up to take a shot with them and we just talked to them really briefly, and I’m standing next to Mick Jagger and I heard him say, [Arion imitates Mick Jagger] ‘Come on, hurry up, take the picture, let’s, let’s do this.’ ” So their attitudes held true to form? “Mick Jagger is definitely right up there with his whole…reputation that he has.”
“U2 on the other hand went out of their way to hang out with us and was popping into our dressing room at any given moment.” Arion said all eight shows spent on the road with U2 were great. How would you sum it all up? “Really fucking cool!”
Arion saved the best tour story for last. During the time record labels were tripping over each other to sign Third Eye Blind, they decided to use some of their leverage to get an opening gig for Oasis. It worked. At the time, “We didn’t even have a real big following in our hometown and then suddenly we’re opening up for Oasis, playing in front of nine thousand people.” Arion didn’t stop there, like many others; he had a funny Liam Gallagher story. “I almost got into a fight with Liam and so did Kevin [Cadogan].”
And so the story goes…
“It was around sound check and Liam was play sparring with some of the dudes in the band, [he was] jumping around and he didn’t see me. And he kind of backed into me and turned around and I said, ‘Watch it, bub!'” Bub? Laughing, Arion says, “I watch too many cartoons, but that’s what I said. So he looks at me totally shocked that any little peon would speak to him. Then he turned back to his band and said [attempts a Liam-esque brit accent], ‘Did you hear what he just said to me?’ And he walked away bewildered that I had spoken in his presence.” Neither of us could help but to laugh. But you gotta take it in stride. He called [George Harrison] a nipple!” Arion added laughing.
So, seriously, what is the best thing about being in a band? “The chicks!” Really? Oh yeah, and there’s the part of “doing what you love and getting paid for it,” Arion said, cutting back from his initial joke.
Finally, what’s better about being in a big rock band than you would have guessed? “The accommodations are better. The bus is like a yacht. We’ve got the satellite channels and stuff. This [bus] is better than my house. Traveling on the bus is great!”
So what’s worse?
“The fact that you’re away from friends and family for a long time.”
I’m not listening when you say goodbye.
+ charlie craine