Third Eye Blind

Third Eye Blind

With their 1997 debut album, Third Eye Blind went from upstart band to chart topping success, garnering a tremendous fan base, scoring five hit singles and surpassing quadruple-platinum status. They return with Blue, their explosive, highly anticipated follow-up, jammed with the same affecting rock songcraft that’s established them as a major act on the front line of modern rock.

By reeling off some of the most anthemic songs of 1997, 1998 and into 1999, including Semi-Charmed Life, Graduate, How’s It Going To Be, Losing A Whole Year and Jumper, this San Francisco quartet remained on the BillboardTop Albums chart for well over a year.

Songwriter/guitarist and frontman Stephan Jenkins writes from what he calls a very real place where there is darkness, but also reconciliation. On Blue, the guitar-fueled energy and the hybrid emotions of Jenkins’ vocals cradle the imagery and intellect of the songs. Like their debut, Blue is packed tight with radio pleasers, though this release finds the band playing with more urgency without sacrificing melody or subtlety.

Highlights include the roaring punk rocker Anything, the gloriously appealing pop track, Never Let You Go and the wrenching Deep Inside Of You. tIn support of their debut album, Third Eye Blind landed tours with U2 and Rolling Stones, and headlined some major arenas on their own. They will be touring across the globe through the better part of 2000.

Blue was produced by
Stephan Jenkins and Third Eye Blind.

After reeling off some of the year’s most cathartic songs, (“Semi-Charmed Life,” “Graduate,” “How’s It Going To Be”) one in particular, “Losing A Whole Year,” has become prophetic. Sparked by the success of their self titled debut album – it’s stubbornly remained on the Billboard Top Albums chart for a year, rapidly surpassing double platinum – the San Francisco quartet has found itself on the road for more than 52 weeks. “We’ve lost a year and then some,” says frontman Stephan Jenkins. “But it’s been great.”

Launched April ’97 when the band was originally slated as a support act, Third Eye Blind quickly found themselves becoming headliners. “We were supposed to open up for somebody, but after three shows, we were headlining,” says Jenkins. “It didn’t seem unusual to us because we always put on our own shows in the past.” In fact, the only two bands 3EB have supported are U2 and The Rolling Stones. Not bad for an upstart band pegged early on as a group who refused to conform. Says Jenkins:

“I founded the band partly because the music scene was so conservative. We didn’t do this to fit into the music scene around us. We did this because we didn’t fit in. All of the bands in the Bay Area were doing the same sort of shoe-gazing, sixties or seventies retro-alterna-pop-crud-thing. I probably took more inspiration from this tumultuous tight-knit group of friends coming up in The City who were into clubbing, spoken word and generally screwing each other over. As a group, we’ve always been inspired by bands that performed, like The Clash and The Who…bands that blew audiences away and gave more energy than they took.

Even though the audiences have grown, Third Eye Blind still feels like a secret. “We’re still surprised that people know about us,” says Jenkins. The band has seen its fans fill vans and station wagons and follow them from show to show.

They’ve also attracted a worldwide network of fans who scour websites across the globe tracking the group’s exploits, and analyzing Jenkins’ lyrics. One web search yielded 77 related sites. Brad Hargreaves, the only band member who travels with a laptop computer, says, “We’ve always made our music about real life. It’s odd that Third Eye Blind has a life in cyberspace. The strangest part is that the fans tend to know more about us than we do. I mean, they knew about the fish tank that travels with Kevin on the bus.”

But 3EB’s vitality has always come from personal contact.

“The most profound experience has been playing live,” says Stephan. “The way the fans connect to our music. When we made the songs they came from a very real place. We didn’t write them for public consumption. We write about flawed characters who are somehow redeemable. It’s very humbling to have people come up to you and say a song really reached them. It shows we’re all in this place together. This has left the greatest impact on me in the last year.”

“We get asked about the name all the time,” laughs Stephan. “It’s not a mission statement or anything like that. I always have liked names with wit and irony. I was a big fan of Camper Van Beethoven. The name also reflects a certain sense of magic and dreams – we thought that was very lacking in music when we started – music for a blind time, if you will. It also takes the piss out of that phony spiritual thing. Third Eye Blind has always been about real things.

Third Eye Blind has tried to affirm that real touch right down to the design of their stage show. It_s modeled after the kind of run-down club where such camaraderie can_t be faked. In Jenkins words: “It mirrors what the songs are about. We deal with things that are lost, things you can’t get back. There_s a darkness there, but also reconciliation. The set is a dilapidated club, and we_re squatters in that club.”

Squatters who – for once – get to run the show. This attitude of insurgency permeates every level of 3EB’s existence. Always a self-contained band, Jenkins produced the record, with the group designing their own LP cover, making all creative decisions, and keeping intact the same management and crew they have had since their inception. “This year has been a whirlwind, but we’ve kept our sanity by staying true to ourselves, even though a year on the road has turned our lives into a carnival ride,” says Jenkins. “We’ve tried to keep true to our roots.”

Not an easy task for a band that has emerged in little more than a year as THE live band to see in the summer of ’98. Their first concert date in Houston sold out in under 10 minutes. Sales were equally surprising in other cities across the country. It’s been quite a roller coaster ride for a group who never relied on the usual formula to sell records. Radio stations report that their non-singles – songs plucked from the album because of high requests – have become as popular as their authorized releases. The amazing fan response has prompted Third Eye Bli underway in North America and Canada sum thr Bu ba assures it mov amphitheaters will retain the incendiary quality of their previous club and theater shows. “W int fans,” Jenkins says. “Everything for us is about friction.”

Jenkins remembers fondly the original flux of events that spawned the band. “I formed the group five years ago, taking almost a year and a half to fit the parts together. I went through several different musicians before finding Ari There were several false starts. We played so shows with another drummer and guitar player before Kevin walked in. We met him at an underground club in San Francisco. did some demos together, and it all started working. Brad was the last member to join. Everything clicked. We’ve never looked for anyone else to come and change what we’ve got. The label has been pretty understanding about that from day one.”

The group has even extended their creative reach to video, getting their first real opportunity to be involved in a concept that they greenlighted from beginning to end, working with Director Frances Lawrence on the clip for “Losing A Whole Year.” “We feel this is the first video where Third Eye Blind looks and feels like Third Eye Blind,” says Jenkins. Says guitarist/songwriter Kevin Cadogan: “It’s the first time I didn’t want to walk off the set.”

That vision has spread like wildfire to places even out of 3EB’s domain, helping them to achieve goals most new bands only dream about. Their song “Graduate” will be featured in an upcomi movie. And gone head to head with live television, recently performin Saturday Night Live. MTV used their song “Jumper” (about a friend’s suicide attem a public service announcement to help create awareness about teen suicide. The band is pondering a video for Jumper, the next single, that would certainly be its edgiest to date.

The insularity of touring hasn’t kept them from affecting life outside the road. “That’s the most amazing thing about this year,” says Hargreaves. “Every night it seems like a new experience. Every night we’re hitting someone in a different way.” Being responsible for one of the deepest debut albums in years makes it easier for Third Eye Blind to constantly re-invent themselves. “We’ve got more songs on the way,” smiles Jenkins. “And another whole year to go.” He pauses, as if still trying to sum up the one thing that made the last year so special. “It’s that human element that comes from the spark between the band and the people. The music ignites it. It’s all about us live.”

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