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Interviews, Music

Interview: Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins Talks “Screamer”, Trap Music, & Carbon Neutral Touring

By: Jessica Nakamoto –

California-based quintet, Third Eye Blind, has been a powerful force in the alternative rock scene since their debut single “Semi-Charmed Life” first topped the charts back in 1997.

Now, on the heels of 2015’s Dopamine, frontman Stephan Jenkins and crew are back with their first new record in four years.

Screamer (out today (Oct 18th) via Megaforce Records), is the band’s sixth studio album and features not only new sources of inspiration, but marks the first time the group has collaborated with outside artists. Featuring musicians ranging from Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells to Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, there are numerous reasons to fall in love with Third Eye Blind’s latest twelve-track effort.

But before you get ready to rock out to the new record or catch the band on their upcoming tour, check out our interview belowwith Stephan as we dive into his take on trap music, cool collaborations, the band’s unique album art, and more!

I heard that the band was in the studio earlier today. I was perusing Instagram and loved the “Scream Therapy” video you just put out!

Did you like it?

I did! I feel like it’s very accurate. People who go to concerts want to release all that energy into the world and have a good time.

That’s exactly what I was telling Alexis [Krauss]! Before we did the video, I said, “you know, we’re lead singers of rock bands. We’re basically scream therapy counselors anyway!” (laughs)

We were also in a room filled with trained actors doing this stuff, so I think we acquitted ourselves pretty well. (Jokes) We pulled off being therapists!

(Laughs) Absolutely! And, it’s World Mental Health Day today as well. So, scream away!

Yeah, go for it! (laughs)

Third Eye Blind released their newest album, Screamer, on Oct. 18th via Megaforce Records.

Screamer is your first full-length since Dopamine in 2015, but I heard the record actually started as an EP and evolved into the album. Was there a moment where you knew you wanted to shift gears?

I’m constantly looking and thinking about new music. For me, there’s always the urge to create. It’s really non-stop! What kind of gets in the way is touring. By that, I mean I don’t write that much when I’m on tour. And whenever I put out a project, I usually tour for years. It takes up a lot of time.

What we’ve learned to do now, is we start to work on songs at sound check and are really disciplined about that. It seems to help a lot.

I can imagine! You also had the cover record [Thanks For Everything] in 2018 which was recorded in between touring. So, it sounds like you’re managing really well!

Yeah! That was when we were on tour. It was mostly in Europe, but we recorded some stuff in Memphis as well. We weren’t ready to put out the new album, which turned out to be Screamer, but we still had the urge to record.

We thought, “let’s just pick something we like, go in, and do covers”. The only rule was that they had to be songs that people didn’t really know. Songs that we love that haven’t really been heard before.

We were paying homage to them, and that’s how we made our choices. Other than that, it was pretty random. We were like, “what about Babyshambles’ ‘Fuck Forever’, let’s try that. Ok, sure. We’ll do that!”

Did your process or mindset change once you decided upon a full-length record?

No, I think the process just gets elongated. That’s the real problem. It begins to take on a thematic sense of what fits and what doesn’t. (Jokes) All the things I’m trying to avoid! I got roped into doing another LP even though I said I wouldn’t! (laughs)

I really like that you guys tackled different things in Screamer. You have a variety of guests from Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells, to Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, and this was the first time the band has worked with outside artists. What inspired the change?

I’d actually been looking to do it for a while. I heard a quote from Jack White saying that his favorite thing was to get in a room full of people where everybody takes off their hats and their titles and you just let God come in the room. I knew what he was talking about.

I had done a writing session with Colin CreeV which I really enjoyed. And, he even ended up joining the band! I loved the interaction and I had been meaning to do it again for a while. So, we thought, here it is. It’s time. It’s clicked into gear!

Do you have any favorite memories or funny moments collaborating with some of these other artists for the first time?

Yes! Collaborating with Brian Fennell of Barcelona was really great. He’s doing a lot of solo stuff now, but at the time, we were at a studio, somewhere in the Caribbean. Nothing was going on, and I said, “you know what? Everybody out of the room, let’s just go swim in the ocean”.

We started to think and ask ourselves “what’s inspiring?” I said I really like trap music, and Brian replied, “great! let’s make one”. I decided to spit lyrics over it, and thirty minutes later we had a song! All we needed to do was bring it down to that final three minutes.

Everything that’s on “2X Tigers” is just what popped into my head. There was no lyric sheet. So, the first time I ever sang it, or the first time I had thought of it, is what you hear on the microphone. I think that was pretty cool.

The electronic bits and the distortion were a pleasant surprise and a neat new direction for the band.

Yes! It has that electronic trap beat kind of vibe. You can correspond it with the straight up shoegaze punk on “The Kids Are Coming”. The horns are real though!

That’s interesting! I think a lot of people like to talk about your older hits and deep cuts, but you also have a lot of young fans who are able to grow with the band. They see the experimentation you’re doing and really embrace it.

I think so too. I see them at the shows and it blows my mind! A lot of Third Eye Blind fans are still in braces. It’s a trip! (laughs) They’re really young, but they still discover us because our music is like a playlist. It doesn’t have a date stamp on it.

Records used to come and go. They’d have a cycle and when the cycle was over, that would be that. But now, what happens is you have music that floats around, and nobody knows when it came out and nobody really cares. So, if it speaks to you now, it’s part of your present tense. It’s very hard to quantify, yet that’s what’s going on with some of the people. I love being a part of that!

Do you think that having a mixed fan base, both young and old, inspires you to keep experimenting with new styles or changes the way you look at producing new music?

Of course! It keeps me alive. That’s what gives me confidence and I don’t know where I’d be without that energy. It all comes from them!

Speaking of the younger generation and social media in particular, you had hinted that the blood on the album cover art was actually your own. What prompted that decision?

I think you have to be willing to bleed for this. The back cover was Brad’s snare drum after a show. Brad had bled all over his drum, and I had taken a picture of it.

With the front cover, I was speaking with Ryan Olson. He’s one of the producers of the band, a member of the groups Polica and Marijuana Death Squad, and is someone I think is totally amazing!

I told him that I thought Screamers was a good title for the record. He said I should write it on a pennant, and I went, “yeah! With blood and dirt all over it!” (laughs) He was like, “that’s it!” And it ended up being the record cover!

That’s very rock and roll of you! (laughs) I know in the past, you spoke about having a punk-rock ethos, and I enjoyed how songs like “The Kids Are Coming” have somewhat of a rebellious sense to them. Was this something you wanted to express from the beginning or was it more of a theme that emerged later on?

I think that while our music isn’t punk, our ethos is. The idea of saying, “by all means, express all the things you’re not supposed to. Just put it out there!” encompasses the punk rock sensibility.

All the themes come up later. I only sing from emotional conditions. I never think things out, and I don’t have any plan. I’m never writing an essay. Rather, it’s always based on how I’m feeling.

Later on, you sort of realize these themes begin to emerge because you’re accounting for your take on things. It’s your world as filtered through your emotional landscape, your prism.

In addition to the music itself, the band has always been one to not just speak out about important issues, but take action. I heard you’re hitting the road with Smallpools this November and have a European tour coming up. Will you be continuing the carbon neutral setup you had with the Summer Gods Tour?

Yes, we will be. We’re also going to be doing something with the ocean and plastics. We’re going to be working on a new initiative. I found that I always have to bring the two things together, in whatever we do now. My shows aren’t political. They’re emotional experiences and more about collective idealism. It’s all people coming together and gathering for the power of music. But how we get there and how we do that has to be in line with the mission.

I liked a statement I heard in another segment you did… we’re still waiting on those electric tour buses!

Right?! I want one! So, Elon Musk, if you’re reading this article, get on with it buddy! (Jokes) You want one. I want one. You can take one to Burning Man, and I’ll take one on the road. It’ll be incredible!

Is there anything that you’re most excited to do or a song that you’re looking forward to playing on the upcoming tours?

I’m just excited to introduce people to the new music. I also really love going on tour in Europe. Where are you based?

The magazine is based in Toronto, but I’m a local San Diego, California girl! I heard you guys are San Francisco based?

Yes we are, but I actually wrote this record in Leucadia, Encinitas California!

How funny! That’s just up the road from me.

Yeah! I was out on Neptune street. I really could have named this album “Neptune” just as easily.

I was down there at a friend’s beach house. We’d set up our gear and write songs. I would go surfing in the morning at Grandview [Surf Beach], work on the music, go to Coffee Coffee or Pannekin, and go get dinner at Fish 101. Then I would come back and do it again! It’s kind of the vibe! (laughs)

I love it! Do you think the environment or the setting influenced the sound on the record as well?

I’m not sure. It was definitely the right level of stimulation, surfing and then no distractions! We just posted up on the cliff at the beach and focused on work.

To wrap things up, I have a few fill-in-the-blank questions. Would you like to give it a go?

Sure!

On my days off, I love to…

Go surfing!

My favorite tour snack is…

Raw almonds.

If I could vacation anywhere, I would pick…

Indonesia.

Last one! One thing on my bucket list is…

I should have a good bucket list. It really makes me think of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, because she would have a great answer! She would be like, “I would like to not have to reach for cigarettes after sex, just once darling!” (laughs) So cheeky! I can’t think of anything, so I’ll let her fake-end the interview for me!

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