Stephan Jenkins Explains Why Third Eye Blind is Indie Rock…Among Other Things

I’ve always had a soft spot for Third Eye Blind, for a myriad of reasons. When I was in college at Temple University in the late-90s, the band was just breaking big. And while it didn’t really fit in with anything else I was listening to, it was – on the surface – fun music. Also, working at the school newspaper, The Temple News, it seemed like the self-titled debut was always playing in the newsroom from someone’s office.

My first trip ever to New England was with a bunch of the staff during a spring break ski/snowboard trip and one of the editors – who was really, really into hip-hop – had become inexplicably obsessed with 3EB’s “How’s It Going to Be” and kept skipping back to it over and over and over on the CD player. We’ve all had songs like that in our lives, but to see the unmitigated joy on this particular person’s face, emanating from their entire being just playing it, that always makes me happy when I think back on it. To this day, whenever I hear that scratching that leads into the autoharp intro on the track, I’ll reflexively smile.

Also to this day, Third Eye Blind has a strong and passionate fanbase. They can play sheds in the summer and smaller spots – like Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom this weekend – and you’ll hear the audience singing along not just to the hits, but to the more recent songs in the catalog.

How does that happen and what does it mean for a band that many in the mainstream aren’t aware of more than a few songs? I explored that question in my conversation with singer Stephan Jenkins in a 617 Q&A for Vanyaland that just went live. He makes a surprisingly convincing argument for Third Eye Blind being indie rock, despite having a history of massive radio hits and major label distribution. We touched on some of Jenkins’ favorite hip hop albums, covering the Clash and why he hates it when interviewers bring up the band’s best known single, “Semi-Charmed Life.”

For me, Third Eye Blind still resonates, often unexpectedly, in the current day. Looking at my last substantive relationship, the band was the first show we went to together, making for an early benchmark. Jenkins’ lyrics still manage to have that “ouch” effect too, separating them from the aforementioned “fun music.” And I’m a major sucker for darkness buried under a poppy sheen.

Whether it’s the conviction in his delivery or the often perfect chord strikes that punctuate them, on lines like, “Searching for something I could never give you/And there’s someone who understands you more than I do,” from the first album’s “God of Wine” or “And I just want to sleep and watch Netflix/In my empty house/Creeping on what I can’t fix,” from 2016’s “Isn’t It Pretty,” the guy has tapped into something.

Hope you enjoy the interview with Jenkins, and check out this fantastic cover of Califone’s “Funeral Singers” from the latest Third Eye Blind record, 2021’s Our Bande Àpart.

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