A couple of years ago, Stephan Jenkins, frontperson of Third Eye Blind, announced that the group would no longer make full-length albums.
It’s a thought that’s occurring to plenty of music acts these days, given the way the major label music industry emphasizes singles and how streaming encourages putting out music in small batches.
Jenkins was ready for the EP to become the primary format for Third Eye Blind music. That is, until the band’s next helping of music began to come together.
“Isn’t it funny, because I said I’m not going to make LPs anymore, and here I am about to put out an LP,” Jenkins says. “So yeah, (I was saying) I don’t want to be limited to LPs, but this one did turn into an LP.”
That LP is going to be called Screamer, and Jenkins expects it to be out sometime during his band’s “Summer Gods” tour with Jimmy Eat World. Jenkins offers some hints on what fans can expect from the new release. On a musical level, the album figures to be more raw than other Third Eye Blind efforts.
“Nothing’s safe — no smoothed-out edges, nothing like that at all. The whole thing was, ‘Keep the edge, keep it weird,’ ” Jenkins says of Screamer. “I just feel like everything is so safe and like so much music, it sounds like artists don’t want to have their choices impugned or like they’re relying on something that works. I don’t give a fuck what works. I want to make what makes a dent.”
Beyond the sonic scope of Screamer, Jenkins says he worked hard to create and share “revelatory” moments within the lyrics.
“I’m trying to create this landscape that you can live inside, but that doesn’t matter without that revelatory moment,” he says of his writing approach. “You have to have something in there, in the song, where you are telling a truth that was uncovered. There has to be something where you are permeable, where you are vulnerable and that’s what Rock & Roll is — the courage to put that out there.”
To hear Jenkins talk about them, the lyrics for the songs on Screamer seem timely, provocative and also quite personal.
“This is kind of an album about passion and friction and vitality and aliveness in the space of dystopia,” Jenkins says. “I see us moving into this kind of dystopian world, but at the same time I’m so inspired by the energy of so many people — the young activists right now are the things that give me the most hope."
In particular, Jenkins cites as inspirations Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, survivors of last year’s mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida who became high-profile activists for gun control.
“I don’t write anything political. I only write from an emotional standpoint,” Jenkins insists. “But there’s a song (on Screamer) called ‘The Kids Are Coming to Take You Down,’ and that song is kind of inspired by them. So yeah, I realize that that’s kind of like part of the narrative energy of the record. But it’s still mostly what I do about internal politics, the friction between, the impact human beings have on each other.”
Jenkins began his musical journey in San Francisco in 1993, when he teamed up with songwriting collaborator and guitarist Kevin Cadogan. With bassist Arion Salazar and drummer Brad Hargreaves completing the original Third Eye Blind lineup, the band released its self-titled debut album in 1997. That debut turned the group into stars. Fueled by the hit singles “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Jumper” and “How’s It Going To Be,” Third Eye Blind went six times platinum. The 1999 follow-up Blue, while not as popular, still moved more than one million copies.
Since then, however, Third Eye Blind has had its ups and downs. The first big episode came after the release of Blue and the firing of Cadogan, who sued for wrongful termination and back royalties. The suit was settled out of court in 2002.
Further lineup changes have followed, and Jenkins and Hargreaves are now the only remaining original band members. The group has been somewhat sporadic in releasing new music; along with a few EPs, there have only been three full-length albums since Blue, the most recent being Dopamine in 2015. Despite having gone without a Top 20 hit at radio since the 2003 song “Blinded,” Third Eye Blind has remained a reliable concert draw. The fact that the band is playing amphitheaters this summer says a lot about Third Eye Blind’s continued appeal.
Jenkins says fans coming to summer shows can expect to hear Third Eye Blind — which currently also includes Kryz Reid (guitar), Alex LeCavalier (bass) and Colin CreeV (keyboards/guitar) — play some of their new music this summer, along with a cross-section of songs from the back catalog.
“This one is about just moving forward,” he says. “It’s a little bigger, this tour, and somehow it’s selling more tickets, which is cool.”
The forward-looking focus of the tour is a shift from the group’s 2017 outing, on which they celebrated the 20th anniversary of Third Eye Blind’s debut album by playing it in full. Of course, the hits from that popular album figure to remain in the set this summer.
Jenkins says that album remains relevant to long-standing fans and newcomers alike, but he’s not sure why.
“That is such a perplexing question. I don’t have an answer. I only have a theory,” Jenkins says. “I’ll give you a theory. I think we use music… the reason why it’s so energized in youth is because it’s this identity generation debunked. Something in the rhythm, in the narrative, in the landscape of what we’re doing, people find that (album) as this latticework for creating identity and developing that sense, and that’s also finding community.
“So you see kids who are at our shows who are 17, 20 years old, and this isn’t something old for them. This is right now for them. It’s an amazing thing to see. It really keeps my music alive and it allows me also to push forward into the future. It gives me that kind of confidence. I need that confidence or otherwise I’ll doubt myself.”
Third Eye Blind plays Wednesday, July 17 at Riverbend’s PNC Pavilion with Jimmy Eat World and Ra Ra Riot. Tickets/more info: riverbend.org.