Third Eye Blind Frontman Stephan Jenkins On His Dream Supergroup, New Album And More
Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins is backstage at Five Points Ampitheater in Irvine, California. In a hour or so Jenkins will be leading the multi-platinum Third Eye Blind in some of their biggest hits -- "Jumper," "Semi-Charmed Life" and the final "How's It Going To Be" -- as part of the Jack FM show alongside Stone Temple Pilots, 311 and more.
However, while Jenkins is here with fellow bands from the '90s, as he is quick to point out, he has no interest in being a nostalgia act. The day before, he tells me, he was at a festival with acts such as Diplo and ASAP Rocky.
Jenkins' dream supergroup, which he would play drums in, is one of these bands that you're not sure if it would work or not, but you'd pay great money to see it once and see. That was just one of the fun tidbits, along with his love of museums and news on a new Third Eye Blind, to come up in our conversation.
Steve Baltin: Do these radio station shows feel like reunions to you?
Stephan Jenkins: No, I haven't given it any of those thoughts.
Baltin: I saw your set at Arroyo Seco, which was great. Does playing with a variety of bands like that feel more comfortable for you then?
Jenkins: Yeah, for sure. I'm not a nostalgic person at all and I went to a music festival yesterday because friends were playing. Diplo was playing, so I went to just hang with that whole crew and I enjoyed seeing people like Pond play and ASAP Rocky. I'm always just pushing into forward movement. I will say though I really like the band Neon Trees and I like the DeLeo brothers in Stone Temple Pilots as well. I'm looking forward to saying hello to them. Dean is a really good guitar player.
Baltin: I think most artists hate nostalgia, but as an artist your songs change for both you and the fans because you both get older and bring different life experiences to them. So are there older songs you now hear differently?
Jenkins: Absolutely, yeah. "Wounded" is about a friend who got raped and this was about her community of friends trying to come terms with bringing her back into our friend group. And I can see that taking on sort of different resonance in the Metoo era and that makes me feel really good about writing that song. I remember we were playing a show, I think it was in Miami and there was this young lesbian couple. They were like 20, they were so beautiful and this was their song. They were up in the front row living in this moment. This was last summer and they were living in the present tense with this song and that keeps it alive and really invigorates it. "Jumper" as well, that song was written as a noir. Now it has this resounding positivity to it. The overwhelming message of it is that we have more understanding for each other than we might give each other credit for.
Baltin: When you do festivals like Arroyo Seco or this Jack FM show, so many people are seeing these songs for the first time. Do you see the songs through their fresh eyes?
Jenkins: Always, I'm always getting that reflection back from the audience and that helps me a lot. I'm always looking for ways to be directly engaged, to be as soberly engaged with the audience as possible. My eyes are never blurry, I'm never glazed over. I'm right here in this moment and it makes it easy for me.
Baltin: Who are the artists that have inspired you for the way they've been able to evolve their career?
Jenkins: Justin Vernon, I really think he's so expansive in what he does. I'm fascinated to hear what he does next. He has so many tools, so many colors that he paints with. And I think he's both dramatic and honest at the same time in a way I really admire. Frank Ocean, he's one I'm sort of always watching. I was kind of late to the train, but I really like Beyonce. I've come to really appreciate her. I covered one of her songs, "Mine," it was kind of a throw-away track on our record.
Baltin: Which of these artists would you most love to work with and you feel it would be the best fit? Or it wouldn't be a good fit necessarily to work together but you'd like to see them cover one of your songs?
Jenkins: I'll take Justin Vernon and Frank Ocean and start a supergroup, I'll play drums. We'll just go out and play each other's songs. That would be good. Lorde, I'd love to work with her. I was actually worried for her after her first record. I was like, "This record is so good that you peaked at 16 and that's a very hard thing." These teen stars, they really just always have so many problems. I did a duet with Demi Lovato, she's so talented. The stresses that are on those tween performers is just intense. So to see her come up with her second record and a song like "Writer In The Dark." Such a beautiful song. There's like [David] Bowie heading outward. She can be in our supergroup too. We'll be like a new Fleetwood Mac and then Lindsey Buckingham is free, so he could play guitar. That would be my band. Justin on bass, Frank Ocean keyboards, Lorde can do whatever she wants, Lindsey on guitar, me on drums. I learned to play drums playing things like Mick Fleetwood. So I have engrained in me a perfect Mick Fleetwood beat. I can deliver that.
(Starts singing and drumming Fleetwood Mac "Dreams")
Baltin: You've got covers in your blood.
Jenkins: We just did a covers album, called Thanks For Everything. We were on tour last fall in Europe and we had some dates in between shows and we wanted to record but we didn't have the new record ready. So we're writing a new album for next summer now and so we just went into the studio, picked songs and recorded them in a day. And they're all songs from bands that we really liked that influenced us and they're songs people really didn't hear much of. So we did Queens Of The Stone Age, Santigold, a Justin Vernon track, some really small indie bands. A song called "Ten." There are seven songs from some bands that were known, some bands that weren't. A band called Chastity Belt out of Seattle, they're pretty small, but they're just amazing. We covered one of their songs. It was music that inspired us and when we go on tour we go to a lot of art galleries that inspire us. So we were at the Warhol Museum and there were these kids, there was like an outreach program to inner city kids. Of course they get no arts funding now and these kids were getting their minds blown by Warhol. You could see them all switching on. So we said, "Let's just give them all the money." So we donated the proceeds from the record to the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
Baltin: I'm sure it's inspiring to see all these kids who are seeing this for the first time.
Jenkins: Yeah. I like that moment when something occurs to somebody or they're just provoked in some way. That's lovely.
Baltin: Is there one museum that is most inspiring to you?
Jenkins: The first thing that comes to mind is the Tate in London. I love how you can walk right up to the paintings and how it's really a physical act to get through that museum. But we were in the Louvre and you can't really knock that either. John The Baptist [Leonardo da Vinci] is my favorite painting. To see that up close is amazing.
Baltin: When do you start working on the new album?
Jenkins: We're working on it right now. It's great. I feel like I have a very tight direction. It's gonna be a very different sounding record than records in the past. There is no Third Eye Blind sound, there is no formula. [It's] an EP, I don't like to promise LPs anymore when EPs seem to be just fine.