Interview: Louie Vera "Behind the Interview"
If you love a good story, you’re gonna love this interview with journalist, musician, and fellow 3eb expert Louie Vera. I had the pleasure of speaking with Louie over the last few weeks. We talked about his career, his musical background, and, of course, Third Eye Blind. A big thank you to Louie for giving me his time and patience while I put this all together, and for the amazing story that lies below. Everybody - what you’re about to read is pure gold. Enjoy! - Lizette -
Lizette McMillen: Third Eye Blind fans are all ages and some are brand new and some have been there since day one. How long have you been "in the blind?”
Louie Vera: Since 1997. I had bought the How’s It Going To Be? single where SJ is smoking a cig (one of my favorite band photos). It also had “Horror Show,” I believe, and I remember listening to it over and over with my CD Walkman. When I got my hands on the full album I borrowed it from a friend of mine who I grew up with, Krystle Del Castillo. She would pass away a year later from Leukemia and she was the one who told me to borrow it for as long as I wanted. She said that she had a feeling I would love the band. I remember thinking about that for so long and to this day, when I see the cover of the album, I’m reminded of the lifelong gift she gave me in 3eb.
Swimming into view - Krystle Del Castillo, R.I.P. and Thanks A Lot
LV: I really delved into it reading all the lyrics from the CD booklet and also busting out a dictionary as well, because there were a lot of words I had no clue what they meant. From that point on I became inspired to be well spoken and good with words.
Around that time there was a lot of angry music and I felt a little alienated because I got a lot of shit wearing my 3eb attire, stickers all over my notebooks, backpack, etc… People would tell me 3eb was “weak” and not “hard” enough. Yet, the more I listened to 3eb, the more I felt connected with lyrics like, “and we don’t fit in,” or “and the world darkens around me, strange friends all surround me.” The message of enduring the feeling of being different and not understood resonated so much.
LM: So let’s talk about being a misfit for a minute. You’re saying that you felt alienated among your peers due to your music choices (3EB in particular) not being "hard" enough but that the lyrical content really spoke to you and that you've found a family of outsiders among the 3EB community. Can you elaborate on that?
LV: It wasn’t so much that my support and love for 3eb exiled me, because I was involved in sports, different clubs etc. Yet, I had to “eat it” from people giving me shit for liking 3eb. It was just a totally different time in music. Now, nobody cares what or who you listen to but during that time it was like a “thing” and you weren’t cool if you didn’t listen to angry music. I mean, I listened to everything. My dad was a singer for 20 years so I grew up appreciating all types of music. I listened to Limp Bizkit, Korn, Rage Against Machine, old school Incubus, but Third Eye Blind just meant so much more to me.
LM: Right on... Now, you also mentioned that you had to go grab a dictionary when combing the lyrics of the first album and that afterward you were inspired to "be well spoken and good with words." How did you go about building your vocabulary? What sort of impact has it had on you as a journalist and just in your every day life?
LV: At the time I still had other aspirations for my career but looking up words and understanding the songs, lyrics, and what they meant planted a seed in me that eventually lead me to writing. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school [that I took to writing], when I joined the newspaper; From there, my love for words was rooted. No doubt in my mind that, if it wasn’t for 3eb, none of that would’ve came to fruition. So, I’m very thankful and it’s still kind of mind boggling how much loving a band impacted my path in life.
LM: Do you or have you created any Third Eye Blind inspired art or writing?
LV: Yes, I was actually fortunate enough to interview SJ for the cover article of the Austin Music Magazine SXSW edition in 2013. My friend, Jeremy Davis, had asked me to write a few articles for him as he was starting this magazine on his own and it was, at the time, one of the few music magazines in print in Austin. Kinda crazy considering it’s the live music capital of the world. He showed me the cover of the mag for SXSW and it was a small start up band, so I asked if I could contact some bigger bands and see if we land an interview. I’ve been a sports journalist since I was 18 but this seemed like a moment to do something different. I just went for it. I messaged Brad on Facebook and gave him a synopsis of the mag, asked about the process of interviewing the band.
Jeremy already had the cover set and it was about two days before print when their manager reached back to me via e-mail saying, if we promise the cover of the mag, he’ll tell SJ to call me that night! I called Jeremey back and I said, “stop the presses - 3eb will do the interview if we guarantee the cover!” He asked “how long will it take you to get the story and interview done?” I said I’ll have it done within the hour after I speak to SJ. So, I got the green light.
I’ve interviewed tons of pro athletes, college players, even some actors, but this was the first time I got legitimately nervous. Even though I was a seasoned journalist and huge 3eb fan, I still worked really hard on what I was going to ask him. Sure enough that night SJ calls me and we spoke for almost 20 minutes! Waaay more than I anticipated. It felt like a conversation and not just an interview, and I think it was the care that I put into the questions and, of course, knowledge of the band that made it that much better.
After the first question, I settled in and it was completely professional despite my inner voice wanting to say how much SJ and 3eb meant to me in my life. I did throw in that I fought to get them on the cover and he appreciated it.
LM: Regarding the SJ interview you did, you said you felt like it was “a moment to do something different” with your journalism. Aside from that interview, have you done any other music or non-sports journalism? Were you inspired to take a different approach to your journalistic career?
LV: I’ve done movie reviews, interviews with actors, directors, covered music festivals, and even did a murder story once because it happened close to me. That’s a story for another time. I’m so much more open-minded now and trust my writing. I stayed in my comfort zone writing sports and columns, but, with film and music, the passion for those genres is on the same level. That 2013 interview with SJ and how it all just worked out from messaging Brad, and emailing their manager, then pushing to get them on the cover, etc. gave me a renewed sense of confidence that I can do anything.
LM: So let’s talk about a few specifics from that interview with Stephan... In the interview, you said, "Third Eye Blind have quietly kept a pulse as a cult favorite, selling out venues wherever they go, and it’s sure to be a hot spot when they hit the stage." This sentence is one that was similarly echoed this summer with their 20th anniversary and the Summer Gods Tour, selling out large outdoor amphitheaters. Were you able to make any of the Summer Gods shows last year? If so, how did it feel hearing the album that was so meaningful and inspiring to you from start to finish, and sharing that experience with so many misfits?
LV: YES. I went to the show at the Woodlands Pavilion and it was so great. Two years before I saw them at the same venue. In 2015, at the end of the show I was in the front and the guys came out to take a bow and I shouted at Brad. He nodded at me and tossed a drum stick. It was a great toss because I caught it one-handed. A moment after I caught it, a girl behind me grabbed the end of the stick and tried to yank it from me!! I pulled back, but she was crazy strong! There was no way I was letting go of it, so I pulled down with all my might and force and she let go. I had already caught it and she tried to steal it from me! That’s against the rules! Anyway, I got it. I still laugh when I think about it. That gave me a pair from Brad. At the Belmont, 2013 SXSW, Brad fired his sticks and one of them hit me in the chest so, yeah, I WANTED that second one to make the pair.
LM: Another question bringing the past to the present... Back in 2013 there was an album in the works and Stephan also discussed changing up how they planned to record future albums, or rather NOT make albums and just release songs as they were inspired and ready with them. The dialogue of how and when 3EB releases albums has been ongoing and evolving for years now. Recently they've had a quick output of music, which fans have been gushing over. They are currently working on an EP of cover songs for charity that is expected to be out February. Do you have any favorites from the newer material they've released?
LV: When I did the interview with SJ, I did my homework. I mean, as a 3eb Expert, I know them, but I made sure to really think about my questions and provoke conversation with Stephan. I’ve seen so many interviews that they do and some are so bad, cringe-worthy.
One of my questions was about bringing to life any old songs like they did with “Wake for Young Souls” on Out Of The Vein and SJ said it would be all new songs. Which, in retrospect, I’m really happy about. SJ has mentioned how difficult making an LP is because he knows how “wordy” us 3eb fans are, and, also, to make it a cohesive piece is no small task.
A huge perk of that, along with no restraints from any major label and them being on their own, [is that] they can write, record, and do whatever the fuck they want. The turnaround is faster and, with no one looking over their shoulder, I feel like the music, along with Kryz, Kopp and Alex [LeCavalier] in the mix, the band has no limitations. We Are Drugs is so good and it feels so Third Eye Blind.
LM: Yes! I agree 100%. Now, let’s get to some fun questions. You’ve been to shows, did the SJ interview, etc. What has been your favorite interaction with the band? Why?
LV: This was just so surreal and even serendipitous, if you will.
The next day [after the interview] I drove to Austin and my editor, Jeremy Davis, asked me to cover a few bands downtown at this dive bar where I ran into Trey Cool of Green Day. That in itself was incredible. He was so nice and took a discrete selfie with me.
I had my cousin, Danny Lucio, helping me out at the time and, before the two main acts were up, I said, “I need to charge my phone in the car.” I had about 3% battery. As we got closer to the parking garage, I heard a distinct voice in the distance, from across the street, and it was getting closer. I turned around and SJ was on the phone, riding his bike in downtown Austin.
I grabbed Danny and said, “that’s Stephan Jenkins!”
We looked at one another, then ran instantaneously to catch up. SJ hit a red light and stopped. Danny is faster than me and greeted him first, and I was literally carrying a stack of the magazines in my hand because we had been delivering them. I tried to be cool about it, but I spoke fast; I told him I had interviewed him for the mag the day before, but I think I wasn’t making sense. Haha!
I asked for a photo and he was hesitant at first but said yes, and I gave Danny my phone. He snapped the photo and immediately my phone DIED. People started looking at one another and walking towards us in a hurry so SJ left and Danny is like, “your phone died.”
My heart sank to the abyss.
Then, he said, “but I got the photo! I think...” We went back to the car and charged the phone for what felt like an eternity. It turned on and, sure enough, there it was. SJ and Me.
I’ll never forget it.
LM: What a great story that is for you! I think that's really one of the special things about being a Third Eye Blind fan and them being big but still not “main stream.” We all get to have these crazy special moments with them that I really don't hear about most people having with other bands. They are so down to earth and just really accessible for us to connect with. I love it! So, another question... Our project is called 3eb Lifestyle. What does living a “3eb Lifestyle” mean to you?
LV: It means “backing down the bully to the back of the bus!” There are so many people who are different, weird, outsiders, misunderstood, and those are my people. Those are OUR people.
I remember reading an article where SJ said how he’s always had trouble feeling comfortable in his own skin and, even to this day - myself, SJ, or whoever - there are so many of us who feel that way. Third Eye Blind’s music, message, and energy have helped me with that my entire life. When I’m sad or down, there is no better music; On the flip side, 3eb has the power to lift you through the darkest of times.
I’ve found my people in 3eb, and this weird, twisted, loving community. There is truly nothing like it.
LM: Now, if you found a magic Third Eye Blind Lamp, and a semi-charmed genie popped out, and you could make three Third Eye Blind related wishes, what would they be?
LV: I’d want them to live forever and that’s already come true. Just look at us now. 20 years in the blind, adult or adolescent, the music has lived and thrived. I know that, whenever I start a family, my kids will be touched by their music, and hopefully for generations to come.
Next two wishes are just simply to keep the music going and maybe one day play along with them on stage. Just one song. Or, a retweet or comment from SJ about this article, shot in the dark.
LM: Well, they are definitely on a roll with keeping the music going. Getting to play with them, though - that would be amazing! What instrument(s) do you play? What would your song of choice be if you got to play with them and why?
LV: I grew up with a father who had a band that eventually played in Las Vegas, toured like 10 months out of the year, and made a living playing music. I remember when they would practice in the garage and I was a little kid, banging on all the instruments; That’s how I learned.
My first instrument was actually a violin, but I couldn’t sight read to save my life. I had a pretty good ear and feel so, if I could hear the music, I could play it, but this Orchestra camp I went to didn’t like my methods and I stopped playing. So, my dad bought me a guitar and the rest is history.
After my dad retired, I started my own band, just with friends who loved to play music, and we even brought my dad in to sing with us on sets. It was truly special. My dad and I also went to a 3eb show in Corpus Christi together in 2014 at this small venue called the Brewster. It all comes full circle, and 3eb has been in the middle of it all.
The song I would choose to play would be “God of Wine”. That was the first full song I ever learned. I remember looking up the tabs and had to change the tuning to DADEAD. I bought pedals and remember listening to it over and over until I nailed it. The song is ostensibly my favorite of all-time.
That’s awesome. What special memories with your dad. And your song choice - “God Of Wine” is a very special song to a lot of people, including Stephan. That’d be priceless... Okay, one last question - I want to let you have the final word here. Is there anything else you would like to say to or about the band?
How much I love the new line up with Alex Kopp, Kryz Reid, and Alex LeCavalier, and what they’ve brought to the band. As much as the first four albums were the foundation, I feel like Dopamine and We Are Drugs are even MORE Third Eye Blind, so to speak. I can’t wait for more!
Read Louie’s interview with Stephan here.