Editor’s Note: Third Eye Blind is back in the news today after they trolled Republicans at a Cleveland fundraiser last night. The band’s frontman, Stephan Jenkins, continually blasted the GOP, condemned Republican ideology and antagonized the crowd with remarks like, “Raise your hand if you believe in science.” When someone in the audience loudly booed the band, Jenkins responded, “You can boo all you want, but I’m the motherfucking artist up here.”
Yes, you are, Stephan, and in honor of your prodigious defiance, we are refreshing an interview we did with you about one of your biggest hits. Just like the band’s recent performance, our interview with Jenkins was not without its tense moments either.
I have a history with Third Eye Blind. The coterie of girls we hung out with back in the day were hot for dreamy lead singer Stephan Jenkins, and by association, my buddies and I got into the string of hits the band landed on alternative rock radio: ‘Jumper,’ ‘How’s It Going to Be,’ and the focus of this latest Oral Hit-story, ‘Semi-Charmed Life.’ I’d drive over to one guy’s house, and we’d even run through them on our electric guitars.
Which brings me to my recent conversation with Jenkins. For the better part of a year, I’d been trading emails with his record label’s rep, trying to set up an Oral Hit-story, and right before Thanksgiving, I finally got the green light. But while I thought I had pretty clearly outlined the thrust of the piece for the rep—“honor the past but look forward at the same time”—that message apparently didn’t quite reach Jenkins. When I told him half my questions would be about ‘Semi-Charmed Life,’ he immediately scoffed. The interview wasn’t a complete waste of time, though. I’d urge you to check out the band while they tour in support of their new album, Dopamine, and see below for monosyllabic insights I managed to glean about the band’s highest-charting single…
“I write from a space of aloneness and sometimes, loneliness, and the music comes [from] that space.”
It’s a sad day for ’90s rock fans with the news of Scott Weiland’s passing. Did your paths ever cross, and do you have any happy memories of Scott that you can share?
There were these two girls who were best friends, and one of them was dating me and the other, Scott, so we would run into each other. We would see each other sometimes at festivals and stuff like that. I knew [Stone Temple Pilots guitarist] Dean DeLeo and his brother [Robert, the band’s bassist]. Yeah, I tweeted last night that Scott had a rock-and-roll heart, and that is a beautiful and dangerous thing. You put those things together, and it can be a brief but bright-burning candle.
Back in ’96, you described Third Eye Blind’s sound as “Edie Brickell meets Suicidal Tendencies.” How has that evolved in your mind over the years?
[laughs] Well, I don’t remember describing it as that, but that sounds good to me. I’m still trying to make a landscape in your mind come alive, and rhythms that pulse and demand to be heard. I don’t know. I think maybe I try to make things simpler as I go along. I try to get down to the point. I think Dopamine is more about what’s the impulse and what’s the pulse, and everything else, let’s just get rid of it.
My wife and her girlfriends are all abuzz about this interview. How important has your relationship been with your female fans over the years?
I don’t really see it as one different from the other. We have so many metrics now about who our audience is, because there are things like Spotify and Pandora. Sony does these huge metric setups. Our fans are mostly males about 17 to 30, but it’s 51/49 [male to female ratio], so the audiences are very mixed, very split. And I like that aspect of it. I like it that it’s become more multi-ethnic. We were playing in Florida, and I saw these two lesbian chicks right up front, and they were together and really, really involved. They had gauged ears and were super into this music. Our music’s about inclusiveness and openness, and I liked that, even though I wrote that song [I was singing] from some hetero-normative state, these two young lesbians could make it their own.
The new album, Dopamine, gets really personal at times; you can hear a lot of heartache and downheartedness in there. Is songwriting a form of catharsis for you?
It’s exactly that. I write from a space of aloneness and sometimes, loneliness, and the music comes [from] that space.
Do you find you that you’re less inspired when you’re happier?
No, not necessarily. Because then I feel this life energy and vitality. No, I find inspiration from different states of being.
Now, because I write this column, Oral Hit-story, I have to ask you some questions about ‘Semi-Charmed Life,’ which I know you don’t want to talk about. But I’ll be as cool about it as I possibly can, OK?
I feel like it’s sort of the Breaking Bad of ’90s tunes. Do you remember where exactly you were when this song was conceived?
You don’t remember?
Was it a full band sort of thing, or did you just write it alone?
No, I wrote it alone.
What confuses me is that the Bay Area is such a chill, happy and Zen-ed out place. Was life the polar opposite for you in that era?
You can’t elaborate on that at all?
I read that the song was partially informed by Lou Reed’s ‘A Walk on the Wild Side.’ Is that where you got the ‘doo-doo-doo’ part before each verse?
The song also has a real hip-hop sensibility to it as well—and I know you experimented with rap at one point. Any specific hip-hop groups that you can cite as influences to the song?
Did you ever reveal the identity of the “priestess” who had those “little red panties, they passed the test”?
Was she just a figment of your imagination?
So she does exist?
Yeah. OK, that’s all we’ve got for ‘Semi-Charmed Life.’
Well, that’s all I’ve got in terms of questions. I’m sorry it wasn’t clearer to you what the purpose of my column was.
That’s OK. I’m glad your wife likes my band.