Stephan Jenkins, lead singer of Third Eye Blind, tells Neha Mujumdar that it sometimes takes two years to get a song all figured out!
Stephan Jenkins has heard plenty of stories warning him about India, but, for now, the frontman of American rock band Third Eye Blind is pleasantly surprised on his first trip. “I was told it’s so crowded, you can’t move. But there’s a flow and a logic that’s pleasant.” He was in Bangalore to play a gig at the Hard Rock Café, as part of Bacardi’s Go Mix Concert Tour.
In the nearly 20 years they’ve been around, Third Eye Blind have produced five albums. “I find the process of making albums to be excruciating,” he says, about why Third Eye Blind produces so few albums.
He then launches into an explanation. “Here’s the thing. Every album you make always has some kind of trajectory, whether up or down. The first album, you don’t really care. Then you start to get all of this scrutiny and even self-scrutiny. You compare yourself to other artists or critics or whatever. It’s a really unhealthy environment for me; it slows me down and takes me years to work through.”
On a typical song, Stephan says he gets an idea, gets stuck, and then works on the song for a year and a half. “A song that’s 85 to 90 per cent finished, I’ll spend two years trying to get figured out.”
Third Eye Blind was formed in the early 90s in San Francisco; their 1997 self-titled debut is considered their biggest hit to date. Has their first album’s success hurt them? “That time has come and gone,” he says. “In the US, I don’t need to play hits like ‘Never Let You Go’ or ‘Semi-Charmed Life’. But I probably do in India.”
The band recently came out with their fifth full-length album, and after a sixth album post the India tour, it may just be it. “I don’t intend to make LPs after this. After the sixth album, when it’s done, every time I have a song, I’ll take it to the band, workshop the song – and record and upload it, hopefully all in the same day. I don’t want to be in this process of working out records forever.”
The band has fans as much for their lyrics as for the music on the whole. What kind of toll does the lyric writing take? “The only way there would be a bigger toll on me would be if I didn’t do it – it sounds cliché or trite, but it makes sense. One of my two biggest fears is to be empty, to be numb…to just be a consumer. I’m glad fans like the lyrics – I really bleed out for everyone.”
Since the band began in San Francisco, does he see it as a band of the city? Not really, it turns out. “I don’t know how much of a scene the city really has. The oceans, the fog, those kinds of things make me feel really good – but they haven’t inspired me lately.”
It’s because he’s been “feeling short on inspiration” that he’s looking to write material for the new album in Bangalore. “I want to write an album you can feel as a presence, want to be in the room with.” That’s at least part of the agenda on their India tour. “The stray dogs of Bangalore – that sounds poetic to me, it has a rhythm to me,” he says.
We’ll wait for the song that uses the phrase.