All artists want to make their music memorable and meaningful. On Apr. 8, 1997, an alternative rock band called Third Eye Blind released the track “Semi-Charmed Life” and expected nothing to come of it. Over the next few years, the song became one of the most recognizable tunes in the world.
But the '90s were a long time ago, and Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins is not a nostalgic person. Although “Semi-Charmed Life” brought Third Eye Blind into the public eye, it also brings Jenkins back in time when all he wants to do is move forward.
“That’s kind of the basic exposure to us. At our shows, that’s not what everyone comes to see,” Jenkins says. “We exist in a completely different world, and we are our own underground entity.”
Yet some would argue Third Eye Blind is anything but underground. The band formed in 1996, and its first album was released the following year by Elektra Records. Known by fans simply as "the self-titled," Third Eye Blind reached No. 25 on the Billboard 200 chart, where it stayed for 104 weeks. Recognized for singles such as “Jumper,” “How’s It Gonna Be” and the infamous “Semi-Charmed Life,” Third Eye Blind solidified the group's place in '90s music history.
Singer and guitarist Jenkins wrote lyrics that switched from hysterically lewd to heart-wrenchingly serious without any warning, to the disdain of radio stations and the pleasure of college-aged listeners. While “Semi-Charmed Life” focused on raunchy drug and sex imagery, cuts such as “Motorcycle Drive By” and “The Background” painted a sad but realistic image of living on after losing someone you care about.
“I think the underlying thing for me with songwriting is that there’s some way in which I’m provoked by the culture, I’m moved in some way, and then I’ll have an emotional response to an idea,” Jenkins says. “It’ll provoke some kind of emotional condition that I’ll try to capture the scope of in a song.”
Fast forward to 1999, when Third Eye Blind released its second album, Blue. Similar to the self-titled record, Blue reached platinum status and had highly recognizable tracks like “Never Let You Go.” It featured darker and more satirical vocals with a variety of different musical styles that changed from track to track.
Over the next few years, Third Eye Blind released its third studio album, Out of the Vein (2003), a couple EPs, a ‘Best Of’ Collection in 2006 and a fourth studio album, Ursa Major (2009). Both studio albums featured sounds completely different than the previous two releases, partially due to personal (and personnel) changes.
“Out of the Vein was a painful period in my life, but it wasn’t that hard to make the record,” says Jenkins. “I think that making Ursa Major was pretty difficult… It [was] just struggles with the band. Where Third Eye Blind is now, it’s really fun to play in the band, and I like that.”
Recently, Third Eye Blind released what is rumored to be its last studio album. Dopamine seamlessly bridges the time period between the '90s and current day, introducing new elements such as all-encompassing sound and bringing back classic 3EB elements like stripped-down instrumentation. Jenkins also notes the influence of shoegaze and “retro '80s-y goth stuff” as inspiration for the textures found on Dopamine.
“There’s this post-patriarchal, feminist condition that is starting to take place in our culture, and it’s exciting and it’s isolating and it’s magnetic,” says Jenkins. “That’s where lines like ‘I aspire to your rockabilly heart’ [from the track ‘Dopamine’] come from.”
Third Eye Blind will tour well into the summer and is slated to play at festivals such as Bonnaroo. While Dopamine may be the final studio album, the band still plans on releasing new music. Jenkins mentioned the early summertime release of an EP with a digital release followed by vinyl later. “We’re going to continue to make music, just in a different cycle than the LP cycle,” he says. “We have a long way to go in terms of the music we want to make.”
Despite this impending release and a discography spanning across 18 years, Jenkins feels that the band is about more than just the music. Looking toward the future, Jenkins plans on continuing Third Eye Blind’s underlying purpose: connection.
"We have something within us that is worthy of connection with others—all of us do—and that distance can be bridged," he says. "Third Eye Blind is about connecting with other people, as well as yourself."
Third Eye Blind plays two sold-out shows at the Georgia Theatre Friday, Mar. 25 and Saturday, Mar. 26.