Not every band enjoyed the charm and allure of the 90’s. But, if you happened to write a song about the time you were at a Primus show and someone brought crystal meth, then things may have a certain appeal – or shall I say ‘charm’. That is until three weeks later, when all your friends are suffering from drug addiction, but at least you have a Top 5 single out of the experience. That single, “Semi-Charmed Life”, helped launched Third Eye Blind into the top of the 90’s music scene with their self-titled debut album. Peaking on Billboard’s Top 200 at #25, with their first single, followed by hits, “Jumper”, and “How’s It Going to Be”, Third Eye Blind was in fact living the charmed life.
Founded in 1993 by lead singer Stephan Jenkins, the alternative-grunge band hasn’t always lived the fairly-tale life that you would expect. Enduring the changing music scene from the 90’s and the varying line-up changes, the San Francisco based band still continues to put out fun and daring music. The band’s sixth studio album, Screamer, released in October 2019, with Jenkins on vocals, Kryz Reid (guitar), Alex LeCavalier (bass), Colin CreeV (keyboards/guitar), and founding drummer Brad Hargreaves sneer at their grunge past, and create a modern pop-rock compilation.
As a band that enjoyed the charmed life of the 90’s, Third Eye Blind knew that they had to change to stay relevant. Over the last twenty-five years, 3EB have moved away from the sound that most Gen-X’ers remember them best. Since 1997, vocalist Stephan Jenkins, and drummer Brad Hargreaves have evolved from an alternative 90’s band, into something that drummer Hargreaves sees as a natural progression for the band. “I think we have always tried to evolve as artists and musicians, and we have never attempted to recreate the previous album or go back and try to make something that worked in the past. Being an artist is about being on a journey and exploring. It’s about being inspired and seeking out new sounds and new beats and new ways to express yourself in your culture, and how you see yourself. Evolving. So, it’s a natural progression as artists.”
That natural progression of the band’s sound is something that the group had to do with a changing line-up over the years. Original guitarist Kevin Cadogan and bassist Arion Salazar left Third Eye Blind in the 90’s. Bringing on keyboardist Colin CreeV, and bassists Alex LeCavalier has revitalized the band’s creative process as well as their live shows, explains Hargreaves. “We had a turn-over with the musicians who played with us. But once we had settle on a line-up, it’s been really stable and it’s helpful. Especially when you have guys you can rely on, and can juice your creative flow. Alex is so easy to play with, he is just a monster, so melodic, and so musical. Colin is our newest member. He has introduced something that we have never really had, which is that high backing harmony. He sings perfectly in tune and it makes such a difference. When a guy can sing those song from our records, from our whole catalog, songs that Stephen would sing in the studio – that’s crazy. You can’t do that every night, but Colin can sing in those registers.” When asked about how that might change a live show, Hargreaves was emphatic about the band’s new musical choices. “Last tour we played a song called ‘Company’ from our third record (Out Of The Vein 2003). It has this really high harmony, and then another song called ‘Blinded’ from that record. There is a song that I want to bring back called ‘Sharp Knife’ (Ursa Major 2009), which [also] has a high chorus.”
Peaking at #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100, Screamer stays current with keyboards and guitar licks which create a modern Top 40ish feel, underlain with club-like bass lines and the electronic drums of Hargreaves. “I tend to gravitate to more of the modern sound and to me – it makes it more interesting. The palate of sounds has expanded, and now, if you are incorporating old vintage Roland 808 or 909 sound, the drum-machines that I grew up with; you can just put the sound on the pad. People find it interesting when you mix acoustic drum sounds with classic drum machine sounds. I think it’s a reflection of the way the [music] culture is now.”
Opening the door with their modern sound, allowed the band to welcome other artists and guest collaborators, in what lead singer Jenkins called: the album’s “musical consigliere” (advisor), that of Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins). Leading off the new release, and making a guest appearance on the title track, “Screamer”, Alexis Krauss (Sleigh Bells) helps lead the choruses with her alt-pop party grooves, blended perfectly with Jenkins lead locals. With a rougher and more natural sound, the mantra of “keep the edge, keep it weird”, is heard through-out the album.“Ways” is mixed with forward vocals and funky keyboards, kept together by a drumstick beat from Hargreaves. “That song was demoed with some programmed beats, then I got in there and added, and evolved what was going on. I just tried to just put a little flavor on it.”
That modern flavor on songs such as “The Kids Are Coming”, and “Take A Side” help carry 3EB into the current music scene. The days of getting hooked on crystal meth and living the “Semi-Charmed Life”, is clearly in the past for the Third Eye Blind crew, laughs Hargreaves. “We are in a really good spot right now, absolutely no shenanigans what-so-ever. [But] sometimes we order Uni (sea urchin) instead if salmon sushi [laughter].”