WITHIN 12 WEEKS after Third Eye Blind's debut record hit the streets, the band found itself playing to more than 300,000 people at the Blockbuster RockFest show in Texas. That kind of coup can be seen as a hit-song driven phenomenon. But what isn't apparent is that once fans get to a 3EB show, many of them know the words to all of the songs on the album. That kind of fan dedication reveals that there's more to this San Francisco band than its infectious single, "Semi-Charmed Life."
Singer/songwriter Stephen Jenkins told POLLSTAR it really warms the band members' hearts to get that kind of fan response. He said, "What's really effusive to us is that people are coming out, [and] they're connecting with the music. They show up to shows for a group that's had a record out for 11 weeks and they know all the words. That just completely humbles me.... I've never known that experience."
Jenkins said at some shows, fans get upset if the band doesn't play all the songs on its self-titled Elektra debut. The fact that 3EB fans are very familiar with the record puts a new twist in the performance for band members Jenkins, bassist Arion Salazar, drummer Brad Hargreaves and guitarist Kevin Cadogan. "Everybody in the band is used to bucking up, and we go out with the intention of winning an audience," he said. "Even when we're headlining and the audience has paid to see us, we've always had the mentality of, 'Alright, we're going to introduce them to our music and we're going to win this crowd over by bringing these songs to life.'" Jenkins said when fans start singing along to album cuts, it changes that approach. "We've already won them and that really intimidated me the first time because ... you've won them over and they're here to be taken to another level. Wow, it's freaky. We're just not used to that early on in our careers."
The quick success can be attributed to facts like 3EB's "Semi- Charmed Life" was one of the fasted added singles in alternative radio history, and 3EB's publishing deal was one of the biggest ever for an act that didn't already have a record out. Another sign of imminent success is that earlier in the year, the band was booked to open for James but when that band had to pull off the tour for medical reasons, 3EB successfully took over the headlining spot. Today, the foursome is headlining large clubs.
Looking at the big picture, it seems the band is not facing difficulty when it comes to entering the heart of the music business. But Jenkins doesn't see 3EB's success as a product of the industry's interest. He sees it more as a response to the fans' interest. "I'm not sure that aspect of it has to do with the industry. What concert promoters know is there's no way they can get people to buy tickets to shows they don't want to see. You can't really create interest by going, 'FABULOUS SHOW!' You just can't do it."
A group can create interest with a hit single but to sustain a career, it has to have more to its cache. But "Semi-Charmed Life," with its catchy lyrics and infectious hooks, has definitely opened the door. One of the most common observations about the song is that its sound is quite light and poppy but the lyrics, which are about the bad effects of speed on personal relationships, are heavy. When asked about that apparent conflict, Jenkins said, "'Semi-Charmed Life' is not a contradiction. There's sort of a bright sheen to the music and there's a point to that in that, that's what speed is like. It has this very bright sheen to it and ultimately, it's just very brittle and pulls you down."
That push and pull aspect of the insidious drug crystal meth (or crystal myth as Jenkins refers to it) can be seen in 3EB's performance style. Jenkins admires the drive and stage presence of bands like No Doubt but also acknowledges the subtly of bands like the Wallflowers. "Gwen Stefani runs a clinic on rocking a crowd - forget it," Jenkins said. "[And Jakob Dylan] literally stands there the whole show and manages to be cool."
Jenkins has had a lot of opportunity this summer to observe his peers and he watches very carefully. "There's a whole lot that's bad," he said. "There's just a litany of banality in music, but there always has been.... And then there's stuff that's really good." Blur's Damon Albarn has the cool, loose body language and the Foo Fighters rock thoroughly, he said. Like the Foo Fighters, Jenkins said his band mates are very tight musically. "The three guys in this band can really play their asses off," he said. "They're really very much on another level. There's this whole mood - sort of, 'Let's democratize the forum of rock music by playing badly;' They've never subscribed to that."
In addition to rocking - hard - 3EB has a topnotch business team in its corner. Band manger Eric Godtland graduated from Stanford University with a master's degree when he was only 23 years old. By the time he was 25, Godtland was a partner in a big financial firm. Jenkins said, "He was dealing with numbers that were much higher than what are dealt with in the music industry." Despite that kind of background, Godtland was treated like some kid off the street, Jenkins said. "It's so funny because there are these forces at work in the record industry when someone new comes along. What people basically try and do is punk them. They try and take advantage of his [in]experience and Eric's just really not of that ilk." Now, with the success of 3EB, "everybody thinks Eric Godtland is a genius," Jenkins said.
Godtland and Jenkins were essentially responsible for building 3EB and its team. But Jenkins pays kudos to many others involved in the project. Jenkins said 3EB's agent, Mitch Rose at CAA, got involved early on and is really committed to the band. And Elektra chairman Sylvia Rhone was critical to the band's development. She was the first one at the label to hear the 3EB demos and remains one of the band's biggest champions. That kind of commitment from a label head echoes throughout the entire company, Jenkins said.