Third Eye Blind Summer Gods tour | Stephan Jenkins interview

Third Eye Blind are announcing the Summer Gods: 25 Years In The Blind tour. Alternative Press is giving you an exclusive first look.

During the U.S. run, the band will be joined by Taking Back Sunday and Hockey Dad. Summer Gods is a celebration of 25 years for Third Eye Blind. The tour is also a testament to the band’s evolution and ability to speak to current issues. A portion of the proceeds from each ticket will benefit SeaTrees, an organization working to preserve kelp reefs off the coast of California.

Among the artists, enthusiasm for the tour is high. Taking Back Sunday’s John Nolan detailed the personal significance of the run.

“In the early days of Taking Back Sunday, Adam and I used to drive around in his old Honda listening to Third Eye Blind’s second album, Blue; windows down, smoking cigarettes and singing along,” Nolan says.  “If someone had told us back then that one day we’d tour together, it would’ve blown our minds. We’re so excited to be out with Third Eye Blind this summer, singing our songs and singing along with theirs.”

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Ahead of the announcement, Alternative Press connected with Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins. During the conversation, Jenkins spoke at length about the tour. He detailed his ambitious vision for the run. Jenkins says he pushed himself as an artist at every stage of the way, from carefully thinking over what songs to play and pondering the set design to reflecting on the overall experience they create and hitting the gym to guarantee he would be able to keep up with the band’s massive setlists.

On a more fundamental level, Jenkins spoke about the ways in which he’s continued to evolve as an artist and the reasons he’s sharing his expansive artistic vision with the world. He touched on the band’s new album Our Bande Apart and the reasons he’s in awe when he looks out at the diverse crowds who show up in droves to support the band.

Jenkins also explained the fundamental link that connects all of the details, connecting his support for nature and the LGBTQIA+ community to the inclusive, transcendent atmosphere the band build in their concerts. Ultimately, Third Eye Blind are a band that remain excited by the potential of music to energize and enchant us, leading us toward something greater.

Any tour that happens these days is cause for excitement, but Summer Gods is also commemorating a major milestone for you.

I’ve never put so much thought in advance to a setlist. Also, I started paying deeper attention to the set design. This is the longest out I’ve got to think about a tour. I’m not a nostalgic person at all. I’m not in a ‘90s band. Some people might think that, but I don’t. I’m always trying to come to grips with what now is. But 25 years of an endeavor, it compels me to take stock of myself. We’re probably going to play for two hours.

This tour is also supporting the Palos Verdes Kelp Forest, an area called the Blind Reef that will help restore the kelp ecosystem by sequestering carbon off the California coast.

I’m glad you brought that up. It’s really fun and interesting for me to talk about. I am concerned with creating this concert experience, being in concert and people lifting up out of themselves and having a collective emotional experience. Part of that being a mission, if there’s some component of it, that goes beyond yourself. It’s the weirdest thing. It travels. People who have no idea that their drive to the concert and back home, the carbon that they put out, has been sequestered in a kelp bed off California so that this concert is not part of the problem. Even if they don’t know that they get it. They’ll feel it in their shoulders, and their shoulders will soften, and they will open up in some way. That might sound hippie-dippy or something, but I’ve seen it.

What led you to kelp reefs in particular?

Michael Stewart is a surfer, and he’s just such a lovely person. He’s the head of this group called SeaTrees. They’re working to save kelp reefs off the California coast. They get 200 feet. They grow up and surf perch and otters, and a whole ecosystem comes rolling up around them. Part of that are filter feeders like sea urchins. The sea urchins, when the reef is healthy, just sit there, and the detritus that comes running through the reef, they pick it up, and they eat it. When the reef gets messed with, the kelp goes away. They’re not getting enough detritus, so they have to move. And when they move, they eat.  They will desertify an entire space, so it kills everything.

I was a budding marine biologist in college, and I actually worked on kelp reefs when I was 18 trying to figure out the ecology of kelp reefs. I reached out to Michael and said, “I like the idea of bringing these passions together.” In this tour, you can actually see it being built. They named a little piece of the reef The Blind Reef. Every ticket, you can see it beginning to fill in this reef and protect it. Then people are going to be able to buy a little square foot of space, and that’s their space reef. When the tour’s over and everything else, reefs change, and somebody can rename it into something else. This is something that I’ve been doing since I was a kid, and I get to come back and support. It makes our tour carbon neutral because the kelp reef, it sequesters 40% more carbon than a redwood tree. The touring industry, we have to take that, combine it with another industry and go, “Let’s bring these things together in a way that makes our industries climate sustainable.”

It’s interesting you mentioned nostalgia before. I feel like we’re in a moment where the past is really present. A lot of younger artists are looking back to an earlier generation of artists. And artists like Third Eye Blind are showing how they’ve evolved while also carrying something of the past with them. There probably is a degree of nostalgia around, but it actually feels like something fresh is happening because of the meeting of those generations in unique ways.

I agree with you entirely. The fact that I’m talking to Alternative Press or Pitchfork, it says something about the audience. That audience renews itself. It is young people who find themselves engaging this music in the present tense, and that is the real gift. People bitch about streaming a lot, and I’m certainly one of them. I think that Daniel Ek [Spotify CEO] should be paying artists more than .003 cents per spin. However, it’s incredibly valuable that 17-, 22-year-olds, 25-year-olds can share something. They’re listening to a song like “Wounded” from my second album, and it is informing their now. It’s bringing some kind of scope to now. It’s not bringing back memories. We certainly have people who’ve been with us from the beginning who are carrying all kinds of things with them. I love it that people keep my music alive. I actually get to live in some kind of sweet spot.

I’m sure that could potentially be challenging as an artist because suddenly, you’re thinking of your audience in different ways. You have a multigenerational fanbase, which I could see making you think differently about what you’re doing. Or maybe that isn’t something you think about very much.

I’m really applying myself to it right now — it feels like for the first time. It’s actually more something that I notice. There’s a time in your life where you are seeking identity and redefining your relationships that I speak to for some reason. I don’t really know why. Now that I think about it, the real answer to your question is: I don’t think about it. What happens to me is I go out onstage, and I see all these people, and I don’t take it for granted. I’m so consistently blown away. I’ll go out there, and I’ll just go, “Look at you. You just spent 70 bucks on this.”

I always feel humbled by it, and I feel comprehended. I feel embraced. But I don’t go, “I understand you. You’re this demographic that I’m plugging in.” It’s much more authentic than that. I’m saying something that’s true to me. That ignites some state of vibrancy. Then, people engage it, and we are in some authentic exchange. I’m like, “There you are.” I think it’s a bad thing for any artist to try to play to their audience for God’s sake. That sounds like death to me.

I do imagine many artists might be intimidated to follow you down that road. There’s probably commercial pressure to stick to what works. But you seem to have really pushed yourself and evolved over time. And Our Bande Apart really stands out for that reason.

You’re talking about pressures. I think Our Bande Apart for me is my favorite record. Part of it is that I was sitting in the lockdown and working. No, I wasn’t working. I was doing fuck all. I was waking up in the morning and checking my phone. Luckily, I live on a beach, so I could go out and get a surf in and then come back and check my phone. And that’s about all we have time for in the day. That wasn’t good. I at some point just forced the inertia to start to work. Everything that I had been doing before, it just didn’t seem like it applied.

We had actually written a whole album that we were going to workshop on tour. I talked to my manager, and I said, “The music that I’m writing right now, it’s not Third Eye Blind.” She said, “If you’re singing, it’s Third Eye Blind, first of all. Secondly, that’s not a healthy question to be asking. Just write a record. You get to write it and record it and put it out, and you don’t need to ask any of these questions of yourself.” It was the least self-reflexive record I’ve done in a really long time. I really love that because I just went, “I don’t care if it’s on the radio. I don’t care if somebody puts it in their movie or anything else at all. I’m just writing these songs.”

I went down and I workshopped them with the band. I wrote songs, co-wrote songs with Colin [Creev], my keyboard player and guitarist, and then we went and recorded them together in a room. There’s no stepping it in or micro-checking the tapes and such. There’s just this sense of recording. There’s just, “Here’s what now is for me in this band, and this empathy that we have for each other in this moment.”

The record is interesting because it feels very personal to me, also sophisticated while also being accessible. It’s interesting hearing you say that it felt spontaneous and direct. I don’t want to say planned because I’m not at all talking about what you did to make it, but it feels unified in a way that stood out to me.

I think in part it was because of really not considering at all where we’ll fit or does it punch or not punch or anything like that at all. Also, the songs were all written right in one in one time. Except for the one cover [Califone’s “Funeral Singers”], which to me was the song of the pandemic. I couldn’t believe it was written for something other than the pandemic, which was [the album] All My Friends Are Funeral Singers.

One thing I also wanted to mention related to your social engagement is your nail polish line. You’ve used it to support the LGBTQIA+ community.

Third Eye Blind has always been queer-friendly. The song “Jumper” is a noir about this kid who jumped off the bridge in Cardiff because he was gay, being bullied in a navy town. For me, coming up in San Francisco, even though I’m always been not part of queer culture, it’s still the sense of the bravery of expression and saying, “I’m going to own my space, and I’m going to celebrate my space.” That influenced our band in a positive way. That’s why we took LIFEbeat out on tour way back in the day. We got shit about it in the south.  When this bathroom ban thing went on and Pearl Jam canceled their show in South Carolina, I called a friend. She’s a lesbian activist in South Carolina. I said, “What should we do? Should we cancel the show?” She goes, “Oh no, just come and make it a benefit. We got lots of trans kids to come out and introduce you.” It is something that’s been part of our DNA from the beginning, and it’s always been something that makes us more.

Your passion is really radiant. You seem to have a lot of positive energy for the world. Or, at least, for music.

I’m definitely excited about music.  When you were growing up, it’s like, “I like the Clash, and if you don’t like the Clash, I don’t like you.” Gen Z doesn’t seem as interested in that anymore. It doesn’t seem very appealing. I go to a skate park, and I’m so fascinated with the sociology of it. There is not one predominant race. You can’t tell the economic backgrounds of the kids there because everybody dresses in their own kind of skate vibe. It doesn’t have signifiers. There’s some supreme shit, but it’s not it’s not class and wealth status signifiers that are the predominant thing. They are straight, gay and trans, boys and girls. They are Latinx, white, asians, Black kids. And it’s all in this massive chaos, and everybody’s finding some kind of different thing, and they’re vibing off each other. There are no rules, no gatekeepers. There are no laws. And everybody is listening to some kind of music.

I take real inspiration from that, and it wakes me up to enormous possibilities. But the point is is that it wakes me up. The reason why I had a little bit of trepidation answering your question is you have to wake up to these moments that we’re in. I heard some guy, some moralizer creepy guy, I think he was talking on Joe Rogan or something. It’s like, “Let’s take it easy on men. All this worry about climate change.” No, it’s actually your task. This is what you take on in this in this moment and do so with glee.

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Music becomes this thing that really ignites you, and it’s not just an escape. When I play a concert, there are no politics. I have less and less interest in them, and I think they’re less valuable. When you bring people together, they can find this state of decency and excitement. When you add music to that, then what happens is you start to feel things and you begin to feel them collectively. This lets you know in this way that nothing else can that you are not alone. My concerts become a safe space for all kinds of different people in all kinds of different ages to feel a sense of belonging and joy.

That’s the art of the concert that I’m trying to cook up. Most people never know that we’re doing a climate initiative. They don’t need to know. I’m not wagging my finger going, “You’re not doing enough.” I don’t give a shit about that at all. What I care about is to see it on your face. When something in you lift and you feel, you transcend and you come up out of yourself. I just get excited talking about it. I’m going to knock the fucking bottom out of this tour. It’s going to be beautiful. I just want to be obliterated in it. I got some kale over there, and I’m going to the gym later. I’m training for it. Everything it takes for me to go out and really be utterly present and have each moment of the song alive. We’ll stay hydrated because we’re probably going to play longer than we ever have.

Third Eye Blind – Summer Gods: 25 Years in the Blind tour dates

with Taking Back Sunday & Hockey Dad

06/22  – Troutdale, OR @ Edgefield
06/23  – Auburn, WA @ White River Amphitheater
06/24 – Bonner, MT @ KettleHouse Amphitheater
06/
25  – Sandy, UT @ Sandy Amphitheater
06/27 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheater
06/29 – Council Bluffs, IA  @ Stir Concert Cove
06/30 – Kansas City, MO @ Starlight Theatre
07/01 – Prior Lake, MN @ Mystic Amphitheater
07/06 – Newport, KY @ OVATION
07/07 – Indianapolis, IN @ TCU Amphitheater at White River State Park
07/08 – Chicago, IL @ Huntington Bank Pavilion
07/09 – Sterling Heights, MI @ Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre
07/12 – Columbus, OH @ KEMBA Live!  Outdoor Amphitheater
07/13 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
07/15 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Mann Center

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07/16 – Mansfield, MA @ XFINITY Center
07/17 – Wantagh, NY @ Jones Beach Theater
07/21 – Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun Arena
07/22 – Holmdel, NJ @ PNC Bank Arts Center
07/23 – Columbia, MD @ Merriweather Post Pavilion
07/26 – Atlanta, GA @ Cadence Bank Amphitheatre
07/27 – Franklin, TN @ FirstBank Amphitheater
07/29 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
07/30 – Del Valle, TX @ Germania Insurance Amphitheater
07/31 – Irving, TX @ The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory
08/01 – Oklahoma City, OK @ The Zoo Amphitheatre
08/04 – Phoenix, AZ @ Arizona Federal Theatre
08/05 – Inglewood, CA @ YouTube Theater
08/11 – San Diego, CA @ Cal Coast Credit Union Amphitheater
08/12 – Las Vegas, NV @ Virgin Hotels Las Vegas
08/13 – Irvine, CA @ FivePoint Amphitheatre