If you were a ’90s kid, odds are good you knew every word to Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life”—and can still belt them out to this day. Stephan Jenkins will sing that banger off the San Francisco rockers’ self-titled debut when the band hits the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion on June 21 during a tour celebrating the album’s 20th anniversary, which has them performing the album in its entirety at a handful of select stops. We caught up with Jenkins ahead of the show to discuss the record’s enduring influence and messing with Liam Gallagher.
Does it feel like it’s been 20 years? No, it doesn’t. I don’t really feel different. But I’m really more surprised that it’s become this enduring record.
Do the songs still resonate—do you still feel like the same person who wrote them? I feel closer to that person then I was when I was that person, actually. That is such a good quote! That is going to go in the magazine. [Laughs] I think that I was just very hard on myself and I felt like I was outside the scene, but the reality was, I was the scene. And the deeper reality is, there is no scene. There’s no such thing as a scene. There’s just you feeling a sense of wholeness. But I feel a lot more confidence about myself now, and part of the self-confidence comes from the fact that I feel comprehended by my audience, by the people who engage with my music.
It’s funny, I remember singing along to the album in my mom’s car as a kid and not picking up on any of the themes of sex, or drug abuse, or suicide… Well, shame on your mother. [Laughs]
True. So why do you think the album has had such staying power? I think … it speaks to a kind of fierce sense of identity, even when that identity is unclear. I think that there’s a fierce kind of feeling, even when that feeling is self-doubt, in that record. I think that we used, in part, rock music as a kind of a tool for giving shape and sound and rhythm to our own identities. That’s why my audience is so young, and they keep finding it and they keep that album new. It’s a current record for them; it’s not their memories.
That’s interesting. Your audience still tends to skew young? Most of the people I see in the front row, at least, seem to be like 17 to 27. If you go to festivals, oddly, like Phoenix’s crowd is a little older than ours. Maybe it’s because we’re catching kind of like a new rock thing, you know? Like people are burnt out on DJs and they want to hear guitars again.
If that’s true, I think it would be a welcome shift. Yeah, I think there is some energy in that. You know, Drake is the mainstream now. Like, that’s the mainstream of the mainstream. … But there’s also this desire now for, like, Mott the Hoople. That kind of [music] that’s not perfect, and it’s not created in a box.
You’re down a few original members. Does it feel odd to perform this album without them? No, no. I love the band I’m in. These guys have been with me for two years. And Third Eye Blind has always changed. But with these guys, we feel like a young band who’s gunning for the gig. I like that energy. And we have developed an empathy, musically, with each other on stage and we know that we can really rely on each other. And we get really super jacked before we go out. So no, I don’t miss a thing.
If you could see any full album that was significant to you performed live—by any artist alive or dead—what would it be? I’m thinking [TLC’s] Waterfalls. Like, Left Eye would come back. That would be good.
I read that before you were signed to a label you talked your way into opening for Oasis. Pretty ballsy. That is true. David Massey at Epic Records was responsible for Oasis in the States. He wanted to sign us and he was like, “When can I see you live?” And I said, “You can see us this Thursday in San Francisco, opening for Oasis.” By that time I had just had it with the whole record label thing. I was just so tired of these guys. He looked at me and then he called the tour manager and asked if they could put me on the bill. And that was when they were just at their absolute peak.
That was a gamble that paid off. It was. Because at that time we had been playing for like 60 people and were stoked for that. … And this was like 8,000 people. Before we went onstage, I went, “We’re going to bury this band. We are going to crush this band right now.”
And did you? Yeah, we did! We got an encore. And they kind of mailed that show in. And the papers the next day said something to the effect of “Oasis upstaged by unknown local band.” And we copied all these things and gave them to the record execs and were like, “Here you go.” We just wanted it more.
That must have really pissed off the Gallaghers. It was funny, because afterward—well, they didn’t hear it, there’s no listening to the opening band—but Liam went, “You’re shite, mate. You guys are shite.” And I said, “We just blew you out, dude!” He thought it was funny.