INTERVIEW: Third Eye Blind
On the heels of a new EP, the 90s hitmakers play Tulsa
In October, Third Eye Blind released the seven-song EP We Are Drugs as a follow-up to last year’s Dopamine, the band’s fifth studio album. Yes, the perennial pop-rockers have continued to write and record albums in the 20 years since their earth-shattering debut dominated radios around the world, albeit with extensive line-up changes (frontman Stephan Jenkins and drummer Brad Hargreaves are the only remaining original members) and controversies along the way. The band will play a sold-out show tonight with Phantogram (read our interview here) at Cain’s Ballroom as part of the Edge’s Christmas concert.
While deflecting Nerf bullets from his bandmates and awaiting a soundcheck, Dublin-based guitarist Kryz Reid took a few minutes to talk to me about the band, the tour and the new record.
THE TULSA VOICE: How’s life and where are you at the moment?
KRYZ REID: Doing great, thank you. [Today] we’re in Charlotte, North Carolina. We play tonight at the Fillmore. This is the second show of the tour. Last night was the first in—umm, damn, I should know that, shouldn’t I? (laughs) Wilmington! Wilmington, North Carolina.
TTV: How’s it been so far?
KR: Good, good. Yeah, last night we came out and played a few tracks then basically played [the new record] from start to finish. Then we played a bunch of hits at the end, so, yeah, it’s cool. It’s really fun to play the whole EP from start to finish.
TTV: How long have you been with Third Eye Blind?
KR: Coming up on seven years in February. The first full-length I recorded was Dopamine, then Stephan and I recorded some stuff and did a sort of internet single we released, then We Are Drugs. Me and Stephan wrote and recorded a song for Japanese singer Chiaki Kuriyama, who is known in the west as Gogo Yubari from “Kill Bill.” We were on tour in Japan and the band who was supporting us, well, I was hanging out with the singer, I speak Japanese and he mentioned that Chiaki wanted him to write a song for her but he said he was too busy and didn't have enough time. I just said, well you tell her that I’ll do it. I’ll write her a song ‘cause I love her and, yeah, me and Stephan just demo’d it, sent it to her then recorded it properly. She put vocals on it and that went out on her album. So that was kind of the second official Third Eye thing that I wrote and played on and since then we wrote the other records together.
TTV: Have you enjoyed being with the band?
KR: Love it! We’re all just like a little family with our crew and everything. Brad, our drummer, is one of my best mates. I’ve known him for years—he’s how I got the gig, actually. He’s one of my favorite drummers in the world and I didn’t even really know who Third Eye Blind was at that point, but when he asked it was kind of a no brainer. So, yeah we all get along really, really well and it’s just like a little family. These are my brothers.
TTV: How is the new record different from former ones, if at all?
KR: People have said it sounds like earlier sounding Third Eye stuff. It came together rather quickly. It’s kind of a snapshot of the band today, I mean, when we recorded Dopamine and when I joined, it was a different band. We had a different bass player. We didn't have a keyboard player. Those things came in later. So, yeah, it's just more representative of who the band is today.
I really like the energy of it. I think it was John Lennon that said you should be able to write the song on Monday, record it Tuesday, mix it Wednesday and release it Friday. So, there was that kind of sense of urgency to it. I feel, anyway. We fucking love it. And it's fun to play it live.
TTV: You once said Stephan Jankins isn't afraid of being controversial and it appears that way with the single “Cop vs Phone Girl.” Is it important for artists to address these kinds of topics?
(editor’s note: the song recounts an incident of police brutality in 2015 during which a 16-year-old black female student was assaulted and choked out in class by a white male sheriff’s deputy for not putting her cell phone away)
KR: That’s a funny wormhole to go down, really. I think it’s the job of an artist to kind of bend the mirror and reflect back on society certain events, but more frequently now people don’t take that as someone’s views, they take it as being told what to think.
I guess it depends on who’s talking, ‘cause someone like Billy Corgan strays away from writing stuff about that, but in interviews he’s quite vocal about it.
I don't know, it’s kind of equal parts of people going “get back to the music, man” and then others saying “right on.”
TTV: Something I find respectable about Third Eye Blind is the “no backing tracks” policy and a kind of living-in-the-moment mentality during live shows. Some people argue backing tracks are industry standard right now. Care to comment on that?
KR: They aren’t industry standard but they are very, very common. We are the odd one out in that field but it just wouldn't work for us, really. A lot of bands use it to make their band’s sound bigger, and some overuse them. We really like The 1975 and they use them quite well.
Without naming any names, we did a tour and every other band was using them. It was a festival tour. Everyone would come and watch our set cause we would improvise and Stephan would talk to the crowd while we just jammed in the background, and I just thought it was mental that these [other bands] thought this was so unique. When you see these bands that are just tethered to the tracks—it just doesn't allow for any spontaneity on the stage.
I remember there was a guy in a band we saw, and he had some issue with his girlfriend. He’s the drummer, right, and he’s on stage and I guess she found some questionable texts on the bus and literally came on to the stage while the band was playing and started beating the crap out of him and he literally couldn’t stop playing because of the backing tracks. I mean, the band couldn’t improvise during that incident.
Not judging but there are some bands it works for and some that can’t play very well and just cheat. And again, it just doesn’t work for us.
TTV: What does Tulsa have to look forward to with this Third Eye Blind show?
KR: We’ll be well-oiled by the time we get to Tulsa. The set will be worked out as far as what works and what didn’t the previous nights. We’ll probably come out and play a few songs and “feed you your vegetables” as Stephan says, then play the EP. And then we’ll serve the dessert with the hits and, I don't know, maybe an encore with a sorbet.
For more from Ty, read his interview with Phantogram.