Photos by Jessica Lehrman
There aren’t many musicians I can say I’ve wanted to date for the majority of my life. Probably just two... Taylor Hanson and Stephan Jenkins. So when Noisey asked me to go on a date with Stephan, obviously I graciously accepted, or squealed with joy, same thing.
I was ten years old when Third Eye Blind’s debut record was released and became an obvious classic for any kid of the 90s. I remember getting my dad to drive me to Blockbuster (remember when they sold CDs?) to pick it up and then pay for it because I was ten and ten-year-olds don’t have any money (thanks, Dad!). I sat in my room with my boom box listening to “God of Wine” on repeat like any typical 10-year-old, wondering what Stephan was doing. In my adolescent world of pop music, Stephan was the first real rock guy that had entered my music sphere.
Almost 20 years and five albums later, 3EB’s never let me down, especially with their latest release, Dopamine, which is quickly climbing its way up my end-of-the-year list. I tried hard to come up with intelligent and inquisitive questions that would spark thoughtful and continuous conversation between us, but then I got distracted by my closet and spent a couple of hours deciding what to wear and running through different scenarios between us in my head. Could I see myself living in San Francisco? Sure, I like the West Coast. Would VICE let me start a new office there? Maybe. What kind of dog should we get? A Bernedoodle.
I chose a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that’s pretty dead during lunch in order to spare other patrons my impending fan-girling. I arrived a bit early to scope out the place and settled on a romantic spot in the backyard garden. There were flowers, a gargoyle statue, and no other souls in sight, the recipe for a magical first date.
I really went for it.
Noisey: So if this works out between us, are you going to move to Brooklyn, or will you not leave San Francisco?
Stephan Jenkins: I would totally move to Brooklyn, yeah.
You’ve lived in New York, right?
Yeah I did. I lived here briefly. I liked it.
But you love San Francisco?
I like Brooklyn more now. I like to be in Brooklyn. It’s kind of bizarre. I feel happier on the streets here.
So you live in San Francisco. I’ve never been to San Francisco.
When I was a little kid, we would go up to Oakville. My step-grandmother had a house up there and the corner store would sell… like, you could go down there and buy like a car battery and Mr. Pibb, that’s what they had in the store.
It’s a totally different place but the weather’s nice. It’s always in a state of flux. Someone’s either getting accommodated or getting shoved out. But never more than right now, it’s intense what’s happening to it. I just got a house in the mission in San Francisco. I like it a lot. I’m at the ocean in about 12 minutes. It’s like a nice drive and I can surf.
Have you ever been on a really terrible date? And if you need to wait until after this to answer the question, I’m going to be really upset.
I think you usually know how you feel. You have your basic impulse about somebody in about somewhere between three and 30 seconds. I can’t really think of any. I don’t really date. It seems like a terrible idea.
So you put your last two records out on your own label?
I’ve done that for a really long time.
How involved you are?
We’re an entirely DIY operation. I am my label.
You must be so busy when you’re putting out a record then because you’re on both sides of everything.
I am. I have a partner. Her name is Missi and she’s the best person I’ve ever met in the music industry. There’s nothing that happens that she’s not involved in.
So you don’t have any other artists on the label besides yourself?
I produce an artist named Spencer Barnett and he put out this little EP last year called 13 Summers In, because it was his 13th summer. He’s 13 years old and he just sounds like something beyond.
Do you think you’ll expand the label at all?
I don’t know. I’m kind of looking for another way to put out music. I want to stop thinking about it so much. I just want to, when I have a song—and I have lots of songs—I just want to take it and put it out, gift to the universe. So we have an EP now and it’s more like a rock EP.
Do you like it this way or do you miss being on a major label?
Oh no, I don’t miss being on a major label at all.
Would you ever go back?
No. I don’t see the point. It seems a bit silly to bitch when you’re on a major label and you sell eight million records. But we’d put this stuff, I would come up with an idea for a video or have a song that I would write and they would say no, you can’t do that. You can’t have that video. So they would go back in and they would change things without my knowledge and they sort of pushed the band into this kind of marketing and packaging and branding that we didn’t recognize. We hated that. So we saw ourselves one way. They saw us as part of the quarterly income stream. And it took a long time for all of that hype and marketing to wear off and then actually have the songs emerge.
I saw you a couple months ago at Jones Beach.
You did? Thanks for coming!
I’m a fan! Do you think I’m lying?
No, I just think there are different levels of being a fan. So to hike it out to Jones Beach, which is a way’s away—by the way, that’s one of my favorite venues. I had my surfboard on tour and one of the guys, you can kind of tell by people’s bodies if they’re a surfer and one of the runners was a surfer and I was like you are going to take me surfing right now. So we drove out from Jones Beach and went out in the afternoon, and it was really bad surf, just kind of windy and blown out. But we paddled out and then drove back and I saw the place and just when you get the salt and rejuvenation of the ocean, it just gets me all lifted up.
We had bigger shows on the tour but that was the first one with over 10,000 people. The thing is, we didn’t want to do that show either. We did outdoor at Asbury Park and that sold out. Then we did Pier 97 and that sold out and they said great let’s add another show and I said let’s not do another show because I can’t really imagine. I didn’t want to do a show and not have anyone come. So I didn’t know what was going to happen. And then that one just packed out. I was so grateful.
I thought you would notice me but I was in the back, so it’s fine.
Yeah but did you get the sense I was looking at you?
Because that’s a thing that’s really important to me. I never drink before shows because part of the idea is to be as sober—the transcendent moment is—we’re so in this moment right now. You and me are in this moment right now. So I don’t glaze over. I’m looking at you, you, you. I try to make it direct.
How much practice and preparation do you put in? That was a pretty long tour.
Such a long tour. It was so long and I was so energetically spent after the tour that I couldn’t really believe it. It was three months.
You don’t really stop when you’re on stage, and you did that how many times?
Forty-nine times. And that’s what I love about being in this band. It makes me happy that you went to the show. Like, you went to the show before there was any idea of this.
I thought Dashboard Confessional was a fitting opener. Do you have input in who tours with you?
So you chose them?
It was mutual. Chris [Carrabba] is a great guy, I like him a lot.
Do you have any good stories from that tour?
We have this bonfire, this shitty little Costco fire pit with a couple of those chemical logs. It could be worse. So basically we put out rugs and a fire pit and would do that every night.
There was this one moment at the Jones Beach show where you took off your long sleeve shirt and you had a tank top on and literally every single person in the theater screamed with joy, including me, I’m sorry. But does that kind of thing weird you out or are you just used to it?
Does it weird me out to be objectified? Yeah, it really bends me out of shape. [Laughs]
Even though I was participating, I was thinking this is weird.
I think that this is going to be a complicated answer. It gets way too heady. First of all, I think that rock music at its best has this immediate… like, the riffs are sexual and it should push you into some kind of erotic space of aliveness. That’s what transcendence is. It’s like, I’m moving outside of a signified space. That moment where everyone comes up out of themselves and gets going.
Another thing that I noticed, I don’t think I knew that you were so fashion forward. But that leather skirt, it looked good.
Thanks, I’ve been asked about it. It’s kind of like a gothic girl’s field hockey kilt. Somebody said, “Why do you wear that thing?” I said “because I fucking can.” It’s easier to get around than tight jeans, don’t you know. Being on stage is kind of like, I’ve never been in a field hockey game, but I’m sure there are some analogies in there. I do like fashion although I think it’s ridiculous.
I’m not super looped in with that world. Did you go to any of the Fashion Week events?
No, they’re all taking it seriously. If you see anybody who is comfortable in their body, especially if their body isn’t perfect, but they own it, they look fucking great.
Confidence is the best accessory.
It really is. Rick Owens says a healthy body is couture. Which I thought was an odd thing to say, but then I thought about it. So couture is a one-of-a-kind, handcrafted piece meant as luxury, if that’s a definition of couture, then a healthy body is. I kind of get it. Too expensive, but it’s great.
You once ranked your records for Noisey. Do you know where you would put Dopamine? Is it your favorite record?
I really like it. Maybe, could be. I just don’t think of them that way. That was the parameter of the thingy, but I only did that cause they said that’s the game we’re playing. So I said OK I’ll play the game. But I don’t rank them at all. I don’t listen to them. I don’t know any musicians who listen to their music or watch their performances.
I was at the iHeartRadio festival the other night and his dressing room was next to mine.
Did you meet him?
We’ve met a couple of times.
How was it?
I love him. Totally get along. No ones ever bored when Kanye’s around. He was playing his new record. I had a dressing room with my name on it and I was like hell yes! Kanye had a dressing room and a nightclub and in it he was just playing his new record.
What are you listening to currently? Are you up to speed on new music?
I’ve been listening to a lot of DJ stuff because it’s a different environment and then when I listen to that, it’s like this palate cleanser for me because then I get reenergized about going back and making guitar rock. And that’s kind of what Third Eye Blind is. We’re a guitar rock band. I like that we don’t have any backing tracks, we have no pitch correction. Most bands play and they have like, sven computers behind them, so they’re really just playing along to prerecorded stuff. We don’t have any of that. So everyone is like, you can live or die in this moment. You can fly or fuck this whole thing up. Now what are you gonna do? I love that sense of things.
What mindset were you in going into record Dopamine?
I wanted to make a two-sided vinyl LP where you drop a needle, put it on, and you listen to it, flip to side B, pull out the lyric sheet, and you look at the lyrics and art and you go, “I want to listen to it again.” I wanted it to have that giant analog, it was really my intent in the beginning—this was going to be my ode to the LP, that’s what I wanted. That was my mindset.
Are there any other mainstream pop acts you’d want to collaborate with?
I’d like to work with Diplo. Who wouldn’t? I think that would be really fun to do something with him. What’s more mainstream than Kanye? That would be really fun. I love Tove Lo. I’d love to be like on a Bon Iver record. I love the stuff that they do. I love all of that vocal stacking. He’s not really mainstream?
What is your biggest pet peeve? You’re my date. I have to ask questions I would ask to a date.
That’s such a date question. My pet peeve? When people block the box. I think it’s so rude. I just hate it. It just seems like that’s everything that’s wrong, right there.
OK last question. Where do you see yourself five to ten years? Besides us living in Williamsburg.
Making indie rock with that hip-hop flare. Somewhere in an inspiring urban center near a beach. Wherever that might be.
Kerry DarConte is on Twitter, grinning - @kerryjd
All photos by Jessica Lehrman. Follow her on Instagram - @jessierocks