Third Eye Blind Singer Calls Upcoming Sophomore Album 'Earthy, Haunted'

Stephan Jenkins, working with bandmates on still-untitled effort in San Francisco studio, previews several new power-pop tunes.

SAN FRANCISCO — Third Eye Blind singer Stephan Jenkins

couldn't help but play along to the songs from his band's upcoming

sophomore album as they boomed from the recording studio speakers

Wednesday.

Leaning forward on an office chair, Jenkins — wearing gym shoes,

cargo pants and a gray T-shirt with the word "evolve" written in

English under Chinese characters — un-self-consciously played

air guitar and drums to punctuate the driving pop songs the quartet

recorded for the effort, tentatively due Nov. 23.

"This is where we play, literally, as in the way kids play," Jenkins

said, pointing to a darkened studio littered with guitars and a

massive poster of a 1940s San Francisco exotic dancer named Patti

Waggin. The band has been recording the album's 13 songs at the studio

on and off for the past five months, he said.

The 5-foot-tall cheesecake image of a voluptuous stripper bent over at

the waist was positioned directly in front of the space where Jenkins

tracked his vocals for the album. "She's my inspiration," he said with

a mischievous grin. "She's saying, 'You can have my ass, but not my

mind.' "

The six songs Jenkins previewed from the still-untitled album, the

follow-up to the San Francisco group's eponymous, multiplatinum 1997

debut, brimmed with his signature evocative lyrics — as well as a

more intricate evolution of the band's hard-driving pop-rock sound.

The debut spawned a number of radio hits, including "Graduate"

(RealAudio excerpt)

and the breakthrough track "Semi-Charmed Life"

(RealAudio excerpt).

"I definitely think [the new album is] a bigger, wider-open record,"

Jenkins said. "It takes a bigger step. This record as a totality is earthy

and haunted, and those two adjectives sort of pervade all the tracks"

(RealAudio excerpt of interview).

Owing to the explosive '70s-rock riffs on new songs such as "Wounded"

and "Never Let You Go," Jenkins and bassist Arion Salazar said the

group has labeled the new sound "chopper rock."

"Imagine making a David Crosby kind of handlebar walrus mustache with

your fingers, and putting your hands in the position to ride a

motorcycle and you'll get what we mean," Salazar, 29, joked from the

studio Thursday.

Jenkins said most of the tracks on the self-produced album are collaborative efforts by the band's four members, the exception being "Slow Motion," a rock ballad Jenkins played on a Fender Telecaster guitar backed only by an organ riff.

"Miss Jones taught me English/ But I think I just shot her son/ 'Cause

he owed me money/ With a bullet in the chest you cannot run/ Now he's

bleeding in a vacant lot," Jenkins sings.

He said the lyrics to "Slow Motion," which also include lines about a

woman overdosing from cocaine cut with Drano, are meant as a protest

Hollywood's glamorization of violence.

"Arion and I wrote two songs together, and I think it's definitely a

new dawn in terms of his participation," Jenkins said. Elsewhere on

the album, on songs such as the midtempo acoustic ballad "Deep Inside

of You" and the dub-reggae-style "Darwin," (also known as "Is God a

DJ"), the whole band is involved in creating sounds new to the group's

style.

Although Jenkins said the group didn't use any drum machines on the

album, drummer Brad Hargreaves played what sounded like looped techno

jungle beats on "Wounded," a dark, true-life story of a friend

recovering from a sexual assault.

"And you used to speak so easily/ And you're afraid to talk to me,"

Jenkins sings in the driving rock song. "It's like walking with the

wounded," he concludes, as a swell of orchestral strings rise up after

the chorus, and a barrage of '70s rock guitar chords break out behind

them.

Jenkins said the group — which also includes guitarist Kevin

Cadogan — has come up with several tongue-in-cheek potential

titles so far, including Ultraviolet Guardians of the Chopper

Universe and, once again, Third Eye Blind.

The band had written more than 30 songs for the effort, with 17

tracked so far, Jenkins said. The other song the singer previewed was

the two-minute power-pop tune "I'll Give You Anything." It's a bouncy,

new wave-style rock song about betrayal and loss. "You say that I

changed," Jenkins sang over chopper-rock guitars, "Well,

maybe I did/ Even if I changed, what's wrong with it?"

Also expected for the album are "Red Summer Sun," "Camouflage" and

the emotional song "Ten Days Late," which features members of a local

Catholic school boys choir singing backup.

"They were the honest-to-goodness, cream-of-the-crop best," Salazar

said of the seven budding rock stars. "And this one guy, Albert, has a

solo, and he's a [famed opera tenor Luciano] Pavarotti in waiting.

We've introduced them to the seedy world of showbiz."