Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind on Austin, SXSW and 20 ‘Semi Charmed’ years

You have probably sung along to “Semi Charmed Life” at least 500 times since it came out. You also love “Jumper.” And “How’s It Going to Be.”

Take a deep breath before you process this information: This April will mark 20 years(!) since Third Eye Blind released its first self-titled album, which promptly rose to the top of the charts thanks to those hits and became your high school soundtrack.

On March 15, 2017, Third Eye Blind lead singer Stephan Jenkins met students from the Austin Independent School District on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a nonprofit mobile recording facility that provides hands-on experiences for students of all ages. Third Eye Blind will be subjects of the latest episode of “Perspective, ” the Lennon Bus’ student-produced short film series focusing on the career challenges of artists and professionals from all walks of life. RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

If you haven’t been keeping up, you might be surprised to know that the band continues to tour and put out successful albums. On Tuesday, we caught up with lead singer Stephan Jenkins at Orb Recording Studios in southwest Austin, where the band was belting out a mix of old and new songs in preparation for its summer tour and upcoming album. The band also met with students from the Austin Independent School District on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a nonprofit mobile recording facility that provides hands-on experiences for students of all ages.

Want to see Third Eye Blind? They’ve got two gigs in Austin on Thursday. Here’s what Jenkins had to say about his time in Austin:

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On March 15, 2017, Third Eye Blind lead singer Stephan Jenkins practiced with his band members at Orb Recording Studios in Austin, Texas. The band, which will perform at The Belmont during SXSW, also visited students from the Austin Independent School District on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a nonprofit mobile recording facility that provides hands-on experiences for students of all ages. RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

What ways have you seen Austin change over the years?

I’m all for growth in cities, I’m all for density. I just think you should make something beautiful. It bothers me when buildings go up, high-rises go up and there isn’t the requirement that you make something beautiful. Austin’s an amazing city. Cities change. You’re not going to keep things the same. I’m not into this whole thing of, “Oh, we have to keep it just the way it was.’ Cities are always in some state of movement. I’m just saying if it’s going to grow, I think it would be great if you could make it grow beautiful.

Do you think Austin is still an important music town? 

It’s a place where the freaks of their society go to freak freely. There’s so much creativity that happens out of it. There’s still an Austin music scene, it’s really small, but it’s so influential. It’s that kind of alt-country thing, that outlaw thing. The whole Waylon Jennings/Willie Nelson thing still has this influence.

What do you like about the Austin vibe? 

You can’t fake a pedigree, and Austin really is a music town. It’s a music town in a way different than Nashville. Nashville is a music town, too, but the guys here, they all really love music, it’s super clear, and that’s why they’re here. You know when you go to a restaurant and you can tell the chef’s into it, that it’s cooked with love? That’s how it feels here.

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On March 15, 2017, Third Eye Blind lead singer Stephan Jenkins met students from the Austin Independent School District on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a nonprofit mobile recording facility that provides hands-on experiences for students of all ages. Third Eye Blind will be subjects of the latest episode of “Perspective, ” the Lennon Bus’ student-produced short film series focusing on the career challenges of artists and professionals from all walks of life. RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

What are you working on while you’re in studio at Orb?

We’ve got a big tour coming up this summer, it’s called the Summer Gods tour. We’re going to play for about two hours and we’re going to play a bunch of stuff we haven’t played before. It’s also the 20th anniversary of our first record. We’ve never played that whole record. We’re really not a nostalgic band at all, but we’re going to play that whole record and we have to learn how to play it. Our fans are really into it, so we’ve got to play it well. And then we have a new record that we’re trying to write, so we’re sort of mixing developing this really kind of big show for the summer with making new music. Austin’s a great place to do it.

You’re here through Friday. What’s on your agenda? 

We wanted to see Deap Vally, Kate Nash, Samantha Ronson – she’s going to be opening for us this summer along with Silversun Pickups.

What do you like about SXSW? 

It’s the culture of the place. SXSW is more about music discovery than anything else. Every time we’ve played here we’ve gone and played new music. We’re not afraid of how that goes because when we play SXSW we feel like we’re just a young band gunning for the gig.

You’re also partnering here with the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, which helps students learn how to write, record and produce original songs, music videos, documentaries and live multi-camera video productions. Why did you want to do that? 

I like the democratization of the tools of creativity, and I like it where people find a way to get making things into the hands of people, which is basically what they’re trying to do.

IF YOU GO: You have two opportunities to catch Third Eye Blind on Thursday. They’ll play KGSR’s annual SXSW Live Broadcast at 9:30 a.m. at the W Austin. Admission is a $5 donation to Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas; no badge necessary. The band will also perform as part of SXSW at The Belmont at midnight on Thursday.


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