As Third Eye Blind prepares to launch its new album next month, singer Stephan Jenkins believes the title "Ursa Major," which is the constellation of the bear, perfectly describes the songs: "big as the sky, out of hibernation, shining in the night sky, hungry to feed and thrive!"
It also could describe the novel approach the group has taken to making its fourth album. The album's release is set for Aug. 18, and Mega Collider Records is the producer, with some help from fans.
"We pretty much worked it out in front of the audience while touring, and they definitely had some thoughts. We are close to our fans, and sometimes I feel like they are another member of the band," Jenkins says. Watch Third Eye Blind perform live in New York's Central Park Friday for "Good Morning America's" Summer Concert Series!
Third Eye Blind's fan base has exploded thanks to easy access from the downloading and swapping of music online as well as the waning but still powerful influence of the major recording industry labels.
But the band is hardly new to the music scene. The post-grunge alternative rock group got its start in the early 1990s in San Francisco, where Jenkins, one of the original members, came up with the name Third Eye Blind. "We're still trying to figure out what it means," he admits. In the meantime, the group with the enigmatic name released three albums Third Eye Blind (1997), Blue (1999) and Out of the Vein (2003).
During the group's lifetime, some of Third Eye Blind's members have come and gone. The band now consists of Jenkins and Tony Fredianelli, both on vocals and guitar, and drummer Brad Hargreaves. In 2006, bassist Arion Salazar left with an open invitation to return, though it is unclear when or if he will. Abe Millet, of Inviolet Row, has filled in for Salazar in concerts. "We miss Arion, and we love him dearly," Jenkins says.
Today, Jenkins says, the artist he would most want to share the stage with is the late Savva Mamontov. "Because I screwed up his name," he says, "that's the least I can do. The song would be "Monotov's Private Opera," of course."
Mamontov could have learned a lot from the way Third Eye Blind has taken advantage of the music industry's evolution in the digital age.
The group's new Web site www.thirdeyeblind.com is a good example. "We blog, they blog, they ask us questions, we answer, we meet -- it's incredible. We're trying to eliminate the disconnect between making music and getting music," Jenkins says.
While socializing on the Internet, the group also helps people find lasting relationships. Jenkins explains that at a recent show in San Diego, the band met a couple who first connected with each other via thirdeyeblind.com. "Love, that's what we're all about."
Third Eye Blind has a particular following among the 15- to 22-year-old set, and Jenkins muses over the reason. "They're bold ... and they're not afraid of change. Third Eye Blind has always been more racy and challenging, and kids connect to it."
For Jenkins, writing these songs is his way of gaining understanding of himself and the larger world. And he's experienced plenty of it. He raves about Kyoto, Japan, for its physical beauty, "beautiful people" and "great tofu," he says.