July 16, 2009 -- 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.
Despite his busy schedule, Jenkins makes time for giving back. For instance, the group took time off in 2001 to play at charity events. One was the concert Breathe, aimed at raising awareness about breast cancer, a health issue that hit close to home for Jenkins.
"When my mom battled breast cancer, it was an eye-opening experience for me. Breast cancer isn't just about women. It's about husbands, brothers and sons -- breast cancer affects everyone. ..."
Now, he says, he's hard at work on a new nonprofit initiative, "True Meaning," a store that works to end poverty. He promises more details about it soon.
While Jenkins prepares for his next venture, he can envision more changes ahead for the music industry. "Technology whittles away, becomes dated, and is a reduction process. Even the MP3 may not exist in a few years. Perhaps we will have chips in our arms and communicate with artists that way. The only thing that will be here is music -- it's not going away," he says.
Aside from music, Jenkins opens up about an unusual talent he has perfected: "Peeling oranges. I've bragged about this before, and I'll brag about it again."