Stephan Jenkins – Vocals, guitar
Arion Salazar – Bass, vocals
Tony Fredianelli – Guitar, vocals
Brad Hargreaves - Drums
“This album is a beginning,” says Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins, of Out Of The Vein, the San Francisco quartet’s first new album in over three years. “There’s been enough of a break that it isn’t a continuation. We’ve spent some time soul-searching, getting back to the nitty gritty.” According to Stephan, the album sessions mark the start of a creative period that will generate several more releases, including an EP, a live album and an “unplugged” album. “I think we’ve opened a vein, so to speak, and we’re going to let it bleed.”
For a band that has always found inspiration in authenticity and a DIY ethic, getting back to that place was essential to recording the album the band knew it could make. One listen makes it clear they have achieved their goal. Out Of The Vein is a diverse and powerful statement of where the band is right now, thirteen songs full of energy, tension, contradiction and beauty – raw but lovely, lush but stripped. It retains the band’s rock songcraft, but it also captures the kind of jamming and improvising that happens when musicians become keenly tuned in to one another.
In the mid ‘90s, Third Eye Blind spent a couple of years coming together, falling apart and coming together again, sleeping on floors and playing on the barely-existent San Francisco club scene. But as soon as real opportunity presented itself – in the form of their self-titled 1997 debut album with Elektra – they took it, and took off. They scaled the charts with the album and its first single “Semi Charmed Life”; they then made clear their intention to stick around by reeling off four more undeniable rock anthems -- “Graduate,” “How’s It Going To Be,” “Losing A Whole Year” and "Jumper." The album sold six million copies, and remained on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart for well over a year. Their 1999 follow-up, Blue, approached double platinum on the strength of the Stones-inflected single “Never Let You Go” and a sold-out worldwide tour that lasted a year.
One might construe three years between albums to be evidence of slacking, but nothing could be further from the truth. “We’d make more albums if we didn’t like playing live so much,” declares Brad Hargreaves; Jenkins adds, “In a way, I envy hip hop producers like Missy Elliott, who can stay home and make more records. But they miss out on the intensity of the exchange with a live audience, which I would never give up. But it’s hectic and it’s crazy, and after two albums back to back I had to stop for a year to rebuild.”
Upon coming off the road, rebuild they did, literally, constructing their own studio, right down to a summer spent putting up brick and sheetrock. Once it was complete, the band set up its collection of vintage analog recording gear, vital for capturing their organic sound. “I want people to know that this album is homemade,” says Stephan. “Artists like Led Zep and Bob Marley set the sonic bar for music, for me. Our challenge is to make music for ‘now’ that maintains the purity of analog sound.”
In other areas, after his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Stephan organized the Breathe Benefit Concert in Los Angeles, which brought together a wide range of artists to raise money for breast cancer treatment and research.
Then it came time to hunker down and begin writing and recording their new album. “The first two albums were written during times when I didn’t feel scrutinized,” Stephan relates. “What matters to me are the unselfconscious creative impulses. It can be a struggle, because I second-guess myself, but eventually, I got to the point where I realize our songs serve a purpose for me, they put things into persepective for me. Only when they work for me do they become eligible to do it for someone else.”
Jenkins adds, “It certainly wasn’t writer’s block. If this was on vinyl, it would be a double album. After our hiatus, we wanted to give our audience a big dose. And it was still hard for us to decide what to keep on the album. So we hope to release more music from these sessions in a short time.”
Another part of “getting to the nitty gritty” involved simplifying the recording process, a task made easier by working in their new studio, with Stephan serving as producer. “On Blue, we succumbed to the studio maybe more than we should have,” Stephan explains. “The best performances are spontaneous rather than a recital. It took a while to trust that again, to realize that the first takes were often the best. It’s OK to paint quickly and make some mistakes. It gives a song and an album a sense of momentum. So even though it took us a while to do, much of it was done on the first take.”
Says co-producer and bassist Arion Salazar, “In hindsight we felt Blue was unrealized. So Stephan and I worked every fucking day, forever, to get these songs where we wanted them to be. I’m not whining – I’m happy to be able to do it – but it was grueling. It’s taken us in so many directions, and we’re so far removed from the starting point, that we can actually be objective. And now I think we have a great album. We’re proud of what we’ve done.”
Fans who pick up Out Of The Vein early will get to see how the band brought it all together on a bonus DVD mini-documentary of the making of the album, called Hiding Out, complete with laughs, fights, and other rock & roll hijinks. “We have no patience for things that add up to pretense,” Stephan says. ”You can see that there isn’t some big team that’s Third Eye Blind. It’s homemade. It’s just us, doing it ourselves.” The DVD also includes a song that exists nowhere else, “My Time In Exile,” that completes the cycle of the album, in that it is “an almost fond goodbye to a time that actually seemed bleak,” according to Stephan.
The album’s themes run a gamut of life in the present tense, from relationships when the talking stops, to jade-colored social observation, to the agoraphobia of traveling alone, to rediscovering the valuable things in life -- perhaps while flying to your death on a motorcycle. Out Of The Vein is about how rock music and narrative can put people, change and ourselves into perspective. Stephan’s lyrics, ambiguous by design, refuse to do the work of making judgements for his audience. Need, pain (often self-inflicted) and loneliness are met with wit and sardonic humor, and from this a joy emerges.
“’Out of the vein’ has conflicting meanings,” says Stephan. “It means ‘coming from the source,’ true and red, but it also means ‘outside of the source, outside the rhythm.’ It’s a line from ‘Good Man’: ‘Blood never forgets, but who protects the memories, when we bleed each other out of the vein.’
Typical of the contradictions written into the band’s music, Stephan adds, “I believe there’s a lot of hope in the album,” while Arion offers, “There’s definitely a bittersweet, melancholy vibe.”
The album’s many highlights include the sex-crazed album opener “Faster”; the textured, sweetly melodic “Palm Reader,” one of the album’s centerpieces (“I like the romance of things like crystal balls, tarot cards and horoscopes even if I don’t believe in them,” Stephan says. “They search for something exotic when communication has gone gray”); the raucous, new wave-tinged social commentary of “Danger”; the beer splattered punk-prog “Company”; the album closer “Good Man”; and the stubborn intensity of the first single “Blinded (When I See You).”
Another band favorite is “Self Righteous,” featuring Moldy Peaches vocalist Kimya Dawson; the song is described by Stephan as “a post-club chill-out track” and by Arion as “a slow, moody, ethereal, heroin jam.” (Take your pick.) Says Jenkins, “It deals with ambiguity being sexier than things that are clear. The lyrics were ad-libbed on the first take.” Arion adds, “It’s like nothing else we’ve done. When you hear your own stuff and get choked up by it, it means a lot.”
Now that the album is finally done, Stephan, Arion, Tony and Brad are looking forward to the adrenalin and community that only comes from playing to an audience. They plan to spend much of 2003 on the road, with the first leg coming on a 32-city tour in April and May, in advance of the album’s release.
Sitting in the odd time-vacuum between an album’s completion and its release, Stephan reflects, “Since the beginning, we’ve always tried to do our own thing. Music was a way to have an identity. We didn’t fit into a scene, and we still don’t, really. But we’re trying to do something that’s present, that has an arc -- tempos, time signatures, sensibilities change from song to song. I need that from an album, personally, to stay with it. The point of our album is to create a world by remaking the world for a minute, one that’s not necessarily escapist, but makes conflicting things manageable for a moment. It’s something to travel all the way through.”
“I hope people love it,” says Arion. “I mean, on some level, I don’t care what people think because I like it, but I hope they like it, too. I want it to make people happy, but knowing that it makes me happy, the rest is icing.”
“There’s definitely a pain quotient you have to go through, if you want it to be right,” Stephan concludes. “And we’ve done it. Our suffering is complete, and so we present to you Out Of The Vein.”