Nestled on Valencia Street in San Francisco’s historic Mission District, The Chapel is a short walk away from Stephan Jenkins’s home, where he listens to music via Spotify streaming directly to his Sonos, as well as a couple of blocks from his favorite taqueria, El Toro.
Though the band started out before Napster even existed, the Third Eye Blind (“3EB” for short) frontman finds the current digital climate more freeing than the days of officially releasing CDs. Easy access to music, via iTunes and streaming, he thinks is a reason why 3EB’s audience members are “younger than ever.” On Spotify alone, almost 3 million listeners stream 3EB every month. Not bad, considering their debut was originally released on cassette tapes. (Remember those?)
I talked with Jenkins before a hometown gig at The Chapel, where Third Eye Blind commemorated the 20th anniversary of its self-titled debut album. In the same celebratory vein, 3EB is hitting the road for the “Summer Gods” tour and playing the eponymous record in its entirety. The tour starts on June 9 in Miami and makes a stop at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, California, on the same UC Berkeley campus where Jenkins attended college.
The concert at The Chapel, a charming venue much smaller than the arenas and pavilions the band usually headlines, sold out immediately. It was a benefit for the local nonprofit 826 Valencia, located across the street. Rainy weather welcomed eager fans who lined up for the show as early as 10 a.m. on the day of the show, 11 hours before the band was scheduled to play.
Jenkins bought them pepperoni pizza from a pizzeria down the street after seeing tweets documenting their wait in the rain. Despite the ticket scarcity and poor weather conditions, it was the perfect place to kick off the victory lap tour; the music video for “Semi-Charmed Life,” the hit single that started it all, was shot on the very same street just a few blocks south.
What music has Jenkins been listening to lately? “Migos and Kendrick Lamar,” he says after a brief pause.
A little winded following a longer-than-usual soundcheck, he sits in an oversize armchair in a cramped office next to The Chapel’s green room, sipping kombucha while answering questions. He’s alert with a slight air of irritability. He’s been doing press all day, and I’m the not-so-grand finale.
Asked about a Beyoncé cover he recorded in 2016 and whether he considers himself part of the BeyHive, he unexpectedly brightens a little with a resounding, “Hell yeah!” He says Kenton Slash Demon’s “Peace” was the record he was obsessed with last, as well as Bon Iver’s latest.
He’s wearing all-black everything, including loose-fitting drop-crotch pants and a knitted beanie, but for the performance he’ll slip into jeans and a sweatshirt with a looming hood that looks like it was designed for Emperor Palpatine, and switch from his casual Rick Owens slip-on sneakers to his Rick Owens high-tops.
I’m impressed. This is, after all, Stephan Jenkins, 52, of Third Eye Blind, the prominent ’90s rock band, not some millennial. Curiously enough, he has the swag and tastes of a much younger man.
A Bay Area native and stalwart songwriter with a preference for surfing, coffee and kombucha (Oakland’s House Kombucha is his favorite brand), Jenkins stays in tune with the pulse of what’s cool. His daily uniform is black-on-black-on-black; he uses “hella” as a multipurpose word, collects vinyl records and tweets often. He currently lives in the Mission, arguably the trendiest, most gentrified neighborhood in SF, and proudly claims 3EB “is a Mission band,” despite his Palo Alto roots and having previously called Oakland, as well as a number of other SF neighborhoods, home in the past.
He partially credits his diverse and fine-tuned taste in pop, R&B and hip-hop to the multicultural upbringing he experienced in the Bay Area. Absorbing the sounds of local legends like Tower of Power and Too Short was inevitable. (After calling Too Short his favorite Bay Area rapper, he nonchalantly launches into a verse from “I’m a Player.” )
The predilection is noticeable in Jenkin’s songwriting, especially when he rhythmically recites dense, emotional lyrics in a sing-song manner, like an unintentional pop precursor to Drake (who also shows love for the Bay Area in his YOLO-anthem “The Motto.”) Jenkins aspires to keep making “indie rock with that hip-hop flare,” and recently claimed that 3EB’s upcoming new album sounds like trap, a hip-hop subgenre that’s been co-opted by the EDM crowd.
As one of two remaining original members of the band, he’s shamelessly self-promotional in claiming that his favorite person to follow on social media is himself (Has he seen Rihanna’s Insta??) and cheekily declares Third Eye Blind his favorite Bay Area band, living or dead.
Before showtime, he’ll pivot his attention to the important logistics of a ceremonial cake-cutting, hashing out the best time to invite a fan on stage to do the honors. Jenkins genuinely cares about 3EB fans and shows it in ways that matter: performing their beloved first album live in its entirety and, for a lucky few, giving away free food.