Artist of the Week Band of the Week

Band of the Week: Great Caesar

Photo Credit: Chris McLaughlin

Last night, Great Caesar captivated a packed crowd at Arlene’s Grocery with their energetic and eclectic set. The six-piece Brooklyn based band has an October residency at the venue where they perform each Monday night. Having shared the stage with Deerhoof, The Decemberists, Third Eye Blind and Does it Offend You, Yeah?, Great Caesar continue to showcase their staying power.

Throughout their performance, Great Caesar powered through a slew of songs with powerful choruses, distinct horn parts, ear-grabbing guitar riffs and a heart-pounding drum beat. As a result, they had many in the audience dancing along.

The band kicked off the night with a striking saxophone and trumpet introduction on “6:37E, The Tale of Buck Byron.”  With a bass heavy interlude mid-track and a distinct carnival-esque vibe with piano features, the charismatic act impressed.

Nearly every track had an impeccable musical interlude or unique solo where the band member made the track his own, the Spanish infused “Tango” being no exception. Whether it’s frontman John-Michael Parker’s powerful vocals or the lively horn section, it’s nearly impossible to not tap one’s foot along.

The jazz infused “Mouth Erratic” demonstrated a more mature sound for the band. With a powerful piano introduction, loud horn features throughout, and introspective lyrics, the band struck a chord. “Honestly you must be the change you want to see,” Parker sang passionately.

Their 40-minute set embodied a smorgasbord of genres, no doubt offering something for every music lover to enjoy. For more on the band, visit their Website.

Concert Reviews Features Q&A

So Long, 2009. Bring on 2010!

Earlier this week I compiled a list of my top five moments of 2009. Well, there were a few more than five in there, but I tried to keep it short. I figured I’d do the same today with my top five concerts and interviews. I’d love to know what you enjoyed reading most this year so I can amp up my coverage in 2010. Happy New Year!

You Sing, I Write’s Top 5 Concerts of 2009

There is nothing I enjoy more than that goosebumps feeling you get when an artist sings a song that particularly strikes you or tells a moving tale about the origin of the song. This year I attended more concerts than any year in my life and while it’s hard to narrow down my single favorite, I compiled five that stand out.

5. Mat Kearney — September 29 at The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza

I interviewed Mat Kearney back in May when he was on tour opening for Keane at Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, New Jersey. I hopped on his tour bus and talked with him about his latest album, songwriting process and breaking into the University of Oregon to use their piano to write a song. As an opening band, your set is always cut short so I decided to attend his headlining performance a few months later at Irving Plaza and was blown away. Having had his album, City of Black and White, on rotation over the previous months the songs struck me personally and Kearney put on quite the show. Jumping into the audience mid-set he started his own dance party on the floor with fans. You can bet I’ll be seeing him next time he’s around.

To hear Mat talk about the new album, his writing process and stories behind his songs, click here. For his view on writing about personal relationships, being an opening act and advice to aspiring musicians, click here.

4. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band — September 30 at Giants Stadium

He is The Boss. Does much more need to be said? Being a Jersey girl, Bruce Springsteen’s songs are anthems to me. I actually have Mat Kearney to thank of how I came to cover his show at Giants Stadium. The night before Springsteen’s performance I was buying my friend a ticket at will call because Kearney’s show was due to sell out. I recognized a photographer I met earlier that year at Ray LaMontagne’s show and we chatted for a bit. Low and behold, the next day he needed a writer to cover Springsteen’s show for a Web site he shot for and thought of me. Wendy picked up the tickets for me and we headed to Giants Stadium to cover the show for Bumpershine. And, guess who was sitting a few rows in front of me? None other than Mat Kearney himself. A bit serendipitous, don’t you think? For my complete review, click here.

3. Tyrone Wells — October 7 at Highline Ballroom

I recently found Tyrone Wells CD Remain and have been listening non-stop the past few days. Previous album, Hold On is quite striking as well. While compiling my top five list I realized I have witnessed Wells in concert three times this year. I first interviewed him during South By Southwest and caught his showcase with Tori Amos. Later this year, Wells opened for Better Than Ezra where a couple got engaged mid-set before he dedicated and performed “Sea Breeze” for them. I was lucky enough to catch his headlining show at Highline Ballroom in October after interviewing his opening act, Matt Hires. Wells truly blew me away as he mixed his soulful and energetic tracks with his emotion-filled ballads. His onstage banter with the audience and tales behind his songs are always enjoyable and like no artist I have ever witnessed. If you have yet to see Wells live, I highly suggest doing so as I foresee him selling out bigger venues very soon.

2. Coldplay — August 2 at Liberty State Park

I’ve heard only praises about Coldplay’s concerts from friends who have witnessed them firsthand. I really don’t know why I haven’t seen them sooner. Luckily, I caught their phenomenal set at the always memorable All Points West festival this past August at Liberty State Park. The way I described APW to friends was it being Woodstock’s reincarnation if it were around in 2009. Mud wrestling, music and beer gardens was more like it. Sunday’s four-hour rain delay resulted in multiple canceled performances and scaled down sets, but Coldplay managed to save the day.

Always comical, after traipsing through the mud onto a stage in the middle of the field, frontman Chris Martin realized what festivalgoers dealt with the entire weekend. “We have infinite respect for you now that we had to walk through that shit. Wish we had backstage passes for all of you,” he said.

Witnessing Coldplay live and up so close, I have incredible respect for the band. While they played many of their hits, they also performed a moving tribute to Michael Jackson and the Beastie Boys, who had to cancel their performance due to member Adam Yauch’s cancer diagnosis. I couldn’t imagine a better band to close the three-day mudfest.

1. The Gaslight Anthem — October 15 at Terminal 5

I’ve been covering The Gaslight Anthem on You Sing, I Write, since last year when I flipped through Rolling Stone to notice drummer Benny Horowitz, former paginator of my college paper, featured as a breaking band. I did a double take and contacted all the people I knew who used to work for Rutgers’ The Daily Targum. Since then, I’ve been trying to cover a show and set up an interview to no avail. You’d think garnering an interview with a rock star you knew would be easy. Think again. After several failed attempts I d
ecided to purchase tickets to their show at Terminal 5 before it sold out. I’m so glad I did. I feel like I reverted back to my high school days of Warped Tour and crowd surfing. Then again, I think the 30-year-olds in the room did as well.

I have never witnessed such an energetic (and frightening) mosh pit in my life. It was like Warped Tour for 30+. No more emo boys, these are grown men dancing in the pit and creating havoc. I’m not going to lie to you, I did fear for my life, but that was the beauty of the concert. From the looks of frontman Brian Fallon’s face, he was just as surprised. By far the most energetic show I’ve been to all year, there is no doubt in my mind that The Gaslight Anthem will be selling out Madison Square Garden. Hopefully, by then I’ll be able to get an interview!

You Sing, I Write’s Top 5 Interviews of 2009

I’ve been trying to cut down on long top 5 posts, but as evident from my concert list above I’ve been a bit verbose. I’ll try to keep it brief with my interviews and post the Q&A; so you can read it for yourselves and see just why I think they’re my top 5 of 2009.

5. Train

They’ve reached worldwide success and many of their songs garnered top spots on memorable songs of the decade. I spoke with guitarist Jimmy Stafford at the start of Train’s tour where he filled me in on Train’s latest release, embracing the Internet and a younger fan base and the reasons behind their longevity. Read it here.

4. Better Than Ezra

After catching BTE live earlier this year, the three-piece band was back in New York for press in August. Unfortunately, I was extremely sick and losing my voice during the interview but didn’t want to cancel. It was 90 degrees in New York and the interview was at a Starbucks that felt just as warm. You know when you’re nervous and feel like you’re sweating, but it’s probably just in your head? Well, it definitely wasn’t in my head…I was dripping wet. Remarkably, the interview turned out much better than I thought. But, I did learn no matter how important the interview, if you’re sick it might be best to postpone it for a later date. Read my interview here. Note my “hottest Starbucks” reference. Clever, huh?

3. Taylor Swift

There is no denying it, Taylor Swift conquered the music world this year. I was so excited to attend her press conference during the CMA Music Festival in Nashville and incredibly determined to get a question in. Luckily, I did. Note the “your music is like writing in a diary” question. I can honestly say, she is as nice and down to earth in real life as she seems onstage. There is no doubt in my mind that Taylor Swift will be around for decades to come. Read my interview here.

2. Joshua Radin

Joshua Radin has accomplished much as an independent artist. He bought himself out of his major label contract to go on to release one of the best selling folk albums of the year. Not to mention, he performed at Ellen DeGeneres’ wedding, toured the globe and remains so humble. Case and point: When asked how he feels about being called this generation’s Bob Dylan he responded, “That’s absolutely ludicrous. Bob Dylan invented music. I just feel like that’s putting a bull’s eye on the back of my head for everyone to be like, ‘No you’re not. You’re not really as good.’ And I’m like, ‘Of course I’m not as good, I wrote my first song four years ago!’ And I probably never will be as good. But, I bet you I’ll be much better at being Joshua Radin than Bob Dylan is. That’s all I can hope for.” Read more here.

1. Third Eye Blind

Not many know this, but Third Eye Blind is how I got my start writing for Marie Claire. I remember getting dinner with my friend and colleague Diana last year and venting to her how I had a great interview with 3eb frontman Stephan Jenkins, but no music publication seemed to care. I reached out to every music magazine and Web site you could think of and they all felt 3eb was a band of the past. Boy did 2009 prove them all wrong. Diana must have seen my frustration and thought they might be a good fit for the Marie Claire audience, being that much of the reader age group grew up listening to 3eb and Stephan Jenkins was always a heartthrob. 2009 proved to be a great year for the band who released their album independently and saw a surge in their fan base. Read my interview here.

What were some of your favorite interviews of 2009? 2010 will bring many more I’m sure. Happy New Year!

Features Q&A

Top 10 Interviews

While I’ve been taking suggestions on revamping my blog, some advised cleaning up the sidebar and deleting older interviews to make it easier on the eyes. After much thought, I really can’t just weed out certain interviews because each has a life of its own. Maybe its the frank musician that discussed exactly what’s wrong with the label executives, or the bass player that told me just how “gross” groupies are, regardless, each artist I’ve talked to needs to be showcased. So, when you’re bored at work or just surfing the Web, you have plenty of reading material on your hands.

While going through each interview I came up with my “Top 10” list of interviews that have surprised me or left an impact. Here’s my Top 10 list, in no particular order.

1. Jon Foreman of Switchfoot (photo above)
I’ve been listening to Switchfoot since high school. I’d buy tickets with friends and we’d travel to NYC together at least once a year to see them live. One year, when covering the show for MTV’s concert blog, I was able to meet the guys, and interview frontman Jon Foreman. To meet one of your favorite musicians and talk to him about life, his fears of being a songwriter and pretty much anything else you’d want to know was truly one of the best moments in my music writing career. Read the in-depth interview here.

2. Colbie Caillat
I remember my cousin from California mentioning Colbie Caillat on his visit to New Jersey right after her debut album was released. A few weeks later “Bubbly” exploded on the radio and I just had to buy myself a copy of her album. The next summer she was going on tour with one of her biggest influences (and mine) — John Mayer. I was able to set up an interview for the blog and was surprised at how humble and down to earth she was. Talking about her stage fright before performing and thoughts on just why “Bubbly” took off, Colbie shared insight into her life before and after her music invaded the airwaves. Read all about it here.

3. Marko DeSantis of Sugarcult
This was my first impromptu band interview. Before catching Sugarcult’s set at Starland Ballroom, I noticed a group of fans by the stage door talking to someone. My friend found out it was Sugarcult guitarist Marko, so I asked to interview him. Why not? He wrote down his email address in my notebook with the casual, “Just don’t show this around” and I emailed him questions a few days later. My first nationally published interview, it was featured on Jane Magazine‘s Web site. I still can’t believe I did that, but it paid off. Read the full email interview here.

4. Kris Roe of The Ataris (photo above)
I lucked out being able to interview Kris twice — first for Rutgers University’s entertainment section, Inside Beat, and last year for my blog. Having listened to The Ataris growing up, I attended a performance of theirs at Rutgers and was able to obtain an interview after talking to his manager. After interviewing him with my friend Monica, I remember leaving the room with the realization and determination that, “This IS what I’m going to do the rest of my life.” Haven’t looked back since. Read the full two-part interview with Kris from his performance at Maxwell’s last year here.

5. Joshua Radin
Incredibly honest about the music industry, Radin bought himself out of his five record deal with Columbia and put out his most recent release independently. Not to mention, it hit No.1 on the iTunes folk charts. Not too shabby. A class act to follow, Radin even performed at Ellen DeGeneres’ wedding. Read on for more of his take on the music business here.

6. Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind
I was extremely nervous for this interview. 3eb was one of the most recognized bands of the 90s and having read up on past interviews with the band I was a little worried how mine would pan out. Luckily, it went extremely well — good enough to be used as my first interview feature on! You can read it on Marie Claire here.

7. Vince Scheuerman of Army of Me (photo above)
Possibly the most open singer-songwriter I’ve interviewed, my chat with Vince revealed many of the stories behind his songs, the struggle of making it in the music business and a typical day in the life of a musician. Read on for more here.

8. Tyson Ritter of the All-American Rejects
Oh, Tyson. Brutally honest and never afraid to hold anything back. Though it was a quick 3-question on-the-spot interview outside his tour bus at a concert, it’s one that will always stand out in my memory. Laugh about it here.

9. Jeph Howard of The Used
Okay, I must admit interviewing Jeph on their tour bus was definitely a highlight of the interview. Possibly the longest interview I’ve had, he chatted with me for nearly an hour about life on the road, groupies, and struggles the band has faced. Read all about it here.

10. Sia
Australian singer-songwriter Sia was definitely the most captivating and lively phone interview I have ever had. With her infectious laugh and refreshing take on the music industry, it’s interviews like these that make me continue pursuing this crazy career. You can read the interview featured on here.

That’s my Top 10. What’s your favorite? Did I miss one that should be added?

Concert Reviews Festivals

Third Eye Blind Debut New Tracks at Packed SXSW Showcase

By midnight Saturday festivalgoers were getting antsy awaiting Third Eye Blind‘s set. Their first-ever performance at South By Southwest, 3eb didn’t disappoint. Taking the stage to screams around 1 a.m. the band debuted eight tracks off their upcoming release, Ursa Major, due out this summer.

After nearly two-minutes of instrumental, Stephan Jenkins took the stage at Stubb’s exuding energy. Jumping and dancing around throughout his 15-song set, often teetering close to the edge of the stage, Jenkins threw roses into the crowd while singing first single off the album, “Non-Dairy Creamer.” Not an entirely unexpected track, diehard fans sung along word for word. However, this wasn’t the case with most of 3eb’s set.

In fact, at points the crowd was almost silent bobbing their heads along to the heavy bass and percussion beats to new and unfamiliar songs. Though, from the look of the crowd around me, most were impressed with the new tracks. Known for his quirky onstage banter with the audience and unique lyrics, frontman Jenkins still has staying power after all these years.

Before introducing the audience to the new tunes, Jenkins told the crowd, “We have in fact finished our fourth album,” to which screams erupted throughout the venue. Some new songs included “Bonfire,” ballad “One in Ten,” a song Jenkins played solo and said is about a recent crush he had on a girl who was a lesbian, and “Why Can’t You Be.” While the new music isn’t a huge stray from what 3eb fan’s are used to, it definitely is more rock heavy than earlier albums.

The energy at Stubb’s was undeniable and when old hits like “Jumper” and “Never Let You Go” were played everyone was singing along. “We never got to play South By Southwest before,” Jenkins told the crowd. He seemed almost surprised at the turnout and positive reception of the new tracks off the unreleased album, which he told festivalgoers will be out sometime this summer. “To have you all put out your hearts and energy tonight is not lost on us and we are thankful.”

While many of the tracks are more politically influenced than showcased on previous albums, slower songs like “About To Break” sound refreshingly familiar. Last full-band song of the night was crowd favorite, “Crystal Baller” before the band ended the show with an acoustic sing-along.

Whether Third Eye Blind was playing their older hits or new tunes from their upcoming release, one thing is certain — their fan base is bigger than ever and they had the crowd screaming for more well after their 70-minute set was over.

For more info. on their album release and to listen to new tracks be sure to visit Third Eye Blind on MySpace and their official Web site here.


SXSW: Day Four Recap

Yesterday went much faster than I had wished. As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and Saturday was definitely bittersweet. As much as I didn’t want to leave Texas and the music heaven that is SXSW, I really don’t think my body could have lasted another day of 10+ shows and endless interviews.

By Saturday I was feeling the stress of too much sun, standing endless hours for multiple shows a day and lack of sleep, but I didn’t mind because I knew I’d be catching Third Eye Blind later that night. What better way to end SXSW then a 70-minute set by 3eb?

I barely made it up by 1 p.m. yesterday and spent the rest of the afternoon preparing for two interviews later that night. At 6 p.m. it was time to head over to Stubb’s to catch Virginia-based band Parachute. With infectious pop melodies and heartfelt lyrics, the five-piece band have been making a splash in the Virginia music scene and it’s only a matter of time until they’ll be in heavy radio rotation. With a mix of pop rock gems and jazzier saxophone-infused songs, comparisons include Maroon 5 and an older, more mature Jonas Brothers. In fact, the band has played with the Jo Bros., most recently in Times Square for New Year’s Eve.

Having their song “She Is Love” featured in a Nivia commercial and their debut full-length album due out later this year, Parachute is a band to definitely keep on your radar.

White Lies was up next at Stubb’s and wowed the crowd with their atmospheric rock and heart thumping bass and percussion beats. A band on most festivalgoers’ must-see list, White Lies reminded exhausted SXSW attendants what live music is all about.

Once their set ended I rushed back to the hotel to catch UK band Dlugokecki perform in the lounge. Playing emotional pop-rock songs, the band’s set was nothing short of impressive with frontman Ben Dlugokecki’s quirky onstage banter. The rest of the band proved to be just as comical when I interviewed them after their performance. A lot of talk about being President Obama’s favorite band, wanting to be the first band to travel to space, and the difference between American and English audiences, each member was definitely a character. Stay tuned for the full Q&A; soon.

After the interview I headed back to Stubb’s where there was quite a line outside the venue to see 3eb. Indigo Girls were performing by the time I walked inside. Playing a nine-song set including new tracks from their upcoming independent record dropping next week, it was evident much of the crowd were fans as they were singing along word for word. I’ve never seen a band change guitars as much as this two-woman band did, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. Playing classic American folk, they had the Stubb’s audience’s attention.

At the airport about to board my plane back to Jersey, but I’ll be sure to fill you in tomorrow on Third Eye Blind’s solid 70-minute show last night as well as the songs they debuted off their upcoming release — due out later this year. Hope you can take the suspense until tomorrow to find out!


SXSW: Day Three Recap

I woke up early Friday to head to Cedar Street Courtyard for my interview with Anya Marina. Before her set, Anya talked to me about the inspiration behind some of her songs, her recording process (which involved recording one song topless to get the right vocals for the song) and overcoming people’s expectations of her not making it in the music scene. I’ll be posting the full Q&A; in the upcoming days, so check back for that.

Anya’s performance was nothing short of enjoyable. The California native had all in attendance laughing along to her stories about eating goat milk yogurt for breakfast, quitting her job to be a musician, and visits to her therapist. Highlight of the set was stand-out single “Move You” and her acoustic cover of T.I.’s “Whatever You Like.”

Next band up for Filter Magazine‘s showcase was the phenomenal Idle Warship. Truly a must-see the band, consisting of Talib Kweli, Res, and Graph Nobel among others, Idle Warship had every hand in the courtyard raised in the air during their energetic set. The Brooklyn/Philly/Toronto members had the crowd rocking so hard at one in the afternoon, you would have thought it was 1 a.m. on a Saturday night. Highly recommend catching them if you get the chance as their impeccable blend of rock, R&B; and rap is impressive.

While Idle Warship was a hard act to follow, New Hampshire-based Wild Light held their own introducing some indie music to the crowd. Wild Light definitely had the indie diehards support in the audience while performing in the scorching Austin sun.

Next band I caught at the Filter showcase was Manchester band The Whips and boy did they have the crowd’s attention. From the energetic fans surrounding me (most likely from Manchester), I felt like I was at a dance party with their computer generated electronica and strong bass and drum beats. Everyone around me was jumping with their fists pumping in the air. I headed out after their set, but still have their single, “Trash” stuck in my head.

Headed to catch Fanfarlo with the roomies after some much desired (and delicious) ice cream on 6th Street. Every indie music lover’s band, Fanfarlo switched up the typical expected showcase with a variety of instruments — from clarinet to violin — they represented indie music at it’s best at Emo’s Annex Friday afternoon.

My favorite performance of the night goes to Jason Reeves. Playing at Live.Create. Lounge as part of VH1’s Save the Music showcase, he impressed the audience with his heartfelt stories and adamant view on the importance of music in schools. Playing tracks off his most recent album, The Magnificent Adventures of Heartache (and other frightening tales), it is evident that he is a hopeful romantic as many of his tracks deal with relationships.

Before introducing “Someone, Somewhere” Reeves told the crowd the song is about “being in love and being hopeful when everyone is telling you it’s not going to happen. We have to fight and stand up for that.” With his hushed singing style towards the fade out of the track, you could sense the emotion in every song played throughout his set.

About VH1’s Save the Music campaign, Reeves said, “What’s happening in this building is so powerful. I believe music changes lives. It’s one of the only truly beautiful things we have left as human beings. This is not letting music die. Please do everything you can to save music, otherwise we’re all going to die.”

The rest of the night was a bit of a blur as plans kept changing once realizing I couldn’t catch a few bands I hoped to see (Lights Resolve, Tinted Windows, Lady Sovereign) but all wasn’t lost. I caught part of Solange‘s set at the Convention Center. Dressed to the nine, seeing Solange and her band perform had that New York City lounge feel as the lighting and dance contribution by her and her backup singers was stellar. How she dances in those heels I’ll never know, but she wowed the crowd with songs off her recent release. You can catch her set live on Direct TV so be sure to check your cable listings to be part of SXSW.

I was dying to catch Luna Halo‘s showcase after seeing them open for Switchfoot over a year ago. By far the best opening band I have ever witnessed, their blend of indie rock is impressive and their performance last night was nothing less than stellar.

Perhaps the most interesting venue to catch a show had to be Lisa Hannigan‘s set at 11 p.m. at the Central Presbyterian Church on 8th Street. While she’s no doubt an impressive talent, the dimmed lighting and laid-back vibe definitely was soporific and after catching a few songs I headed back to 6th Street to catch Nashville-based band Shirock (see below).

What Shirock has been doing in relation to promoting their debut album, Everything Burns is inspiring. The band has launched a non-profit organization called Everything Burns as a way to encourage and enable people to help those in need by providing awareness of various charities throughout their tours. The idea behind Everything Burns is “not to get stuck in the mundane,” said frontman Chuck. “Engaging in culture and getting involved [is what’s important]” he continued. Truly a stand-up example to all musicians, I’m interested to see where Shirock will be in a few years.

Wow, totally didn’t realize I caught 10 shows until I finished writing this post! Definitely the place to be for the music addict, SXSW obviously has the most versatile line-up you’ll see anywhere. Didn’t catch Metallica or The Decemberists unfortunately but the rest of the festival looks promising as I’ll be seeing Third Eye Blind‘s performance tonight at Stubb’s! Keep reading for updates throughout the rest of the weekend and into next week!

P.S. Hopefully I won’t be losing all respect from you readers, but one of the highlights of the night had to be running into Chris Kirkpatrick from ‘N Sync right off 6th Street. My inner 13-year-old obsessed boy band fan came out and I’m still regretting not taking a picture with him. I know, I’m a music journalist and gotta be professional but ‘N Sync! Takes me back. Cue “Tearin’ Up My Heart” . . .


Third Eye Blind Interview Featured on Marie Claire!

Head over to to read part of my interview with Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind! I’d love to know what you think. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read (or listen) to the full transcription with Stephan here. You can also hear “Non-Dairy Creamer,” one of the songs off their upcoming release Ursa Major here.


Third Eye Blind

Releasing their first full-length album in over five years, Ursa Major (due out later this year) promises Third Eye Blind fans the music and undeniably unforgettable lyrics they are known for. Take already released track, “Non-Dairy Creamer” which begs the question, “Whose side are you on? Are you real or fake?” Listen to “Non-Dairy Creamer” here.

Jenkins took some time out to discuss at great length the ever changing music industry and ways the band is adapting, including Indaba Music’s interactive web program “Studio Access” where fans can create their own mixes of new 3eb tracks before the album is released. Read below for the exclusive interview including Jenkins’ take on the industry, his band (“Third Eye Blind was this band that was marketed and processed and packaged in a way that we didn’t really recognize”) as well as the upcoming release. You can listen to the MP3 of my interview with Stephan Jenkins here.

What have you been up to the past few years since you released Out of the Vein?
Well, I produced Vanessa Carlton’s album Harmonium. That was a real process. I’m so proud of that album; I think it’s a really beautiful album. That album is on the old record company model. I just don’t think it’s the right model for her at all because we’ve become so much smaller and closer a music community and we can’t tolerate as listeners that sort of layers of obfuscation that I think record companies bring. What I’ve done in the last two years was founded my own label, that’s called Assembly. It’s distributed through RED, which is a very tight, focused, dedicated group of music fans. So I’ve really changed my whole structure. Then I built a studio in this incredible Victorian mansion in San Francisco. It’s got these 30-foot glass ceilings. It was a house that was built for music at the turn of the century so it’s an amazing place.

Finally, the third thing is that we went out and played and toured this year and we had more people come to our shows this year than had ever come before. I think the same thing happened with Weezer where there was this real sort of rediscovery of the band. Third Eye Blind was this band that was marketed and processed and packaged in a way that we didn’t really recognize. After all that marketing wore off, what you have left is a playlist. And fans discovered that in the ways that they do, which was very personal for them and then they share it with each other. And that’s what has been happening and it’s been so great! It’s really this honest and direct exchange between our music and the people who engage it. So we toured and we’ve been writing this album and have been working on this album and I think it’s an album that is very much inspired by our fans.

It sounds like it. You’re partnering with Indaba Music for “Studio Access,” which basically allows fans to compete in mixing your songs.
Aren’t they great? They are so talented! They’re amazing. A lot of it is just like, “Darn, why didn’t I think of that?” I love to see our music go in and see someone else’s creativity and content. We want to use the technology that’s available to get closer to people, to actually make the community tighter and not have the sense of people being isolated and kept by themselves through technology and instead, find out what’s going on that’s specific to them. To find their people and their groups through coming together through music and each other and finding problems that they care about and ways that they can express themselves creatively through music. The creative expression part of that is definitely something that’s happening through Indaba. It really helps us as well because we are fueled by it. We wrote this album on the road in front of audiences, we tried songs out in front of them. I think the sound of this album has a big reverberant confident sound that comes from that feeling that we’ve had on the road. We always want to maintain that as part of the sound of making the record.

How much of a play are the fan’s remixes a part of the recording process?
Well, it hasn’t affected the recording process. But, one guy took these marching drums that Brad plays and he put them at the beginning of the song and I said, “You know what, that’s how we are going to opening our tour next year,” which would be super cool. So, that’s a way in which somebody else’s idea sparks an idea in us.

What can fans expect from this album?
Well, you probably got to hear one song, “Non-Dairy Creamer” and got some sense of it. I think “Non-Dairy Creamer,” the song itself – the arrangement keeps building and growing. We love the sense of unstoppable momentum for one. Two, I think that lyrically, I don’t know if we are an architect of emocore. But that’s what some of these magazines have said. I thought we were just fighting the Smashing Pumpkins, but I think that’s a sense of internal politics and really trying to speak to those was our contribution to emo. Me, I have no idea because I had never heard of the phrase until years after we made the record so I had nothing to do with it in trying to design something. Lyrically the difference is, on this record, instead of internal politics, this is more extroverted, it’s more external politics.

I think that’s very reflective of the times we’re in. I think that we’ve been stupefied and dumbfounded by a criminal and negligent administration over the last eight years. I think that the generation that really embraces the music is beginning to get its voice back and we’re beginning to say, “Wow, rebellion is American and we need to begin to speak up the way we know we should.” That’s been my sense in finding an outward voice. “Non-Dairy Creamer” is really just about being real versus being fake. There are all these phrases like, “Threat level orange.” What the fuck is that? All it is is asking you to be afraid. I think that being afraid is a particularly un-American concept that George Bush wants to ram down our throats. And so does John McCain and all his off-takes. “Oh be scared of Barack Obama because I have nothing to offer” crap. I think it is shameless and we are now able to call it for what it is. The song is saying, “Whose side are you on? Are you real or fake?”

Is “Non-Dairy Creamer” your first single?
Well, I think that’s a song we just put out first. But, the concept of a single is like, “Is it gonna get banged 40 times a week on MTV?” doesn’t really exist anymore. There’s really no such thing. I don’t even know what a single is, you know? Is it the track that we pay a marketing guy to go push on the radio? No, no it’s not. It’s just a song. They’re all singles.

You were huge in the 90s during the MTV era. How different is the music industry for you now? Do you think it would be easier if you started today?
I think it was very difficult in the 90s. It took a very long time and one of the reasons why was because music needed to be funneled. The outlets for music were so tightly controlled by a few people who had pretty much no interest in music or understanding or sensitivity to music. They were interested in one thing. They were interested in power and they were interested in competing with each other and egos. And they were interested in smashing that model into the ground, which in essence is what they did. They were these big, powerful dinosaurs that were hit by the comets of digital music. So now what’s happened is it’s become totally democratized. What I’m saying is, the jury is no longer rigged. I think that people with good music can go out and get it put out and it’s eligible to find audiences in ways that it wasn’t before. So I think in a lot of ways, it probably would have been easier for us to come out now. It’s really more exciting because we always have the answer for somebody else. In the end we’re still in some way working for the man, which I never wanted to do.

What is your writing process like? Is it any different on this album than previous albums since I know you said you wrote most of these songs while on the road?
What I do is I tend to write down ideas that occur to me. Then they often times take on some cohesion. The other thing I’ll do is I’ll have an idea and that idea will come in a rhythm. I’m a drummer by training so a lot of what I do is rhythmically based. That’s my primary mode of organizing some kind of emotion or provocation into a piece that makes that emotion travel. That’s the best I could put it.

I read that for this album you had more trouble thinking of lyrics than in the past.
Yeah. I still have trouble with some of the songs and the lyrics because I think that the reason for our shocking longevity is the lyrics. If I don’t feel the idea, the governing ghost of that concept inside the lyrics, it can really, really stump me. I have songs I’ve worked on for three years and I can’t get the lyrics right. Then another song like “Non-Dairy Creamer” just kind of comes together pretty fast.

Do you have any ways that you work on your writer’s block?
No. I just engage in a lot of self-hate and then I procrastinate. I do other things instead of working on music and put it off. That’s why we’re so slow at making records.

Do you have a tentative release date for Ursa Major?
Yeah. March. We’re going to put out “Non-Dairy Creamer” sometime in November digitally. So it will be a digitally release of that and a duet with Kimya Dawson. Kimya’s a friend of mine; she and I did a song on the last album. It will be a song called “Why Can’t You Be.” It’s a back and forth. One thing I love about her voice is its extremely distinctive and totally authentic and that’s a very rare combination plus she’s a really good lyricist. She’s very musical. One thing that’s great about Kimya is she’s got great pitch. I like our voices put together.

You’re also planning to release a follow up, Ursa Minor?
Ursa Minor, yeah. Ursa Major is the constellation of the bear. It’s good for us because we’ve been hibernating and now we’ve awakened and we are hungry for spring and we want to feed and we want to thrive.

Everyone on the boards seems to be curious about your old bassist, Arion. Is he playing on the next album and touring with you?
We love Arion and he’s just had a lot of personal struggles. So the band is not a working place for him right now, but he did play bass and actually co-wrote a song called “Red Star” with me and I love that song. I think he’s very talented, but we’ll be having other people play bass with us. But it’s not because we don’t love Arion, because we really do.

Be sure to check out Third Eye Blind’s latest EP release, Red Star and their latest tour dates on MySpace and watch out for their new Web site, coming soon at

Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “Semi-Charmed Life”

I am so excited to report that I’ll be interviewing lead singer Stephan Jenkins from Third Eye Blind next week! In early 2009 they’ll be releasing their first album in over five years, so I’ll be sure to find out all the details for you. While refreshing myself with their music, I’m amazed that “Semi-Charmed Life” was released over 11 years ago. It seems like just yesterday I was listening to it on the radio! Feel free to E-mail me questions you may have for him or leave comments of things you want to know.


Be sure to check back within the next week because I have some more pretty awesome interviews to post. I chatted with lead singer of piano pop/rock band Strive as well as singer-songwriter Matthew Perryman Jones so those transcriptions and audio will be posted soon.