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Third Eye Blind
“Although often lumped into the post-grunge category, Third Eye Blind sported a brighter sound than many of their late-’90s peers, taking as much influence from classic pop/rock traditions as the angst-ridden music that dominated the decade. The group scored its first hit in 1997, when their debut single “Semi-Charmed Life” cracked the Top 10. Third Eye Blind built upon that success throughout the following three years, releasing a number of singles (three of which cracked the Top 10) while touring with the likes of U2 and Oasis. After taking a break during the early 2000s, the band returned in 2009 with its fourth studio album, Ursa Major.
Third Eye Blind hails from San Francisco, where singer Stephan Jenkins made his name as a solo musician after earning an English degree from the University of California at Berkeley. Jenkins soon decided to piece a band together. After several lineups failed to gel, former Fungo Mungo bassist Arion Salazar joined the group, which Jenkins had named Third Eye Blind (in reference to the metaphysical concept of a mind’s eye). At one of the band’s early shows, guitarist Kevin Cadogan — a former student of Joe Satriani who later became involved in the northern California ska and punk scenes — introduced himself to Jenkins. Cadogan subsequently joined Third Eye Blind in late 1995, bringing along former Counting Crows drummer Brad Hargreaves as well.
As Third Eye Blind worked on cementing its sound, Jenkins began earning major-label attention through his production of the Braids‘ cover of Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which became an international hit. He signed a publishing deal shortly afterward, reported to be the largest such deal ever presented to an unreleased artist. Meanwhile, Third Eye Blind cultivated a dedicated fan base by playing the Bay Area frequently, and the group’s original 14-song demo attracted attention from major labels. The buzz continued to build when the musicians finagled their way into a prized opening slot for Oasis‘ April 1996 concert at the Civic Auditorium. The group was still unsigned at the time, but following their well-received performance (which included an encore — a rare opportunity for an opening band), Third Eye Blind became the subject of a bidding war.
The band eventually signed with Elektra/Asylum, a label that afforded them a considerable degree of artistic freedom. Jenkins was tapped as the band’s producer and received a production deal to help develop new groups, but his top priority remained Third Eye Blind. With Jenkins handling production studies, the band recorded their eponymous debut in San Francisco with the assistance of Eric Valentine, an engineer who had also worked on their early demos. The self-titled Third Eye Blind was released in the spring of 1997; by that summer, the introductory single “Semi-Charmed Life” had become a chart-topping modern rock hit. Spawning several more successful singles (including “How’s It Going to Be” and “Jumper”), the album broke into the Billboard Top 200 and remained there for over a year, establishing Third Eye Blind as one of the most popular bands of the late ’90s.
Blue followed in 1999 and sold 150,000 copies within a month of its release. Although fans heralded it as the band’s strongest album, only one song — the sprightly “Never Let You Go” — matched the success of the band’s past singles. Tours across the globe followed throughout 2000, but by the time 2001 rolled around, the band had lost a crucial member (guitarist Cadogan, who co-wrote much of the band’s material before exiting the lineup) and opted for some time off. Tony Fredianelli soon climbed aboard as the band’s replacement guitarist, and Third Eye Blind turned its attention to several charity events. They played shows in support of the Tiger Woods Foundation and helped organize Breathe, a performance that promoted breast cancer awareness.
By 2003, Third Eye Blind resumed their schedule with the release of their third studio album, Out of the Vein. Featuring the single “Blinded,” the album initially debuted at number 12 on the Billboard 200 chart. Nonetheless, due in part to poor marketing, a side effect of Elektra’s merger with Atlantic, Out of the Vein ultimately failed to ignite the same commercial sparks as its predecessor. Undeterred, the band quickly began work on a follow-up, but Jenkins‘ lengthy battle with writer’s block slowed the production. In the interim, they released a 2006 best-of compilation and continued to tour. Finally, on the heels of the group’s tour of Japan in 2008, they released the digital EP Red Star, featuring the single “Non-Dairy Creamer.”
The following year, they returned with their long-awaited fourth album, Ursa Major. Produced by Jenkins and released on the band’s own Mega Collider Records, the album included two singles in “Don’t Believe a Word” and “Bonfire.” At the end of the group’s tour in 2010, they parted ways with Fredianelli, who was replaced by Irish guitarist Kryz Reid.
Over the next several years, Third Eye Blind continued to tour and work on new material. A free digital single, “If There Ever Was a Time,” released in support of the Occupy Wallstreet Movement, appeared in 2011. In 2015, they released their fifth studio album, Dopamine. Once again produced by Jenkins, the album was the first with bassist Alex LeCavalier, who’d joined as a full-time member in 2013.
In March 2016, Third Eye Blind garnered attention for remarks Jenkins made criticizing the Republican Party while playing a benefit show for the charity organization “Musicians on Call” at Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. While not technically a political event, the show was held in close proximity to the Republican National Convention, with Republicans in attendance. The following October, the band released We Are Drugs, an EP featuring covers of songs TEB find inspirational.” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AllMusic
Jimmy Eat World
“Once a trailblazing name in the mid-’90s emocore scene, Jimmy Eat World eventually found a larger audience by embracing a blend of alternative rock and power pop that targeted the heart as well as the head. The band’s influence widened considerably with 1999’s Clarity — an album that has since emerged as a landmark of the emo genre — it was the band’s follow-up (specifically the infectious single “The Middle”) that crowned them as major figures in commercial rock. The emo label proved difficult to shake throughout the 2000s, even when subsequent albums like Futures and Chase This Light did little to evoke the hard-edged sensitivity of Clarity, but Jimmy Eat World still remained a league above the generation of emocore torch-bearers they helped spawn.
Jimmy Eat World formed in February 1994 in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, Arizona. Jim Adkins (vocals/guitar) and Zach Lind (drums) met while attending Mountain View High School; years of playing in local bands had also introduced them to locals Tom Linton (guitar/vocals) and Mitch Porter (bass). The four musicians joined forces and derived the band’s moniker from an argument between Linton‘s younger brothers, Ed and Jimmy. The two siblings were prone to fighting, with the heavyset Jimmy usually emerging as the victor. One day, a revengeful Ed resorted to drawing a picture of his heavyset older brother shoving the entire world into his mouth. The caption “Jimmy Eat World” was printed beneath, and the band deemed it a perfect fit. Citing influences like Rocket from the Crypt, early Def Leppard, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Fugazi, and the Velvet Underground, Jimmy Eat World outfitted themselves as a punk rock act and began playing small shows in the Phoenix valley.
Over the course of 1994 and early 1995, Jimmy Eat World released several EPs and singles on Wooden Blue Records, an imprint based in the nearby town of Tempe. Limited-edition pressings of “One, Two, Three, Four,” “Back from the Dead Mother Fucker,” and split EPs with Christie Front Drive, Emery, and Blueprint would later run out of print, as would the band’s self-titled debut album. The band’s audience was steadily growing, and Capitol Records responded by signing Jimmy Eat World in mid-1995, when bandleaders Adkins and Linton were only 19 years old. Porter soon exited the group; Linton‘s best mate since seventh grade, bassist Rick Burch, was enlisted as a replacement, and the band marked its major-label debut with the release of 1996’s Static Prevails.
Three years passed; by 1999, Jimmy Eat World had officially transformed themselves into an emo outfit with the release of their intricate sophomore album, Clarity. The record marked Adkins‘ first time as the group’s lead singer and principal songwriter, two roles that Linton had previously handled. Unfortunately, Capitol Records had also experienced some significant changes, ultimately culminating in the departure of president Gary Gersh — the same man who signed Jimmy Eat World in 1995. Capitol’s new management balked at Clarity‘s sensitive sound and started to shelve the album; it wasn’t until several key radio stations (including L.A.’s influential KROQ) started airing the song “Lucky Denver Mint” that the label relented and released Clarity in February 1999. “Lucky Denver Mint” proved to be popular on the radio and in the movies, where it scored a spot in the Drew Barrymore comedy Never Been Kissed. Jimmy Eat World‘s fan base continued to grow, but their relationship with Capitol progressively soured. After the label shelved the band’s third LP, Jimmy Eat World decided to leave the label, and Capitol was happy to let them go.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Eat World‘s music was attracting an audience overseas, where Clarity had become a hit in countries like Germany. The band responded by financing and promoting a tour throughout the European continent. Singles, a collection of unreleased B-sides and rarities, was released that same year on the independent label Big Wheel Recreation. A split EP with Australian rockers Jebediah was also released, and the band scraped together the profits from those ventures before entering the studio to record Bleed American (whose title would later be changed to Jimmy Eat World after the events of September 11, 2001). Enlisting the help of Clarity‘s producer, Mark Trombino, the band independently created the record that would effectively launch their high-profile careers. Jimmy Eat World then used the completed product to land a contract with Dreamworks, who released the album in July 2001. While the hard-hitting title track did moderately well, it was the record’s second single, “The Middle,” that landed Jimmy Eat World a spot on the pop/rock map. Featuring a video filled with scantily clad teenagers, the song also enjoyed heavy exposure on MTV, where a younger audience latched onto the band’s summery appeal. A year after its release, Jimmy Eat World was still a fixture on the Billboard charts and modern rock radio. A third single, “Sweetness,” was released in summer 2002, and “A Praise Chorus” followed soon after, allowing the album to go platinum.
After the Dreamworks label closed its doors in January 2004, Jimmy Eat World shifted their operations over to Interscope for the release of their fifth album. Futures was released in October 2004 and debuted at number six on the Billboard charts, eventually going gold on the strength of the Top 40 hit “Pain.” The Stay on My Side Tonight EP appeared one year later, featuring a Heatmiser cover and several tracks that had been axed from the Futures track list. Jimmy Eat World continued to tour in support of the album before entering the recording studio with Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage). With Vig behind the controls, Jimmy Eat World recorded their sixth studio LP, Chase This Light. The leadoff single, “Big Casino,” was released in August 2007, and the album followed in October. Before the release of their next album, the band embarked on a ten-year anniversary tour celebrating Clarity.
In 2010, the band issued its seventh album, Invented (Dine Alone), which saw the return of Trombino as producer. This release marked the first instance since their self-titled debut with original vocalist Linton taking over primary vocal duty (on “Action Needs an Audience”). Singer/songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews provided backing vocals for a handful of tracks on Invented and joined the band on tour.
Damage (RCA Records) arrived in 2013, this time with Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, No Doubt) at the helm. The next year, the band took to the road once again to celebrate another milestone: the ten-year anniversary of Futures.
The band’s ninth album landed in late 2016. Produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Nine Inch Nails, Paramore), Integrity Blues featured the singles “Get Right” and “Sure and Certain.” Well received, the album reached into the Top 20 of the U.S. Billboard 200, and peaked at number four on the U.S. Alternative Albums chart.” – Andrew Leahey, AllMusic
Ra Ra Riot
Need Your Light, the fourth full-length from Brooklyn’s Ra Ra Riot, is the sound of a band being reinvigorated by their own existence. Correspondingly, the album sees the band — Wes Miles (vocals), Mathieu Santos (bass), Milo Bonacci (guitar), Rebecca Zeller (violin), and Kenny Bernard (drums) — getting back to their house party roots without abandoning the more heady soundscapes they explored with 2013’s Beta Love. The result is an album that’s celebratory without being solipsistic and that sees the group collectively mining their prior experiences in order to craft something that looks toward the future with an optimistic gaze.
Ra Ra Riot had planned for a longer break after Beta Love. However, after a few months, they couldn’t help themselves from working on new music. “The inspiration came very quickly,” Miles says, explaining that he decided to fly out to Los Angeles to work with previous producer Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, Elvis Costello) in order to start fleshing out ideas. Shortly afterward, the group went on a writing trip to Milwaukee and soon found themselves crafting Need Your Light with a host of previous collaborators, including Ryan Hadlock in Seattle (who produced 2008’s The Rhumb Line) and Andrew Maury in Brooklyn (a longtime friend, collaborator and live sound engineer who also co-produced 2010’s The Orchard). Also in the mix — as he has been since the band’s inception — is Vampire Weekend’s Rostam. He has a long history of working with Ra Ra Riot (including the Discovery project with Miles), yet this marks the first time he’s actually taken on the role of producer for the band.
Whether Miles is singing about something fantastic or mundane, there’s an enduring energy to the songs on this album which illustrate that in many ways Ra Ra Riot are still only getting started.