Music: Third Eye Blind

Sep 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Heather Johnson

"URSA MAJOR" MARKS FIRST ALBUM IN SIX YEARS

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L-R: Brad Hargreaves, Stephan Jenkins and Tony Fredianelli of Third Eye Blind

L-R: Brad Hargreaves, Stephan Jenkins and Tony Fredianelli of Third Eye Blind

Many, if not most, musicians have some sort of recording setup in or near their home. But it's a rare few artists who have the chance to set up their gear inside a historic Victorian-era mansion in one of San Francisco's toniest neighborhoods. Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins got that opportunity when a friend not only offered up his “chamber room” — a massive three-story ballroom designed for opera singers and chamber orchestras — as a recording space, but also let him turn the carriage house behind the mansion into a mid-sized recording studio. The band's new album, Ursa Major, out this month on their own subsidiary of Sony/RED, marks the first full-length recording tracked and mostly mixed at the new space. It also marks their first album in nearly six years and the tenth anniversary of the band's self-titled debut.

ONLINE EXTRAS

LISTEN:
"Don't Believe a Word"

Third Eye Blind reached their (first) peak in the late 1990s. Their debut spawned five hit singles, including the alt-rock radio favorite “Semi-Charmed Life.” Their 1999 follow-up, Blue, sold more than 1.25 million copies in the U.S. alone. Unfortunately, the band's next album, Out of the Vein, became a victim to a merger between their record label, Elektra Records, and Atlantic. With little support, the album floundered, and ultimately Elektra's parent company, Warner Music, dropped the band in 2004. With that, the band took some time off. They just didn't realize how much time would pass before reconnecting for another record.

While Jenkins, drummer Brad Hargreaves and guitarist Tony Fredianelli took a hiatus from each other, the music industry and its listening community morphed in all sorts of peculiar ways. The major labels lost some control while the independents gained ground. The Internet became the primary medium for discovering and (hopefully) purchasing new music, and social networking became the way to market that music and make “friends.”

Thanks to these new tools, Third Eye Blind did not go dormant. Their fan base remained active and even grew during the past few years, and their live shows continued to sell out thanks to a bevy of new fans that discovered the band on Pandora and iTunes.

Building on this virtual community, the group teamed with Indaba Music to launch “Studio Access” (www.indabamusic.com/studio_access/3eb), which gives fans and musicians inside access to the band's creative process. There, Third Eye Blind posted stems of newly recorded tracks and invited fans to create their own mixes. The band then chose their favorite version of each track and posted them on their Website, and MySpace and Facebook pages. “There's a huge community of musical, talented people, and I think the new music paradigm will allow more of these people to make a living in music,” says Jenkins. “A lot fewer people become billionaires, but more people make a living. Sounds good to me.”

Listening to their fans' interpretations further inspired the trio to move forward on a wealth of new material. Almost immediately after Out of the Vein hit shelves in 2004, the band started writing — sometimes on a tour bus, other times during soundcheck. Over time, the band had compiled nearly two albums' worth of song ideas, but plans to re-enter the studio repeatedly got put on the back burner in lieu of side projects and other personal and professional endeavors.

When Jenkins got the green light from his well-off friend to convert his carriage house into a studio, the real possibility of a new recording — and recording facility — came into view. “First, we went back through all of the hard drives over the past five years and made rough mixes of all of the versions of all of these songs,” says engineer Sean Beresford. “It was interesting to go back through three different versions of the same song, all very usable and all with cool ideas.”

While Beresford sorted through the archives, he also advised Jenkins as he focused on the studio's design and equipment. Working with noted studio designer Chris Pelonis, Jenkins revamped the midsized space to include a spacious control room, a recording room that's large and live enough for guitar overdubs or a cozy band rehearsal, and a well-appointed 6×6-foot amp closet. The bathroom can also double as a small iso booth.






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