Pop Quiz: Steve Aoki on embracing hip-hop, standing up for the disenfranchised

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As one of the most celebrated figures of the electronic dance music world, Steve Aoki plays some 250 shows a year. Known for hurling sheet cake at his fans, surfing over crowds on an inflatable raft and tweaking beloved rock hits with booming beats, the 40-year-old DJ holds more than one Guinness World Record for being the most-traveled musician in one year. It’s no wonder the title of his Grammy-nominated 2016 documentary, which also delved into his life as the son of Benihana founder Rocky Aoki, was “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.” The Chronicle caught Aoki ahead of the tour for his most recent album “Kolony,” which features collaborations with rappers like Gucci Mane, Migos, Lil Yachty and T-Pain.

Q: You already had a good thing going with EDM. What made you want to change it up by throwing hip-hop into the mix?

A: You know, my whole life is based on flow. When I’m in the studio, I work with artists from all genres — everything from K-Pop to rock to hip-hop. When I was in the studio at the inception of “Kolony,” I was just making music with hip-hop artists and getting into a vibe. And sometimes the vibe turns into a project because the vibe is so strong.

Q: Does it feel like a natural progression for you?

A: These hip-hop artists weren’t just jumping on EDM beats. It was like, let’s just make the best songs that we can. It’s very much a reflection of American culture. This is the voice of youth culture: Hip-hop and EDM. It’s what the youth experience when they go the festivals, when they go to parties, hang out with all their friends, the clothes they wear, the dances that they do, the artists they listen to. When I play “Kolony” in other countries and I see kids singing along — in a country where English is not spoken — it really speaks to my heart.

Q: In the documentary “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” you talk about the challenges of growing up in a predominately white neighborhood in California. When you see what’s going on in the country now, how do you get up on stage every night and let it go?

A: At the end of the day, this is the time when the immigrants’ voice — the people who are disenfranchised, the people who are underrepresented — this is the time we need to stand up and speak louder than we’ve ever spoken before. In times of comfort and in times of safety and security, you’re not challenged. We don’t have a choice. We can’t sit on the fence anymore in a time like this, in a regime like this. Sometimes you think, “Well, the president doesn’t affect my life.” Well, it’s affecting millions and millions of lives. You can’t just sit idly by and watch this whole place burn down when there’s so much progress being made to represent all people. At this time, we got to be even louder. I’m definitely not known to sit on the sidelines.

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Pop Quiz: Country star Anderson East is ready for his ‘Encore’

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The pressure is on for Anderson East. Having just played “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and racked up reams of glowing reviews for “Encore,” his bluesy, soulful new record, East (who has also drawn a fair share of tabloid attention for his high-profile relationship with countrystar Miranda Lambert) is on the road to visit fans and promote the album, the follow-up to his acclaimed 2015 release “Delilah.” Recorded in Music City’s famed Studio A with producer Dave Cobb, the Alabama singer-songwriter’s album also features appearances by Ed Sheeran, Avicii and Ryan Adams. East checked in from his home in Nashville.

Q: So you’re the guy redefining the sound of Nashville?

A: I think Jason Isbell did that. That’s his job. I’m just trying to figure out my own sound, man.

Q: There was no pressure when you made “Delilah.” Does it feel unnerving to have all this scrutiny around “Encore”?

A: I don’t really pay much attention. That’s not what I signed up for. I just want to play music. If people are talking about the record and the music, that’s all I care about.

Q: Was there a more concerted effort at capturing the energy of the live show in the studio?

A: That’s definitely where the album title came from. Just talking to Dave Cobb about it, I said, “I want every song to be played as an encore!” I still wanted to cherish the fact that it’s a recorded piece of music and have it be well thought out, but still human and rough around the edges. But, yeah, I think we just wanted to enhance the live show and have a great time playing these songs for a long time.

Q: How many of them have actually made it into the encore?

A: So far, we’ve been out for about a month now and we’ve tried three of them as the encore.

Q: Well done! Was there a moment after “Delilah” came out that you felt like, “OK, people are here for this”?

A: I can’t pinpoint a moment. Coming up and traveling around in my old station wagon, playing shows years ago, your biggest fear is nobody is going to show up. There were ample times where it was me and four people — and two of them were the bartenders. After a while, it was like, I didn’t have to worry anymore. That’s what that record did. It just astounded me. Every day, I’m more and more grateful for people taking a chance to come see us for the first time or people who drive eight hours to see us for the 20th time.

Q: You’re playing some pretty amazing rooms on this tour. Have you learned how to maintain that connection you have with your audiences in bigger spaces?

A: Yeah, we cut our teeth pretty well. We were on the road with the Stapletons. We did a Dixie Chicks tour. We definitely figured out how to bring people in and bring people along with us. It’s pretty much second nature. A stage is a stage. We’re the same group of guys on it, no matter where we’re at.

Q: Apart from being the only musician who worked with both Avicii and Chris Stapleton this year, you also collaborated with Ed Sheeran and Ryan Adams on this album. How did that happen?

A: Honestly, I have no earthly idea. I just woke up one day and they asked if I wanted to write with Aviici. I was like, “Yeah, of course!” I love writing songs, and being in Nashville as long as I have, you get set up on a lot of first dates. We turned what was supposed to be a writing appointment into a recording session. “Girlfriend” came out of that evening. Somebody like Ryan, I’ve been a huge fan for ages and ages. I had been listening to Ryan’s latest record; I can’t remember what track it was, but it had the kind of tone I was hearing for the song. Instead of trying to imitate it, I went right to the source.

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Pop Quiz: Bananarama on its reunion tour, scrappy dancing abilities

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Aidin Vaziri | Everything is going Bananarama. Last year, the insouciant British pop trio’s original lineup — Sara Dallin, Keren Woodward and Siobhan Fahey — reunited after nearly three decades apart. Now the group is gearing up for its first tour together. With its jubiliant ’80s synth-pop hits like “Cruel Summer,” “Robert De Niro’s Waiting” and “Venus,” the band not only offered a respite from the endless procession of men in the early days of MTV but inspired countless other female artists, from the Spice Girls to Gwen Stefani. Dallin checked in from rehearsals in London.

Q: It feels like the chemistry is right back with the three of you. Does it feel like no time has passed?

A: Well, you say no time has passed, but in fact 29 years has passed. Siobhan left in ’88. She never toured with us. Keren and I tour every year, doing these festivals and all kinds of things. It took some getting used to having a third person standing to my left. When you meet somebody when you’re really young, they feel like family. When they come back, for whatever reason things have gone wrong before, they’re still part of your family.

Q: How ambitious were you when Bananarama started?

A: Keren and I were teenagers when we started. We loved music. We loved fashion. We were going out to clubs. As teenagers, I don’t think you care whether it lasts two minutes or two years or, in mine and Keren’s case, over 30 years. It was just something that was fun.

Q: There weren’t many girl groups around when you were coming up — you look at the Band Aid photo and it’s just the three of you in a sea of men. Did that make things difficult?

A: It is a male-dominated business. I’m sure along the way, things happened where maybe men were paid more and got more for shows. I don’t know. We certainly went hell for leather after everything we wanted. We were tough.

Q: You started out as a punk band. Do you still have a bit of that in you?

A: People always say they were terrified of us. I don’t know what that is. We were so shy and we always moved together as one person. If one person went to the bathroom, all three of us went to the bathroom. If there was a big sofa and chairs in the room we would all squash on the sofa together. It wasn’t that we were hard, it was just that we knew what we wanted.

Q: You also opened the door for a lot of female artists.

A: That would be very nice if that’s true. I know the Spice Girls were modeled on us when they were put together. People who don’t care about the group or music might think, “Oh, it’s just three pretty girls doing other people’s songs. Someone’s putting them on tour. Someone’s dressing them up.” That’s not the case. We’ve always had as much in common with a male band as we have with female artists.

Q: The scrappiness of Bananarama was always part of the group’s charm. Is it hard to maintain that after doing this for more than 30 years?

A: We’re not a dance group. We’re not about to start throwing down great choreographed moves. It’s more of a — not rock show, but more authentic and less of a dance troupe kind of a thing. We’re no more polished now than we were then. Probably more confident, but that’s about all.

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Pop Quiz: Tune-Yards grapples with race, self identity and deep grooves on latest

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Aidin Vaziri |Like most of us, Merrill Garbus had a lot of questions about the state of the nation following the 2016 presidential election. But in the months since then, as things took more surreal turns almost daily, the driving force behind the eclectic indie-pop act Tune-Yards started to look inward.

As she started work on the group’s fourth and most recent album, “I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life,” the Oakland musician and her longtime collaborator Nate Brenne thought of ways to elevate their own work. Garbus, 38, booked a weekly gig as a DJ in a bar near her house, taught herself how to program a drum machine and, critically, participated in a six-month workshop on race at the East Bay Meditation Center with the explicit mission of exploring her own white privilege.

When Tune-Yards performs at the Noise Pop Festival on Friday, Feb. 23, Garbus will bring her genre-bending songs, like “Colonizer” and “ABC 123,” that not only bluntly explore self-identity but do it with an irresistible groove.

The Chronicle spoke to her during a tour break at a Los Angeles laundromat.

Q: Have you been rabidly reading everything people write about the album or trying to avoid it all?

 A: I have not read anything. I read a headline that felt really wrong — that was like a week ago. I thought, “OK, it’s going to be a lot of stuff that feels OK, and a lot of stuff that feels really hard to know how to process.” I usually make the decision not to read any press and figure that people tell me if there’s something I need to address.

Q: The concepts around this album seem more complicated than ever. It’s probably for the best that you avert your eyes.

A: At a certain point, the music is what the music is. This stuff is so subtle and very new for me to talk about. I often don’t know if I would be able to articulate myself. I know there’s a way things are framed like, “White musician listens to Kendrick album, takes a workshop and writes this album on whiteness.” That kind of oversimplification is par for the course. I’m to blame as much as anyone else because I’m trying to sell art. I also think that part of this is knowing it’s going to be really wrong and flawed in a lot of ways.

Q: Your best response in the interviews I have read so far is, “I don’t know.”

A: Oh yeah. Totally. With a lot of the teachers I’ve had in my life and the teachers I’ve had recently around whiteness, that is such a brilliant takeaway: I don’t know. I’m not supposed to know. The whole idea is, there’s no language for this. That’s intentional. It’s just the way it is. It’s ingenious the way that it’s set up — and sickening. People look to musicians and public figures to have it all figured out. That’s so dangerous. It’s kind of why we’re in the political situation we’re in now. People want one person to have all the answers instead of being like, “I have no clue!” It’s pretty complicated.

Q: Do you feel like there’s a risk that with all the serious messages in the verses that people might miss the humor and sense of fun in the music?

A: There’s that Emma Goldman quote: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” It’s the sense of, “What are we doing this for?” What we’re working toward is to feel this joy of freedom. It’s difficult to express that. In fact, I didn’t know how to express that. Like the song “Colonizer,” we went back and forth on that whole production. There’s an inappropriate amount of celebration and joy in a song about rape and injustice. Yet, where are the moments where we can find that? I think there are lots of examples of that. I often cite Fela Kuti for music where the topics are greed and political and intense: yet there’s so much joy in the music and a propulsion toward dance.

Q: Your sound is so unconventional. Do you ever consider how it will be received by the public?

A: No, not anymore. I’m older now. People have been telling me for years and years and years that you have to honor your own vision; you can’t do what other people want you to do. I’m finding it to be more true. There’s a lot of trust, blind faith in the fact. The thing that’s really weird about the album coming out now is that this felt — and god, I may have dug my own grave with the title — this is my private life. And we kept it really private. Nate and I worked on music really privately. Maybe we had a couple people involved along the way, but we really dug into trying to bring ourselves up to another level to work as musicians. I took a lot of voice lessons. We learned new software, new drum machines and synthesizers. We just brought our skill level up. For the longest time, that was all we were doing all the time. I think we did a really good job of protecting that creative process. It is very shocking to bring it out, to have people listen to it. This past week has been an unreal amount of attention. I guess what I mean is that a little bit to a fault, I forgot that people are listening.

Q: What happens when you get in front of people to play live?

A: That’s where I know that I’m telling the most truth. It’s not about the words. It’s not about how I perceive myself or present myself to you or anybody else. I trust that when I’m onstage I’m accessing a deeper truth in myself and I’m inviting others to access that in themselves. It’s really moving.

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Kacey Musgraves on Hanging With Willie Nelson, Touring With Harry Styles

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Aidin Vaziri | Kacey Musgraves hasn’t finished recording her new album yet, but she’s taking the summer off to tour with her old friend Willie Nelson. It’s becoming an annual tradition for the 28-year-old singer-songwriter from Texas whose most recent studio album, 2015’s “Pageant Material,” earned her a nomination for best country album at the 58th Grammy Awards. Musgraves earned a legion of fans after supporting Katy Perry in 2014 on the pop star’s “Prismatic” tour. Next year, she will open several dates for One Direction’s Harry Styles on his 2018 tour of the U.S. and Canada. She spoke to us from her home in Nashville.

Q: Are you home because you’re working on a new album?

A: I’ve been taking this year to get to the creative side of things, and also plan a wedding — and I’ve been renovating a house. So I’ve had a lot of reasons to stay put.

Q: Well, I’m glad Willie convinced you to leave the house. You can’t really say no to him, can you?

A: Hell no! Anytime Willie asks it’s always a yes.

Q: Your career is really going on these divergent paths where you’re courting the country audience and the pop audience. Which direction would you like to see it go?

A: Well, all I know what to do is continue to make music that makes me feel good — you know, whatever category that lands in is fine.

Q: How would you describe your relationship with Willie Nelson?

A: Oh man, he’s the best. He’s an interstellar human being. I love his crowds. People aren’t there to see a ton of fireworks, they’re just there to see a legend and hear some really incredible songs.

Q: You guys ended up singing a duet on “Are You Sure.” How did that happen?

A: I heard that song one night on YouTube. I was like, “Why doesn’t he ever do this damn song?” We were up on the bus, and I asked him. He’s like, “Would you want to sing it with me?” He pulled a guitar out of a cloud of smoke and started playing it. I was trying not to lose my mind.

Q: Has he corrupted you?

A: I don’t want to do anything after I hang out with Willie but sit there and stare and listen to music. Man, it’s just cool to see somebody who’s been doing it that long to still love it every night. He’s 84, and you can just tell he loves it so much.

Q: You’re part of the family now.

A: It is crazy. I grew up in Texas where I don’t think there’s anybody bigger than Jesus Christ except for Willie.

Q: You’re sending him a wedding invite, right?

A: He should officiate!

Q: Are you ready to switch gears for your tour with Harry Styles?

A: Yeah, it’s going to be a wall of screaming adolescent girls just wanting my set to be over.

Q: Which isn’t a bad thing.

A: I was very excited when Harry asked me to support him. It’s one of those combos like Katy Perry that at first glance doesn’t make a lot of sense to people, but it does. Ultimately, I just want people to come enjoy songs. You can have the flashiest, most expensive production, but if at the end of the day you don’t have good songs then it’s not going to mean anything.

Q: So how’s the new album coming along?

A: I’m so pumped. All I can say is it’s the most excited I’ve ever been about music that I’ve made.

 

Diana Krall Turns Up the Quiet

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Aidin Vaziri | Diana Krall returns to the classics on her latest album, “Turn Up the Quiet,” covering standards by the likes of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Nat King Cole. It’s the Canadian jazz singer’s last recording with producer Tommy LiPuma, who died at 80 in March after having worked on 11 of her releases, starting with 1995’s “Only Trust Your Heart.” Now 52, Krall is finding joy on the road, accompanied by her twin 10-year old sons, Dexter and Frank (her husband is the musician Elvis Costello). She spoke to us from a tour stop in Park City, Utah, ahead of her four dates in Northern California.

Q: I really appreciate this album. It’s almost like you knew we needed a balm for these turbulent times.

A: Well, I’m intuitive, I guess. The direction of the songs went to a positive place. The live show has become all about love. I’m singing “Blue Skies” and other hopeful things. That’s the point, for people to escape from things for an hour and a half or two hours. A lot of the songs I’m doing were written in turbulent times. You can interpret them in different ways.

Q: You didn’t pick overtly political songs or anything you could frame in 2017. But the songs you did pick and the way you perform them feels so right, right now.

A: I’m glad to hear you say that. I mean, I’m playing with so many incredible musicians right now. When we’re playing together, it’s so emotionally relaxed and direct and swinging. We’re having such a positive, beautiful, fun time. That’s what you want people to feel. We’re out there to create a feeling. I had the whole audience in Grand Rapids singing “L-O-V-E.”

Q: You spent 20 years working in hotels and bars before you broke through. Did your low-key stage show grow out of that experience?

A: I’m better just being the same person that sits across the dinner table from you. It’s different because I play the piano. I’m not standing out front in a sparkly dress. I have a sparkly skirt. Standing in front of a microphone isn’t what I’m comfortable doing. I just kind of play the piano and sing and create an intimate space.

Q: You had a difficult time before making this album. Where’s your head at now?

A: You know, I had some really personal issues in the last few years. My father died. I got really sick with pneumonia at the same time, in 2014. I feel like it’s taken me three years to get my strength back from that. So now I’m feeling stronger, physically and mentally. I’m not the only one. There’s so much sadness. But there’s somebody falling in love somewhere. People are still celebrating graduations or small big things. People are being born and dying. This is life.

Q: Your producer Tommy LiPuma died shortly after you completed the record. Is it difficult going out and promoting it without him?

A: That was so traumatic and upsetting. Now I’m moving through joyfully. We had such a ball making this record, and I hope it shows. It’s a really, really fun show. The musicians blow me away. Sometimes I forget to come in. I’m listening to them so intently that I forget my cues. I forget I’m in the band and think I’m in the audience.

Third Eye Blind’s Second Act

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Aidin Vaziri | Stephan Jenkins spent years railing against everything that came his way: the music industry, the media, other bands, his own band, you name it. But as Third Eye Blind prepares to wind down a huge summer tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of its breakthrough self-titled debut album, the San Francisco outfit’s 52-year-old frontman seems to be approaching something resembling contentment.

“I don’t give a damn anymore,” he says, tearing into a breakfast sandwich at a bustling Sunset District coffee shop after a foggy morning surf session at Ocean Beach.

He’s wearing a loose black hoodie and pants that sag off his tall, sturdy frame, with a tight knit cap stretched over his sand-flecked hair. He talks just a little bit louder than everyone else in the room.

“I’m not done,” he continues, between mouthfuls of food. “I feel like I’m just beginning. But I have zero f— to give. It’s a very liberating feeling.”

And it was a long time coming.

Third Eye Blind is in the midst of the great rarity in the world of rock ’n’ roll — a verified comeback after a prolonged, perilous period when it felt like the group — one of the last major pop acts to break out of San Francisco — could easily go the way of Chumbawamba.

When “Third Eye Blind” came out in 1997, it turned the cagey Bay Area group into MTV superstars.

The album sold more than 6 million copies and spent 106 weeks on the Billboard chart. It spawned five hit singles with “Semi-Charmed Life” (possibly the catchiest song about casual sex and meth addiction ever), “Graduate,” “How’s It Going to Be,” “Jumper” (a song about suicide) and “Losing a Whole Year.”

Third Eye Blind opened shows for U2 and the Rolling Stones. Jenkins dated the actress Charlize Theron, befriended Winona Ryder; feuded with members of Green Day, Pearl Jam and Matchbox 20; and rode around town with his dog on a Triumph motorcycle. He was livin’ the life.

He was unapologetically cocky, with people in San Francisco’s cloistered ’90s music scene in particular bristling at his take-no-prisoners level of ambition — a byproduct, he says, of growing up in a broken home, being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome just before the band took off and watching other local bands lap Third Eye Blind early on.

“I had been working my whole life to get out of institutions and not ask people for permission,” he says. “I’ve always been a punk, and I felt like I was being put in somebody else’s fractal and that pissed me … off. I think I was just overwhelmed by that. It was hard for me to have good manners.”

The quick fame, combined with Jenkins’ alpha male posturing, splintered the band, and by the time it put out its second album, 1999’s “Blue,” the insults and lawsuits were flying. On its current tour, only drummer Brad Hargreaves remains from the original lineup.

The intervening years have been marked by a series of hiatuses and intermittent releases — 2003’s “Out of the Vein,” 2009’s “Ursa Major” and 2015’s “Dopamine.” The latter two were released on the group’s own Mega Collider label.

When one iteration of Third Eye Blind performed a free show in the middle of San Francisco’s Union Square in 2010, there were more pigeons than people watching the band at the lunchtime concert.

But at some point a new legion of fans discovered the band. They didn’t know much about the backstory and heard the music on its own merits, embracing the big hooks, frantic riffs and Jenkins’ delightfully detailed wordplay.

“If you come to our show, you’re going to see kids who were not born when the first record came out,” says Jenkins.

“There’s this whole generation of kids who weren’t there for any of the processing, marketing — the videos I would look at and say, ‘Pull the plug, I never need to see it again,’” he says. “They weren’t there for any of it. They just heard a catchy tune and it resonates with them. They feel it.”

Last year, the group played on the main stage of Bonnaroo in Tennessee and the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in Golden Gate Park. Now it’s headlining amphitheaters across the country.

“I knew from the first time I saw Third Eye Blind play at the now-defunct Paradise Lounge in SoMa back in like 1996 that Stephan Jenkins possessed all the inherent and vitally intrinsic characteristics of a budding rock star,” says Aaron Axelsen, music director of San Francisco’s alternative rock radio station Live 105 (KITS). “And it’s this swagger and charisma, coupled with a vast library of timeless alt-pop tunes, that’s helped him and his band remain relevant to an active fan base for 20-plus years now.”

On Sunday, July 23, it will play a homecoming concert at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley — performing the 1997 album in its entirety for what Jenkins says will be the last time.

“One thing I like about Third Eye Blind is that when we go out onstage, we are a brand-new band gunning for the gig,” he says. “We intend to go out there and do it full body.”

Jenkins credits the group’s resurgence on the fall of the old gatekeepers — major labels and monolithic publications — and the rise of social media and streaming services. But a bigger part of it, he adds, has to do with changing his own attitude.

“There’s probably some level of wholeness that I have achieved within myself — in poise and groundedness and self-love,” he says.

Jenkins, who grew up in Palo Alto and graduated at the top of his class at UC Berkeley before forming the band in 1994, says surfing played a big part in getting him to this state.

“So much about surfing, besides being one of the most physically involved and difficult sports ever created, is chucking yourself head first off a building into a rolling avalanche that can drown you,” Jenkins says. “And to do that is not courage, which is what I always thought it was. It’s calm.

“When you have courage, it means you’re doing something in spite of fear. When you’re dealing with fear, your body is stiff. The movement and action of surfing is a fluid, kinesthetic movement that has to be instantly in your mind, your body. It’s all happening at once, which is the definition of nirvana. That’s why I love it so much.”

Jenkins, who has always worked with causes close to his heart, is currently involved with the Jimmy Miller Foundation, an organization that teaches surfing to active-service Marines and vets who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I’m not a therapist,” he says. “I don’t have any training in that whatsoever. But I have an intuitive understanding of what it is to not be here, as in, ‘I’m not with you right now — I’m with my troubles someplace else.’ A lot of these guys are just not home. But when a wave comes at you — you’re not thinking about anything else. You accept that moment and get into a flow state with it. You are present.”

When Third Eye Blind finishes its tour, the band will return to the studio to continue working on what will become its next release, the “Summer Gods” EP (the band is done with full-length albums for the time being).

“There’s an authenticity to him that’s rare,” says Max Glynn, a longtime friend. “He’s fiercely loyal. I met him right before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and he became so protective of me. He was like my brother. He just wanted to help me, and I had nothing to give him in return.”

Jenkins already feels compelled to put his time in other areas and in the last few months has pulled the band into a more overtly political direction, as evidenced by his personal Twitter feed.

Last July, when Third Eye Blind performed at a party for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the singer used the opportunity to lecture the crowd on gay rights and taunted the Trump supporters by urging, “Raise your hand if you believe in science!”

A week later, the band released “Cop vs. Phone Girl,” a song about police brutality, which he wrote to show his support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“A lot of radio stations wouldn’t play it,” Jenkins says. “They would say, ‘We like the song, we just can’t play it on the radio.’”

Last month, a rumor started circulating that the singer had been handpicked by two Silicon Valley billionaires, Zynga’s Mark Pincus and LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, to run against longtime California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, on the ticket of the new Win the Future (WTF, for short) Democratic Party platform.

But he’s not ready to discuss his ambitions outside of music just yet.

“I’m not a politician,” Jenkins says. “I love Dianne. I think she’s a treasure. But I also believe our democracy is unraveling and we have to shore it up. I think by challenging her, we can push some of the issues that I think are vital — life or death — into the conversation.”

In the meantime, he’s relishing the band’s second shot in the limelight.

“Third Eye Blind has withstood the test of time by making fun music that people still love,” says Alicia Tyler, music director at KFOG, San Francisco’s adult alternative station. “Their lyrics may have seemed too real back then, but that’s why the kids loved it and continue to.”

“We’re actually larger than we were the first time around,” Jenkins says. “It’s an incredible feeling to be in a good rock band. The gift that’s been given to me is that people view my music as enlivening them.

“For years, I fell into a very un-rock state of mind where I was second-guessing myself. It’s like, come from a fierce and wholesome place, and huck it out there. That’s why Jackson Pollock can splatter paint. It’s coming from that place. Anything else is a mess. I think I fell into that mode and now I’m not, so I view it as a gift. I feel real gratitude for that.”