July 28, 2016


Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins on Why He Needed to Write About Black Lives Matter: Interview

Josh Brasted/WireImage
Josh Brasted/WireImage

One week after crashing the Republican National Convention with a troll-tastic performance that went viral, Third Eye Blind has doubled down on its political speechifying with “Cop vs. Phone Girl,” a new single that directly addresses police brutality and Black Lives Matter. The lead single to an upcoming EP titled We Are Drugs, “Cop vs. Phone Girl” focuses on an officer assaulting a teenage girl, and includes frontman Stephan Jenkins spouting lyrics like, “Why's it so hard to say Black Lives Matter? / Doesn’t mean that you’re anti-white / Take it from me—I’m super fucking white!”

It’s the dawn of a new era for Third Eye Blind, best known for ‘90s alt-rock sing-alongs “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Jumper.” But Jenkins tells Fuse that “Cop vs. Phone Girl” isn’t a hard left turn for a previously apolitical act—just an understandable human reaction to an important issue.

“It’s the same thing that causes me to write any song about anything—there was some emotional provocation,” says Jenkins. “I’m an artist, and I’m permeable to the times that I’m in. My mission is to react to the times that I’m in through the matrix of my music.”

Jenkins says that after writing “Cop vs. Phone Girl,” he realized that none of the songs on pop radio directly address the issue of police brutality. The Third Eye Blind leader believes that the band’s new single might get some run on alt-rock radio, but that it’s too “controversial and incendiary” for Top 40.

“I don’t think it will be acceptable to say 'Black Lives Matter' on radio,” he says. “It’s very hard for us to look at things in non-binary terms. I’m anti-police brutality, and I want American citizens to have equal protection, and I think that’s quite simple. However, I’m not anti-police. There’s a huge swath of the media and other people who can’t get that through their heads.”

When asked about the band’s experience at the RNC, Jenkins laughs and says the group stood out like a sore thumb within the sea of conservatives…although he hints that he wasn’t expecting to be performing in front of them at last week’s fundraiser. 

“That culture is not my culture,” he says. “As soon as I got there, I knew it wasn’t a non-partisan fundraiser. I felt like we were co-opted right from the top. We’re just not down to be painted with somebody else’s brush.

“I keep thinking I’m going to wake up from this,” Jenkins continues about the caustic nature of Donald Trump’s Republican Party. “Their party has been shanghaied by a grifter, and their platform has been written by cavemen. They can’t even get behind their own platform! It’s mind-blowing.”

The election is a little over 100 days away, and although Third Eye Blind’s We Are Drugs EP will arrive before that, Jenkins hopes to see some social change occur before people head to the polls, regardless of whether “Cop vs. Phone Girl” is the cause of that change.

“I would like to see Republicans realize that Black Lives Matter is an entirely plausible Republican concept,” he says. “A group of American citizens are being aggrieved and not treated fairly in the justice system. That’s one of a Republican’s greatest fears—agents of the government are going to tread on you! When they do their whole law-and-order thing at the RNC, why not say that that’s going to be for better training, evaluations and community relations? Those are the kinds of things that are shown to have improve policing in cities like Dallas, which was why it was so disgusting when the officers of a great police force were shot."

“In terms of musical change,” he says, “I packaged this message in as many anthemic pop hooks as possible…I mean, it’s a tasty milkshake! And it would take a big act of courage for programmers to play it.”

Watch Jenkins chat with Fuse at last year's Voodoo Fest: