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. Anchored by the single "13thirteen on the Billboard 200.
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 the EP We Are Drugs, featuring the politically and socially minded single "Cop vs. Phone Girl." ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine