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Third Eye Blind and Taking Back Sunday Aren’t (Just) Here for Nostalgia

Photo: Getty Images

Third Eye Blind and Taking Back Sunday share a history with Jones Beach Theater. The Long Island venue is the closest to a hometown stage for Taking Back Sunday, the emo hitmakers from nearby Long Beach. “The first two shows we did there, we were just riddled with anxiety,” remembers Adam Lazzara, the band’s singer. The locale has also become a favorite for San Francisco pop-rockers Third Eye Blind — even though it’s flooded “every time I’ve played there,” singer Stephan Jenkins says.

The venue is just one of many connections that come up between the musicians during their first conversation together (save for a short brush in Asia). It’s also one of the locations where they will share the stage on their joint “Gods of Summer” tour, which kicks off June 22 in Portland, Oregon. The shows are poised to deliver a healthy dose of ’90s and early-aughts nostalgia celebrating the 25th anniversary of Third Eye Blind’s self-titled debut album and the 20th of Taking Back Sunday’s Tell All Your Friends. (Third Eye Blind is keeping the nostalgia going with a new unplugged album dropping on June 24 featuring performances of past and unreleased songs.) Despite that throwback peg, Jenkins and Lazzara admit they’re way more excited to play their new stuff because Third Eye Blind released Our Bande Apart in 2021 and Taking Back Sunday has been working on new music. The singers also bonded over early memories of each other’s music, stressing about set lists, and how they think about the past.

I understand this is the first time the two of you have talked.

Adam Lazzara: There was one other very brief moment. We were in the Philippines or Singapore or somewhere. We were flying around doing festivals, and after the show, everyone was staying in the same hotel, and I think we crossed paths in the bar. I was like, “Hey, man, big fan.” And that was that. Now we’re best friends — that’s all it took.

Stephan Jenkins: I kind of remember that. But those are, like, the jet-lag countries.

AL: I think I was running on just a few hours of sleep. That whole run that we had done, we were flying every other day, different time zones every day, so it’s all a bit of a blur. But I do remember that.

SJ: Rock-starring definitely gives me a lot of — the closest thing I can feel to it is being a flight attendant.

AL: Just without the perks.

SJ: Yeah, you don’t get as many miles. But it’s, like, funky hotels, constantly traveling, and then you need to put on this performance where you are responsible for people’s well-being. And you do this in a state of constant fatigue. I live my entire day in alignment to be as fully alive and awake as I can be when I’m onstage, and still, you can show up easily at 80 percent. So here’s to flight attendants.

The press release for the tour has Taking Back Sunday’s guitarist, John Nolan, talking about the band really liking Third Eye Blind’s sophomore album, Blue. Does either of you remember any early impressions of the other’s music?

AL: I remember seeing Stephan and his people on TV when I was younger, but a lot of the content there, when I looked past what was presented visually and dug into the records, made a big impact on me and the rest of the band.

SJ: Wow.

AL: I was a little bit late to the game, too, ’cause I feel like I spent a good amount of my younger years being like, If it’s not fast and loud, then I’m not gonna listen to it. Which in hindsight I think was a bad decision to make at the time, but you grow and you learn. Then once I sat down with the records, I was really blown away. I was living in Long Beach, New York — this was probably 2002 or ’03, maybe ’04 — and I walked from the west end to this record store, which wasn’t too far. That was when, oh my God, I’m totally blanking on it, the green record. When did the green record come out?

SJ: God, it’s all a blur. The green one was Out of the Vein.


SJ: Yeah, I was gonna say ’03, but then could it be ’05? What’s the difference?

AL: Yeah, true. No, I remember going to get that record the day it came out. Walking back, I had my Discman. You know, you had to hold it real carefully, so it wouldn’t skip when you were walking.

SJ: Discmans, wow, Jesus. So Taking Back Sunday, it’s just been so ubiquitous. The thing that’s really been common, to me, is this comparison between our bands that I don’t hear because — I don’t know how to describe it. You’re like, more energy. But the commonality is in this willingness to feel it. This is all getting toward how we came to tour together. I didn’t really make the choice. I think we had three bands we wanted to tour with.

AL: And none of them could do it, and that’s how we ended up on the tour.

SJ: No, no! I took them to the Disaster Twins, and they’re groupies. Somehow that word has been shamed or something, but they are. I tend to listen to what they say. They got really serious about Taking Back Sunday, so it was just radically apparent to me: This is where we needed to be this summer. We were very lucky that you guys could actually free up your calendar.

AL: You’re gonna have to send me their address and send them an Edible Arrangement or something.

SJ: No, they’ll find you. They’ll be out this summer and just, I don’t know. They have an uncanny knack.

These tours are coming on the heels of two anniversaries: Third Eye Blind is celebrating 25 years of its debut and then Taking Back Sunday has 20 years of its debut. Are these things you’re readily aware of, like, Oh yeah, that’ll be 20 years of that? How do events like this come up?

AL: I’m definitely not aware. We just have to be reminded. I guess you could look at it as some kind of school reunion or something. It’s pretty rare that most people I know would be like, Oh man, pretty soon it’s gonna be 20 years since high school. I was reminded by our manager. Then in that moment, it hits you, like, Oh my God. I don’t know about you, Stephan, but we don’t often allow ourselves much time to sit and reflect.

SJ: Sitting and reflecting is vastly overrated. I have no interest in it. Yeah, no, I have to be told about birthdays and landmarks. I think for me, this being the 25th anniversary of Third Eye Blind, it definitely made me try to take some stock of ourselves. I’ve never started a set list early, like I did for this summer, because I’ve put it on myself to try to make the closest thing to a memoir of the band. Some cohesive statement of what the band is. And I couldn’t do it, totally failed at it. I’m still trying to figure out what Third Eye Blind is. It’s a mystery to me that I’m still trying to unravel.

Adam, do you feel the same way about thinking about a set?

AL: There are some songs, the older ones, especially from that first record, that feel like they aren’t ours anymore. They kind of take on new life and become this different thing when we play them in front of people. So there are certain ones I believe we’ll just always play ’cause they belong to the people. But with this tour, coming out of the past few years and working on new things and having time to actually sit at home, we’ll hopefully be trying to throw some new songs into the set. I know for most people, that’s when you go get a beer or whatever. We’re just excited to be able to do the damn thing again. Stephan, when you mentioned set lists, I was like, Oh my God, I haven’t even thought about that. It’s something we’ll probably figure out the night before and then iron out within the first week or two.

SJ: For me, I had about 50 songs I really wanted to put on the set list, so there was all this blending and chopping that needed to happen. When we were on the 20th anniversary of our band, we did something we’d never done before: We just went out and played the first album front to back, in sequence. That was kind of a hoot, and also we vowed to never do it again. I just have a set-making rule of no two songs from one record in a row. I don’t even know why I do that.

AL: Same rule here, yeah. I feel like you don’t wanna give anyone the impression that you’re favoring one record over another.

SJ: But you always favor the newest one, ’cause that’s the one you’re excited about.

AL: Yeah, 100 percent. Which doesn’t always pan out, but when it works, oh, it’s beautiful.

SJ: Do you have the phenomenon that your favorite song is the most recent one?

AL: Yeah. Always.

SJ: So you put energy into that. And if you’re coming from an authentic space, then that’s the thing you’re really excited about when you play it. Our current album, Our Bande Apart — I’m somebody who doesn’t listen to their own music ’cause it makes me feel self-conscious, and this album is actually the first one where I can feel good listening to it. I can hear it in the car, and I don’t have any amendments. So, retrospective? No, we’re gonna play a lot of songs from our new album.

Sometimes, it feels like people think, They’re just putting the new music out ’cause they have to get a paycheck. So it’s cool to hear you’re still excited.

SJ: Yeah, totally. I don’t feel compelled to make material at all, at least from that perspective. It’s all just coming from a real urge to render this experience in these times musically. I do everything based on the happiness quotient, and the industry and all that stuff can go eat raspberries.

These two anniversaries are for albums that kick-started your bands and brought you to this place where you can still be making new music 20, 25 years later that people are paying attention to. Was there a single moment around those initial releases when you realized, This is something we’re gonna be able to do for a while?

AL: There was definitely a moment of Wait a minute, I think this could work. But it’s always been more of this outlook like, Man, there’s so many people that are so good at doing this, and somehow we were able to be here. Like, This could all be done at any minute, so we need to keep trying really hard all the time.

SJ: Yeah, I’ve never felt that way. I’m always just kind of amazed.

AL: [Singing] Maybe I’m amazed at the way you —

If you were gonna cover one of the other band’s songs, which would you pick?

AL: “Motorcycle Drive-By.” Actually, I have a little version of it worked out that I just pick around the house.

SJ: Really?

AL: Yeah. It’s just a fun one to play, you know?

SJ: Well, come play it, for God’s sake.

AL: I don’t think anybody’s gonna wanna hear us do that. It’s fun ’cause it’s just for me.

SJ: I’ve been actually thinking about you in advance of this tour because there’s a song we covered called “All My Friends Are Funeral Singers.” We’re really not a gang-vocal band. There’s like gang-vocal rock, and, you know, it always feels like a Toyota commercial or something. But we have this song that made the set list for this summer, and my hope is that you guys are gonna come out and sing with us.

AL: Well, don’t let your mouth go writing checks your ass can’t cash, man. We’re in. I’ll go listen to the song. I’m gonna check that out.

SJ: Adam, my ass and my mouth are ready.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Which has a green album cover.
3EB’s Stephan Jenkins Meets TBS’s Adam Lazzara