Writer gets smart with 3EB drummer

Brad Hargreaves plays drums for Third Eye Blind and, along with lead singer/guitarist Stephan Jenkins, is one of two original members still touring with the band. I caught up with Brad in the Log before he rocked the Spring Fling concert Sunday night.

When did you start making music?

When I was in sixth grade, I started playing and making bands with my friends. My buddy played the guitar and he pushed me to pick up the drums. We had our own band and would play Jimi Hendrix and Van Halen covers.

What was the name of your band?

Oh, what was it? I can’t remember – something really satanic and super funny – but, you know, satanic for kids.

To me, Third Eye Blind’s music has always seemed very personal. Has music always been personal for you?

I played in a lot of artsy bands [before joining Third Eye Blind] but I would say that Third Eye Blind was the first band I was in whose lyrics are specifically about expressing emotions that everyone has; emotions you can’t miss by living your life.

For your last album, Out of the Vein, you did the “Within Arm’s Reach” tour, which meant that you did smaller venues and fans were, literally, within arm’s reach. Williams is certainly a small venue – are you only doing smaller shows now?

We do whatever we’re called upon to do. We’ve done big shows, small shows, open air stuff – variety is the best way to do it.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I have two: the first is the concert we did at the Texas Motor Speedway in front of 350,000. The other is when we performed on top of Mount Fuji at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. There was a monsoon and the stage was sinking.

That sounds scary. Question: which band – other than 3EB – would you have wanted to come for Spring Fling if you were a student here? The options are Ben Folds, My Morning Jacket, Cake, Wilco, State Radio, Scissor Sisters and The Beatles.

Hmmm, let me – wait, what did you say?

I’m just playing. [laughter]

[Laughs] Re-forming for a concert in Northwestern Massachusetts … But I would say Cake and Wilco.

You said you used to play in artsy bands – what is an “artsy band”?

I mean artsy in the sense that their music is never meant to be commercial; it’s just made for them. A lot of it is improv-based. Not many people like it – it’s pretty complicated. The Bay Area – where we’re from – was a democratic music scene when we first formed. Commercial music wasn’t the thing to do. We thought [our first album] was going to be a cool indie record. “Semi-Charmed Life” just turned out to be a huge pop hit. It’s about sex and drugs but people didn’t get that.

Was Third Eye Blind’s early music a reaction to the grunge era?

I wouldn’t say it was a reaction, but as the grunge stuff wore thin Third Eye Blind came with a different sound. A lot of bands gravitated towards that sound, and you can still see it today. We came in and changed the game.

Is rock dead? [I ask in my most pensive tone]

[Pauses] It’s definitely hurting. I think a lot of it is because the club scene is huge now. You have kids as young as 15 going to clubs and people just don’t gather at rock shows anymore. It used to be the rock club and now it’s all about the dance club. It’s about where people convene. But there is always a place for rock. There aren’t a lot of great rock bands now, so people are listening to the old stuff.

What did you listen to when you were younger?

Hendrix and Led Zeppelin – the classic stuff. I was also into Heavy Metal with bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. I grew up in a white suburban area so I listened to that kind of music. My younger sister was into David Bowie and Michael Jackson but I couldn’t say I liked her music or else my older brother would have beaten me up.

Final question: I used to listen to the song “Graduate” from your first album in which Jenkins asks in the chorus, “Can I graduate?” At age 12, I thought that he was talking about the difficulties of doing well in school, which I knew all about. But I found out that the dude was valedictorian at UC Berkeley!

The song is about graduating in life. It’s like what The Who is saying: the man’s always trying to keep you down.

Oh, my fifth grade mind couldn’t comprehend that.

Well that’s the thing about good lyrics: they transcend any one meaning.

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