1. “Be a dream in color even on a winter’s night/Thinking Georges Seurat, afternoon bathed in light/Get your joy no matter who says it’s right/Their cover’s blown, find the story of your own” (Camouflage) – At one point in an interview, Stephan Jenkins was quoted admitting that he actually doesn’t know what all the screaming lyrics in “Camouflage” are, which is pretty funny. But this one discernable lyric is like a constellation. It fits together so perfect and the words are so bright. If you need proof of the poets here, check this song out. Even if you can’t tell what the hell they’re saying. I love this song. Get more 90s or get more modern day Jim Morrison- you can’t.
2. “You want to know how deeply my soul goes/ Deeper than bones, deeper than bones” (I Want You) – This ethereal ode to wanting someone feels like it was written in another dimension. Haunting, a little spooky, it is nothing short of a snake-charming song. It’s so strange that it actually reminds me of the Doors. It’s the perfect example of Stephan Jenkins’ ability to say so many things that you, the listener, don’t understand, but somehow they connect to create a meaning that you have created for yourself. It’s at once an ode to mortality and an echoing proclamation of desire. “Send me all your vampires…”
3. “And I’m hanging on your words / Like I always used to do / The words they use so lightly/ I only feel for you /I only know because I carry you around /In the background” (The Background) – I challenge you to find a more heartbreaking or deeply resonating song. It’s those weird, very specific place and memory references that Stephan Jenkins drops that let you know that you have both no idea what he’s talking about and a very close understanding of what he’s talking about. Jenkins’ lyrics become your own because you are forced to create your own meaning for Haight Street (in San Francisco, the band’s hometown) and by doing so, his lyrics become your own. Who hasn’t carried someone around ‘in the background’? Jenkins just finds a way to say it that is both specific and soul-shattering.
4. “I’ve never been so alone/And I’ve never been so alive” (Motorcycle Drive-By) – Are there things you’d like to do that the people you’re with don’t believe in? This song, these lyrics are the essence of estrangement from those you wish understood you and backed you up. Jenkins writes frequently about motorcycles, which is fitting because they’re a one person ride, usually. This song is so much about setting off on your own, but realizing that you are at the helm; that some people we wish were with us will never see the great things we will one day build.
5. “How’s it going to be/When you found out there was nothing/Between you and me/Cause I don’t care/ How’s it going to be?” (How’s it Going to Be) – Is there a better f*** you song in the universe without explicitly saying so? This one hits the bitter nail on the head so eloquently, with such heartbreak, who hasn’t felt the way Jenkins screams about in the middle of this song? It’s that awful crossroads of not caring at the end of a relationship and wanting to make the other person think about how it’s the end. It’s such a bittersweet classic. “Where we used to laugh there’s a shouting match/ Sharp as a thumbnail scratch”- Jenkins’ lyrics are understated and packed full of sounds and feelings that we know in our guts.
6. “Time it passes and it tells us what we’re left with/We become the things we do/Me, I’m a fool spent from defiance yeah you got me but, I didn’t give up on you” (Blinded) – I’ll be damned if everyone doesn’t have a person that this applies to. Someone that you’ve let go of but not really, or even a time or a place in your life that you still hang on to. Is it romanticized? Of course. Does it feel new and fresh and spur the soul on to optimism? I think so. I think “Blinded” is one of Jenkins’ best examples of robust, colorful, beautiful lyrical poetry. I cannot listen to this song and not feel the sun.
7. “If I could bottle my hopes in a store bought scent/They’d be nutmeg peach and they’d pay the rent” (An Ode to Maybe) – One of my favorites ever. I actually got to meet Stephan Jenkins and I asked him what this, my unexplainable favorite lyric, means. He explained that it just seemed like what he thought his ambitions would be at the time. He had been couch surfing after college, and it really was just that; nonsensical. It made so much sense to me though and it still does. Wouldn’t all of our hopes have some sort of potency and pay our bills, freeing us?
8. “Everyone’s got to face down their demons/Maybe today you could put the past away” (Jumper) – I’d actually just say the entirety of “Jumper” is a soul-changing lyric. For those moments when staring into the blackness feels exhilaratingly cathartic, “Jumper” is a timeless anthem. It’s sick with truth and hurt. It reverberates pain, but somehow hope, too, as Jenkins and Tony Fredianelli scream in the background.
9. “I believe in the sand beneath my toes/The beach gives a feeling, an earthy feeling, I believe in the faith that grows/And the four right chords can make me cry/When I’m with you I feel like I could die and that would be alright, alright” (Semi-Charmed Life) – I first heard this song in 6th grade and it changed my life. I knew damn well that I didn’t know what he was talking about (crystal meth?) but the freedom of this song woke up my soul. Doesn’t everyone want something else? When I listen to this song, I can feel the heat of the summer sun beating through the verses and reminding me to stay young and feisty. It’s a rebel yell, a refusal to lay down.
10. “The stars they shine in an empty void/Life is not to fear, life is to enjoy” (Burning Man) – I cannot count the number of times I’ve been mid-panic attack or in a terrifying moment and these words have come to me. Life is not to fear, life is to enjoy. Don’t be afraid because it doesn’t solve anything. Enjoy your life. Live like a fire has been lit under your ass. Be the burning man.
11. “How do you do it/Now I’m overwhelmed by a violet sky/And we fly/In a decayed orbit/sixty six thousand miles an hour/Goes by, when we kissed and only now do I feel your mouth, like an ache, you never knew/And it was right in front of you” (Good Man) – This song is the weirdest recounting of an aching relationship, but his bizarre description choices are so beautiful. The mysteries of his references are part of the echoing questions about what was missing, what stops any of us from being a “good man.” This song breaks my heart.
12. “These secret garden beams/Changed my life so it seems/A warm breeze blows outside/ I don’t break stride/ Thoughts are warm, and they go deep inside of you/ And I never felt alone, til I met you” (Deep Inside of You) – When someone becomes all of your being, the love and loss of that love is everything. It cleans you out, like the hollowing of a gourd. This song is so raw, so exhausting in its description of love and loss.
13. “And that girl is like a sunburn I would like to save/ She’s like a sunburn” (Never Let You Go) – If you know anything about sun damage, you know that technically, you do save every sunburn you get. The freshness of the pain, that red skin, the peeling, that sensation comes and goes, but sunburns add up to your cumulative sun damage. Jenkins writes in these ins and outs, leaving you knowing exactly how that feels. Save the pain, get the sun spots, and maybe the pain is lurking for a later day. Jenkins brings the sun to each song, making you feel the heat of your last sunburn.
There’s no way I can list them all. I could comb through every song and find words and phrases that have stuck with me. 3EB is my soul music, in the darkest sense and the lightest sense. If the sun is shining, or even if it’s not, find your soul music and recognize that amazing feat of lyrics writing that connects us to each other. Music is one of the vital pulses that keeps us all alive. I feel lucky to have found my soul music written by someone that I’ve actually gotten to meet, proving to me in dark times that I am not alone in my emotions, fears, and reflections. You’re not alone.