If San Francisco alternative rock band of the 1990s, Third Eye Blind, was a family it would be a pretty dysfunctional one. That’s the way things looked Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco.
Tony Fredianelli, the band’s original 1993 lead guitarist, has sued lead singer Stephen Jenkins and bandmate Bradley Hargreaves, along with the band’s former lawyer Thomas I. Mandelbaum, claiming they cheated him of $8 million in royalties and profits from songs and touring.
Fredianelli testified that Jenkins took over as the band’s manager about 2008. “Things started to get real bad in 2009,” Fredianelli said. Jenkins “gave me bad travel information at the last minute and he did things that were not cool.” Fredianelli told the eight-member jury that Jenkins kept asking in Fredianelli wanted to quit, refused to let his wife and kids travel on tour with the band and forced Fredianelli off the band bus.
Fredianelli was part of the original band in 1993, but left a year later, then returned to the band in 1999 only to fall out again in 2010.
He claims to be co-author of many of the band’s early hits, including “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Motorcycle Drive By” and “How’s It Going to Be,” from the band’s first album, which sold six million copies. All the song’s reached the Top 10 of U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
Fredianelli said he became a full partner in the band with Jenkins, Hargreaves and Arion Salazar in 2003, though they never signed a written partnership agreement “because Jenkins insisted that he did not have time to negotiate one due to the band’s busy recording and performing schedule,” the suit states.
During his testimony Wednesday, Fredianelli said he agreed to take a cut in his share of proceeds from touring, with the understanding that he would get publishing deals for songs he wrote. “My tour share went from 33 percent to 25 percent. I agreed with the understanding I would get a publishing deal and I said as long as my income does not go down I would go along with it.”
He said the last time he played with the band was a New Year’s Eve show in 2009. “He cut me out of the shows he was playing,” Fredianelli said. He also accused Jenkins of failing to give him billing on songs he wrote during concerts. “It was not cool. It was not the way we did things,” he said.
In 2008, former manager Eric Godtland was fired and Jenkins took over management duties, promptly securing a publishing deal worth $2.25 million for his share of Third Eye Blind’s catalog of songs, according to the suit. That year the band also release “Red Star” and a new album, “Ursa Major,” which hit number three on the music charts.
Fredianelli says he wrote or co-wrote many of the new songs but he and Jenkins never reached an agreement for the proper split for the proceeds.
This is not the band’s first legal squabble.
In 2002, guitarist Kevin Cadogan settled a suit against Jenkins and the band’s management for an undisclosed amount. Cadogan, who joined in 1994 after Fredianelli’s departure, sued for fraud, wrongful termination and breach of contract, after his split with the band in 2000.
He said he was not given songwriting credit with Jenkins on 16 of 27 songs on the band’s 1997 and 1999 albums.
Cadogan left the band in 1999 around the time Fredianelli rejoined.
The jury trial will continue before U.S. District Judge Edward Chen until October 21.
Case: Fredianelli v. Jenkins, No. 11-cv-3232EMC