Ten years ago, few American bands had brighter prospects than Gin Blossoms.
The Tempe, Ariz., quintet was on top of the modern-rock world after its debut A&M album, “New Miserable Experience,” took a full year to take off, eventually selling more than 4 million copies. The album spawned three hits, including “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You,” the latter of which topped Billboard’s modern-rock tracks chart in January 1994.
Lead singer Robin Wilson, guitarists Jesse Valenzuela and Scott Johnson, bassist Bill Leen and drummer Phillip Rhodes performed on all the late-night TV talk shows and toured with Toad the Wet Sprocket, UB40, Spin Doctors and the Neville Brothers. The success came even after original guitarist Doug Hopkins, who wrote “Found Out About You” and “Hey Jealousy,” had been let go and later shot himself to death in December 1993.
It took three years for the group to complete its follow-up LP, “Congratulations I’m Sorry.” It went Top 10 in 1996, sold over 1 million and gave the group its only Top 10 pop hit, “Follow You Down.” Critics, however, said the album added nothing new to what had been an artistically promising career.
By then, beaten down by years of constant touring, the group ran out of steam and disbanded in 1997.
“I think Robin was tired of answering to the rest of us,” Valenzuela said recently. “Being in a band is a difficult chore; it takes a lot of in-house troubles. If you can give it a try, you go from there.”
A New Year’s Eve 2001 reunion show in Tempe changed all that: They rediscovered the magic that brought them together in 1988. Valenzuela, Wilson and the others are touring again and last year oversaw the 10th anniversary re-release of “New Miserable Experience.” Reissued on Sept. 24, the two-CD deluxe edition contains outtakes, alternate versions, remixes and other rare tracks.
Valenzuela says everyone did a little soul-searching after the band broke up, but he also kept plenty busy.
“I tried my hand at another band for a short time,” he said, “and then I realized, ‘Ugh, I just don’t want to be in a band.’ I wanted to be an artist by myself. I made a solo record and stayed busy with guitar sessions and vocals sessions in L.A., and some co-writing.”
So, what changed his mind about being in a band again?
“I think it was okay to be in the Gin Blossoms,” he said. “There’s no other band I’m interested being in. Over the last couple of years, the band came together. We’re used to each other.”
Valenzuela says there’s talk of the group recording again, but he doesn’t see it happening anytime soon.
“I’ve seen a few songs written,” he said, “but it’s like a Gin Blossoms record, it’s a large process – a lot of songs have to be written, demos and arrangements. It’s not quite there yet.”
In the meantime, Valenzuela says he doesn’t mind if the reunited Gin Blossoms are perceived as a nostalgia act.
“Our old manager used to say, ‘Kids want their heroes, so you gotta hit it while it’s hot,’ ” he said. “The musical climate’s always going to change, and you can’t expect to remain relevant for every age group. Rock ‘n’ roll’s a young man’s game, and the Gin Blossoms left at the height of it, unfortunately, when we had a platinum-selling record.
“To re-create that, I don’t think it’s possible, but who knows? I don’t mean to be a naysayer, either, but I think it would be difficult to duplicate it. Even our contemporaries who were resolute and stayed in the game, like the Goo Goo Dolls, while the Goos are still hugely successful, it’s not as easy for them to sell records as it was in the past. They still do really well because they’re very talented guys. All I’m suggesting with us having a low-profile all those years makes it even more difficult.”
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ON THE WEB: www.gin-blossoms.com.
BWF (before we forget): The Gin Blossoms album discography – “Dusted” (San Jacinto, 1989); “Up and Crumbling” EP (A&M, 1991); “New Miserable Experience” (1992); “Congratulations I’m Sorry” (1996); “Outside Looking In: The Best of Gin Blossoms” (A&M/UME, 1999).
Upcoming Gin Blossoms tour dates – April 19, Tacoma, Wash., Emerald Queen Casino; April 25, Cincinnati, College of Mt. St. Joseph; May 10, Las Vegas, Stratosphere Outdoor Event Center; May 17, Sedona, Ariz., Sedona Cultural Park; May 24, St. Louis, Rib America Fest; May 25, De Pere, Wis., Celebrate DePere at Voyageur Park; May 30-31, Kelseyville, Calif., Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa; June 1, Brea, Calif., St. Angela Merici Summerfest; June 7, Temecula, Calif., Temecula Balloon & Wine Festival; June 14, Cincinnati, Rib America; June 21, Santa Ana, Calif., Galaxy Theatre; June 22, Roseville, Calif., Placer County Fair; July 5, La Crosse, Wis., Riverfest; July 19, St. Joseph, Mich., Venetian Festival; July 23, Minneapolis, Rib America Fest; July 24, Oshkosh, Wis., Waterfest; July 25, Waukesha, Wis., Riverfest; July 26, Indianapolis, TBA; July 27, Lebanon, N.H., Lebanon Opera House.