Interview: Gin Blossoms’ Jesse Valenzuela Discusses the Band’s Plans for 2013

by James Wood
Posted Jan 18, 2013 at 11:03am

Gin Blossoms have been synonymous with catchy melodies and jangle pop ever since they broke into the mainstream with their 1992 sophomore album, New Miserable Experience.

The record went on to sell more than four million copies and made the band a mainstay of radio in the Nineties with singles like “Hey Jealousy,” “Allison Road,” “Until I Fall Away” and “Found Out About You.”

Gin Blossoms (their name was taken from a comical description of the rosacea eruptions on comedian W.C. Fields’ nose) continued their climb with 1996’s Congratulations…I’m Sorry but abruptly broke up in 1997, just as their brand of pop rock was falling out of fashion. In 2002, band members Robin Wilson (lead vocals/guitar), Jesse Valenzuela (vocals and guitar), Scott Johnson (guitar) and Bill Leen (bass) regrouped and continued to record and tour with a variety of drummers, performing as many as 120 shows a year.

Proving that their early success was no fluke, Gin Blossoms have enjoyed chart hits since reuniting. Their latest album, 2010’s No Chocolate Cake, shot straight to Number One on Amazon and reached Number 14 on Billboard’s Indie chart. It also landed them back on the singles chart with the album track “Miss Disarray.”

For 2013, Gin Blossoms will tour more than 100 cities around the globe, perform a five-artist rock cruise and possibly even record another new album. They are also partnering with Fretlight Guitars to give fans a chance to win an autographed Fretlight FG-421 guitar at several stops during their northeastern winter tour.

We caught up with Jesse Valenzuela to get his thoughts on the origin, music and future plans of Gin Blossoms.

GUITAR WORLD: How did Gin Blossoms get started?

It wasn’t something that happened overnight or that was done in any sort of dramatic fashion. It took some starts and stops before it actually became a band. We all grew up in the same college town and had been in different bands. We all knew each other and eventually just started playing together. Early on, it was me, Doug [Hopkins] and Bill [Leen], along with Richard Taylor and Chris McCann. [Hopkins, the band’s original lead guitarist and principal songwriter, committed suicide in 1993.] Rob [Wilson] came in about eight months later, after Richard left. Then Chris left the band and we got another drummer. So it was a busy first year.

When you think about the New Miserable Experience era, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

It was a pretty busy time, with a lot of TV and shows. We knew we had something special with the album and did a lot of traveling. But it also went by very quickly. You’re a pop star for about 11 months or so, and then it turns into regular musician work.

Your latest album, No Chocolate Cake, has an interesting cover [an image of a woman holding a piece of chocolate cake behind her back]. What’s the story behind it?

That was a record company decision. We were hoping it was going to be just a big chocolate cake [the album’s title essentially means “you don’t get desert”], but they ignored what we wanted and did the whole Loverboy Get Lucky artwork themselves. I remember the first time we saw it, we were all just aghast! [laughs]. But at the same time, it doesn’t really bother me because there’s very little interest in record covers right now.

One of the strongest tracks from the record is “I Don’t Want to Lose You Now.” How did that song come about?

I wrote that song in Nashville with the Warren Brothers and my friend Danny. I travel down there a few times a year to write. The changes on the song are pretty classic, so it invites those traditional, tight harmonies.

Even 20 years on, Gin Blossoms haven’t lost the distinctive sound and infectious groove that made New Miserable Experience such a hit.

That sometimes can be a double-edged sword because some may say that it’s not in vogue anymore. But it’s the music we make. We’ve found a way to create a very recognizable sound and try to respect it. It’s as simple as that.

What are you most looking forward to for 2013?

We’re starting a three-week tour to coincide with some more shows throughout the rest of the year. I’m looking forward to it. We’ll be playing some smaller theaters, where we can be a little more intimate with the crowd. In March, we’re also looking to book some studio time to cut a few things, and we’ll see what goes from there.

For more information on Gin Blossoms, including tour dates and more, check out GinBlossoms.net and Facebook.

Photo: Angela O'Neil

James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.