Gin Blossoms bring hits to Harrington

2) 2015 GB -PRESS PHOTO BY; Sakiphotography by .

With well-known tunes such as “Hey Jealousy,” “Found Out About You” and “Until I Fall Away,” Gin Blossoms will perform for fans of the 90s’ hitmakers at Harrington Raceway and Casino’s Exhibit Hall. (Submitted photo/Saki Photography)

HARRINGTON — Guitarist and Gin Blossoms co-founder Jesse Valenzuela is philosophical about the meteoric rise of his band in the early 1990s and the subsequent cool-down.

“Aside from guys like Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, I’ve never seen a band stay at the top very long. We had our point when were packing theaters and producing hits. But the natural thing is to hit it big and then wane. Eventually the youth want new songs. Kids want their own heroes,” said Mr. Valenzuela, who formed the jangle pop-rock band group in the late 1980s in Arizona with lead singer Robin Wilson and bassist Bill Leen.

Hit it big they did with songs such as “Hey Jealousy,” “Until I Fall Away,” “Follow You Down,” “Till I Hear It From You,” and the Grammy-nominated “As Long As It Matters.”

Gin Blossoms will perform Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. at Harrington Raceway & Casino’s Exhibit Hall as part of the On Stage — Harrington series.

The group first gained the attention of an Arizona independent label in 1989 with the album “Dusted.”

It wasn’t long after that A&M Records heard the group and signed it to a major deal. Gin Blossoms immediately released its self-recorded debut EP “Up and Crumbling” which contained songs such as “Mrs. Rita” and “Allison Road,” which would later appear in the 1992 breakthrough album “New Miserable Experience.”

That record reached multi-platinum status and put Gin Blossoms on the musical map.

“Hey Jealousy” hit the top 5 in Mainstream Rock radio before ascending to the top 25 on Billboard’s “Hot 100.” The following year saw “Found Out About You” also chart in the top 25 on the “Hot 100,” while also reaching the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s “Modern Rock Tracks” chart.

Not bad for a band that was trying to find its own place among other genres back in the early days.

1) PHOTO BY JEFF HARRIS (1) by .

Guitarist Jesse Valenzuela co-founded Gin Blossoms in the late 1980s in Arizona. (Submitted photo/Jeff Harris)

“We were probably stunted by hair bands back then more than anything else,” Mr. Valenzuela said last week by phone from his home in Los Angeles.

“Grunge was around but it never seemed to affect us too much since we had more pop leanings than most rock bands of the time. We played a less aggressive form of rock.

“I think the music that came from Seattle at that time was afforded a lot more credibility than the pop music we were making. They didn’t seem to carry the same weight which I’m not sure was fair. Personally, I never really dug grunge. It was a pretty strange time.”

The band’s follow-up album “Congratulations I’m Sorry” arrived in 1996 and went to the top 10 on the Billboard 200, fueled in part by the top-5 single, “Follow You Down.” The album’s next single, “As Long As It Matters,” earned Gin Blossoms a Grammy nomination for “Best Performance by a Duo or Group.”

Strangely enough, the band lost the award to The Beatles, whose recording of “Free as a Bird,” was released 25 years after the band’s breakup.

“Congratulations I’m Sorry” didn’t quite match the success of “New Miserable Experience” although it still went platinum.

“I think that’s a pretty loose definition of failure,” said Mr. Valenzuela with a laugh. “It had a few hits on it.”
Gin Blossoms took a brief break at the turn of the century to allow Mr. Valenzuela and Mr. Wilson to work on some side projects but reunited on New Year’s Eve 2001 for a show in their hometown of Tempe.

“Major Lodge Victory” was the band’s long-awaited fourth album in 2006, which produced the top-10 adult alternative hit “Learning The Hard Way.”

“No Chocolate Cake” in 2010 reached No. 1 on the Amazon.com sales chart while also earning an adult contemporary hit with “Miss Disarray.”

“A lot of our songs that were hits really came from those first two records. We then had some minor and independent hits,” said Mr. Valenzuela.

“By the 2000s we really had no avenue for our kind of music to be on the radio. You do still hear it on the radio but I guess we’re now considered classic rock. To paraphrase our manager at the time, he told us ‘Enjoy life. Enjoy this time because it won’t last forever.’

“It didn’t last for U2. It didn’t last for anyone. We had our time and I never wanted to be that selfish pig who is screaming for more attention.”

Despite band members being stretched all across the country, Mr. Valenzuela, 53, is hopeful that Gin Blossoms will produce new music soon.

“Perhaps around February we’ll get back into the studio but I’m thinking maybe a shorter EP or something,” he said.

“You can’t really sell albums like you did in the old days. It’s all digital downloads. Maybe we’ll just put some stuff up on the web free as an enticement to come see our live show.”

These days, he says he is just enjoying life. He has a new solo album out called “Hotel Defeated” but likes just being a dad more than anything.

“I have a son who is high school age and I need to be home more. I can’t necessarily take off on a long tour. He is 16. Maybe I should be working harder but then I remember that I only have a couple of years until he’s off to college so I am just trying to enjoy this time as much as I can,” he said.

“But I still really enjoy playing out live because I play for different reasons. Now I just play to get better. It’s a much simpler time now.”

Tickets for the Nov. 14 Harrington show are $39 and can be purchased at www.harringtonraceway.com, by calling (888) 887-5687, ext. 5246, or stopping by the Casino Gift Shop. All ages are welcome.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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