'90s Survivors the Gin Blossoms: "There Won't Be Too Many Left Turns"
When Rocks Off reached Gin Blossoms guitarist Jesse Valenzuela recently, he was a man on a mission. But it had nothing to do with either creating or playing music.
Doug Merrick Media/Sigi Photography L-R: Scott "Scotty" Johnson, Bill Leen, Robin Wilson and Jesse Valenzuela of the Gin Blossoms
"I'm taking a walk through my neighborhood and going to the store to get taco ingredients. I'm making them for my boy tonight," he says. "It will be taco madness at my house! You're welcome to stop by!"
Seeing as how the West Coast is a long way to drive for a dish that Houston does pretty well already, we politely declined.
Valenzeula, vocalist Robin Wilson and bassist Bill Leen co-founded the band in 1987, taking their name from the caption of a photo of comedian W.C. Fields with a red-streaked nose in the book Hollywood Babylon.
After releasing an indie record and EP, the Tempe, Arizona-based group had a hit with 1993 major-label debut New Miserable Experience, which featured the hits "Hey Jealousy," "Until I Fall Away," "Found Out About You" and "Allison Road." They also hit with "'Til I Hear It From You" on the Empire Records film soundtrack.
Follow-up Congratulations, I'm Sorry spawned "Follow You Down" and "As Long As It Matters," but the band took a break around the turn of the century for members to pursue other projects. Since regrouping, they've released Major Lodge Victory (2006) and No Chocolate Cake (2010).
And while the band is currently working on new material, Valenzuela is surprisingly nonchalant about next month's sessions in Phoenix resulting in a new record.
"We've got enough songs, but we're mainly looking to get them placed in TV and films," he offers. "I don't care about a record anymore, and I don't think anybody else does either.
"You've got to get four or five guys locked up in a room with the same idea, and that can be hard," Valenzuela adds. "But to his credit, Robin really respects the Gin Blossoms' idea and sound, and likes to keep any new music comparable. There won't be too many left turns."
"The nature of a young band is five egomaniacs screaming for attention," he explains. "And that permeates everything. The music, and the hang. The constant bid for attention creates [tensions]. But you get older and you change."
These days, Valenzuela says band members are "respectful" or each other -- and each other's baggage -- while trying to make music and run a business as well.
"You can tell when someone is trying bait you," he laughs. "And you can either grab onto it or just keep your nose in a book!"
Still, the guitarist says modern conveniences make touring today "much better" than 25 years ago.
"There wasn't an Internet or computers or 300 channels to watch on TV," he says. "You had only pay phones and a calling card for communication. Now, I can download three books on my Kindle to read on the plane!"
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