In the 1990s, the Gin Blossoms were pop chart mainstays with singles like “Hey Jealousy,” “Mrs. Rita,” and “Found Out About You.” Their song “Till I Hear It From You,” became Canada’s longest-running No. 1 hit of 1995 with Billboard describing it as “the closest thing to a perfect pop song to hit radio in recent memory.” They followed up with the Grammy-nominated “As Long As It Matters.” For many, the band’s upbeat tunes were the ‘90s antidote to the angst of grunge.Friday the Gin Blossoms perform at the Clearwater River Casino outside Lewiston. Longtime guitarist Jesse Valenzuela, 55, was 23 when he joined the band and talked to Inland 360 about those heady days of fame that he is just fine with having in the rearview mirror.
360: In the 1990s, the Gin Blossoms’ music was everywhere. What did your songs offer that made them so popular for that time and place and still memorable today?
Valenzuela: If I think back, it was sort of the tail end of pop-heavy metal, all that grunge stuff was heavier and we were just sort of hanging fruit on the melody tree. The songs are very buoyant, they seem to hold up in that regard, infused with a classical melody sense.
360: Besides being ever-present on the radio, the band was featured multiple times on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” the “Late Show with David Letterman,” and “Saturday Night Live.” Which was a better experience, Leno or Letterman?
Valenzuela: Obviously at that moment there were camps and they were fighting for some late night kingdom. Here we are years later and no one knows who Letterman and Leno are. Honestly, it was always nice to be in Los Angeles, that’s where I’m from. Letterman was always really great to us. He had us on maybe 10 times. Then there was another guy (trails off), it’s hard to remember. It was 18 to 24 months of pop stardom. You’re in a van your whole life and it leads up to this arc. All of a sudden you’re in a bus and in really nice hotels. Then you’re at the summit and you really enjoy yourself and have all these really nice experiences. Then it starts going down and you try to find a nice level spot and hopefully ride out the rest of your life remembering why you started playing guitar in the first place. I kind of prefer my career now. It’s a nice time of life to be in your mid-50s playing music for a living.
360: The Gin Blossoms have a new album expected out soon. Will you play any of these songs at your Lewiston concert?
Valenzuela: There’s a nebulous release date. We have a bunch of new songs; it’s been a year since we made the record. It takes forever. I think our legion of fans will find it when it comes out. I prefer to play the old stuff because I don’t like to see people’s eyes glaze over when we play a song they’ve never experienced. They come expecting to hear the hits. Pop music on the radio belongs to a new generation.
If You Go
WHO: Gin Blossoms
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10
WHERE: Clearwater River Casino, outside Lewiston
COST: $15 to $40, ticketswest.com