Nineties alt-rockers the Gin Blossoms celebrated the 25th anniversary of their multiplatinum album last year. The band is touring in support of its new album, Mixed Reality, which will be showcased during a performance at Discovery Ventura on Sept. 11.
“The idea [behind the album] was that everybody bring the best three songs and we recorded these songs — something different that we’ve never done before,” said guitarist Scotty Johnson.
For Jesse Valenzuela, guitarist and vocalist, “It’s been fun. And Scotty’s got a song, ‘Still Some Room in Heaven,’ that’s really working.”
The Gin Blossoms formed in 1987 in Tempe, Arizona, with Valenzuela, bassist Bill Leen, Robin Wilson on vocals and guitar, drummer Phillip Rhodes and guitarist Doug Hopkins making up the core of the band that would go on to success with such hits as “Hey Jealousy.” The band weathered the tragic death of Hopkins in 1993, but broke up in early 1997. The members stayed in touch, however, and reunited in 2002. Today’s lineup includes Leen, Valenzuela and Wilson, with Johnson and drummer Scott Hessel coming on board in recent years.
The Gin Blossoms’ latest album, Mixed Reality, was released on June 15 via Cleopatra Records, and features 15 songs, with Wilson, Leen, Valenzuela and Johnson all contributing material. It’s uncommon for four members of a five-member band to write songs, but it has worked in the Gin Blossoms’ favor as Mixed Reality has received critical praise across the board.
“As much as we are children of our influences, we managed to do something that was both familiar and original,” Wilson explained of the new album, adding that he was able to “tap into a younger version” of himself when writing songs.
One of Wilson’s four new tunes is “Break.” Leen and Johnson also have two co-writes, including “Still Some Room in Heaven.” Valenzuela contributed four songs as well, including “Angels Fly.” And the band’s off-kilter sense of humor shines through the audio-verité snippet, “The JFK Shit Show.”
“We’re at the point now where we play better, we communicate better, we get along more,” said Wilson. “We’re more grateful. It’s a very full-circle thing for us to be releasing Mixed Reality.”
Most recently, in 2017, the Gin Blossoms celebrated the 25-year anniversary of their seminal, multi-platinum album, New Miserable Experience (A&M Records), which spawned four Top 40 hit singles, including “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You,” and kept the band on the charts for almost three years.
To date, the crossover hits from the album have sold more than 5 million records. Those hits were followed up by “Til I Hear It From You,” which skyrocketed to No. 1 and moved the Empire Records soundtrack to platinum status. This song was co-written with Marshall Crenshaw, and Billboard magazine described it at the time as, “the closest thing to a perfect pop song to hit radio in recent memory.”
Their next song, “Follow You Down,” spent 10 weeks in the Top 10, and “As Long As It Matters” earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best Performance by a Duo or Group, making their 1996 Congratulations I’m Sorry album (A&M Records) another multiradio-format favorite and multiplatinum success. In 2017, the Gin Blossoms were inducted into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame.
As far as the upcoming show in Ventura is concerned, Valenzuela said, “We practically own that town. Ventura is one of the first places that we actually brought in a crowd. We’re kind of the kings of Santa Barbara and Ventura.”
He particularly remembers drawing the college-age crowd, who “seemed to gravitate to us because we’re immature and like to have fun.”
In the band’s early days, they used to play in Ventura but never stayed downtown “because we didn’t have the bread,” Valenzuela recalled. “So we’d stay at these hotels outside of town and shared a parking lot with an In-N-Out Burger . . . and getting into town for a few hours was always fun.”
“We haven’t played in Ventura for a couple of years now, and we love to play there — it’s beautiful,” he added.
The Gin Blossoms perform on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. at Discovery Ventura, 1888 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura. For tickets and more information, call 805-856-2695 or visit www.discoveryventura.com.