When the Gin Blossoms performed at a theater in San Diego in 2019, the pop-rock band announced it would deliver some new material. “No, just play the good songs,” a fan screamed, which cracked up guitarist Jesse Valenzuela.
It amused vocalist Robin Wilson as well.
“That reminds me of a ‘Simpsons’ episode,” Wilson said, while calling from a Long Island, New York, mall. “Homer goes to the State Fair to see Bachman Turner Overdrive. BTO said they were going to play some new stuff and Homer screams ‘Takin’ Care of Business’ over and over. We get it, but the people who scream our songs, like ‘Hey Jealousy,’ at our shows, don’t own our records.
“If we’re playing the State Fair, like BTO during that Simpsons episode, the fans who just want the hits aren’t there for us. They’re out there for the deep-fried snicker bars or the Ferris wheel or whatever.”
The Gin Blossoms, who will perform Thursday at Northern Quest Resort and Casino, have a loyal fan base that goes back 30 years, when the aforementioned “Hey Jealousy” finally hit the charts. It took more than a year for the single to gain traction. A&M Records pushed the Gin Blossoms’ first album, “New Miserable Experience,” and Sheryl Crow’s “Tuesday Night Music Club” in a relentless manner. I received four copies of each album four times over an 18-month stretch.
“That was back in the day when there were record companies and they supported the recording artist,” Wilson said. “Our label clearly believed in us.”
A&M’s dedication to the Gin Blossoms certainly buoyed the band. The group’s jangle pop connected with the alt-rock audience. “Found Out About You,” “Until I Fall Away” and “Allison Road” hit the charts.
The Gin Blossoms, which also includes guitarist Scotty Johnson, bassist Bill Leen and drummer Scott Hessel, followed up with 1996’s “Congratulations, I’m Sorry,” which includes two more mellow, jangly hits, “Follow You Down” and “Til I Hear It From You.”
During the mid-’90s the Gin Blossoms expanded their fan base by touring with such acts as Soul Asylum, Cracker and the Spin Doctors.
“It was such a great time to be in a band and to be a fan,” Wilson said. “It was so cool going out with Soul Asylum since I was such a big fan. I loved their album, ‘Hang Time.’ ”
Part of the reason the Gin Blossoms have remained relevant is that Wilson has always been and remains a die-hard music fan. Wilson keeps up with the trends and hasn’t forgotten acts that had an impact on him during his formative years.
“I love a lot of bands that broke in 1987, like Jane’s Addiction and the Pixies,” Wilson said. “That was an incredible time for music.”
Wilson is such a fan that he flew to Tempe, Arizona, last October to catch his favorite recording artist, the Darkness.
“That band doesn’t get enough credit,” Wilson said. “They’re just so great. I don’t think a lot of people get their sense of humor. They’re incredible.”
Wilson is also a huge fan of the emerging punk band, White Reaper.
“That’s another group people should get to know,” Wilson said. “There are so many great bands out there. You just have to dig deep.”
Fans don’t have to dig so hard to find the Gin Blossoms, who have an array of hits that are still resonant.
“We have good songs,” Wilson said. “If you can write good, compelling, memorable songs, you can get somewhere in this business. Our songs have enabled us to have a career and we are pretty good musicians. I think I’m in the top 250 of rock singers.”
The members of the Smithereens believe Wilson is higher in the ranks than the humble vocalist admits. The Smithereens’ under-heralded singer-songwriter Pat DiNizio died in 2017. The New Jersey-based band decided to continue with Wilson and singer-songwriter Marshall Crenshaw sharing vocal duties. The Smithereens recently crafted an album’s worth of songs.
“I’m very excited about making the album with the Smithereens,” Wilson said. “(Smithereens guitarist) Jim Babjak is a terrific songwriter.”
The Smithereens were on hand when Wilson was inducted into the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame last year. It’s quite an honor since Billy Joel, KISS and the Stray Cats are among the entertainers who grace the hallowed hall.
“It’s amazing,” Wilson said. “It’s not easy to be inducted into any Hall of Fame.”
Wilson goes out with the Smithereens when he can but the Gin Blossoms remain his main gig.
“There’s nothing I enjoy as much fun as performing with the Gin Blossoms,” Wilson said. “We’ve kept it interesting for a long time, which isn’t easy for a band to do.”
The Gin Blossoms splintered in 1997 but reformed in 2002.
“The breakup didn’t have to be forever and it wasn’t,” Wilson said. “We really enjoy playing together. We appreciate each other and hope to perform together for a long time.”
First appeared on www.spokesman.com