Gin Blossoms, ’90s alt-rockers, will return to Happy Valley July 26 to bring their three decades of music to fans both old and young.
The band got together in the late ’80s when the guys were still too young to buy beer.
“We were all just out of high school when we met each other,” said Jesse Valenzuela, lead guitarist and supporting vocalist for the Gin Blossoms. “We kept playing together a few years after that. It took about five or six years playing together for us (to make it).”
The love for music goes beyond profession for Valenzuela. His adult life has been saturated with music, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s my career, it’s my whole life,” Valenzuela said. “I don’t know what I did before this, I’ve never really done anything else. I’ve always played music, never really had a “job.” Last job I had, I worked at a gas station from midnight to 8 a.m. It was kind of a cool job, actually, because there was no one around, and I could play guitar all night. And, all my buddies who were in bands would show up after their gigs at about 1:30 a.m., and we would drink coffee and shoot the breeze; it was fun.”
Valenzuela thinks that even if the Gin Blossoms had never taken off, he’d still be playing his guitar.
“I’d still be a musician even if I weren’t in the Gin Blossoms,” he said. “Well, I hope.”
In addition to being a founding member of the Gin Blossoms as well as a major creative force behind the band’s sound, Valenzuela recently released a solo album.
“It’s available for download-only right now; does anyone care about physical product anymore? They gave me these cards and I can give them to people and they can download the record. It has the artwork on it and everything,” Valenzuela said. “But, a lot of people really freak out, ‘where’s the physical? where’s the physical?’ Seriously? Where are you, 1996? I don’t know anybody who actually buys CDs anymore. I’ll go buy LPs (vinyl) with my son, but I don’t ever buy a CD anymore.”
Never content to rest on their laurels, the Gin Blossoms are busy touring all summer on their way to the studio this fall.
“We’re working our way up the coast. We’re out for the summer playing music,” Valenzuela said. “Then, in the fall, we’re going back to the studio to re-cut some of the old hits. We’re also working on new songs, too. I also think I’m going to do a little acoustic jamboree, try to bring the music to the people.”
The band has decided to re-track some of their greatest hits.
“We’re going to re-cut the big hits, because it behooves us to own the masters,” Valenzuela said. “I think we’re the last band in the business who hasn’t re-cut their masters. It’s not a matter of sound, it’s about owning them if they’re going to be on TV or whatever. It will also be good to kickstart the creative process again, get everyone in a room together working. We haven’t recorded in a few years, so that will be fun.”
Pennsylvania is not unfamiliar territory for the boys in the Gin Blossoms. The band downright loves the Keystone State.
“We have a lot of friends in Pennsylvania,” Valenzuela said. “We’ve always done really well there; it’s a great place. I like it, it’s really comfortable and there’s great food. Great Italian food… I’m going to get a nice red sauce, some beautiful bread… The people are always nice, and we always have such a great time. It’s always fun.”
Valenzuela believes the keys to making it as a musician is tenacity and an ability to criticize and improve your own work.
“I was given some good advice (when I was young), which was to keep writing material and keep editing what you write,” he said. “Don’t accept the the first, second or even third draft. As a songwriter, get a little recorder and keep recording. Just keep playing and keep writing and enjoy yourself. Try to say as much with less, so to speak. I don’t always get there, but I try.”
Unlike some other touring acts from the ’90s, the Gin Blossoms will be playing the favorites that made them famous during their July 26 show.
“Well, obviously we’re going to be playing the hits. No, we’re going to play you our new jazz exploration,” he said, laughing. “‘We’ll definitely be playing the hits.”