Gin Blossoms say becoming ‘classic’ is cool

The Gin Blossoms have had many hits, including “Hey Jealousy,” “Found Out About You” and “Until I Fall Away.”
The Gin Blossoms have had many hits, including “Hey Jealousy,” “Found Out About You” and “Until I Fall Away.” Merrick Music Group

If you’re over the age of 30 and turned on a radio in the 1990s, chances are you know the lyrics to at least one Gin Blossoms song.

“Hey Jealousy,” “Found Out About You,” “Until I Fall Away,” “Allison Road,” “Til I Hear It From You” and “Follow You Down” were in constant rotation on mainstream radio during the early to mid-’90s. You can hear their hits next week at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto.

The group’s rumpled, jangly rock didn’t have the growl or angst of the grunge that dominated the era. So today, the familiar opening notes of their hits bring back a warm wave of nostalgia for flannel shirts and Doc Martens.

Still, it might come as a surprise to the group’s fans, as it did the group members themselves, that their music has now entered the realm of classic rock. Gin Blossoms guitarist Scotty Johnson was at his Phoenix home recently and turned on the local classic rock station only to hear his own songs.

“We were added to the playlist for the big classic rock station in Phoenix, and I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ ” Johnson said in a recent interview with The Bee. “It takes a moment to think, ‘Wow, we’re classic rock.’ I get it. I think it’s awesome. I’m just going to embrace it as the beginning of a whole new thing.”

Indeed the group, which has kept its core four-man lineup since 1992, has embraced the sentimental support of its music in the past few years. In 2012, the Gin Blossoms embarked on the debut of the Summerland Tour with fellow ’90s mainstays like Everclear, Lit, Marcy Playground and Sugar Ray. The tour was one of the first to bring together groups from the ’90s en masse and take advantage of the warm, fuzzy feelings of Generation X music fans.

So Johnson said the group (lead singer Robin Wilson, guitarist Jesse Valenzuela, bassist Bill Leen and a revolving door of drummers over the years) have no problem with their status as a ’90s throwback. In fact, they are quite proud of their longevity.

“I had no idea, they’d be playing our songs (years later). None of us had any idea this would ever happen – that we’d still be talking about it 20 years later. It’s an honor, really,” Johnson said.

Things indeed are very different from 1992, when the Gin Blossoms broke out big with “Hey Jealousy.” The band was touring overseas when the song started to get major airplay on U.S. radio and MTV. But it was only through calls with friends that the band members realized the extent of their new success.

“I talked to some of my friends, and they were like, ‘Dude, you’re on MTV,’ ” Johnson said. “I knew we were getting played because I’d get stats from the label. But I didn’t know what was really going on. This was the old days. We were still in a van traveling around and trying to make something happen.”

While the Gin Blossoms came up before Facebook, Twitter, smartphones and all the ways news is instantaneously shared around the world, Johnson said he doesn’t know if the band’s rise to fame would be different if it were happening today.

“You still have to get in that bus and drive to Omaha and play a little, small, stinky club. There’s still a process,” he said. “It’s hard for me to say because it’s hard for me to grasp the media thing. I’m not a computer person; it’s not part of life. I don’t do social media. I like to be private. I still subscribe to old school, I don’t have a tweeter account and don’t share what I’m eating for dinner.”

These days, half the band lives in their home state of Arizona, while Valenzuela resides in Los Angeles and Wilson in Long Island. The band still plays 65 to 70 shows together a year. While they broke up for a few years in the late 1990s, the group has been back and going strong since 2002. And, if classic rock radio stations have anything to do with it, for many years to come.

So if you think of the ’90s and think of the Gin Blossoms, that’s perfectly fine by them.

“Not at all, I think that’s what it is. It’s all good with me, you can call me anything you want, as long as you go to the show,” Johnson said.