Photo: Shervin Lainez
by Yasmine Shemesh
The chiming guitar melodies of the Gin Blossoms are synonymous with the sounds and styles of the 90s. Following their first major label release, New Miserable Experience (1992), the Arizona alt-rockers blew the lid off of MTV and beyond with hits like “Hey Jealousy” and “Til I Hear it From You,” casting the group as obvious additions to the soundtracks of iconic movies like Empire Records and Wayne’s World 2.
The sounds of the 90s were also amplified in Canada with acts like Moist, The Headstones and Vancouver’s The Odds, a band who Gin Blossoms’ guitarist Jesse Valenzuela has a longstanding kinship with.
Valenzuela met Craig Northey, founding member of the Vancouver rock legends, years ago through mutual friends in Los Angeles and they’ve collaborated from time to time. A recent collab had the pair co-writing the theme song to the beloved CTV sitcom, Corner Gas.
“I love it,” Valenzuela enthuses. “I love my association with that TV show.”
Corner Gas has made Valenzuela a fortuitous celebrity in Canada.
“A few years ago, I’m sitting in a bar drinking,” he says with a chuckle. “I was in Canada and I was talking to a gentleman and I ordered a Canadian Club. And he said, ‘No, you don’t want that, let me get you something better.’ He brought me Crown Royal. And through the course of conversation, having a whiskey, we talked about what he did, what I did, and I mentioned that song, I mentioned that TV show. And he got a big smile on his face and started laughing.”
Valenzuela starts laughing, too.
“And he said, ‘You know, you could walk into any bar in Canada and plug yourself a Crown Royal if you let them know you wrote that.’”
Gin Blossoms are no nostalgia act. They’ve continued to tour prolifically and release new music — 2018’s Mixed Reality is the group’s latest and it’s fantastic. But with their foundation firmly rooted in the 90s musical landscape, there’s an inevitable warmth that comes from finding something golden from the past resurfacing in the present.
For the Blossoms, this sentiment materializes in “Wonder,” an exquisite ballad written by Valenzuela, and one of the stand-out tracks on the new album. While it includes undertones of that familiar jangle, the song is an inspired addition to the band’s catalog.
“It’s a sweet song, isn’t it?” Valenzuela says. “Someone once told me it made her cry. You have these wistful moments and you think of parts of your former life. I think that’s what it’s about.”