Tempe-born indie rockers Gin Blossoms, fresh off a summer-long tour promoting their months-old album “Mixed Reality,” are back on the road.
This time, they are teaming up with fellow 1990s pop-rock band Big Head Todd and the Monsters for a tour that pitstops at Tucson’s AVA at Casino del Sol on Thursday, Sept. 6.
“We’re going to traverse the great Southwest and go out to California and a little Utah, a little Arizona and some other places and bring the music with Big Head Todd,” Gin Blossoms guitarist and songwriter Jesse Valenzuela said.
During a call from home in Los Angeles two weeks ago, Valenzuela talked about the jangle-pop band’s new album, returning to Tucson and his predictions for the annual ASU-UA football rivalry Duel in the Desert for the Territorial Cup. The 2018 game will be held Nov. 24 at Arizona Stadium.
You’re on the road with Big Head Todd. Have you toured with them in the past?
“We have, but not this extensive. They are contemporaries, but I think that Big Head Todd may be a little younger and much more handsome, with the big head, God bless him. … It is kind of nice to get back together with them. They do a really nice concert and together it’s a special show, I think.”
“Mixed Reality” is kinda reminiscent of classic Gin Blossoms like “New Miserable Experience.” It feels like revisiting an old friend.
“I’m conflicted, because we make music that always sounds the same. And I guess it’s a curse, I don’t know, and a blessing. A friend of mine said, ‘You know, the good part and the bad part is that you spend your whole career learning how to play like you play.’ … It’s just what you get. You accept your weaknesses with your strengths.”
Gin Blossoms have been around 30-plus years. Do you feel that you typecast yourself musically?
“Absolutely. I know for example on this record, which is a really great record that was democratic in its approach in that everybody brought three or four songs and those were the songs we were going to record. There was no A&R process and no marginalization of anyone and their idea. … But I brought a bunch of songs and some of them were out of character for the Gin Blossoms: Slower or dirgy or minor, a little out of the idiom. And I really liked those songs, and I think the guys did, too. But I lacked the courage of my convictions because when push came to shove, I was like, ‘Ah, let’s do the ones that sound like us the most,’ with the exception of one. I like all the songs on the record and I like all the songs we brought to the record. But I was a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t think, ‘Well, why don’t we try something a little left-handed?’ ”
What’s behind the title, “Mixed Reality?”
“I don’t know. It was Robin (Wilson)’s idea. Funny enough, over the years, Robin never got to name a record. His titles were always summarily dispatched. Thirty years, that can wear on a guy, so we said, ‘Well, you can name it.’ He came up with the name and the artwork.”
What were some of the titles you have rejected from Wilson over the years?
“I think the first record we made was called ‘Dusted,’ and it was an indie record we made by ourselves. We made it in Tucson, as a matter of fact, in probably 1987 or ’88. He wanted to call the record ‘Jackalope’; it didn’t make it. The next record we made was a little EP called ‘Up and Crumbling,’ which we thought was just as clever as can be. We’ve always had silly, cheeky titles. The big record is called ‘ New Miserable Experience.’ Most of the titles came from me and Bill.”
What was Robin’s idea for that one?
“‘New Magical Experience.’ I’m just kidding. I think he was pitching ‘Jackalope’ again.”
What are a couple of your must-dos in Tucson?
“Well we’ll go to El Minuto Cafe, which is my favorite Mexican restaurant. And I’m going to stop in to Stratton Guitars. He makes the most beautiful guitars. I haven’t gotten a new guitar in years and years. … I’m going to treat myself.”
If you recall, you were pretty bold in your predictions the last time you were in Tucson in 2016 about the ASU-UA Duel in the Desert. You said ASU would whoop UA; that didn’t happen.
“Let me double down. Here’s my prediction: Sun Devils beat Wildcats 72-0.”
And if you lose?
“I will owe the city of Tucson a beer and a taco from El Minuto.”