Gin Blossoms Bloom Again

New album will be first in seven years

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The newly reunited Gin Blossoms are working on a comeback album that they hope to finish this year. The band, which split in 1997 after two albums, is currently on a U.S. tour.

"We've got a handful of songs that we're kicking around, and I guess while we're on the road we'll find out how well they live and breathe," says guitarist Jesse Valenzuela.

The Tempe, Arizona-based group -- also featuring vocalist Robin Wilson, bassist Bill Leen, guitarist Scott Johnson and drummer Scott Kusmarek (who takes over for Phillip Rhodes) -- is undaunted despite being without a record deal.

"With no label, I suppose making this album will fall back on us in some way, but that's fine with me," says Valenzuela. "I've got a million ideas. Robin and I haven't begun collaborating yet, but we'll probably be opening that can of worms in the next few days, doing a little hotel room work."

John Hampton, the group's longtime producer, has expressed interest in recording the band again. "He basically said, 'Whatever you guys want to do, we'll go ahead and take care of it,'" Valenzuela says.

The band's original rise to fame was bittersweet. Guitarist Douglas Hopkins, who penned the band's first two hits, "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You," had been kicked out of the Blossoms before they recorded their 1992 debut, New Miserable Experience, because of his ever-worsening bouts of depression and alcoholism. On December 5, 1993 -- as his songs were in heavy rotation on rock radio stations across the country -- he shot and killed himself.

The album would go on to sell over four million copies, but the Blossoms would have to pen their subsequent material without Hopkins. They got off to an impressive start with "Til I Hear it From You," written by Valenzuela, Wilson and Marshall Crenshaw for the Empire Records soundtrack. However, after the lukewarm reception that greeted 1996's aptly titled Congratulations . . . I'm Sorry, the band called it quits.

"Even though [Congratulations . . . I'm Sorry] was gold and on its way to going platinum and we had just come off of a big first record, I just don't think that we ever got over losing Doug," Valenzuela says. "Robin was itching to try his own thing without having to ask the permission of the rest of us, and that coupled with the huge sadness of Doug's death created internal pressures that seemed too difficult to surmount."

During their four years apart, Wilson formed the Gas Giants, who got lost in the Polygram/Universal merger of 1998. They managed to release an album, 2000's From the Back Burner, but their new label, Atomic Pop, went under soon afterwards. Wilson went on to form another band, the Poppin Wheelies, and launched his own label, Uranus Labs. Meanwhile, Valenzuela formed the Low/Watts, but eventually moved to Los Angeles to concentrate on session work, music production and songwriting.

The Gin Blossoms first regrouped for a millennial New Year's Eve show in Tempe, and, after a couple more shows in 2001, launched a sixty-date U.S. tour last year. An expanded version of New Miserable Experience and a live DVD, Just South of Nowhere, were released last year.

The band will also be on the road for much of 2003. "There's a summer tour in the works," Valenzuela says. "I'm sure we'll be part of some glorious Nineties rock package, but I guess there's safety in numbers."