A BLOSSOM SPILLS THE BEANSROBIN WILSON ON SUCCESS, SONGWRITING AND PERSONAL WATERCRAFT

No doubt it's a bit late in the game to begin a Gin Blossoms story with the headline "Local Band Makes Good." The saga of the Tempe quintet--from the early days at Mill Avenue beer joints through the tours and Letterman appearances to the suicide of Doug Hopkins last December to the sales of two million copies of the album New Miserable Experience (the band had hoped for 100,000)--is common knowledge. And if it's not, now you know.

Having just come home from four months on the road, the Blossoms are taking a six-month respite to write songs for their next release, a considerable task considering the mammoth success of N.M.E. But vocalist Robin Wilson--a man who lists Kiss, Josie and the Pussycats and the Banana Splits among his main rock influences--seems undaunted. At least he did at lunch last week, rollerblading up to Restaurant Mexico for beans, a taco and an hour of conversation on the Gin Blossoms past, present and future. New Times: So. You guys have made it.

Wilson: Well, it's a lot more like a real job than it's cracked up to be. When you're 19 years old, you think, "Wouldn't it be great to walk into a nightclub and every single person in the place recognizes you?" And when you achieve that, it's kind of a drag.

NT: Why is it a drag?
Wilson: Because it's hard to remember everybody's name; it just sort of makes you feel kind of foolish. Sometimes I walk into Long Wong's [site of many of the band's early shows] and I feel kind of foolish. There're so many people that I've known around here, people that I've had a beer with, or girls that I've made out with once four years ago or whatever. You go away for four months and you can't remember a lot of names. It gets really embarrassing. When I go out in any other town, I don't worry about it, I hardly get recognized. But I'm not here to bitch about being a rock star, I love my job.

NT: Has the band become more of a business?
Wilson: There's a side to what we do that's definitely like a business, sure, but I kind of like being at the head of this little corporation. Not that I, Robin, am the head of the Gin Blossoms corporation, but there's five of us, and all these other people in orbit around us. It's a business that generates millions of dollars--we get very little of that, but it's still like running a business.

I don't feel like I'm in a little local band anymore that needs to make fliers and stuff; I'm fortunate in that I get to help design videos and do album covers and write songs that people get to hear around the country. It's fun for me to storm around my apartment with my fax machine and deal with all these issues; getting the lunchbox done for the fan club, getting photographs approved for some magazine article. Sometimes I begin to stress because there's a lot of it, and there's a lot of things like that that I take on because the rest of the Gin Blossoms don't have any interest in them.

NT: Like doing this?
Wilson: Like interviews, yeah. But it's fun to be a 29-year-old businessman. But at the heart of it all, it's a rock 'n' roll band, and there's nothing cooler than being in a rock 'n' roll band. That will always, I think, be fun. NT: Especially a band that's making money.

Wilson: We're doing fine. I make more money than my dad. I'm not rich--none of us are--but with a little bit of luck, I'll make enough money to open a record store or buy a house. . . . I just bought a personal watercraft.

NT: Huh?
Wilson: It's a sit-down jet ski. . . . The most extravagant thing I've bought is my lunchbox collection; I've got about $4,000 worth of lunchboxes. I sort of feel guilty. My roommates have trouble paying their rent, and I'm going, "Look at my new lunchbox, I paid $300 for this!" I want to tell you this, we're donating a portion of our pay from the State Fair gig to a kid named Victor Martinez. He's 5 years old, and he was hit by a car. He's paralyzed from the waist down and he's an illegal alien. If anyone wants to donate money, Bank One has an account [No. 46196838] for him.

NT: What's the Letterman experience like?
Wilson: It's weird to say that going on the Letterman show is kind of routine now, but it is. We know most of those people, we've met those guys in the band enough to where we're more than comfortable to say, "Paul, I'd rather you didn't play that." What was weird was when we did Letterman with Kiss, telling Gene Simmons to speed up. Kiss was such a big part of my childhood.

NT: Seems like New Miserable Experience is the album that refuses to die.
Wilson: Well, it's slowly falling asleep. "Allison Road" is doing pretty good, I'm proud of that [Wilson wrote the song], but that's the last single, we don't plan on doing any more TV. I told my manager last week, "I don't want you calling me up saying we're doing the Tonight Show. Let's just stay home. If you can get us Saturday Night Live, then we'll do it, but other than that, I don't want to leave town."

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