Gin Blossoms’ Robin Wilson Shows Off Poppin’ Wheelies

Robin Wilson and his band the Gas Giants unveiled a new album Friday in his hometown of Tempe, Arizona, but the project isn’t what fans might expect from the former Gin Blossoms singer.

Wilson’s latest labor of love is The Poppin’ Wheelies, a pop-rock soundtrack for what he hopes will become an animated TV series about a space-age teenage rock band with a magic guitar. The villains are tellingly titled the Techno Pops.

Wilson says he pitched the show to two television networks and got a positive response, but he has yet to land a deal. Regardless of a TV deal for the series, Wilson expects to release the soundtrack album early next year, with copies available on the yet-to-be-launched poppinwheelies.com Web site even sooner.

Wilson described the music as the Beatles meet the Banana Splits, and he likened the cartoon to a Saturday morning version of “Spinal Tap.”

“The heroes are an old-fashioned rock band that plays guitar-happy
power pop,” Wilson said. “The Techno Pops are evil electronic robot slaves who play dance music — they’re out to win the galactic battle of the bands.” He said there’s also an evil space witch who plunders the world and controls the music industry.

The show’s music would be provided by Wilson and the Gas Giants, which finds Wilson re-teaming with Gin Blossoms drummer Phillip Rhodes. After Wilson delivered a solo acoustic set Friday, his Gas Giants bandmates hit the stage and plugged in to play The Poppin’ Wheelies in its entirety.

Wilson drew on the characteristics of past and present bandmates in developing characters for the animated series. Guitar slinger Otis is a ringer for late Gin Blossoms guitarist Doug Hopkins, who committed suicide in 1993. Singer Tommy is named for Gin Blossoms collaborator Tommy Keene and includes many elements of Wilson himself. Drummer Danny was inspired by Gas Giants guitarist Danny Henzerling, while bassist Tennessee is a
composite that includes Gas Giants bassist Brian Scott, who left the band somewhat acrimoniously last year.

The project is a natural extension of Wilson’s love for cartoons, comics and sci-fi. The singer grew up on pop-rock cartoon fare like the Bugaloos and the Banana Splits. He admits to being the proud owner of all 127 Batman villain action figures as well as 105 lunchboxes with themes ranging from the Archies to “Star Wars.”

Wilson has three top comic book artists involved in the Poppin’ Wheelies, and the show’s vocal talent will likely include comedian Jon Stewart and Cracker frontman David Lowery.

Meanwhile, Wilson confirmed that the Gas Giants are again without a label following the recent demise of Atomic Pop. The demise of the online startup, formed by ex-MCA Records head Al Teller, marks the third time in as many years that music industry politics has left Wilson hanging. A&M retained the bandmember’s contracts following the Gin Blossoms’ 1997 split,
but then disappeared in the Universal-PolyGram merger. A subsequent inherited pairing with Interscope didn’t last.

Wilson, who doesn’t rule out a Gin Blossoms reunion, says that if necessary, the Poppin’ Wheelies album and a new Gas Giants LP may be released on the Giants’ own Uranus banner.

First, however, the Gas Giants will try and drum up interest by showcasing at March’s South by Southwest conference in Austin.