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MEAN JEANS // “We Have No Ambition For Success, We’re Just In It For The Good Times”

As US pop-punk trio return to Australia, frontman Billy Jeans talks about the long road to their new album, and their long-awaited Aussie comeback.

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Ever since Portland punks Mean Jeans blasted onto the scene 18 years ago, they’ve been a force to be reckoned with both on and off the stage. Renowned for their rapid-fire live performances and their intense, Ramones-adjacent take on the pop-punk genre, Mean Jeans have never been ones to take themselves too seriously.

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Founded by guitarist and vocalist Billy Jeans, drummer Jeans Wilder, and bassist Howie Doodat, the latter was replaced by Junior Jeans in 2012, with a total of six albums to their name. Their most recent, Blasted, arrives today on the iconic Fat Wreck Chords label.

In true fashion, it’s punchy, powerful, and pure pop-punk. With 15 songs across just 31 minutes, tracks like I Don’t Give A Shit Anymore, Lost My Mind, and Pop Punk Casualty see the group at their most intense, their most melodic, and their most genuine.

With the group’s new record coinciding with their second tour of Australia, Billy Jeans (better known to his friends and family as Christian Blunda) spoke to Hysteria about the long wait between albums, their intense live shows, and close friendship with The Chats.

The last time Mean Jeans released a new album, it was back in 2019. Dubbed Gigantic Sike, it was the second half of a swift one-two punch that began with their satirical consumerist compilation, Jingles Collection, the previous year.

As Blunda explains via Zoom, a five-year wait had never been part of their grander plan. In fact, it took him that long to remember what it was that he loved about being in a band like Mean Jeans.

“I remember looking at Wikipedia about when Michael Jackson recorded, I forget if it was Thriller or Bad, but the studio date and the release date were in the same month,” Blunda recalls. “I’m like, ‘Is that possible?’

“Is that true that you used to be able to say, ‘Okay, I wrote these songs, I’m gonna record them, and then they’re out’? Because you would think as time goes by, we would speed up the cycle.”

Though time has gone by enough for the band to speed things up, it was ultimately the opposite that happened.

Alongside Blunda living away from his bandmates, a noted pandemic, and then his decision to release a solo album (2022’s Funky Punks In Space), the group found themselves sidelined somewhat. But it was a rescheduled tour with Australia’s own The Chats that gave Mean Jeans the boost they needed to hit the studio.

My buddy called me and was like, ‘Yeah, they want to tour with you guys, but they think you’re going to want too much money’, probably because they have no idea who we are, or they falsely assume that we’re more popular than we actually are.
[ Billy Jeans, Mean Jeans ]

“The tour eventually happened in 2022, it took two years but it did happen,” he remembers. “We played maybe one show between when the pandemic started and that tour, and I think that I had forgotten about how fun it is to play in Mean Jeans.

“When we got home from that, it was absolutely time to just write a new album, go record it, put it out, and do this shit some more.”

Away from Mean Jeans, Blunda admits that the band’s pop-punk sound isn’t his favourite type of music, preferring instead to dip into a more colourful palette.

“Not to say that I’m obsessed with any one other thing and pop punk just kind of happened, but I do feel very much like I just kind of fell into playing whatever style of music Mean Jeans,” he explains. “That’s fine, I love the Ramones, but the amount of time that I spend blasting shitty punk albums at my house is about 5% of the time.

“I’m listening to all kinds of shit. I like dance music a lot,” he adds. “I collect dance records and I DJ dance music and I like it all, but you know, Thin Lizzy and the Ramones, they’re the greatest bands ever, but I would imagine that Phil Lynott would not be a fan of pop punk.

“It’s this kind of niche, very stupid, immature genre of music, which makes me laugh, but I’m not going to listen to it all day.”

However, it was Aussie outfit The Chats that we can thank for allowing Mean Jeans to find themselves back on their latest track. Admitting that the band “lit a fire [their] asses”, Blunda recalls when The Chats’ ‘Smoko’ went viral, leading to him discovering he and the Australian band had a mutual friend.

“My buddy called me and was like, ‘Yeah, they want to tour with you guys, but they think you’re going to want too much money’,” Blunda remembers. “Probably because they have no idea who we are, or they falsely assume that we’re more popular than we actually are.”

“And I was like, ‘Well, you told them that we don’t, right?’ We’ve got very low standards around here. But we got connected, and I figured it would be fun, especially since they’re a unique band. Their level of popularity is kind of unparalleled.”

Though initially planned to take place as the pandemic kicked off in 2020, the pairing would finally hit the road in 2022, even resulting in a split single of KISS covers, and Mean Jeans’ debut visit to Australia that same year.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Blunda admits. “You start a punk band and then you have like a bucket list of like, ‘Well, it’d be fucking sick if we ever went to Europe,’ and then you do, it’s amazing, but that’s no longer a fantasy; it’s just something that bands do.”

“We don’t really have goals, we’re not driven, and we have no ambition for success, we’re just in it for the good times, but Australia was definitely on there,” he adds. “I never knew if Australia was on the cards, and it’s such a different thing to fly across the world and go play shows to 20 people and fly home having lost a thousand bucks.”

“I’ve probably done that at some point in my life, but touring with The Chats was like, ‘Well, they’re bigger in Australia than they are in the US and every show was sold out in an hour’.”

Now, 18 months on from their first visit to the country, Mean Jeans are back in the country. This time armed with a new album, and touring with a band that renewed their vigour, it’s their biggest tour of the country to date.

With ten shows around the country alongside the likes of The Prize, The Unknowns, Boondall Boys, and Ghoulies, they’ll also be adding in a few headline dates as well. Needless to say, Blunda is eager to get back on the ground to repeat a self-described bucket list tour.

“We’ll be flipping out as usual, but it’s the summer there this time, and we’ve never been to Australia in the summer,” notes Blunda. “So I am trying to hit the beach or whatever you do in Australia in the summer.

“Of course, touring with that many bands is pretty insane, but it’ll be working for me because I love all of those bands.”

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