Courtesy of Travis Barker’s cultural renaissance and the prominence of artists like Machine Gun Kelly …
Portland Party-Punks Mean Jeans are making their way down under for the first time.
MORE: DUNE RATS: Dance Lessons and Thinking Outside The Box REVIEWS: DUNE RATS: Real Rare Whale // THE INTERRUPTERS: In The Wild // WAAX: At Least I’m Free // I PREVAIL: True Power // PARKWAY DRIVE: Darker Still // STRAY FROM THE PATH: Euthanasia
Known for their dangerously addictive records such as Tight New Dimension, On Mars and even a joke advertising jingles record called The Jingles Collection the three-piece have been releasing consistently quality albums on labels such as Dirtnap and Fat Wreck Chords for years. The band are touring supporting The Chats as well as doing a run of their own shows with The Unknowns.
We caught up with Singer/Guitarist Billy Jeans to find out what’s been happening and where to find the party.
How did you get hooked up with The Chats?
I got a phone call from a mutual friend a couple of years ago because this US tour that we ended up doing with them recently was originally scheduled for April 2020, I believe it was The Chat’s Coachella Tour and I think Coachella ended up getting rescheduled maybe five times? A bud of mine called me and was like, “Hey you know that band the Chats they want to tour with you, but they think that you’re going to want too much money.” I said, “You told them we don’t want too much money, right?” and he was like, “I did.”
So that was the kick off, we had never met in person or anything until we were playing a gig together in Arizona where I currently live.
The Chats are a big band these days, you must have been playing decent venues in the states?
Well, the Australian dates they are doing after the ones we’re playing with them are with Guns ‘n Roses so there’s that. And I’m pretty sure I was with them when they turned that down; but the details must have changed because then I saw that Cosmic Psychos got added too which is great. I’m pretty sure it was The Chats idea for the Cosmic Psychos to be added – probably so they would have more fun.
As for the venues on the US tour, the smallest shows were about 400 and the biggest were maybe 1600 or something like that. I got the impression that the venues we’re doing in Australia are a bit bigger than their last run, so, yeah, certainly when compared to any other active garage punk bands they’re certainly blowing up, yes.
Tell us about the little EP you put out recently Hits From The Bog?
It’s just like songs we kind of forgot to release. They were recorded when we did our album Tight New Dimension the first one we released on Fat Wreck Chords and it’s weird how you determine what songs should be on an album because I would argue almost invariably that by the time you’ve recorded a bunch of songs and deciding what should be on an album you’re already in too deep because you’re opinion no longer really is sane. We’re writing songs for another record now but we had those unreleased songs so we thought we should release them.
We’re just going to be stoked and The Mean Jeans have a good time–we’ll be bringing a good time and people should come out and party with us.
[ Billy Jeans ]
Your latest record is Gigantic Sike are you touring that or just playing?
Well, if we were a professional band that had a schedule or a cycle of recording, releasing, and touring but I’m not sure we’re ever really touring a specific record. We just make records sometimes and tour sometimes.
Tell us about the writing for a new record
It’s a bit different as we all live in different cities. The last record (Gigantic Sike) we had three days off on a tour and we learned all the songs and recorded them all in those three days. We had spent time writing some of the songs, not all of them, but I think at the time I was into the idea of just banging it out and underthinking it instead of overthinking it.
Has it made any difference being on Fat Wreck Chords to Mean Jeans?
I’m sure that it’s been helpful, I mean I like everybody at Fat – I think when we joined the label, we did a US tour with NOFX which certainly wouldn’t happen if we weren’t on the label. They have a fairly substantial group of people who worship the label and I know for a fact that they have a solid group of completists who buy everything in the catalogue, so it’s cool they have that, I’m sure it’s brought us to new people. But it’s not like we do anything they want us to, Mean Jeans just do our own thing.
Sometimes you seem like kind of the underdogs, you’ve been around quite a while, you’ve put out a lot of records and do a Ramones type thing, other bands that do a similar thing seem to be bigger, and I wonder if you guys are kind of outliers from that scene a bit?
I would absolutely identify us as outliers of any label or scene that we’ve been a part of. I do not feel frustrated personally about it at all. I mean it’s not like we have a manager and a booking agent and we’re sitting around a table in the headquarters scratching our heads and trying to reach the real fans. We’re not a professional band, to me it’s like an art project and it’s something we love to do, if we have other shit going on we don’t do a tour if we don’t want to.
I’m sure its to our own disadvantage but everything we’ve done has been what we want to do–we don’t do any shit we don’t want to do, it would be wise from a business perspective or whatever to eat the shit and go on some tour that doesn’t really sound that appealing but for us it’s got to be fun or at least my theory of it is that, if it’s not fun for us to do then not only will it not be much fun for me then it will be evident that Mean Jeans are not having fun and if Mean Jeans are not having fun it’s not really Mean Jeans.
Well, maybe that explains the longevity, it’s an awesome fun thing to do rather than a hassle.
Yeah, exactly. And after the early pandemic the tour with The Chats in the US they added a few more shows and a few more shows until it was like a six-week tour which was the longest one we had ever done. So, I had a couple of reservations personally I was, like, early pandemic everyone’s just sitting on their ass thinking about their life, I certainly was, and I was like, “Is this worth it?” “Is it going to actually be fun?”
And a huge takeaway for me is that when you’re sitting on your ass thinking about playing shows there’s some visceral part of just rocking, just shredding, that I remember just from the first couple of shows of the tour I was, “Dude I forgot about how fucking fun this is”. The tour was insanely fun even though it was somewhat brutal in terms of long drives and being exhausted to some degree but it was reinvigorating to the band.
Did The Chats teach you much about Australia? What are you looking forward to about coming over here?
They taught us that chugging beer is necking schooners.
Ha-ha it’s because they’re from Queensland, we don’t have schooners in Melbourne.
Ha, I have to get my regional dialects straight. I mean there was a lot of late-night YouTube jam sessions listening to old Australian punk, but I’ve never been to New Zealand and Australia and really, really stoked to be going and it seems like we have a day off in every city. We’re doing one show with the Chats and one of our own in most places so it’s good to put some legit time in each spot and we’ve got buddies to catch up with.
But it’s definitely been on the bucket list, it’s an ideal situation for us to be going there, love the dudes in The Chats and we’re playing a bunch of shows with The Unknowns which is the same dudes as The Chats, we have an amazing time together so really, really excited.
We’re not a professional band, to me it’s like an art project and it’s something we love to do.
[ Billy Jeans ]
Can you tell me about The Funky Punks in Space Record? I’ve been loving that album.
That was basically early pandemic, I was living in Los Angeles and the other dudes we’re living in Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon which is where Mean Jeans have been based for the majority of the time and it just occurred to me if I’m writing a little demo that I can send it to the other guys and usually there’s we’d be getting together pretty soon; but in that time period all that faith was gone and for me if there’s no deadline or purpose I’m not really inspired so I just decided I’ll make a bunch of stuff and make an actual record and try and complete this project.
So half of it was Mean Jeans style but just me standing in a room alone, but I play in another project called ‘Touchy’ which is like a synth-pop type thing and I’m sure thousands of other stupid guys were messing with synthesisers during the pandemic and I’m one of them so I just tried to focus it all into one record.
My friend Tim who runs Dig Records was into putting it out and I had never done a record roll out with one of my oldest friends and it was really fun just talking on the phone all the time – so that’s kind of my newest thing. I did have a buddy play drums on some of the punkier songs so it’s not a 100 percent solo record; four or five songs have my buddy Max on it.
The Jingles collection (an album of jingles for current and former ridiculous products), did you get any corporate backlash, anyone trying to sue you or stop you releasing that?
Let’s see, there were no lawsuits which was kind of a bummer because we had made a pact with ourselves if we get sued ultimately that’s the best publicity we could get for this record and if we get sued so bad that it’s over what better way to go out than being bankrupt by Coors Light or something like that.
But it’s funny how it continues to live on because this week I actually received these Coors Light outfits, there’s like bathing suits and a towel and these like matching shirts and they’re sick, they were just mailed to my house. Maybe we should bring them to Australia?
There were no full-blown endorsements but when we released the record all these companies have someone who runs their Twitter who is, like, 24 years old and it’s their job to respond to everyone so there was actually a healthy amount of interaction. There was kind of these frozen pizza wars on Twitter – companies sent us stuff; we got a bunch of stupid gear and clothing and Mountain Dew. We perform a bunch of the jingles, but I need to get in tune with which companies exist in Australia from that record.
We have Mountain Dew but not as many flavours as in the states.
Oh my god when we put that record out Mountain Dew gave us like more cases than you would ever want of Mountain Dew and I want to say it was every flavour, like 12 or so, and one of them was called ‘Pitch Black’ which is like black Mountain Dew. I don’t think I tasted that one, it was really fun for a minute, but it quickly became a burden. I mean it’s 2022 there must be some ironic self-awareness, “What’s the dumbest idea we can come up with?” I don’t know if people actually drink it, but it is fun.
Our rider on the tour with The Chats involved two cases of Coors Light every night but after four or five weeks you’re ready to move onto another type of beer.
Well, you’re going to be shocked at the beer prices over here. If you enjoy drinking it gets expensive.
That’s not what I want to hear, we need some sponsorships.
Is there anything you want to say to the Australian audience, what can we expect and to people who haven’t seen you live yet?
We’re just going to get wild, really excited to be doing some more shows with The Chats and some shows with The Unknowns we’re just going to be stoked and The Mean Jeans have a good time–we’ll be bringing a good time and people should come out and party with us.