Jose Corona Jr
You know that quiet weirdo in the back of the class? The one who draws band logos and mutants instead of studying? The one who might be an alien imitating a teenager? That kid plays dumb, but they’re the sharpest tack in school. They understand the silly sadness of this world in ways you cannot. Mean Jeans are that kid in band form, and they’ve been making masterpieces out of our culture’s discarded junk for over a decade.
Having reached peak absurdity on last year’s Jingles Collection—which was basically an extended commercial for fast food, dandruff shampoo, and wiper blades—Mean Jeans get back to their regularly scheduled programming with Gigantic Sike (out August 30 via Fat Wreck Chords), a bittersweet collection of party anthems and outcast laments that reaffirms the trio’s status as this century’s greatest pop-punk band. The Mercury spoke to founding members Billy Jeans and Jeans Wilder about selling out, blacking out, and burning out.
MERCURY: Your last album was a collection of unsolicited jingles for various products and snack foods. Was your attempt to sell out a success?
BILLY JEANS: The pursuit of selling out was a mixed bag of success and failure for us. We received a nice haul from Mountain Dew, including 40 cases of Dew. This felt like our dreams had been fulfilled, but quickly—like within 10 minutes—it became a burden. Where the fuck do you keep 40 cases of Mountain Dew? We couldn’t get rid of the stuff. That example in itself is a metaphor for success, I think. We got some love from DiGiorno and Rain-X Wiper Blades and some requests for custom jingles. Still, I’m not satisfied.
Do you consider Gigantic Sike a “back to basics” record? You’ve said that Mean Jeans “tried too hard” on Tight New Dimension. Were you disappointed with that album?
BILLY JEANS: I wasn’t disappointed with Tight New Dimension any more than I’m disappointed with everything that happens, no. But there was a lot of second-guessing and overthinking involved, and I thought it was time to just write some good, simple, stupid songs and bang them out. We are a simple, stupid band. I like simple, stupid music.
Gigantic Sike is a somewhat cryptic album title. Is it a comment on existence itself? An admission that Mean Jeans has been joking all along? Who is being “siked” and who is doing the “sike-ing?”
BILLY JEANS: These are the exact questions that I hope to leave the listener asking themselves.
JEANS WILDER: Now that you got me thinking about this, I think we actually might have accidentally siked ourselves. Remember Sawyer from the show Lost, and the “long con”? We did something like that, but it was a big long sike on ourselves.
This is the third Mean Jeans album that plays around with space imagery. What does space mean to a band that revels in earthbound delights like Coors Light and Applebee’s?
BILLY JEANS: Your question presupposes that there are no Applebee’s in space? Space is the place, dude. It’s a blank slate, a fantasy realm for nitwits who can’t get it together in this life. I think about it constantly and think it ties into a lot of our music. I have an outer-space concept solo record almost finished.
JEANS WILDER: Well, for me personally, I think Zebraman from Heavy Metal Parking Lot said it best: “All that punk shit sucks, it doesn’t belong in this world, it belongs on fuckin’ Mars, man! What the hell is punk shit?” And as for Applebee’s, we befriended the staff there back in the day and begged them to let us play a show there. They finally agreed to it after months of us buttering them up, and then we somehow dropped the ball. One of my biggest regrets in life.
Gigantic Sike seems, at least in part, like a cautionary tale about partying. Songs like “Turning Green” and “Blackout Magazine” and “I Fell into a Bog” are pretty chilling accounts of the perils of raging. Are you burnt out on partying?
BILLY JEANS: My relationship to partying continues to evolve, and yet nothing’s changed. There’s always been a lotta love and a lotta agony. Twenty years later, I have no insight. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.
JEANS WILDER: I was so burnt out from partying that I forgot to write any good lyrics for “Blackout Magazine,” so I ended up in the studio randomly singing some nonsense about peeing in my shoe and forgetting to lock up my bike. Top-notch material.
Did you expect Mean Jeans to be around for more than a decade and be so beloved?
BILLY JEANS: I certainly never thought Mean Jeans would be a project that lasted over a decade. It’s completely unreasonable. But it’s been a trip, it’s been a blast. What more do you want?
JEANS WILDER: Yeah, I don’t really know what we expected at the beginning. I do know that we filled my Oldsmobile Silhouette with all our shit to move from DC to Portland [in 2007], and we planned to make a tour out of it, playing cranked- up shows all across the nation. We played exactly zero shows the entire time. I think that kinda set the tone for our general style. So it’s insane that we are still a band. Jury is still out on the “beloved” part.