If you peruse Mean Jeans’ Facebook page—and why wouldn’t you, all good punks use social media these days—you may notice the band is identified as both “cool punk” and “dumb punk.” These aren’t self-descriptions, however; they came from two separate mainstream publications, each trying to figure out just where this Portland, Oregon, power trio fits in.
“We don’t play an ultra-specific genre of music,” vocalist/guitarist Billy Jeans says. “We’re proud of not fitting into garage rock, power pop or pop-punk—though we love that music—so appropriating those idiotic faux-genre titles made sense to us.”
Of course, anyone familiar with Mean Jeans probably already knows the band is a bit on the goofy side. Their album artwork and music videos create alternate universes where band members travel through space in a Jägermeister-shaped ship and do shots with aliens, or explore haunted junkyards on tricycles. As Billy explains, humor is just as important a part of Mean Jeans as is their music.
“We all have a fairly ridiculous perspective on reality altogether,” he admits. “We love writing music, but as much as music and melody is important to us, so is comedy and absurdity. Everything we do is rooted in absurdity. We take as much influence from Bill & Ted and ‘Weird Al’ as we do from our favorite rock bands.”
Mean Jeans’ new album, Tight New Dimension, furthers the band’s absurdist party-punk agenda. The music is tight, Ramones-influenced pop-punk with garage-rock attitude; the song titles are gloriously literal, positing such deep thoughts as “Michael Jackson Was Tight” (about the King Of Pop), “4 Coors Meal” (sure to be the new liquid diet craze) and “Are There Beers In Heaven?” (an existential question everyone will likely face at some point in their lives). When it comes to lyrics, Mean Jeans is happy to keep it simple, stupid.
“With Mean Jeans lyrics, what you see is what you get, like John Candy in Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” Billy surmises. “None of our songs are steeped in metaphor. Unless comparing them to John Candy is a metaphor?”
Tight New Dimension’s genesis dates back to the end of 2014, when Mean Jeans was tipped off to producer Andrew Schubert through their friends in Together Pangea, who had previously recorded with him and noticed he had a Mean Jeans tattoo. The band reached out and ended up spending a “whirlwind week” in Los Angeles tracking the album with Schubert, who understood the band’s vibe immediately and worked to take the band to the next level.
“It seemed like a good fit and we wanted to try a new recording experience,” Billy says. “We partied a lot and kept our shirts tucked in the whole time. The album title is representative of what we were going for—taking it to a new, tighter level. Not tighter in terms of musicianship really, but envisioning something awesome and trying to achieve it.”
Upon completing the album, the trio discussed approaching various record labels about releasing it; eventually, they decided on hitting up Fat Wreck Chords and in a move so stupidly brilliant, they sent an unsolicited email to email@example.com with a few MP3s attached. (Kids, do not try this at home.) The label fell head over heels for the band, and Tight New Dimension had found its forever home.
“When Fat said they wanted to do a record with us, we were completely stoked,” Billy recalls. “For us, writing and playing Mean Jeans music is partying. We always have fun with it. If our only true goal is to have the most fun possible, then linking up with Fat feels like an opportunity do more of that than ever. We don’t have any blueprint for our future as a band or as individual dudes, but we intend to shred and hope that the kids are into the tight new dimension.”
Which brings us to the Tight New Dimension’s album cover, something that can best be appreciated on a 12-inch by 12-inch canvas. The artwork, inspired by Italian disco duo Righeira’s 1983 single “Vamos A La Playa” (“The album cover for that song is mind-blowingly tight,” Billy says), is the perfect accompaniment to the album title itself.
“I was listening to an ELO album called A New World Record,” Billy recalls. “I thought that album title kinda sucked for how awesome that album is, so I said, ‘This album shoulda been called Tight New Dimension.’ So I said, ‘Fuck it—our album will be called Tight New Dimension.’”
If only all life decisions could be made so easily.