In 2018, the most punk rock thing you can do is sell out. At least that’s what Portland punk band Mean Jeans thinks. Over the past few months, they’ve been writing jingles for companies like Mountain Dew, Coors Light. Totino’s, and DiGiorno, but without any of them asking for it. “We uncovered this case of Mountain Dew that we had used as a prop in a music video we made a few years back,” says guitarist Billy Jeans. “They’d been in the basement forever, but we cracked into those Dews and they were surprisingly fresh. That was a big inspiration for us.”
This inevitably led to the band’s very first foray into jingle writing with “Mountain Dew (I Need It).” The band released the song online and encouraged fans to badger Mountain Dew on social media until they paid attention to what, in a just world, should be the brand’s new theme. “Maybe Mountain Dew didn’t make the song their new jingle, but they set us up with a crate of Dew and some stylish gear,” says Jeans. “Honestly we’ve got more Dew than we know what to do with.”
After finding further inspiration in a case of Coors Light silver bullets, Mean Jeans took their love of products a step further, starting a Twitter poll and encouraging people to weigh in on which frozen pizza brand was deserving of the band’s jingle treatment. “Totino’s won, but they weren’t enthusiastic enough about our jingle, so we decided to do a remix and give DiGiorno their rightful honor,” says Jeans. With that, “(Give Me) Totino’s” became “(Give Me) DiGiorno,” showing that, in the world of unsolicited jingles, brands bow to Mean Jeans, not the other way around.
Punk’s history of shilling for companies dates back to the Ramones writing three songs for Steel Reserve, and the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten hamming it up in a butter commercial. But Mean Jeans elevates the form. In a single weekend, the band wrote and recorded Jingles Collection, an album that transforms commercial jingles into high art. And if the subjects of the songs play their cards right, they could very well have just found their brand new jingle. “We’ve abandoned the previous direction of the band. No one needs to hear another three-chord, pop-punk record about partying. What they need are some sick jingles. We are a jingles band now.”
But just as Mean Jeans has amassed a catalog of airtight punk songs, they were similarly focused on selecting which brands were deserving of the jingle treatment. Instead of picking any brand out of thin air, they had to meet Mean Jeans’ standards. "Listen, man, Nature Valley isn’t getting a fucking Mean Jeans jingle, alright? It’s gotta be something that cuts the mustard,” says Jeans, pausing to let the weight of the phrase set in. “We would write a jingle about mustard. Only Grey Poupon though.”
Now, with 23 jingles written for everyone from Sizzler to Skoal to Applebee’s, Jingles Collection shows that Mean Jeans are ready to become the first punk band to reinvent what it means to be a punk band—or perhaps, a punk brand. No longer is Mean Jeans subservient to punk’s rules and regulations, they are forging their own path, one piece of branded content at a time. “These jingles, man? They’re the future.”