by Interviews

Today, Mean Jeans release their brand new album Blasted, out via Fat Wreck Chords. The album finds the band saluting partying, reveling in wake of the destruction caused by partying, and also how awesome the Troma classic Class of Nukem High is. Oh, also, they sort of contemplate their place in the universe and ponder whether or not punk rock has guided them for the better.

But, despite this deep cosmic contemplation, they still insist that they are a dumb pop-punk band. Punknews' John Gentile spoke to MJ guitarist/singer Christian Blunda to see if the Mean Jeans kuncklehead pop-punk image is a facade, hiding something deeper and infinitely more Aristotelian, or if they really are stupid. You can read the interview below.

There is no way that Mean Jeans can possibly be as dumb as they say they are. For 18 years now, the band has been blasting out Ramones-inspired, Thin Lizzy-laced, knucklehead punk rock about partying, getting wasted, slime, and toxic chemicals. Yet, all of those “themes” always orbit the concept of being stupid.

On 2009’s “No brainer,” they called out “I’m a no brainer!” repeatedly. On 2016’s “Long Dumb Road” they announce “Baby, it’s a long dumb road for me, to do alone!” The first line of 2019’s “Time Warp” is “I was a fool” and it later follows up with the declaration “I’m a loser!” They’ve covered Kiss TWICE and if that wasn’t bad enough, both times they covered songs from Kiss’ worst album Crazy Nights. (To be fair, it is stiff competition for Kiss’ worst album).

And now look at their newest album, Blasted, which is out today. The album is packed full of tunes about partying, getting wasted, being wasted, recovering from being wasted, the permanent damage from being wasted a lot, being dumb, and that sort of thing. “You shouldn’t have let me in that bar!” they call out on the Ramones-meets-Supremes track “took too much.” The eight track, “Taco Bell Parking Lot,” is about the aforementioned wastoid oasis and eating junk food… oh wait… or is it?

If you actually read between the lines, the band is actually quite cleverly hiding the remnants of a break up behind the wrapper of a Crunch Wrap supreme, quite literally using discarded wrappers as metaphors for crushed dreams. “Diagnosis” rampages at hyper-speed while the band cries out at the mental destruction wreaked by the modern age, and then lament at not being able to afford insurance to cover a therapist. (There’s also a ripping Dokken-style solo near the end).

Bob Dylan used the famous “long black cloud coming down” as a metaphor for lingering retribution. Patti Smith used falling snow as a metaphor for Jim Morrison’s artistic gifts being the things that created him and destroyed him. Mean Jeans are doing the same exact thing, except instead of stealing (or “borrowing”) from William Burroughs and the Bible, they use the tools closet at hand- taco bell, beer, Troma movies, credit card debt. It’s not the paint brush that is genius, it’s the wielder. So what if the paint brush in this case is pulled from ‘80s trash culture?

Yet, NONE of the band members will cop to the trick. They insist they are dumb!

“Well, first of all, no one is as revered as Bob Dylan,” says Christian Blunda aka Billy Jeans. “Yeah, there’s actually probably no one that is actually revered as Bob Dylan. Honestly, I’m not even a fan. There are some songs I could get down, but overall, the whole thing is lost on me. If you do think we are in the same sphere as Bob Dylan, you are quite literally insane. The Mean Jeans are buddies and we only try to do stuff that is fun and if it isn’t fun… we don’t do it. We only do it to amuse ourselves sand make art and see what happens.”

The fact that Blunda mentions that Mean Jeans are still pals comes as sort of a relief. While the band was pretty much on a non-stop coast-to-coast party rampage form 2006-2019, after that period, it seemed the handbreak was pulled on the band. You could blame covid, but even after the pandemic lifted, things in the Mean Jeans world seemed to move slowly. Individual members released excellent solo releases- Funky Punks in space, The Hound of Love. Also, somewhere around there, the three members moved to different cities, which is often the death kneel of a band and sometimes is even bandmembers subtly giving the F-YOU to each other.

Luckily, that’s not the case here. In fact, last month bassist Richard Messina aka Jr Jeans got a tattoo of Blunda and drummer Andrew Bassett. Really, that’s even more permanent than a wedding ring.

Blunda says, “That tattoo is symbolic that Jr. Jeans loves us. We love each other. Big time. We live in three different cities, so it makes a handful of things more difficult than when we all lived in the same house in Portland. But then we were super dysfunctional and didn’t have regular band practice or any organization either. So maybe this is better?”

Indeed, now that the band is spread out, their moves are arguably more tactical. Because time may be more limited, each action has to count. Blunda says, “Mean Jeans came to a grinding halt in 2020. We toured the East coast in February of 2020 had a great time and then we had an Australian tour with the Chats for April and that got re-scheduled like 15 times. It was frustrating. Finally, were back to do another round of this bullshit.”

The band recorded Blasted in Portland and self-produced it. In fact, they didn't even use an engineer. One member would run into the control room, hit record, run back out into the main room, plug in, and the band would then rip. Then, after said rippage had occurred, someone would run back into the control room and hit "stop."

Like everyone, the time off gave the bandmembers time for reflection before recording. A theme that runs through the album is growing older in punk rock. Is the “old punk” a character to be revered for his dedication to the cause… or a jester to be mocked for his lack of personal growth? The track “look at what punk’s done to you?” vaguely gestures towards a few seminal punk figures in trying to answer this question, and even looks back at the band members themselves.

“We allude to Tim Armstrong’s episode of the X-files,” Blunda acknowledges. “I think Tim Armstrong rules. His voice has been hilarious since the beginning- I LOVE HIS vocal style and the older he gets the more jacked up it gets and I love. He has always had this street person damaged vibe and in the video I think he’s supposed to be homeless or something, and his acting, well… it’s basically just Tim Armstrong. To that end, unavoidably, a lot of our songs are written from the perspective of people that have been doing this for a while and seeing how it has aged. The song looks at a handful of people and takes the piss out of aging punks. I don’t know if this is a controversial take… but it is hilarious to me that punk is an Old style of music. It is very old at this point. More has changed in the past 50 years than in the history of the world.”

“Some of the punk bands that tour all the time and sell out concert tickets and are in their 60s and, well, you can make fun of anyone’s style in their 50s and 60s. The people that go the more keeping-punk-crazy route is hilarious to me. But, the guys who play it straight… there’s something really funny about old guy on stage looking ‘normal’ playing super aggressive music. There is something about reflecting on all the things you could do in your life and you decide to be in a pop punk band, which is us. It’s all pretty funny. It’s looking at all the careers you could have had or vocations in the world, having chosen to play power chords- it’s funny and it’s stupid. How far can you push it and be playing power chords at what age and when do they lose their meaning?”

But, this is where Mean Jeans sort of deviate from the “woe is me, music has ravaged my life” Roger Waters/Tom Waits line of thinking. While Blasted does contemplate the ravages of time on the artist, it also salutes it. After 18 some odd years, the band still sounds revved up and ready to rock and rumble and rampage. The are numerous tracks that talk about just how great partying is… even though the band doesn’t actually define what “partying” means- having fun with friends? Drinking? Doing rails of coke? Knitting while drinking chamomile tea with Betsey and Eunice? Blunda says, “I feel the same way about partying as I do slime, which is another one of our favorite themes. Everyone loves slime… but it is it a real thing? How do you define slime? It kind of is what evert it is, to you. So those themes have kind of never gone away. But we are a party band. Period. Always have been. Always will be. That doesn’t mean we all have had ten beers before hitting the stage- though it frequently does mean that. I would like to think the Mean Jeans exist in the world world as an excuse to party, or if Mean Jenas are in town, I hope it is a good excuse to cut loose and go nuts and I would hope our music is a soundtrack for partying. We are here for the good times.”

As part of the parting atmosphere on Blasted, or it’s lust for life imperative, the band writes subtle love letters to what got them charged up in the first place. Two love letters in particular: Thin Lizzy and the Ramones.

Blunda says, “I was listening to Thin Lizzy this morning, who are like a headbanger’s rock band and I love the Ramones who are like a headbanger’s punk band, and those bands are pretty much my two favorite bands ever. At least at this point in my life, I only want to listen to the emotional stuff that both of those bands do so well, which is what make them two of the greatest bands of all time. When the Ramones appeared on the scene, there was no indication that they would also be writing ballads with tearjerker melodies—we are nowhere close to where those bands are at but we try to put a little piece of those elements into the final album pie.”

But yet again, as Blunda describes his influences, he self-negs and immediately says he SHOULDN’T be in the same class as the Ramones and Thin Lizzy and what have you. But, I think back to the band’s show where they opened for the Chats in Philly. The crowd was especially bro-centric and pretty drunk. It was rowdy and many people were there as much for “socialization” or being on the “hot scene” where this cool new bands the Chats was playing, as they were for the music. It’s no secret that on this tour, the majority of the crowd was there for the Chats and not there to see Mean Jeans, the openers in the way of seeing the Chats. Yet, the band came out, locked down, and blasted through a high powered, non-stop set (they usually pause for in between song jokes but did not here) and wow-ed the anxious and boozed up audience (50% frat boys aprrox.) Within the span of 25 minutes, they turned non-fans looking to party into Mean Jeaniacs. That is, they totally whipped the ass of a crowd that had no idea who they are. How can you do that without a massive amount of confidence and self-pride?

“Did you use the term ‘Whip Ass?’” Blunda asks me. “If we have ever whipped ass, I don’t think it is with the confidence that we are going to whip ass. We just do our thing. There is not a lot of confidence involved. I’m incapable of thinking that Mean jeans are anywhere as good as Ramones or Thin Lizzy or whoever… and I’m pretty sure everyone else agrees with me and not you. The bottom line is, it makes me laugh. Mean jeans make me laugh. Mean jeans are here for the good times. I’m here for the good times. I’m here on the planet for the good times, probably to my detriment. I probably should have worked harder… but fuck it.”