"What if we just sent the bill from our coke dealer to the Mercury?" asks Christian, tipping back another plastic cup of vodka and soda. The financial pains of the print industry come as some disappointment. "I thought the fuckin' Portland Mercury was gonna be buying us filet mignons." Quickly he comes with a solution: "Don't even write an article—there'll just be a blank page and we'll go get high." And that blank page—or perhaps a picture of some coke piled up next to a can of piss beer and an ashtray—would do a fine job capturing the Mean Jeans.
The trio—drummer Andrew (AKA Jeans Wilder), bassist Howie (Howie Doodat), and singer/guitarist Christian (Billy Jeans), all of whom refuse to use their real last names in press materials and credits—are upstairs in a house full of band posters, skateboards, records, and couch surfers. There's a painting above the fireplace; a fierce ocean surfed by a piece of pepperoni pizza. A band is practicing in the basement. Just another night at the punk house.
Solidified after a move from Washington, DC, in late 2006, the Jeans played as a duo until Howie appeared at Slabtown's Bender festival a year or so later. He wanted to jam and they exchanged numbers. "The next day I got a text from him," Andrew remembers. It read: "Yo bro, when's practice?" Howie, who felt the Jeans needed some low end, turned out to be "too awesome to say no to." Plus, he knew how to party.
"You brought us to Walmart, wasted, and bought us outfits," Christian laughs. "We went to Slabtown dressed as the Backstreet Boys and you were fuckin' getting pulled over barfin' on yourself. You were smoking crack, taking shrooms, barfin' shrooms into the toilet."
Throughout the interview three bands keep coming up. "We like the Ramones, Riverdales, the Queers," says Andrew. "I think when we first started out we were trying to be a band that ripped off a band that ripped of the Ramones." And they're strikingly proficient. The Jeans' Are You Serious? blazes through 13 two-minute pop songs about partying, drugs, and grime. All are catchy and precise. Perhaps a well-constructed song is the only thing that really matters—aside from partying.
"I'm a self-depreciating ass who doesn't take myself seriously," Andrew says with a smile. "I've been wasting my life." Andrew then gestures toward Christian, "He either is, or pretends to be."
Indeed, the Jeans frontman is canny at times. Back in DC, Christian made shitty white emcee party-rap under the name C-Rex, proclaiming he had the "most ignorant rap video ever." It was not without production value. Then there was an earlier stint teaching metal guitar.
"I was a major league shredder," Christian admits. "The Berklee School of Music, they gave me a major paycheck to go teach youngsters how to shred. And 'cause I knew how to shred I said, "All right—I'll shred it.'"
A glimpse of their skills outside power pop flashes at the end of Serious' "Slime Time." Suddenly the vestiges of punk vanish, uncovering a new age-y wash of synths and electronic blips. The scrap of electronica lasts for a mere 40 seconds. The Jeans have yet to put together a real tour. They want to, but say they're "generally too lazy and/or wasted." Their label, Dirtnap, is helping, but really, the Jeans insist, it's not about business or popularity. Christian lays it out, "M.O. being: play music that doesn't suck, with bands that don't suck, and have fun."
And since the Mercury isn't paying off their coke dealer, the Jeans pull the last 50 bucks from the band fund and reach for the phone.