Joe Leonard

The goofball wits of Mean Jeans have never shied away from product placements. The band’s carefully constructed wasteoid universe, which lives in the brilliantly silly zone between Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Rock ’n’ Roll High School, is a burnout paradise of Cheerios and Jäger and Kraft and Coors Light.

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It should shock no one, then, that Portland’s pop-punk geniuses have just released a collection of original (and entirely unsolicited) jingles for some of their favorite brands. Did the world need songs dedicated to Skoal, Best Western, Applebee’s, and Selsun Blue? Not until Mean Jeans decided it did. As ridiculously catchy as it is conceptually sound, Jingles Collection continues the band’s undefeated streak. The Mercury spoke to singer/guitarist Billy Jeans about the perils and pleasures of shilling for wonderful junk.

PORTLAND MERCURY: I think I speak for everyone when I ask: Why?

BILLY JEANS: Every interview with a rock musician cites the Beatles as their earliest musical infatuation, but for us it was the early ’90s commercial jingles. So many good ones. Where do I begin? Creepy Crawlers. Crossfire. Juicy Fruit. Skip-It. Bagel Bites. Then of course there are the Ramones’ Steel Reserve jingles from ’95. My lifelong Ramones obsession has landed me at the definitive conclusion that the Steel Reserve jingles are the band at its greatest. So we’re following their lead.

I noticed drummer Jeans Wilder singing more on this album. Would you say Jingles has given him a chance to step into the spotlight as a songwriter?

For sure. Jeans has always been a big part of Mean Jeans’ songwriting and singing, but when we realized jingles were our calling, he really started to flourish. The hooks, the brevity, the genre hopping—he’s got the jingles in him. He does a great Gavin Rossdale on our Selsun Blue jingle.

Are you worried kids will start smoking after hearing “Camel Lights”?

No. Camel Lights don’t even exist anymore, which we regrettably overlooked during the production of this record.

How many cases of Mountain Dew did you receive as payment for your Dew jingle?

Forty. And some sick T-shirts.

Did anyone in the band veto any brand endorsements while you were in the planning stages? Or were you all on the same page from the beginning?

A very perceptive question. Agreeing on product endorsements caused a few rifts within the band during the 24-hour production of this record. We wanted to do a jingle for a classic American restaurant that we all love. I’ll admit I was stuck on Sizzler, and Wilder was Applebee’s all the way. I argued that we’ve already endorsed Applebee’s in our song “2 Twisted 2 Luv U,” but the boys were able to calm me down. In the end we did both.

Hot Pockets already has a pretty famous jingle. Was it hard to write a second Hot Pockets jingle in the shadow of the revered original?

Jeans Wilder has been humming his Hot Pockets jingle for years. When or why he wrote it, I don’t know. But it’s on par with the original.

Mean Jeans is famous for its love of Jägermeister, and yet a Jägermeister jingle does not appear on this album. I’m wondering what happened.

We had a brief sponsorship from Jägermeister a couple years back. They hooked us up with a Jägermeister guitar—a great look, but abysmal tone—and some threads, but there were expectations of what the Jeans would do to reciprocate the endorsement. We failed to hold up our end of the deal, naturally. So in my mind that territory has been covered.

Okay, one quick hypothetical. You’re at the store. They’re out of Coors Light. What beer do you buy?

We have a song about this specific crisis. It’s called “Keystone Light.” So yeah, the answer is Keystone Light. I think it might literally be the exact same liquid as Coors Light.

What is the best dish at Applebee’s?

$1 Long Island Iced Tea. Unbelievable bargain.

It seems like the limitations of the jingle form allowed Mean Jeans to stretch out and experiment with different songwriting modes. It sounds to me like Mean Jeans can go anywhere from here. So what does the future hold?

Keep ’em guessin’.