Friday, December 18, 2009

Mean Jeans open up

The Ramones may not have put out an album in the past 15 years, but their protégés may have just surfaced in Portland.

The Mean Jeans - with Jeans Wilder on drums/vocals, Billy Jeans on guitar/vocals and Jean Jeans on bass – play snotty, poppy punk rock in the vein of New York’s finest.

With their debut just out on Dirtnap, two of the three were kind enough to answer a few questions via e-mail recently.

BJ = Billy Jeans and JW = Jeans Wilder

How did the band first get together and why the move from D.C. to Portland?

JW: While recording some hot rap jams, we both realized our true calling was more Riverdales related. So while drinking those big Red Stripes from 7-11 on my front porch I told BJ to come over the next day and we would kick out the jams. He showed up, I sat at the drums, he blasted some chords out on the geetar, and we sang what became "Party Animal" on top of that. Then I was getting kicked out of my house and he was bored where we were at so..... Hello Portland.

BJ: Me and Jeans were chilling hard in his mom’s basement in late 2006, eating macaroni and
twerking on a miracle. We wrote a song called "Party Animal" that is actually on our new Dirtnap record. We were doing literally nothing with our crummy lives so we decided to write more party songs and move to Portland.

Portland obviously has a strong indie scene. How's the punk scene there?

BJ: We play pop punk music, which is not necessarily a common or respected practice in 2009. We don't seek out bands who have a similar sound to shred with, but as far as killer bands with killer vibes, Portland is righteous. White Fang, The Flip Tops, The Whines, Meth Teeth, Organized Sports, The Bugs, Therapists, Pure Country Gold - they are all totally different and they all totally wail.

JW: Don't forget Dooom Patrol. Gotta rep all the roommates' bands ya know. That’s how the Communists would do it. Equal rights for everybody, like Peter Tosh said (and he had an AK-47 guitar so you can't fuk wit dat).

What can you tell me about "Are You Serious"?

BJ: Are you serious? Have you ever been serious? Cuz I haven't. Are You Serious is a 90 MPH Astroglide Slip N' Slide through Keanu Reeves' butthole. To jam the record is to go toobin down the Slime Pipeline with Malibu the American Gladiator, a couple of beautiful babes and a case of 30 Stones; someone is bound to spew, but it'll be worth the ride. The songs are short and fast and mostly about partying.

JW: Yeah, what he said.

You guys obviously have an affinity for The Ramones. Do you have any musical inspirations that would surprise people?

BJ: Feargal Sharkey, Angry Youth Comix, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures (the Hanna Barbera animated series), Keanu Reeves' band (Dogshit or somethin?).

JW: Billy Ocean, Eddy Grant, Men at Twerk, Men Without Jimmy Hats. Oh and Carl Sagan's the Cosmos (the music, the outfits, the eyebrows).

How did you end up on Dirtnap?

BJ: I was buying a Surf Punks record and Ken Dirtnap asked if we wanted to do a 7 inch. I said shit yea!

JW: Ken's wife made him sign us. Whha-pishhh (whip noise).

Do you plan to do much touring behind this record? Is it tough to find time to get away to tour?

JW: We will tour anywhere, anytime, anyplace, anyways, if somebody organizes it for us. As soon as I wake up early enough to catch the 3 pm deadline for passport renewal at the post office, then we're going to go to Vancouver, BC to play a rad pizza party. Now is the time to do it, before I start my residency at the Geneva Center for Butt Cancer. (The legendary GCBC's).

BJ: We struggle with getting our shoes off before bed and finding food, but tours are in the works. We have some good Portland and Seattle shows booked in December, a bunch with the Cowabunga Babes from Austin.

What's next for the band?

BJ: We are gonna make more party records. We are doing a cassette release with Gnar Tapes N Shit. We hope to do an animated series about the misadventures of three time traveling slackers.

JW: Working on an instructional video on how to party. Hard.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

As Tall As Lions Q&A

After a miserable experience recording their latest record – including three producers and a near breakup – followed by a tour fraught with van breakdowns and health problems, As Tall As Lions are finally on the right path.

The album You Can’t Take it With You turned out better than imagined and the tour with MuteMath still had some great moments.

While the thought of recording their next record still causes guitarist Saen Fitzgerald to shiver, he took the time to answer a few questions about the new record, finding their groove and seeing Kiss up close.

How was the tour with MuteMath?

The tour was a roller coaster of bad luck and great experiences. Our trailer broke down just shy of a million times, and Dan (Nigro), our lead singer, had to miss a good amount of shows due to doctor prescribed vocal rest. On top of that it was the longest stretch of tour we have ever done. There was no break in between MuteMath and the previous tour with Rx Bandits/Dredg. No matter how much you love your band mates, it's hard not to squabble when every moment of the day is spent with them. We definitely learned a lot. It wasn't all-bad though. I'd say our biggest and best shows were on that tour. Even the shows without Dan gave the boys and I the opportunity to be creative with our instrumental and improvisational sets. Not to mention MuteMath were some of the most talented, genuine guys I have had the pleasure to tour with.

You guys also played Voodoo Fest this year. How was that?

It was a trip. Just being in New Orleans on Halloween is enough reason for excitement. The only downside was playing in the morning after an overnight drive. We arrived at the show and immediately loaded onto the stage and played. I thought we were a mess, but looking out into the crowd made me realize the previous Friday night had made everyone that way. I did get to see KISS up close. I'm not a fan but everyone told me to check them out for their kitsch value. It was very funny. I heard they had four fire marshals onstage due to all the pyrotechnics. I spent the rest of the night on Bourbon St. and caught The Flaming Lips the next day. All in all it was a great time and I hope we get invited back next year.

What can you tell me about making You Can't Take it With You?

It was the hardest thing we ever had to do. Even the writing process became grueling. We tried to go about the whole thing in a different way, and like most things in life when you do that you make mistakes and learn along the way. It was just test after test and black cloud after black cloud. We caught the whole thing on camera and released it as a DVD to coincide with the record. We thought that fans would get more out of the album if they knew the story behind it.

You had a number of producers lined up to make this record. Why do you think it was harder to write/record this one?

Well we knew we wanted to make a different kind of record. We had done our previous EP and LP with our good friend and producer Mike Watts. We thought to achieve this new sound we would need to find someone different to push us out of our comfort zone. This led to an endless search for the "perfect" producer that lasted almost a year. We finally found a guy out in California, so we rented studio time and a house for us all to live in. We fell into negotiation issues that soured our relationship with said producer and he pulled out of the project a week before we were scheduled to record. We scattered to find another guy in California, and after a quick but thorough search we found who we thought was the best candidate. He had worked on some of our favorite records and had a unique style that excited us. After two weeks of tracking we were unsatisfied with the sonic quality of what he was achieving and unfortunately had to part ways. We were left in California with half the time and half the original budget to work with.

Who ended up producing the record?

A lovely man named Noah Shain. He saved the record, and in my mind, is the one responsible for its existence. He hustled and busted his ass; working all through the night to make sure everything got done. His attitude and work ethic was inspiring. After losing two producers in a row, we had a bad taste in our mouths. There was a very good chance that if we had gone with someone other than Noah, we wouldn't have gone through with making the album.

I read somewhere that the band almost broke up a few time working on this album. What do you think kept you from ultimately splitting up?

(Laughs) I have no idea. Maybe it was just the concept of the greater good. We had faith that what we were trying to accomplish was good, and that these problems were just temporary setbacks. Though, when the problems kept happening and happening, it really got to us. In order to stay together, there had to be a sense of camaraderie between us. We were soldiers in the mud, and we were just trying to keep our band alive. Looking back on it now I'm very proud of us. We went through a lot of shit and I'm surprised we came out of it, all limbs intact.

Is there a theme to the songs on this record?

There is a loose one, but I wouldn't consider it a concept record. We came up with the album title before writing most of the songs. Everything was underneath the general "you can't take it with you" umbrella. We thought that songs about making money, love and loss, and a lot the "human condition" lyrical content all fit together.

Despite all that you went through, are you pleased with how the album came out?

Very much so. I look at it as our selfish album. A lot of people were trying to freak us out by saying things like, "Your self-titled album was great and a lot of people loved it. You have to make sure whatever you do next is that much more successful or you're screwed." I don't subscribe to that line of thought. We have always made music for ourselves and are astounded when other people like it. I think we were much more conscious about trying to make a "successful" record during the self-titled sessions. We had conversations about trying to write these three-minute pop songs that were disguised in reverb and crazy drum patterns. I think we were trying to make up for dropping the ball on our first LP. I don't remember talking about anything when we made You Can't Take It With You. We did a lot of individual song writing this time around. Looking back, I feel like we were trying to impress each other and write songs we thought the other guys would be turned on by. That's probably why it's all over the place.

Do you have any dread thinking about the next record?

Yeah, in a lot of ways I do. It took us nine months to write and record the self-titled LP. After that we told each other we couldn't bear taking that long again. When it took us about a year to do this one, we were all very frustrated. I tried to convince the guys to record You Can't Take It With You by ourselves, but they thought a producer was needed. I think we are all on the level now. I guess we'll wait and see. I wouldn't be surprised if we wrote and recorded a self produced double album in a week or if we spent the next two years working on a follow up EP. If history teaches us anything, then it will probably be the latter.

What's next for the band?

We are releasing a 7" in the UK that we are all very excited about. It’s just a single for “Circles” with a few songs from You Can’t Take It With You, a song from As Tall As Lions, and a new B-side called “I Could Die Here.” We go over there in early December to support it, opening up for Frightened Rabbit in Scotland and Athlete in England. After that we are planning to head to Costa Rica in January to film a live DVD of us playing acoustic versions of our songs in various locations throughout the country. We will probably take February off and start a U.S. headline in either March or April.