“We Would Not Record a Jingle for a Product We Didn’t Believe Was Totally Sick”: The Mean Jeans Don’t Sell OutPontificating on pizza and product placement while jawing about jingles with Portland's punk rock party pals.
On December 15, 1967, The Who Sell Out was released. The Who’s third album took the piss out of the commercialization of music (not to be confused with 1971’s Who’s Next?, where the guys are actually taking a piss on the cover), and several of the targeted companies reportedly took legal action against the well-to-do rock band, which makes the whole thing even more groovy.
Fast forward nearly fifty years later to the day, and we find Portland, Oregon-based Mean Jeans dancing on top of a slice of pepperoni in the video for “(Give Me) Totino’s” on YouTube. Ever the scholars, Mean Jeans learned from the mistakes of the past. Rather than making fun of corporations, the band is embracing the lovely products that they shove down their throats — oftentimes quite literally — with Jingles Collection, a new album coming out this Friday on Fat Wreck Chords. The tribute to the popular frozen pizza brand not only led to some free pizza (as you’ll learn below), but we now have an entire tribute album to the sick shit that the nice guys in Mean Jeans consume on a daily basis.
We caught up with singer/guitarist Billy Jeans on one of the holiest days of the year to pontificate on pizza rolls, product placement, regular pizza rolls, and more.
Before you read, though, you’ll need a soundtrack. Hit “play” on this YouTube video, because it’s a stream of Jingles Collection in its entirety (which first appeared at BrooklynVegan today).
RIOT FEST: Today is National Pizza Day, did you know that?
BILLY JEANS: I learned that today, I wasn’t previously aware. I learned it because I was posting a 1994 Bagel Bites commercial on Instagram, citing it as a major influence on Means Jeans’ new album Jingles Collection — which comes out this Friday, February 16 — and someone tagged it #NationalPizzaDay… so it was just on my mind. But it’s not National Pizza Bagel Day.
Neither is it National Pizza Roll Day, but I was intrigued by your indirect support of the pizza roll industry by singing about Totino’s. In my travels, I have found that pizza rolls are not a universal item.
So, the Mean Jeans have a song called “Give Me Totino’s,” and the lyrics are “Give Me Totino’s Party Pizza / Because it’s delicious / And it’s nutritious.”
That refers to the Totino’s Party Pizza, a different individual pizza for one; it’s not Totino’s Pizza Rolls, which they may be more famous for, because they invented them.
Totino’s did invent pizza rolls!
They’re not that good of an idea, really.
I tell you what, if somebody figures out the perfect amount of time for pizza rolls to be in the oven so they’re perfectly cooked without exploding, I’d pay them cash money.
Totino’s Pizza Rolls created a problem with cooking a type of pizza that nobody really needed. However, what we’d need to do is make translucent pizza crust, so you can see inside the pizza roll to determine when it’s been cooked long enough.
I grew up in Wisconsin, on Jack’s pizza rolls, are you familiar?
Never heard of them.
Well, I’ve always found them to be way more delicious than Totino’s. I also recall the window of time for Jack’s rolls to be perfectly cooked before exploding to be greater.
What do you attribute that to?
Research and development. I feel that Totino’s may have gotten cocky because they were there first.
Could be! Does Riot Fest have the budget to purchase some Jack’s pizza rolls and mail them to my house? Then we could do this interview again, and it might be more compelling.
So… we’re going to do this interview, then I’m going to follow up after you get the Jack’s pizza rolls that we’ll send in the mail; you’ll then film yourself taste testing all the rolls — after cooking them with a stopwatch in hand — to get to the bottom of this?
Yeah, that’s what the people want to see.
That’s what I want to see.
[Editor’s Note: Jack’s pizza rolls are not on the market anymore. They are now a relic of the past, so we just got out of buying them for Mean Jeans.]
Not only is there National Pizza Day, but we have National Pepperoni Pizza Day, National Pizza Party Day, there’s even National Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies Day. The list goes on, but maybe we should work to create National Pizza Roll Day? Or maybe we don’t want to be tied to something that’s been thought out so poorly, with its lack of translucent crust, and so on? I just don’t know.
I’m more of Bagel Bites head than a pizza roll head.
Interesting, are you Jewish?
No, my name is Christian.
Good point. When this record succeeds greatly, and there’s demand for a sequel, would you take bids for product placement?
Yes, but we would not record a jingle for a product or company we didn’t believe was totally sick. Since posting some of our jingles, we’ve had a number of requests for jingles from companies and podcasts and radio shows and shit like that. I have a list of jingle requests, and I’m going to have to check them out and see which ones are awesome and which ones aren’t if I get the time.
You’ve got to be really careful because it’s like making a Christmas list, you know? If somebody asks what you want this year, you could theoretically just hand them your new album’s track listing.
Yeah, true. As far as the Mean Jeans approach to the jingles, it has to be something totally sick. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sizzler is pretty sick.
Sizzler is sick.
Just when you think you’re done with the salad, here comes the steak.
Bada boom. Say, I really do love Cheez-It crackers. That’s not a question. The only piece of art I own is a painting of a box of Cheez-Its.
Nice. The Cheez-Its jingle features the lead vocal debut of our bass player, Junior Jeans. He’d never sung before, and he did “Cheez-Its” and “Pop Rocks.”
Cheez-Its really can make a difference.
I agree, that’s a lifelong thing, too. Cheez-Its were the thing I was most stoked on in the lunches my mom would provide me in third grade. I was only in it for the Cheez-Its. Here they are, decades later, still providing that emotional support.
Changing the world, one cracker at a time. I tell you what though, fuck a Cheese Nip!
If the marketing brass from Cheese Nips came to you and was like “We’ll give you a million dollars to write a song about Cheese Nips,” would your response sound something like, “We did one about Cheez-Its for free, and y’all suck. Thanks, bye.”
I can’t lie, it would amuse me personally to take the Cheez-Its jingle and just overdub the word “Nips” over it… which is something we actually did for DiGiorno. After we released the video for “Give Me Totino’s,” and we posted it on the ‘net, we encouraged our followers to blow up Totino’s official social accounts. While Totino’s did respond, it was definitely a lukewarm response.
I felt kind of cheated, but you know what? Between the three of us, we couldn’t even agree that Totino’s was better than DiGiorno. So we made a DiGiorno remix of the song, where we overdubbed the word “DiGiorno” over “Totino’s.” They sort of rhyme, so it worked musically.
The day we posted the DiGiorno remix, we actually had their official Twitter pitted against Totino’s, kind of talking shit on each other; which kind of made my day. Then, DiGiorno — to show up Totino’s and and as a token of their appreciation — sent us a stack of coupons for free pizza. So, I’m more into DiGiorno than anybody.
Have any goofballs been crying “Sellouts!”?
For sure, yeah. I am hoping — this record hasn’t come out, and it does next week — but I am definitely hoping to upset some people and get more haters into the mix.
On behalf of Riot Fest, we thank you for upsetting people.
Yeah, that’s the idea.
Did you ever consider that if you wrote a jingle about Riot Fest, that it could very well force our bookers to consider an offer to have Mean Jeans to play the festival this year more than, say, a band that didn’t write a jingle about us?
That had not crossed my mind. It makes almost complete sense, but not having attended Riot Fest, it would be insincere.
Had you done that, we would smell that insincerity and not want to book you.
Exactly. I’m glad we talked this over.
I could sit and talk to you about pizza all night.
Yeah, I’m available. You can hit me up later, too.
Mean Jeans new album, Jingles Collection, comes out this Friday, February 16 via the Fat Wreck Chords Corporation.
Jingles Collection Track List/Christmas List:
01. Coors Light
02. Wendy’s (Junior Bacon Cheeseburger)
05. Pop Rocks
06. Camel Lights
08. Mountain Dew
10. Rain-X Wiper Blades
13. Polly-O String Cheese
14. Hot Pockets
16. The Footlong Song
17. Capri Sun
18. Taco Bell
19. Selsun Blue
20. Best Western
22. Kraft Mac & Cheese
23. (Unknown Product)