While the Pacific Northwest’s not particularly known for its vibrant punk community, a couple of area punk bands are looking to revitalize the scene. Big Eyes and Mean Jeans, both bands with burgeoning reputations in this leg of the country, recently released a split seven-inch together on local record label Dirtnap Records, whose storefront location, Green Noise Records, is in Southeast Portland.
While the Pacific Northwest’s not particularly known for its vibrant punk community, a couple of area punk bands are looking to revitalize the scene.
Big Eyes and Mean Jeans, both bands with burgeoning reputations in this leg of the country, recently released a split seven-inch together on local record label Dirtnap Records, whose storefront location, Green Noise Records, is in Southeast Portland.
The split, aptly (and simply) titled Big Eyes/Mean Jeans, showcases each band covering a song by the other band along with an original of their own. Each band takes a unique route with the other’s music, providing listeners with multifaceted renditions of old favorites.
While Big Eyes and Mean Jeans differ in standout stylistic ways, the album seems a testament to their long-standing relationship as friends, tour-mates and fellow musicians making waves in the Pacific Northwest music scene.
“We are two bands that really enjoy each other’s music and we wanted to combine forces to make a cool record on a great label,” said Kate Eldridge, Big Eyes’ singer and guitarist. “We were planning a little tour down to Awesome Fest when we came up with the idea: We each cover one of the other band’s songs, and each [has] one original. Christian designed the badass cover and the ridiculous insert. It rules.”
According to Eldridge, the bands play together once every few months and toured together for 10 days last August. The first time the bands played together was at a house show in Portland, cementing their relationship with a warm welcome and a fond memory of the city.
Billy Jeans of Mean Jeans shared his first experience of seeing Big Eyes play, before the two bands had a relationship.
“The first time I saw Big Eyes was at a house show in North Portland two summers ago,” Jeans said. “They were totally ripping and reminded me of The Runaways and Cheap Trick, but in that packed basement I [could] barely see the band. I relocated to behold Kate, who is super short and a really great guitarist and singer, and I wanted to meet her.
“It took a while, probably because I was wasted and maybe trying to hit on her, but we all became good friends and wound up touring together,” Jeans said. “I love their Hard Life record and think all of their new recordings are even better, so I’m stoked for Mean Jeans to be a part of the Big Eyes legacy.”
The bands have done more than just help each other in creative endeavors, though. Ken Cheppaikode, owner of Green Noise and Dirtnap Records, praised Mean Jeans for the hype they’ve brought to the label.
“I think that in the past that the label hasn’t gotten the same amount of attention here in our hometown as it has in other places,” Cheppaikode said. “Around the time we moved to Portland we had kind of a shift in focus. It seems that the label has started to gain a little bit of traction locally.
“We were more well-known outside of our hometown and we have kind of changed that, and I think that a lot of that has to do with Mean Jeans. People are kind of coming around to some of the local stuff, and I think that’s raising our profile as well.”
Mean Jeans has been on Dirtnap Records for a while, since back when they were just a two-piece recently arrived from Virginia. When he heard they were looking to do a split record with Big Eyes, Cheppaikode made it known to Mean Jeans that it was an endeavor he was willing to support with his label.
Cheppaikode offered advice for any PSU student interested in furthering their music career, both inside of Portland and out.
“First of all, [releasing a record is] easier to do yourself than ever before,” Cheppaikode said, because of “advances in technology, and specifically in recording and distribution technology. It’s easier to take things into your hands and do things DIY.
“Anyone who is really serious about music should really think about not just playing around the Portland scene, but getting out of town and touring,” Cheppaikode said. “Touring remains the best way to really get one’s name out there.”
Both Mean Jeans and Big Eyes share similar sentiments about success outside of Portland.
“If you want to be in a touring band you need to drop out of school, get a van and make sure your band is good,” Eldridge said.
“Everyone measures success in their own way,” Jeans said. “I do it in how many hot dogs I can eat per month without paying for them. Just do whatever you want all the time. If you can’t handle the pressure to be more than an idiot with a guitar, then it’s probably not for you.”
Both bands will be playing a secret house show in Portland this month.
For more information on the show and other local events, go to dirtnaprecs.com.