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High rise

California band Mom Jeans returns to OKC after a truly sick 2017 performance.

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Mom Jeans plays 89th Street — OKC Sept. 12. - ERIC BUTLER/PROVIDED
  • Eric Butler/provided
  • Mom Jeans plays 89th Street — OKC Sept. 12.

Listening to Mom Jeans is like being transported back to the early 2000s. The world had just entered a new millennium, and I listened to my music on an early iteration of an MP3 player that held about 40 songs.

Oops; is my nostalgia showing? Sorry about that.

The guys in Mom Jeans tell such relatable stories through frank lyrics, it reminds me of the earnestness and endless possibility of youth. Their music is labeled as punk, emo and power pop, and they draw inspiration from bands like Modern Baseball.

The members of the band came together while attending University of California, Berkeley. Lead vocalist and guitarist Eric Butler lived on the same floor as Austin Carango, the band’s drummer, which led to mutual friend and bassist Gabriel Paganin and then guitarist Bart Thompson.

They formed Mom Jeans in 2014 and faced some early difficulties, as most groups do, with their vision and finding an audience.

“It was not easy,” Butler said, waxing philosophical quickly. “I feel almost like people don’t take wanting to be in a band seriously. Even from a perspective of just, like, wanting to create art, not necessarily expecting to be successful or anything.”

Their particular brand of “emo, or indie rock or whatever” (Butler doesn’t love labeling their music) also met with resistance when they got started.

“It was really hard because at the time, no one really was into that kind of music,” Butler said. “At least not where we were at. Berkeley is not super artsy. It’s a very academic-heavy school. Obviously there’s artists and there’s musicians and stuff, but not really people who want to play rock music.”

And what about the band’s name?

“I felt like I wanted to have name that was a little bit goofy to maybe just disarm some of the contempt that people felt about being an emo band, or having cringey lyrics or whatever,” Butler said. “I think having a name that outwardly is kind of goofy, it helps show people that we really aren’t trying to take ourselves too seriously at all. We’re just trying to have a good time.”

Bong Jovi

Butler said the band played where it could from 2014 to 2016, doing their best to come up with new material and enjoy themselves. Mom Jeans recorded its first album, Best Buds, in 2016. The band finally got some traction as Butler and Carango prepared for their final year of college. Someone posted about them on Reddit, and their full album on YouTube started getting some views.

In Nov. 2016, indie label Counter Intuitive Records signed the band. Suddenly, a tour was suggested.

The band has technically been with that label since, although they briefly considered departing for SideOneDummy Records in Oct. 2017. Butler explained that the prospective team at SideOneDummy was unexpectedly let go, so the band returned to Counter Intuitive for its second album.

Released in July, Puppy Love is a bit more musically cheerful and more lyrically nontraditional than Best Buds, altogether demonstrating strong growth within the group.

On both albums, Mom Jeans’ lyrics are raw and real, usually written in a conversational voice like a stream-of-consciousness dialogue. Butler said this is intentional. He wants their songs to be “on the nose” so listeners know exactly what he’s thinking.

“For me personally, I never felt comfortable changing the way I said words to fit a song or even changing the language that I would use,” Butler said. “I would never write a song saying words that I wouldn’t say in a normal conversation because it feels pretentious to me, I guess.”

Sometimes, there’s so much specificity in a line, it seems like it must be coming from real life. Butler confirmed he often draws on actual experiences.

“I mean, yeah, it’s usually stuff that stresses me out,” he said. “Everything is very much from my point of view or from the point of view of our experiences as a group of people together, as a band.”

For instance, the song “Jon Bong Jovi” masquerades as a driving, upbeat banger with a catchy trumpet solo halfway through, but its lyrics reveal a struggling character searching for help and dealing with loneliness. He laments that he needs to move out of his dad’s house, but he can come back whenever he wants. “It’s closer than it may seem, if you can manage to find a good parking spot,” Butler sings.

For contrast, “Now THIS Is Podracing” (a reference to a much-memed line from Star Wars: Episode 1 —The Phantom Menace) is a subdued acoustic track in which a character gushes emotionally to a significant other that “nobody’s ever been this good to me/not even myself.” It feels almost invasive to listen to such heartfelt words.

Returned Jeans

Mom Jeans has performed in Oklahoma before. In June 2017, the band played a small show at The District in Norman. Unfortunately, the gig was less than ideal since several band members got sick after three days of rehearsal in extreme California heat and a long cross-country drive.

“Obviously, at the time, we’re all smoking too much, drinking too much, so that doesn’t help,” Butler said. “Not getting enough sleep. Being on tour is already not great for your immune system.”

Thompson was unable to play that night, and Butler could barely sing.

“So I’m looking forward to making a bit of a comeback,” Butler said, referring to the upcoming Oklahoma City gig. “I feel bad for anybody that saw us at that show.”

Despite the strains and stress of touring, Butler said the band enjoys traveling, connecting with people and seeing new cities.

“Everywhere that we go, all these places, I feel like we’re lucky enough that people show us their best selves,” Butler said.

He said he wants OKC fans to come to the 89th Street — OKC show and share their passion for music and making art.

“It’s gonna be really loud, it’s gonna be really fast-paced and it’s gonna be really fun,” Butler said. “We’re literally just trying to have as much fun as possible; that’s the only goal on this tour — not trying to do anything except just enjoy ourselves and try to make it cool to like stuff again.”

Visit 89thstreetokc.com.

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