[Q&A] Mom Jeans Discuss ‘Puppy Love’, Lyricism & More

By: Anika Huda

Just like the actual clothing article mom jeans, Mom Jeans. is a sad punk/emo band from California that makes uncool…kind of really cool? The quartet just came out with a new album called Puppy Love in July and it encompasses basically all the values that they stand for: being real as fuck, being vulnerable, and just having fun with your friends.

Listening to Mom Jeans’ music, I feel like I’m having an emotionally genuine, yet laid-back conversation with a friend. I had a similar sort of conversation when talking to the band’s vocalist/guitarist/trombone player Eric Buter. We discussed the band’s newest record, Puppy Love, their lyrics and more.

Although Mom Jeans is technically classified as the emo genre, how do you feel about being so vulnerable and honest in your lyrics – because I feel like most musicians are typically more symbolic with their lyrics – do you feel scared when you put music out?

At least lyrically, my approach starting early on came from bands like The Front Bottoms and Modern Baseball, who have really on the nose, straightforward lyrics. It’s kind of funny because now, bands like that are considered to be kind of cringey, maybe.  I know people say that about us too, but it’s refreshing to me.

Like you said, many musicians use a lot of symbolism and metaphors and fancy English in their lyricism – which personally to me, never felt genuine when I was doing it. If you look at a band like Oso Oso, JD has very symbolic writing, but it’s amazing because he’s so good at it. I never felt really great at that. It never really felt genuine because I don’t talk like that. So, the lyrics to me always felt refreshing. Not trying to be poetic or anything, and just saying exactly what you’re thinking and doing it with a cool tune. That’s kind of how it’s always been.

I feel like that’s more therapeutic in a sense too, like it’s your diary and it helps you work through things.

Yeah, absolutely.  Songwriting for me is a very big release. In a sense, I’m able to say a lot of things through songs that I can’t say regularly. Like, as a person in a regular conversation without seeming weird.

I noticed that you sing about people or a person, do you want them to listen to the songs or would you rather them just not?

A lot of the time, it depends because I think I try to be really vague with a lot of stuff for a couple of reasons. I really don’t like putting gendered language in songs, just because I feel like it makes them less relatable, you know what I mean? Like, ‘oh, she’s so cute,’ stuff like that. I don’t know how a non-male person or someone who’s not attracted to women could listen to that and find it relatable.

With that, a lot of these songs that sound like break up songs or whatever, I try to be really vague in general with everything because most of these are not about break ups. They’re just about different relationships, friends, and experiences that you have with people. I think that a lot of the experiences that you have might be like losing touch with your parents, or losing touch with a friend or family member, which are a lot of the same feelings that you feel when you break up with a significant other.

That’s what’s interesting: pain is universal, being upset about things is universal and anxiety is universal, so it doesn’t necessarily have to matter why you’re upset about something or exactly why you’re anxious about something. Just acknowledging the fact that you’re anxious is for me, really therapeutic, and I think it leaves it open to interpretation.

Going off of relatability, would you say that when you write your songs it’s coming from personal experience, or do you ask other members of the band what they’re going through? Is it just strictly your lyrics?

I write the lyrics, I don’t think anyone else in the band has ever contributed lyrics before. I would say that at least half, if not more than half, of the musical ideas come from Austin, Bart, and Gabe. I mostly do the lyrics and they are a lot of my own experiences. But, I do try to write about us and a lot of things about what I go through, especially in the context of this band and touring and trying to make a living – all stuff that is relatable to them. But also, at the same time, it doesn’t go for Gabe and Austin, but you know, Bart has his own band and his own project (Graduating Life) and that really allows him to express exactly his lyrics and more his kind of approach on songs. So, it’s kind of me and Austin spearheading everything.

I’m an art student and sometimes I get really caught up in the pressure of creating things and hit a bump in the road. Do you ever feel the same way and what inspires you/keeps you going?

Oh, totally. For me, writing songs can be a really frustrating process. I would say that writing songs is the hardest thing about being in a band. It’s hard for me to work on stuff that I’m not super into, stuff that I don’t immediately enjoy playing, or stuff that I don’t feel like it’s going anywhere. In art school, you understand, you’ve been accustomed to a certain amount of rigor academically and productivity wise for your entire life.

So, once we graduated college and started focusing on the band and everything… Band stuff is like really high energy and to find time to write and like lay back, you kind of have to get used to not being productive all the time and you have to get used to being able to allow yourself to try new things and make mistakes; scrap songs and spend days digging around on the guitar. Like, not really playing anything because you need to be able to stretch out like that. And that’s been a big thing for me, just learning how to be okay with any inconsistent productivity. And knowing how to recognize when I am feeling inspired and taking advantage of it, and also knowing when I’m not inspired. I think I kind of wait for inspiration to happen – like I kind of smoke a lot of weed, watch a lot of Netflix, play video games and skateboard a little bit and it happens.

But honestly, I don’t do that much in general other than just go to shows and hang out with my friends. Usually, if I’m just in a mood or I’m really bored and I wanna write or I miss my friends, playing those songs makes me feel closer to them and writing songs for the band makes me feel closer to them. Waiting to know when I feel like something is going well and harnessing that as much as I can… and being able to put it down when I’m not being productive anymore and just accepting that.

Yeah, I totally agree, when I’m stressed out or have a lot going on in my life I find it harder to create. Even though creating things is seen as a relief sometimes, I definitely have to be bored, hanging out in my room or whatever.

Yeah, honestly, I have to be kind of bored and just like pick up my guitar or throw on a record. I mean, also just listening to other bands and going to shows is a really important thing for me personally. I know everybody’s different, but lately I’ve been trying to force myself to get out of the house more. For a band I know I really enjoy – even if nobody I know is going – just going to see a band that I like. I did that the other night, I went to see Hop Along in San Francisco and none of my friends went but I’m so glad I went! It was such a powerful and incredible show and after I was so excited about playing music and stuff like that.

Also, just listening to my friends/having peers that are really talented, motivated, and creative and being surrounded by Just Friends and Grad Life. The people that are around in our area/the people that we are friends with are just always putting out really amazing and cool stuff, which is really inspiring.

Obviously, Gainesville has a pretty heavy punk scene, since Fest happens here, but what is like punk community like in California?

I wouldn’t say we have a punk scene really. Where I’m from, most of the “punk” music is like the surfey-record type shit and I’m not into that at all, that’s not my jam. At least for me – the DIY community that I grew up in the East Bay Area in Northern California – it was very much normie ass kids, like me. Like everyone in Mom Jeans, we’re fucking nerds. We went to college, we weren’t like “punk kids” or “cool kids…” like I was in fucking marching band. And I think everybody in Mom Jeans was in marching band in high school.

I was in a ska band in high school, but even then, it was never really about punk music per se.  It was just about, ‘Hey, you play music and you write songs and you’re trying to do it on your own and we also do that, do you wanna come play this show in my friend’s mom’s garage? Or do you wanna come play this show in an empty softball field? Or play a show in the skate park? That was the type of shit that we did.

It was very much like the attitude of, ‘Nobody’s going to do this for us, you wanna play a show with your friends in your hometown in the East Bay, not like go to San Francisco and do some whack pay-to-play show because you’re like 15.’ So, that taught everybody in our gang to take a big sense of responsibility for the shows that we play and the tours that we do and do anything that you can to help. Everybody just takes a really big sense of responsibility and its never ‘That’s your job,’ ‘That’s my job…’ Everybody is just there to help. And that’s really cool and really essential to be able to tour and to play shows and to become a band.

I feel like the process of being a musician/artist in general is very unstable, so it’s nice that you guys all help each other out.

I don’t think it’s a secret that shit is fucked right now in the music industry. I think in general, everything is just fucked, but especially in the music industry. You know, being a white male presenting person, I have a lot of privilege already and that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how difficult it is for non-male musicians and musicians of color. If you’re in a band and have any sort of success at all, or even if you don’t, just be down to help. We’re all in this together and everybody in that band Just Friends taught me that there’s no such thing as dead weight in this crew/scene. If you wanna do this, you gotta do it because you love it and because you’re down. We’re not just throwing down when it’s your band’s big show in town, everybody throws in at every show.

Do you ever feel that your creative license is compromised when you’re working with record labels and stuff?

No, never.  Musically, not at all. We can one hundred percent say we play the music we wanna play and we play with the people we wanna play with. I think that in general, if you are in a band and you play music and you get paid any kind of money, you’re not getting paid what you deserve. That’s very obvious. That’s been a big learning process to deal with you know, the things that we can and cannot do with merch and financially, it’s a little bit different. But, I never feel Counter Intuitive or that the record label influences the way that we sound or the shows that we play anywhere.

So, your song names are really funny, especially “I left my towel at my friend’s house and then they moved PT 1,” what is the reason for the juxtaposition between your really funny song titles and the pretty serious content? How do you think it affects the vibe of your music?

To be honest, in a way I think that song titles kind of don’t matter unless that the song is symbolic in any way. I think that naming a song something in particular can make that symbolism very concrete. Like naming a song after a person, place or something like a very specific event. But other than that, I always see so many fucking songs where the name of the song is just like some lyric or like the fourth or fifth word in the song and it just like seems lazy to me.

A lot of time, I feel like the songs are less about specific ideas or instances and more about a certain headspace and certain thought process. So, it’s hard to name it something that is representative of the content of the song. I just try to have fun with it and make shit that’s fun and funny to say. Like, “I left my towel at my friend’s house” is kind of real because that definitely happened.  We have friends in Arizona and I stayed with them three or four times and every time, I left a towel. And then they sold their house and moved. Damn, there’s like four of my towels at that house!  

A lot of the time, I just think its stuff that’s funny or relates to the song a little bit in a way that you wouldn’t think of originally. I think it’s an extra way to be expressive that a lot of people don’t utilize, or they over-utilize it and are super pretentious. Like there’s so many bands where you go to their Bandcamp page and you scroll down their list of songs and you’re like, ‘I’m just really not gonna bother.’

When people name things Untitled… Like seriously!?

Yeah, like I’m not really gonna bother because I know it’s gonna sound like shit. I would rather someone’s first impression of Mom Jeans to be like ‘that’s funny’ or like ‘that’s ridiculous’ and be drawn in by that. Or even repulsed by that and look at our band and think we’re some pretentious assholes. Which is not the case. We just love playing music together and at the end of the day, we have no expectations as far as people caring and people listening to our band.  We just like playing music together and as long as we get to do that, I’m happy.

What was your process as a band for this album? Your two recent albums came out pretty close in time.

Yeah, it was the same as the first album, just definitely a bit more rushed in terms of when we started recording the songs and when we had the masters. It was very quick in comparison to what most records do, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s really great to record everything really quickly.  

The engineer that we work with, Ryan Ellery, he’s really amazing. Kind of the approach that we try to take with all of our recordings is get a really good sound coming out of the amps and coming out of the drums and just trying to capture a great sound from the very very beginning, so that there’s not much to do when it comes to post-production, fixing stuff afterwards and really having to dive super deep into the mixing and mastering process. At least for me, it tends to get overwhelming and confusing and you can go down a lot of rabbit holes.

I wanted a record that sounded clean, straightforward and consistent, and just have good guitar tones. That’s what I was inspired by, seeing bands like Joyce Manor. Seeing them live a couple times was really influential to me, because as far as gear goes, they don’t really have anything fancy. Like Barry the singer only has a tuning pedal, the bass player only has a tuning pedal… that’s all that they really use and I thought that was really cool to be able to put on a set that spans a super long discography with all the same stuff and still have it sound dynamic and interesting. And I kind of wanted to do that, have an album that utilizes the same tools pretty consistently. I’m really happy with how the album sounds like. We definitely achieved our goal, which was to have an album that was exactly what we wanted at the end of the day.

How did you come up with your name?

Me and Austin had been talking about starting a band and we had been like playing songs together in our dorm room and we needed a name. We were throwing around names and I was like, “what about Mom Jeans?” and he looked at me and he was like “hehehehe’ and I was like, ‘That’s the exactly the kind of reaction I wanted so, we’ll go with that.’

Are you excited for Fest???

I’m so excited. We played last year, it was reallly fun, it was really cool. I mean, I’ve been hearing about Fest for a while because of Just Friends. I think it’s gonna be like their third or fourth time playing Fest this year. I’ve always been hearing about it and they always have an amazing time, all of our friends have gone in previous years, so getting to go this year and playing with all of our friends and playing The Wooly is especially exciting. I saw Prince Daddy just like destroy that stage last year. Completely obliterated. I’m really excited because the whole day, it’s all of our friends playing. I’m bummed that we can’t be there for the whole thing because we’re on tour. But I’m still really excited to come and play because we had such an amazing time last year. Like, I slept in a van in a parking lot for three nights, and it was awesome. We all hung out.

Do you like Gainesville?

I hella fuck with Gainesville, I’ll be honest. I really like Florida. As you probably know, Florida gets a lot of hate. I think it’s fair to acknowledge that Florida is definitely a crazy place, there’s definitely some ridiculous shit that goes down. Your drivers suck in Florida!

But, in general, I think Florida is way better than people give it credit for. Especially the bands, people used to tell me, ‘Oh, don’t bother going to Florida… it’s so much driving, it’s like an extra day, you’re not gonna have a good show…’ and every single show that I’ve ever played in Florida has been epic! Everybody that I’ve ever met while playing shows in Florida has been super nice, super hospitable, super genuine. Like I said, it’s a crazy place, but people know that and it is what it is – there’s no bullshit.

I like Florida a lot, I wanna play as many shows in Florida as possible. Gainesville is a really cool part of Florida too because you have that liberal college vibe. Everything is just close together and all of the food is really good, and the bars are really cheap.

Are you guys gonna have time to eat at any restaurants in Gainesville?

There’s that pizza spot, Big Lou’s. Big Lou’s is so good. I always eat there just because it’s hella fire. They do really good vegetarian pizza and garlic bread. And I can get my no-meat and the rest of the band can get their wings and it’s all good!

Catch Mom Jeans. playing Fest 17 during their tour at The Wooly on Saturday, October 27th. They’ll be out on tour throughout the fall. 


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