by Jolie Flink
In the aftermath of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and the end of a long-term relationship, I was on a manic tear and writing songs at lightning speed. At the time, my late-night escapades included a lot of flings and raging substance use — this was the only way I knew how to manage my symptoms at the time. I wasn’t exactly treating my bipolar disorder with traditional medicine or therapy.
Listen to the album while reading the text.
I started Mean Jolene as a way to expel and channel the untreated bipolar energy, which was the source of a lot of unhealthy behavior, habits, and patterns. Mean Jolene was born out of necessity and is an embodiment of empowered women and feminists expressing both femininity and masculinity, uninhibited joy and creativity through performance and passion. Despite some of the songs being very personal, Mean Jolene has always been a juxtaposition of personal/vulnerable with uninhibited flamboyance. Many of the songs off of the debut album, Salty, express the themes of being bipolar–ups and downs–but always backed by upbeat power pop instrumentation.
I’m shy IRL
I was a pretty late bloomer when it comes to playing music. This is actually the case for several of us in the band. I like to think this is why we exude so much energy and accessibility during performances. I was a super shy and quiet person my whole life–an extreme introvert. Pursuing this project has allowed me to access a side of myself I never let out. All of us have these dualities and Mean Jolene is the unashamed expression of repressed selves.
I thought it would be funny to name the band Mean Jolene because everyone in Texas thinks my name is “Jolene” and before I can correct them, they start serenading me with the song “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. Luckily, it’s an amazing song!
I started thinking about Jolene, and what was she like? What kind of bad bitch can steal Dolly’s man? I don’t support indiscretions, but I’ve always hated how the woman is always blamed and punished and viewed as an evil vixen in the affair; I blame the man and side with Jolene. This was the segue into adopting a kind of persona. It helped me overcome extreme stage fright, and I feel so empowered and encouraged to be loud, take up space, and just be my free self.
In the 2.5 years since releasing Salty, the band has undergone several member changes. We’ve become a bigger family, from 4 members to 5, and there’s always room for more. I moved from playing bass to being solely the bands’ vocalist and larger-than-life frontwoman… sometimes I play synth or spank myself with a tambourine, but those are mostly just props to create dynamism.
This band has always been about transformation, and the change in membership has only supported and reinforced that growth. I’ve grown into the leader and manager and can vocalize my creative vision. Our current members (Adam Sharp, Ali Ditto, Steven Garcia, and Maud Morgan) are extremely talented musicians that are very open to experimentation. Whereas we used to be more straightforward rock and roll, our songs are becoming more expansive and complex, thanks to them. Mean Jolene has become its own organism and we are just following suit for wherever the band seems to naturally want to go.
We’ve written and recorded a second full-length album. It’s called Try Harder, and we have plans for it to be released sometime this summer. I didn’t think I could keep my shit together enough to complete this album, so it feels pretty good to say it’s done. As was the case with Salty, we wrote and recorded Try Harder during a manic episode, so very quickly–in about two months (right now is a good time to thank my band for putting up with my crazy ass!).
If the first album was an in-the-moment reflection of what I was going through while living in mania, the subsequent album is a more meditative look at deeper issues, the other pole of bipolar disorder (severe depression), and my experiences with mental health and abusive relationships. I really dug deep to write these songs and was able to access a lot of pain. The result is a much more ambitions and vulnerable album.
I am happy to say that now I’m fully treating the mental disorders–medicated and in therapy–but mood and emotional changes are still cyclical, and stability comes and goes. Right now things are good! The band is in a great creative place, we are playing some dream bills in 2019, and we are beginning to write new songs for the 3rd album.
Mean Jolene, Category: Artist, Albums: Salty, Top Tracks: Sick Obsession, Black on Blonde, Scumbag Summer, Actin Thirsty, Winning, Biography: Mean Jolene was founded by Jolie Cota Flink and Adam Sharp in the summer of 2015 in Austin, TX.