Longtime Orange County Superhero Rockers, The Aquabats , return to The Catalyst with new tunes and inspirational attitudes
Evil-doers, fashion zombies and over-priced Hot Pockets beware! The super rad, awesometastic musical superheroes The Aquabats are playing the Catalyst on July 21 and that’s no balderdash!
For three decades this band of mighty musicians has delighted punks, rudies and awkward nerds (like myself) with their wholesome, hilarious and satirical songs about pool parties, online shopping in pajamas and space bees. On stage they dress in matching costumes, fight muppet aliens and throw pool floaties into a sea of ride or die fans (lovingly referred to as “Aquacadets”) having the time of their lives.
“Every milestone has been a ‘what if?’” laughs lead singer, Christian Jacobs—whose alter ego is “The MC Bat Commander.”
“A big part of being a band has been ‘what if we could get away with it?’ We just started it as a total joke. ‘What if we started a band, played ska and wore funny hats?’ We never thought it would go anywhere.”
Much like other theatrical groups such as GWAR or Ghoul, the Aquabats have their own mythology. However, the real-life idea for the band began in 1994 when Jacobs, bassist Chad Larson (aka Crash McLarson) and ex-trumpeter Boyd Terry (aka Catboy) wanted to start something different in their notoriously violent hometown punk scene of Orange County.
“I saw a lot of carnage in the punk scene as a youth,” Jacobs recalls. “We felt like that whole getting angry thing had its time and did a lot of damage. So the punkest thing we could do was be cheesy superheroes where literally all ages could come to the show.”
Since 2006, the line-up has consisted of Jacobs and Larson along with keyboardist James R. Briggs Jr. (Jimmy the Robot), drummer Ricky Falomir (Ricky Fitness) and guitarist Ian Fowles (Eaglebones Falconhawk). It’s the longest running Aquabats line-up as they’ve grown and shrunk over the years transitioning between third wave ska and new wave synth pop.
“Some people grow up together and have a weekly bowling league to stay friends,” chuckles Jacobs. “We have the Aquabats. That’s our Thursday night get-together.”
Along with the zaniness, the Devo-esque satire on society and simple pure fun, another thing makes the band: For 30 years they’ve been on the cusp of mainstream and subculture societies despite whether or not they’re a household name. For example, their belts were made by artist Paul Frank long before he became a cultural icon with Paul Frank Industries.
“He also made our latest batch as well,” exclaims Jacobs as he recalls the day Frank’s band opened for the Aquabats.
“After the show he said, ‘You know what would complete your outfit? Wrestling power belts.’ I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ but said, ‘Yeah that’d be cool, you want to make them?’ Just joking around. The next show he came with power belts.”
But that’s not all.
They entered the scene right when the third wave ska—largely based in Orange County—blew up with bands like No Doubt, Sublime and Reel Big Fish. Three of their albums appeared on the Billboard 200 chart. Their song “Super Rad!” and subsequent video had regular airplay on MTV and alternative radio stations like Los Angeles’ KROQ. They’ve played Coachella and Warped Tour. Celebrity drummer Travis Barker played with the Aquabats as Baron Von Tito right before joining Blink-182 and eventually becoming a Kardashian hubby. They appeared on the G4 channel’s hit pop culture program Attack of the Show and even had their very own show on The Hub, “The Aquabats! Super Show!”, for two seasons before rebranding it as a YouTube mini-episodic series, “The Aquabats! Radventures!”
Jacobs himself was a child actor who appeared in Pretty in Pink as the boy in the record store caught stealing and shot with a staple gun (“Hey! You missed my eye by an inch!”) and as Gremic in Gleaming the Cube, a cult classic film about early California skate culture, featuring icons like Tony Hawk and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Oh yeah, and he also was a co-creator of the international hit kids TV show Yo Gabba Gabba!, which The Aquabats had cameos on. A lifetime of milestones that began with a “what if?”
“It’s all about following through,” he says. “If you want to do something different and blaze a path, you have to get in there and do it. If you have an idea, why not just go and do it? Now’s the time.”
You’ve heard the MC Bat Commander, cadets. Now go forth and dance away your troubles for a couple hours at the Catalyst on July 21. The Aquabats with The Aggrolites and Left Alone perform Friday, July 21. Doors 6pm, Show 7pm. The Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $27.50 plus fees.