Christian Jacobs, better known as MC Bat Commander from punk band The Aquabats, recently spoke with ShockYa about the upcoming second season of his band’s hit show, “The Aquabats! Super Show!” The show, which airs on The Hub, will be coming back June 1 at 1 pm ET/10 AM PT and ShockYa was able to learn not only what fans can expect from the second season, but how the show came to be.
How did The Aquabats come to be? How did the idea for the original band come about?
Christian Jacobs: It was really just…an organic thing. In the early days, me and Crash McLarson [Chad Larson] and our buddy Boyd [Terry],who became Catboy, we wanted to start a band and we really liked DEVO but we were also listening to The Specials…at the time. We were all in different bands. We were all in different punk bands and…I think we wanted to be in a band where we all wore the same thing. Catboy, our buddy Boyd, worked at a wetsuit company, and he came to practice [and] said “I brought our costumes. Here they are.” He brought in these helmets and we all wore matching T-shirts and these silver helmets, the ones that you see on TV today. And that kind of started things off in a superhero direction becuase they were so Buck Rodgers, Flash Gordon-y, romantic-looking…helmets with sideburns.
…People started asking us questions, like “Why are you wearing the helmets?” “What are you?” Why are you doing that?” I think the band became what it was through–it was reactionary. We were playing a lot of shows with a lot of really hardcore punk bands. In Orange County there’s a really hardcore scene and at the time, there were a lot of violent bands. So, by wearing these dumb costumes to these shows, we were getting a lot of reaction, you know? We would also go play with ska bands, and the ska scene was really fun and people were having fun dancing, but still people were–there was kind of a uniform to wear there, too. You had to wear your checkerboard [print] or a mini skirt or your Fred Perry sweater and we were wearing surf trunks and rubber helmets. By…people questioning–because we didn’t even know what we were doing either–it just became what it is and the patent answer was “Yeah, we’re superheroes and we’re here to save the world.” …We just stuck with it. It’s one of those things where it seemed like a good idea at the time [laughs] and now, almost 20 years later, working on the second season of our TV show, I guess it was a good idea [laughs]. But there were definitely times when it didn’t seem like a such a good idea.
How does it feel to go from feeling like it wasn’t a good idea to having a second season based on these characters?
Christian Jacobs: Amazing. Really amazing. I think a lot of times for bands or maybe for actors and performers, I think if you get success too quickly, you don’t respect it as much. We’re so grateful and blown away that we’re able to do this for so long and that it still feels fresh. Even though, again, we’ve been playing these characters on stage for almost 20 years, it still feels brand new because we’re making a TV show and the scripts are fun from week to week and we’re involved in the actual crafting of the show. It feels like a punk-rock band making a record, except we’re a punk-rock group of guys making a TV show, and it’s really fun.
How does it feel to be among other pop-culture-y children’s shows like “Yo Gabba Gabba”? I believe I read that your show and “Yo Gabba Gabba” have a bit of history together.
Christian Jacobs: Yeah, absolutely. So, here we are trying to sell “The Aquabats,” and we’ve been trying to sell “The Aquabats” show for a long time and we got a couple of deals…and we were trying to get “The Aquabats” off the ground and it just wasn’t working. And even at the time, people were like, “Here are all these old, adult guys trying to appeal to kids on a kids’ show. Is this going to work?” There was just a lot of drama and it wasn’t clicking with the people in the studios. People weren’t getting it and it had become one of those projects that everyone had heard about but had never gone anywhere. Normally in the industry, that’s the sign of a fail.
So, my friend Scott [Schultz]–who was helping out with the show–and I…we just decided to go on a different direction and try something else. We had met all these people and we kind of knew how things work a little bit in the industry, so [we did] something independently and that was “Yo Gabba Gabba.” Scott and I created “Yo Gabba Gabba” pretty much as a show we can watch with our preschool kids…And then that took off like crazy and then we got picked up by Nickelodeon. I think once “Yo Gabba Gabba” became what it became–kind of a phenomenon in a way–that was the greenlight for people to rediscover “The Aquabats” or ask about it…I really think “Yo Gabba Gabba” was the reason that we were able to do “The Aquabats” because it gave us some credibility as far as being able to craft a show and put together that resonated with people.
And to go back to you guys creating a show to watch with your kids, “Sesame Street” started out the same way. It was a show that the powers-that-be didn’t quite understand and it was this grassroots show Jim Henson started so parents could have something to watch with their kids and now it is what it is today.
Christian Jacobs: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think it was definitely the power of “Sesame Street”–’cause I grew up on Ground Zero of “Sesame Street” with my parents when they were airing new episodes way in the beginning…I think with “Yo Gabba Gabba,” there wasn’t really anything like that anymore aside from “Sesame Street,” but even then, “Sesame Street” had kind of shifted a bit. It wasn’t exactly the same as the way it used to be. That’s fine if things change, but I felt like with with “Yo Gabba Gabba,” we wanted to do a “Sesame Street” for our generation.
…There’s a lot of humor in “The Aquabats” show, a lot of references that adults would get and might go over some kids’ heads a little bit, but at the same time, I love shows like that. “Sesame Street” was like that, the old “Batman” [show] was like that, a lot of the shows we watched when we were little kids worked on different levels and I think once television began to be compartmentalized a lot…that’s when I felt like we needed to see more inclusive programming. That’s what “Yo Gabba Gabba” is trying to be and so is “The Aquabats.” Something for everybody.
What can fans expect from the upcoming season?
Christian Jacobs: We continue where we left off, but there’s a hole in the middle. There’s a bit of a gap. It’s a continuation from Season One, but The Aquabats are–there’s more expected of them now because they’re the heroes of the world. They’ve saved the world and everyone expects them to keep saving the world and help them out. The Aquabats feel like they got lucky the first time, so The Aquabats are dealing with their own insecurities and wrestling with their new fame and their new responsibilities to the world and the world is looking at their watch and are like, “Come on, Aquabats! It’s time to save the world!” It’s funny because it’s a dilemma. The Aquabats finally got what they wanted–it’s like they wanted a pay raise, but they didn’t want the responsibility. [It has] comedy and guest stars like Tony Hawk, Mark Mothersbaugh from DEVO, Gerard and Mikey Way from My Chemical Romance are on an episode, so there’s a bunch of fun stuff going on.