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Mothersbaugh has a regular Yo Gabba art-lesson segment, and his quirky style fits perfectly with the “retro early-’60s Japanese TV look” (as he calls it) of the show. He hasn’t written music for it (yet), but he says his participation has influenced a cut from the new Devo disc the band is working on. Along with Biz Markie (who teaches beat-boxing on “Biz’s Beat of the Day”) and Rock, the personalities on the show are as unconventional and charismatic as the creatures. Ditto the guest bands, which in season two are a higher-profile bunch, and include Ladytron, the Roots, Hot Hot Heat, Datarock, Jack Black and our kid’s faves, MGMT and the Ting Tings. Coupled with the psychedelic graphics, the end product seems tailor-made for the new slew of ex-slacker, all-grown-up Generation X-ers (post X usage) now having kids. But there’s a big chunk of the country left to be addressed.
“A lot of the acts on the show, we’ve heard of, but a majority of America has not,” says Jacobs, who also has an Aquabats kids’ show in the works. “I guarantee you very few people have heard of Ladytron or Chromeo in the Midwest. They’re probably like, ‘Who are these weird bands on my preschool kid’s show?’?”
That’s not so much the case overseas though, where Yo Gabba is a megahit in both the U.K. and Australia. With the new season in full swing and a merchandising deal that promises to bring toys and clothing en masse to retailers like Target and Gymboree, it shouldn’t be too long.
The show’s already turned Rock (whose real name is Lance Robertson) into an unwitting sippy-cup-scene superstar. Known long before the show for his funky frocks and zesty personality, and a longtime fixture behind the counter at Amoeba Records in Hollywood, the retro-loving audiophile, DJ and one half of long-running electro-delic duo the Raymakers is definitely adjusting to a new fan base. He still spins at the Short Stop some nights, but these days he’s just as likely to be signing autographs at comic conventions. Still, Rock keeps it real in the face of impending mainstream fame. He rarely does interviews, because he doesn’t want “people deconstructing everything” about the show and his persona. “Just like with shows such as Sesame Street, there’s a mystique that I want to keep.”
Rock does posit on the program’s success, though: “Today’s parents grew up on MTV and hip-hop and rock and synthesizers,” he says. “Yo Gabba offers the full spectrum of sounds we all grew up with. The kids love the music and the colors, and the grown-ups — people who like Star Wars and The Simpsons and collect toys — love the pop culture aspect.”
Which may just be what the creators had in mind all along. Though the show’s title has nothing to do with the Ramones — or Yo! MTV Raps, for that matter — its creators say it fit too well not to use. “The Ramones connection came up after,” says Jacobs, “but then we were like, okay, they pulled from pop culture. This is in the rock tradition of pulling from past references too. Things we grew up watching and doing, I think we share a kinship with them — that whole DIY, pulling references and making something new. It’s what hip-hop was all about and what punk rock was all about, and it’s what Yo Gabba Gabba!’s all about.”
Yo Gabba Gabba! airs weekdays on Nick Jr. See www.Nickjr.com for schedule. Music from season one available on iTunes. Season-one DVD now available. Release party at Amoeba Records scheduled for November 1.
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