The Aquabats were on a mission. They wanted to be on TV and, after almost two decades, it finally happened. You may have seen their compellingly-silly The Aquabats! Super Show!, which has become a surprise hit on the Hub Network.
“There was really no goal, there was really no vision,” says Christian Jacobs, known to fans as the MC Bat Commander, about the early days of the band. (Which at one point included Travis Barker!)
The Aquabats formed in 1994, on the crest of the ska boom in Orange County. They wanted to spoof the scene, to a degree, but they mainly wanted to make fun of themselves. They wrote songs about Martian girls, robot armies and pizza. They included upwards of 20 people in their lineup.
Their first show was at a friend's party. It ended with Jacobs getting in a fight, a spectacle that the band decided they wanted to top by their second show.
“It just snowballed,” says Jacobs.
The band started changing costumes for every show. Once, they were chefs. On another occasion, they played as a sports team. By the time their first record, The Return of the Aquabats came out in 1996, they had established a gimmick as superheroes.
When Reel Big Fish, No Doubt and Sublime started blowing up, The Aquabats started concentrating harder on their efforts. They had a small cult following developing around them already, and with that momentum, they released a sophomore record.
The good times, however, weren't meant to last. When a young Travis Barker quit the band to join Blink 182, things began to turn dark.
“Right around the time that Travis quit was the same time that Limp Bizkit broke, and everything went nu-metal,” Jacobs said, “The masses wanted tough guy, poser metal. They didn't want cheeky fun”
For the next several years, the band jumped around from label to label. Sales were never stellar, but the cult following remained steadfast.
Then, in 2005, the tide started turning in their favor.
Nitro Records reached out to the band for new material. What resulted was Charge!!, The Aquabats' most critically acclaimed effort to date.
On the heels of that release, Jacobs sold a show called Yo Gabba Gabba! to Nickelodeon.
And yet, one dream remained unrealized. They still wanted their own show.
“They were forming the HUB Network,” Jacobs said, “And our friend got a job in acquisitions.”
The Aquabats! Super Show! was launched in 2012. It featured the band in live action form, interspersed with animated shorts, in 22 minutes of family-friendly nostalgia-inducing bursts of classic television.
Now two seasons in, on Saturday, December 21st, the show will have a Christmas special, where the band faces off against the Krampus.
The Aquabats didn't accomplish the traditional route to fandom and glory, but they did manage to carve out a name for themselves. Jacobs jokes about their journey, still careful never to be too serious.
“We never assumed we were going to be U2,” Jacobs said, “We're putting on rubber helmets and dancing around.”
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