Aquabats Assemble!

    Even over the phone, The Aquabats lead singer Christian Jacobs (more commonly known as The MC Bat Commander) is animated. He laughs after almost every sentence whether it was a joke or not. His stories are rich and full of dialogue. And every now and then, a hint of his superhero voice, which is usually reserved for when he’s in character, shines through. 

    Jacobs, the man who literally uses a Sharpie to blacken his front tooth (which both his dentist and wife are “not too stoked on”) and draw on a fake mustache to go to his day job, is behind “The Aquabats! Super Show!” The children’s show, which airs on the new network The Hub, has just received its first daytime Emmy nomination. After developing the concept nearly 20 years ago with some of the original band members (which once included Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker), Jacobs’ dream show is now filming its second season.

    “We’ve loved the show for almost 20 years even though we never actually made it,” Jacobs said. “We thought it was a good idea forever, and the fact that kids like it, and people are responding to it has been really cool.”

    If you haven’t already heard of Jacobs, you’ve surely seen his work. His first show, “Yo Gabba Gabba!” is part of a new generation of imaginative children’s television that airs on Nickelodeon. It’s likely that while skimming your Netflix queue during finals week, the first season of “The Super Show!” has showed up as a recommendation. If you haven’t already clicked on it, you should. The second season will premiere on June 1.

    “The first couple episodes got people worried because the show is not really like any other show. It feels a lot more adult than most kids shows,” he said. “A lot of the people on the show are middle-aged people so there’s not a ton of kids on the show, so it just feels like a different show in the space [of children’s television]. I think that got people nervous and worried, but once it aired and started doing well there was a lot of relief at the network.”

    Just as in their live shows, The Aquabats are able to reach a varied demographic with their television show, despite the fact that it’s targeted at children. Their fans have always been a mixed bag but Jacobs, who has four children himself, looks out for kids at shows because he says he’s still a kid at heart. 

    “One of my first shows, I was in the fifth grade, and I saw ‘Oingo Boingo’ at The Palace, and this is when they were more underground,” Jacobs said. “Danny Elfman brought me on stage, signed an autograph and was really cool. I’ll never forget that. I always want to bring [kids] on stage and make that experience special for them. I hope they’ll never forget it. It’s such a special time being a kid where everything is pure, and you don’t realize how crappy the world is at the time.” 

    The Aquabats are a versatile bunch. Their live concerts are a full-out production with animated videos, visits from evil villains and even crowd-surfing children. But as much as he wanted it, for Jacobs, success didn’t always seem like it was on the horizon. 

    “Looking back on it there was no way we could blow up back then,” he said. “We wear costumes. We’re stupid superheroes. If we gained a mainstream audience quickly, we probably wouldn’t have appreciated it, and we would have faded into obscurity very quickly. But the fact that we’ve had such a slow build and such great fans that are super faithful has been much better. Any kind of success we see now is shared with our fans.”

    Some people may see their costumes and silly lyrics and write off the Aquabats but, in an unexpected way, there’s a moral message for their followers.

    “A kid walking down the street in his Aquabats costume … most people are going to roll down their window blasting LMFAO and call him dumb,” Jacobs said. “And that kid, through himself, knows that he’s not dumb, and he’s going against the grain, and that’s what the Aquabats are all about. No one’s judging you.”

    The Aquabats have performed at UCSD twice in the last decade both at our beloved Sun God Festival in 2000 and at Muirstock in 2006. They’ll be making their way back to San Diego for the Vans Warped Tour this summer on June 19 at the Sleep Train Amphitheatre. It’s not quite clear if they’re just a bunch of guys in costumes fighting evil, musicians or actors. The latter came the least naturally to them according to Jacobs. They brought in Matt Walsh, a founding member (alongside greats like Amy Poehler) of The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater (a school) in Los Angeles to give the musical super heroes a lesson in acting. 

    “We hired him to coach us for a week,” Jacobs said. “We woke up every day, and we had comedy boot camp. We’d get to the studio at about 8:30 a.m., and for eight straight hours he’d coach us on everything. [Acting] was tricky. I had a bit of an acting background, and I was excited. But it was a bit more nerve-wracking for the other guys.”

    Although there are so many varying aspects to Jacobs’ job, he says his favorite part is being in character as the Bat Commander.

    “Actually being the MC Bat Commander is the best,” he said. “It’s basically like getting paid to be the class clown. That costume empowers you with a weird silliness. I obviously look so ridiculous. Every time you just wanted to stand up in the middle of math class to be a jerk just to make everyone laugh only to get sent to the principal’s office — that’s what I feel like I get to do with the Aquabats.”

    For the diehard Aquabat fans that remember going to Cadet Summits (a convention solely for official fan club members called “Aquacadets”) back in the early 2000s, Jacobs confirmed that they’re planning their first Cadet Summit since 2006 for next summer. They’ve also written several songs for a new Aquabats album, which they hope to release by the end of the year. 

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