Going on 17 years now, Christian Jacobs has been the front man for the colorful SoCal band The Aquabats. During out interview, Jacobs describes the formation of the band as a kind of joke at a time when large ensemble ska and punk bands ruled the Southern California music landscape back in the mid-90's. With their colorful blue costumes and stage personas, Jacobs (who goes by the moniker MC Bat Commander), bassist Chad Larson (Crash McLarson), keyboardist and sax man James Briggs (Jimmy the Robot), drummer Ricky Falomir (aka Ricky Fitness), and the group's newest member, guitarist Ian Fowles (Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk), the assembled Aquabats are leaping off the stage and onto the TV screen with their new show, The Aquabats! Super Show! this Saturday, March 3rd at 11 AM ET on The Hub TV.
Jacobs is the executive producer on the live-action and animated series which blends music from the band, fake commercials, and super hero action in each half-hour episode. This isn't Jacobs' first time behind the camera, though: he's also the co-creator of the hit Yo Gabba Gabba, which as you'll see from our chat was instrumental in getting The Aquabats on TV.
Find out more about the show and check out an exclusive clip after the jump.
MTV Geek: Could you give us a little sense of the genesis of the show? Where did it come from and how did you end up bringing it to the Hub?
Christian Jacobs: Well, it’s been a journey. We started as a band—a joke band—back in 1994, and a lot of us were playing in bands in the Orange County punk and ska scene. And we started the Aquabats and kind of a lampoon on the whole ska scene. And it’s kind of a long story, but to make a long story short, we were real theatrical, wore costumes, weaving monster battles and goofy stuff into the show—you know, kind of like a kids’ show. And we thought, “Hey, this would make a really great kids’ show.”
Many years of development with different studios and different pilots, and then a few years later we developed the idea for Yo Gabba Gabba, and then the Aquabats was still hanging around, we were always touring and doing things, trying to make the show happen—we never thought it was going to happen and once Yo Gabba Gabba happened, it pretty much gave us a second look with a lot of the studios that we’d already pitched to and we’d already been turned down. And we got a second look, but here comes the Hub and the timing couldn’t be better.
We love the Hub because they were never—I guess, hesitant is the word. They had no hesitation, they were like “Yes, we wanna make this show. Let’s do it finally.” And we were blown away because I think we’d been feeling the runaround and hesitation from a lot of the other kids’ networks and stations. Even though Yo Gabba Gabba had started to gain popularity, it felt like there still was some hesitation there, but the Hub was not hesitant at all and ready to do it.
So, kind of long story shortened. [laughs]
Geek: Now how do the experiences compare working on Yo Gabba Gabba versus The Aquabats Super Show?
Jacobs: It’s a lot more challenging. Yo Gabba Gabba is a sweet and fun kids’ show and we shoot on a soundstage and everyone knows the drill. People can finish each others’ sentences over there and we have our own vernacular and it’s a lot easier.
And making the Aquabats show, even though the band itself we’ve all been friends for years and years along with all the people on the show, we’ve all been friends, it’s really different. We’re shooting on location where it’s conditional, and it’s running one day and the next it’s sunny, and there’s schedules. And we’re trying to put explosions, and car chases, and mummies, and monsters and it’s like a whole different thing.
It’s been tough, it’s like try picturing [shooting] an indie action film every week—because we’re shooting single camera too, whereas Yo Gabba Gabba we’re multi-camera on a soundstage. So it’s a whole different challenge, but exciting and fun and satisfying.
Geek: Has the mix of styles and genres always been part of the concept?
Jacobs: The main thing we always wanted to do was make the show like Danger Island or some of the live-action Batman or live action kids’ shows. Because I feel like there are so many cartoons out there and there’s really not—I mean, there’s Power Rangers, there’s some live-action kids’ shows. But most of the live-action kids’ shows now are almost sitcoms, and there’s not live, capital letter “Action” shows for kids.
And I think there were several fun ones we watched growing up and that was just something we always wanted to do. The retro, epic angle really appealed to me early on and as we took 15 years to get the show made, tastes change and trends change and the feelings towards things change and writing the up and down it’s like, is this the right idea or should we add more stuff into it? Gradually the format became more of a magazine format, almost like Yo Gabba Gabba for older kids, where there’s animation and fake toy ads, and different diversions away from the main narrative.
But that was always something we wanted to do, to do it as [a] campy live-action, funky kids’ show.
Geek: In dealing with the animated versions of the Aquabats, was there anything in particular you wanted to see, or any particular exaggerations that you wanted to end up on screen?
Jacobs: I think for the most part, we got it. Eriko Uruma [aka PEY] The girl that did the character designs in the animation, she’s a fan from Japan, we met her in Japan and she started drawing these cool pictures of us in an anime style. And so we were like, “We gotta contact this girl!” So we’ve been working with her and she’s been doing art, so when it came time to make the show, of course, she was our first pick to have do the animation.
I think there’s always things in rushing and trying to get a show made you wish you did differently or had more time to work on the backgrounds. But I think, overall I’m pretty excited about how the animation turned out. And if anything, going forward I’d love to see more variations and different styles of animation. But with Erica, I think she did great character designs and she made us look really young and in shape.
And I love the way she exaggerated us in the animation. She gave us a really youthful flavor to make us a stark contrast from the live-action. And that was something we wanted to do: we wanted to make the animations more hyper-realistic than what we’re really dealing with everyday—what we’re dragging around behind us as we’re walking.
Geek: You guys look great in the show, don’t worry about it.
Jacobs: Thank you [laughs]. I appreciate it. It’s fun, we’re having a lot of fun.
Geek: You mentioned that kind of change that went into the concept. How have the characters of the Aquabats themselves changed leading up to their current incarnation and getting them into the show?
Jacobs: Yeah, I mean being a band that been together going on almost 17 years now, there’s been a number of different member changes and a number of different people coming in and out of the band. I think we did a pilot back in ’98 and there were eight guys in the band and we did another pilot in ’99 and it slimmed down to six guys, or seven guys. And now we’re down to five guys.
It’s one of those things [where] it’s a lot of guys, and gradually people quit and move on with their lives, and it kind of became this core five guys. Along the way things changed and streamlined creatively and the things we’re interested in now are a little different now than they were then. But I think overall it’s retained its general shape.
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