THE AQUABATS TALK KICKSTARTER SUCCESS & BIG PLANS FOR 2019 0 69

With a career already spanning close to 25 years, The Aquabats are certainly no strangers to the music industry and thanks to their recent – and hugely successful – Kickstarter campaign, fans of the group can rest easy knowing they won’t be going away anytime soon. While the group were on tour, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with member Christian Jacobs AKA MC Bat Commander to delve a little deeper into the Kickstarter campaigns’ success and what fans and backers can expect as a result and also to gauge his thoughts on the business he and his band-mates have been a part of for so long.

TITL: As a group, you’ve been around since 1994 and have outlasted many of your artistic counterparts. What do you think has been the key, or the secret, to your longevity?

Christian Jacobs: Wow! Ha! I guess we have been around for a little while. I don’t want to guess why people decide to keep listening to us, or watching the show we made, but I think one reason we’ve kept going for so long is because one of our goals has always been fun first! We’ve been having fun for a long time, and it’s still a ton of fun. Also, I think anytime we’ve had strain on the prime directive (fun) or when things got hard, we’ve pulled back and took care of what really mattered, and that was our friendships and our families. Life first, band second.

TITL: Your line-up has undergone a number of changes over the years, including one which saw renowned Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker join you for a time. What impact did those changes have on you as a group and do you foresee any further line-up changes occurring in the coming years?

CJ: Yeah, we’ve had quite a few amazing people come and go over the year.  Sometimes we knew it was going to happen, and other times life just sort of happens, and you don’t have any control over it. In those moments of change, we just tried to roll with the punches and not get too stressed out about it. After all, this is a fun project… it’s not life and death! So we’ve had a bit of a revolving door policy, and we’ve mostly remained friends with our former band mates, including Travis! That’s also been great. because sometimes we’ll have past members come back to play shows and songs, and it’s always been super fun. In fact, we’re hoping a few of them will also join us for a few new tracks next year, since we’ll be working on two new albums… and we know that a lot of our fans would be psyched if we had our horn section back for at least a few songs! And we don’t have any specific plans for the band to change in the immediate future, but like I said, life happens… so if something comes up, we’ll figure it out then!

TITL: Which of your releases, both as singles and albums/EP’s are you most proud of and why? How would you say each one charts your musical and artistic evolution?

CJ: Man, that’s a tough one. I think we’re especially proud of “The Fury of the Aquabats,” for the obvious reasons – it’s kind of the “big” record from our past. I guess when I look at a lot of our past albums, there are things now that I wish we’d done differently… but at the time, we all thought that they were pretty good. I also like “Charge”, released in 2005, a lot, because it was kind of the record that kept things going for us. We were gonna hang it up before that record, but making it and touring it really changed things — it showed us that there was still an audience for The Aquabats, and some kind of magic left in what we were doing. And I think “Hi-Five Soup” is probably the best example of how our musical direction has grown. It’s all over the place – which I think is good. We have that luxury, as a band of weirdos: We can go in any old direction… as long as it’s fun!

TITL: In the past two plus decades, how has the industry changed in your eyes, and have those changes been good or bad?

CJ: It’s so different. The big shift is really just that more of the power keeps moving into the hands of the artists. If you’re motivated enough, we’re kind of in a time where you can be super successful without “the industry.” You don’t need a label. You don’t need an A&R team or radio support. You can do it all yourself, and you can market it yourself on the internet. It’s pretty awesome, actually, because we were never really understood by the “expert executives” anyway. We’ve survived through being connected to our fans through the web, which we think is a big reason that our Kickstarter worked out so well.

TITL: You recently wrapped a Kickstarter campaign to bring back your hugely fan-popular music comedy action show The Aquabats! Super Show! For those who never saw it upon its debut in 2012, how would you sum it up?

CJ: Well… I guess if you’re over the age of 35, I would describe it as Batman meets The Monkees. If you’re under the age of 35, I would say it’s Power Rangers meets Flight Of The Conchords. And if you’re in your twenties or a teenager, I’d say, “It’s like these totally random chubby dudes fighting way random monsters and like…trying to win and stuff!” And if you’re a kid, I would say, it’s the newest, funniest superhero TV show ever!

TITL: Can you tell me a bit more about the campaign?

CJ: Wow. Yeah. It’s been a lot to process…but mostly, it’s been a blast. It’s also been a ton of work! I think really connecting with the fans and finding out what they want and expect from us was really important to us! It’s been so humbling, and amazing, to realize how much our fans wanted to do to support the group, and to make sure we keep going. That’s why so much of our Kickstarter campaign was focused on bringing all of our fans together, and forming a group that we called “The Legion of Righteous Comrades” — which is basically anyone and everyone who believes that the world’s better off with a group like The Aquabats out there, making people laugh and fighting the forces of boredom and negativity.

But for anyone who didn’t hear about it while it was running: we ran this huge Kickstarter, and raised enough that we’ll be able to get back to work over the next few months, so that we’ll have a ton of new stuff to share in 2019, including two brand new albums, a 12 episode web-series and a private livestream concert for everyone who supported the Kickstarter. And if anyone missed it but still wants to jump in, we’re still accepting pledges, and will use whatever we raise to make even more stuff next year. So, it’s not too late to be part of the team… you can still join at bringbacktheaquabats.com.

TITL: Ultimately you’ve been and are relying on technology, especially social media, to hopefully bring the show back, but do you think it would be AT ALL possible to have done or organized a campaign like this even five, ten years ago? With that in mind, even away from the show, how big is and has been the impact of social media on your careers? 

CJ: Man, I really can’t say, but… probably not? I mean, it’s been almost five years since they did that Kickstarter campaign for Veronica Mars, which was sort of the first time I think it occurred to us that fans could raise enough money to make entire movies or television shows. But ten years ago, probably not.

And either way, social media has DEFINITELY saved The Aquabats from extinction, period! We haven’t had a new album out in almost 7 years, or new episodes of our show since 2014… so there’s absolutely NO WAY we’d still have so many friends and fans ready to help us, if we hadn’t been able to keep in touch with them on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube. It’s been really great for us, just keeping the connection alive, and realizing there are still people out there who want us to do more, and who make sure we know it… a lot!

TITL: Away from the campaign, what are the future plans for the group? Do you have any plans to return to the studio or hit the road and engage once more with your die-hard, almost cult-like following of fans?

CJ: YES! Thanks to the huge success of our Kickstarter, we’ve got a ton of plans for the next year… and beyond! And you know, the way it worked was that the more we raised, the more we promised we’d do. So, just from what we’ve already raised, we’ve promised our backers that we’ll make two new albums, plus release our long-overdue soundtrack album and a live concert album of our “Fury Of The Aquabats” 20th anniversary show back in April. And, of course, we’ll be making a new “online season” of Super Show, and we’re definitely planning to hit the road and see as many people as we can next year.

If we’re able to raise a little more over the next few months, there’s even more we’d love to keep doing…including music videos for some of our old songs and some of our new songs. I think that was one of our big mistakes in the past — not making more music videos. And now we can fix it and go all out! WOO!!!

TITL: Finally then, in the twenty plus years you’ve been together, you’ve seen and done a lot, but are there any plans or goals you still have left to tick off your personal and/or professional bucket lists?  Which one, as yet unfulfilled objective, do you most want to complete and why?

CJ: I think we really just want to reach all of the people that we – or you – would THINK would be Aquabats fans, but never discovered us yet! We go to comic conventions – including San Diego Comic-Con – pretty much every year, and we see thousands of people who are SO hardcore about superheroes and pop culture and all of this stuff that the Aquabats have been heralding for 20+ years… And it just always makes us think. “Look at all these people who are so ready to discover the Aquabats!” I mean, when I was in grade school reading Marvel comics, I would have never imagined the entertainment world would be so totally conquered by the MCU… it was just unfathomable! Did you see Ant-Man and The Wasp? It was so ridiculous… it totally could have been an episode of The Aquabats Super Show! So, I really think the Aquabats’ time is still coming… and based on the response to the Kickstarter, our plan is TOTALLY WORKING!

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BLISSBLISS SHARE THE VIDEO FOR NEW SINGLE “BULLETPROOF” 0 55

Blending their varied tastes and musical influences that range from rock and jazz to pop and R&B, BlissBliss have always made music that is truly unique to who they are, both personally and professionally, and showcase this through each and every one of their releases. Following on from previous single “I’m Coming Through”, which was released in September, the duo – Renee and Lang Bliss – have today unveiled the video for their latest track “Bulletproof”, and ThisIsTheLatest are delighted to premiere it to the world.

Asked about the track, taken from their EP 3, which was released last month, the pair said:

“We loved the way that Bulletproof turned out. It originally began with a very different concept but using the same title. But as we saw the theme of relationships developing on the EP, the thought of a couple who constantly fought, wanting love to make them Bulletproof, felt like a really great direction.”

Check out the video for “Bulletproof” below and for more information on BlissBliss, visit their website, give their page a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Header photo credit: Jose Guzman Colon.

CHRIS STILLS TELLS ALL ABOUT HIS NEW ALBUM & THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA 0 29

Having just released his first album in 10 years titled ‘Don’t Be Afraid’, it’s safe to say the last few months of 2018 in particular have been pretty big for Chris Stills. With the collection already championed by the likes of Mojo among others, while playing a few shows here in the UK, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Chris to find out more about his artistic influences, the one venue he’d most like to play and how it felt to have his work featured in two Oscar winning films.

TITL: For those unfamiliar with you and your music, how would you sum yourself and your sound up in a few words?

Chris Stills: I grew up with the fundamentals. A folk, blues and rock foundation. Dylan, Stones, Beatles, Pink Floyd, CSN, Neil Young, The Police, U2, AC/DC, Motown… all of it. Depending on my mood and what I’m trying to achieve with a song, I reach to the music I love for inspiration. That also includes my contemporaries like Rufus Wainwright, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley etc…What you get is a nice mixed bag of songs… kind of like a mixed tape you’d make a friend.

TITL: With so many other bands and artists around, what makes you stand out? If you had to sell yourself to a music fan, what would you tell them? 

CS: I write songs, then I work hard to record, mix and master them. I play them in various venues large and small with different formations. I’ll sell you at the show. And maybe over dinner.

TITL: To what extent have your musical influences changed over the course of your life and how do and have those influences impact the music you’ve made and make now?

CS: Music has a funny way of influencing you at different times for different reasons. I hate to admit it, but I’ve only recently discovered the Harry Nilsson record Pussy Cats which is at this very moment affecting me profoundly.

TITL: Which one band or artist might you say you sound most similar to? 

CS: Only the best ones.

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing? 

CS: It’s a funny thing that one… you don’t wanna look too high otherwise you get cold feet and wanna give up because your heroes can make you feel like you just pale in comparison. I think my biggest inspiration is making the time, then actually taking it, and not taking myself too seriously. Things tend to get better and better as you go.

TITL: Your new album has been praised by the likes of Mojo and Classic Rock among others, but do you actually care much about what critics think or are you more concerned with the thoughts of your fans? 

CS: It’s always nice to get a nod here and there but if I was here for it I might as well be selling yogurt. My favorite place to know whether people are into what I’m doing is on stage. It’s immediate and clear. No filters.

TITL: The album features co-writes/collaborations with Ryan Adams and Zac Rae of Death Cab For Cutie. How did those collaborations come about and what did each bring to the writing/creative process for the album?

CS: I met Ryan when we were just kids. We were guys in the 3rd room at the time of The Rolling Stones who were working on Bridges to Babylon. We were just a couple of kids back then but really became close when he and Ethan Johns asked me to come play on Gold. At some point later Ryan had built his studio, PaxAm and invited me to come be creative there. With him… without him. He was ever so supportive. He ended up helping me finish Criminal Mind.

Zac Rea is force of nature in his own right. If you want that X-Factor in your music he will deliver every time. He’s one of my favorite people to work with and like Ryan and really everyone else really helped me make this record.

TITL: If you had to pick your favourite song on the album, which would it be and why? 

CS: They all hold a very special place. I guess some of the more fun sessions were the ones that were recorded with the most folks playing at the same time. “Lonely Nights”, “Don’t be Afraid”… those were some exciting times in the studio.

TITL: Your music has been included in several films, including I, Tonya and American Hustle as well as in the US version of the hit show Shameless, in which you also appeared. What impact did having that happen have on your career in terms of audience/fan base interaction and interest? 

CS: Well, it doesn’t hurt to be a part of Academy Award winning film. Or working with David O’Russell, Mark Batson, John Wells or Sue Jacobs. I mean, they’re the best in their fields. If anything it’s a good confidence booster, isn’t it?

TITL: As a modern day artist, and given how long you’ve been in and around the industry, how are you finding social media’s impact on your career? Would you agree it’s a vital tool in today’s world or do you think we as a general society have become far too reliant on it?

CS: I think social media has leveled the playing field. Sadly it also seems to have sucked all the life out of any mystery in this world. But you really have to have lived when that still existed to know what I’m talking about. Is social media vital? Yes. It’s running everything and everyone into a big opaque blobby data mine.

TITL: You’ve got a final number of 2018 shows coming up. For anyone who hasn’t seen you before, what can people expect from your performances?

CS: For me, my shows are like a release… all the energy that goes into it… the work, the travel, the road, the life… it all culminates on stage.

TITL: If you could play one venue that you haven’t yet, which would it be and why? 

CS: I have always dreamed of playing the Royal Albert Hall. Do I really need to ex.plain that one?

TITL: Finally then, now that 2018 is almost over, have you started planning for 2019 yet? What can fans expect to see and hear from you in the near future? 

CS: Plan nothing. Be careless. Enjoy yourselves. And somewhere in 2019, another Chris Stills record will come rumbling in.

To keep up to date with Chris Stills, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Instagram. His album ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is available now. Photo credit: Dove Shore.