THE AQUABATS TALK KICKSTARTER SUCCESS & BIG PLANS FOR 2019 0 117

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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P!NK CONFIRMED TO PERFORM AT 2019 BRITS; RECIPIENT OF OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO MUSIC AWARD 0 22

We are thrilled to announce that multi-million selling global pop icon P!NK will be honoured with the prestigious Outstanding Contribution to Music Award at this year’s ceremony. P!NK will be the first international artist to receive this award.

Seven studio albums and one greatest hits album on since her debut in 2000, totalling over 60 million global sales, over 8 million in the UK alone along with over 12 million UK single sales, P!NK is a musical force to be reckoned with. With seven Top Five albums – with two going No. 1 (Funhouse and the most recent platinum-certified Beautiful Trauma), three UK No. 1 singles (‘Just Like A Pill’, ‘So What’, ‘Lady Marmalade’) and 32 Top 40 singles, 19 of which going Top 10, including ‘Try’, ‘Just Give Me A Reason’ and ‘What About Us’, P!NK has become one of the UK’s best-selling female artists and one of the world’s greatest singers, with her inimitable powerhouse vocals and show-stopping stage performances.
 
Over 2 million tickets sold in the UK alone to date, nine BRIT nominations, and one win for International Female Solo Artist in 2003, and a string of other prestigious awards and accolades including three GRAMMY awards (20 nominations) and two Billboard Music Awards, P!NK’s career sees no sign of letting up with her first UK stadium tour in five years booked for this summer, including two nights at London’s Wembley Stadium.
 
P!NK said: “I am so honored to be recognized with the Outstanding Contribution To Music Award at the 2019 BRITs! Since the beginning of my career the British fans have been some of the most fierce and loyal in the world. I am humbled to receive this honor and be in the company of an illustrious group of British icons!”

BRITs Chairman and Chairman & CEO of Sony Music UK and Ireland Jason Iley said: “P!NK is a trailblazer, a phenomenally talented singer and songwriter, and truly one of the greatest artists of our time.  It is a real pleasure to honour her at this year’s BRIT Awards with the Outstanding Contribution To Music Award. With her remarkable career spanning nearly 20 years, P!NK is one of the most successful artists in the world, consistently releasing multi-million-selling albums and selling out tours all over the globe. I am really excited to welcome her back to The BRITs and to recognise her prodigious success.”
 
P!NK joins an illustrious list of previous BRIT Awards Outstanding Contribution to Music recipients including Sir Elton John, David Bowie, Queen, Spice Girls, U2, Sir Paul McCartney, Oasis, Robbie Williams and Blur. The award was rested in 2013 to make way for a Special Recognition for War Child to mark the charity’s 20th anniversary. P!NK will be the first international artist to receive the honour, a decision taken by The BRITs committee to open the award up to overseas acts who have achieved long term success in the UK, and P!NK will be awarded in recognition of her significant impact on British music and her incredible musical repertoire over the past two decades.

Like all winners on the night, P!NK will be presented with an exclusive trophy designed for this year only by Sir David Adjaye OBE, and she will close the show with an exclusive performance on the night, showcasing her extraordinary talent which continues to wow audiences all over the world.

MATT DOBKIN CHATS ‘SIX SONGS OF PROTEST’ & HIS VIEWS ON SOCIAL MEDIA 0 28

Music has always been an outlet for artists keen to share their views – personal, political and everything in between – and for Matt Dobkin, thanks to his new, upcoming EP Six Songs Of Protest, it’s allowed him to express himself in exactly the way he wishes to be heard. Frustrated and shocked by the outcome of the 2016 US election and all that has occurred and impacted both the States and the world since, his new collection addresses issues such as police brutality, the environment and White House corruption. Having just released the first single from the EP, “They Warned Us”, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Matt to delve a little deeper into his political views, the impact of social media on his career and how happy he is to see more of his artistic counterparts speaking out about issues that matter.

TITL: Hi Matt. Sum yourself up in a few words for me please.

Matt Dobkin: Right now? In 2019? Pissed off.

TITL: What would you say is your unique selling point as an artist? What makes you stand out? 

MD: My aim as an artist right now is to express my frustration, distress, and anger with the current state of the world. And I think – or at least hope! – that that’s a selling point, because I’m certainly not alone. I would like to think that my voice, lyrics, and political point of view might, to some small degree in today’s landscape, help me stand out.

TITL: Growing up, which bands and artists were you most inspired by and how do those inspirations influence the music you make now? 

MD: How much space do you have? As a very little kid, I would listen to whatever was on pop radio and sing along; whether that was Fleetwood Mac, ABBA, or Eagles. I was a total 80s pop obsessive: Prince, Michael, post-Barracuda pop Heart, Yaz, U2, and George Michael. In high school, I got the retro jazz/soul bug and I became fixated on Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. I discovered Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, and I “came home” to the 60s/70s soul space that would become – and remain – my main inspiration. But, I also had a classical-music background and I’m sure that all these various influences have informed what I do now. It’s a big ol’ mash-up, as it is for most musicians.

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing? With that in mind, which song would you say is the greatest ever written and why?

MD: Greatest song ever written? Impossible to answer. Different songs evoke different feelings and mean different things to different people. Not to be a killjoy, but I’m not really into pitting one song against another. In terms of my personal inspirations, I have two different lists, the “singing” list and the “songwriting” list. As a singer, Aretha Franklin tops the list, followed closely by Al Green and Sam Cooke. As a songwriter, Prince and Joni Mitchell, which I realize sounds absurd as I’m barely fit to sweep their floors. Marvin Gaye manages to straddle both lists.

TITL: Tell me a little about your latest single “They Warned Us.” What’s the story behind it?

MD: “They Warned Us” is the first single off my forthcoming EP, Six Songs of Protest. But the song that really launched the project for me is called “Organize.” It’s inspired by Gloria Steinem and really set the tone for the whole release. Once I had committed to the idea of an all-protest-song project, I started listening to A LOT of old classic songs of resistance. Much like Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”, Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddamn”, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On”, and many more. I started to realize that all the issues I wanted to address in these songs had already been dealt with by these great artists, not to mention Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, etc. So the idea behind “They Warned Us” was very simple, all the problems we’re facing now, we also faced years ago. And all this stuff I want to address now was addressed decades ago. Marvin, Nina, and Dylan warned us years ago about the scenarios we find ourselves dealing with today. Nothing has changed.

TITL: As you mentioned, you’ve got an EP, Six Songs of Protest coming out soon. Without giving too much away in terms of its content, what can fans expect from the collection?

MD: In addition to “They Warned Us” and “Organize”, which is a very pointed critique of the American president. Featuring a circa-1972 sample from Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to throw her hat into the ring for U.S. president. There’s a song about the environment – “Earthquake and Hurricanes”-, a gay rights song – “The Ramble” -, a song criticizing the epidemic of police murders of black Americans – “Paid Administrative Leave” – and a cover of the great Phil Ochs’s “Power and the Glory.” You know, just fun, light, frothy entertainment.

TITL: Which of the songs on the EP might you say you’re most proud of/connected to and why?

MD: I’m really happy with how “Organize” turned out. The groove, the lyrics, and not to mention the background vocals of Teresa Stanley. She’s a killer female gospel/soul vocalist always adds authority to a song.

TITL: Your music is “overtly” political – not that that’s a bad thing in this day and age – but do you wish other artists would share such powerful and important messages through their work, or are you happy to be one of the few leading the charge?

MD: Thank you, but I wouldn’t say I’m “leading the charge.” I’m hardly alone in trying to get these messages across. I think we’re in a moment where a lot of artists – whether musicians, writers, visual artists, whatever – are addressing the kinds of political and social problems we’re all assaulted by every time we open the newspaper or a web browser. I’m genuinely excited by the fact that so many different creative people, across genres and disciplines, are finding ways to resist.

TITL: What is your tour/performance schedule for the months ahead looking like? Which one venue would you most like to play and why?

MD: I like small, intimate shows, where it’s easy to connect directly with your audience. So, I’m angling for Joe’s Pub here in New York City. But if Madison Square Garden or the O2 Centre came calling, I wouldn’t be averse…

TITL: It could be argued that social media is all but taking over the world – and certainly industries like the music business. How do you personally feel about society’s connection and obsession with the likes of Twitter? How has and does it impact your ability to reach an audience?

MD: I have friends who refuse to be on social media, and I really admire their ability to steer clear and not get sucked in. But, it’s impossible to get your music out and your message across without Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It’s incredibly helpful in reaching people, so I can’t complain.

TITL: Are there any other plans or projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?

MD: I am completely focused on Six Songs of Protest at the moment and whatever small ways I can help prevent a re-election.

TITL: Finally then, with seemingly no end in sight to the political turmoil the world finds itself dealing with, where do you see your music going in future? Are there any other causes or views you’re maybe looking to support through future releases, and with that in mind, many years from now, what one thing would you most like people to say about you/remember you for in terms of your career and artistic legacy?

MD: When I first started singing and writing songs, I had no ambition to get into this political realm, but it’s feeling like a pretty good fit. I’m sure that, even when our idiot president has been expelled from office, I’ll find some other situation to be outraged by and respond to in music. Or maybe I’ll just want to sing cheesy love songs. We’ll just have to see!

Check out “They Warned Us” below and for more information on Matt Dobkin, visit his website, follow him on Instagram or give his page a like on Facebook.