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 Facebook, Instagram, Twitter 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!