Superhero Band the Aquabats Celebrate Turning 20

Categories: Bands We Like

The Aquabats are 20 this year.

If that sounds crazy to you, imagine what that means to its members: That's 20 years of tights-wearing, gravity-defying, villain-fighting, rock & roll shenanigans on stage. Led by the M.C. Bat Commander, backed up by Crash McLarson, Jimmy the Robot, Ricky Fitness and Eagle "Bones" Falconhawk, this 'super'-team never really planned on staying together for two decades. And yet here they are: middle-aged men in superhero costumes, entertaining kids and kids at heart everywhere. Guess the adage is true: Time does fly when you're having fun.

Over the phone, the indefatigable MC Bat Commander (Christian Jacobs to you noobs) -- lover of fast food, sporter of black, obsidian tooth and curly, drawn-on mustache -- is pretty matter-of-fact about it. "We've never had much ambition to be a band, we were always just having fun. It's pretty ridiculous and very absurd that we've been able to do this for 20 years.But ... pretty cool too."

The we includes a steadfast and loyal bunch of fellow heroes/musicians. Bassist Chad Larson has been in the band since the beginning, in 1994. Keyboardist James Briggs, since 1996. Drummer Richard Falomir joined in 2001 and guitarist Ian Fowles -- the newest Aquabat -- has been in the group since 2006. Jacobs says, "We all scratch our heads and ask ourselves, how is it still happening?"

Consider everything that goes on within an Aquabats show and that headscratcher becomes even more of a mystery. Jacobs admits that he still gets nervous before every live show, especially when thinking about its technical flow. "We have stage props and videos, and monsters come out. Once you get onstage, you can't say, 'Wait, cut, let's do that over.'"

Way back in 1994, though, the Aquabats' performance challenges were quite ... different from what they are today.

"[When we started out] we were definitely more on the defensive," Jacobs says. Before riding on the 3rd-wave-ska heyday, the Aquabats would perform at punk shows with hardcore bands such as the WhiteKaps or HFL. "We'd be playing shows with these tough dude bands, and people would be angry, like, 'Why are these guys here? We hate them!'
"We used to provoke it a bit, too," he added. Not that the Aquabats were ever violent -- quite the opposite, in fact. "Onstage we'd tell them to go do their homework or listen to their parents because ... they're always right. HA!"

Jacobs' early anxiety onstage in the Aquabats' early days had less to do with what the band was doing wrong, and more about what the crowd was going to do to the band. "Like, will someone throw things at us? Is someone going to spit on us?"

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