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He laughs. "But it was never meant to be something serious."
Jacobs met his bandmates through friends and the Orange County music scene in the '90s. Shortly after forming in 1994, the Aquabats elbowed their way into the third-wave ska movement that No Doubt, Save Ferris and Sublime reigned over, fully happy to be the clown princes of the scene.
Bob Becker, head of Fearless Records, says audiences went nuts for the Aquabats from the get-go. "They just took off. I watched other fledgling bands struggle to get an audience, but the Aquabats had an audience immediately just because they were so different."
That's putting it lightly. When they opened for Reel Big Fish at Al Capuccino's, Jacobs remembers, "We were all wearing baker's outfits. We had a barbecue out there, and we were cooking while we were playing."
Aping Devo by playing shows in silly matching outfits seemed like a good idea to the band, but they didn't always make sense. There was the period in which everyone in the band wore chef's hats. There was a fez-wearing phase. As Jacobs quipped in an Aquabats retrospective in 1999, "If we were to play rock & roll wearing normal clothes, we wouldn't be the Aquabats. We would be . . . the normal guys."
After Jacobs and friends cemented the Aquabats story (see "The Mythos of the Aquabats"), the superhero costumes were cobbled together with help from the brother of a band member who owned a local wetsuit business. "They just got more detailed over time," Becker says.
The band, the sound, the aesthetic and the legend of the Aquabats also developed over time. In the beginning, there was a fluctuating number of members—at one point, 12 crazies stormed stages across the Southland. Today, bassist Chad Larson (a.k.a. Crash McLarson) is the only other remaining original member, with James Briggs (a.k.a. Jimmy the Robot) joining in 1995 and becoming the third-most senior member. The members took on stage names, Jacobs says, because they wanted to create personas that were ridiculous and stupid. "There have always been bands that didn't use their real names, and at the time, we were really into this band called Rocket from the Crypt. They had really cool nicknames. We were kind of doing the same thing, but just a lot more dorky."
And the fact that they're more known as characters than musicians? Ian Fowles (a.k.a. Eagle "Bones" Falconhawk), who joined the band in 2006, says, "We've tried to create funny characters out of our real selves, so I don't mind if people think of us that way. Maybe some people will take the time to dig a little below the characters and listen to our music—they will see that we are all real musicians, too. If not, that's okay! Being known as a character is still great."
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With the help of Jacobs' younger brothers Parker and Taylor, both graphic artists, the band developed a highly recognizable visual aesthetic. The team of Jacobs brothers illustrated all of the band's logos and T-shirts, as well as the monsters the band battled onstage. At one point, Parker was part of the band as the Professor, the man who gave the Aquabats superpowers; Tyler played the onstage part of the Pigbat, a strange hybrid of pig and Aquabat.
After a few years of taking the Aquabats on tour (Jacobs remembers a time when he made everyone in the band wear a different costume for every show, how their get-ups were more cumbersome than their musical gear), he "got the crazy idea that we could be a kids' television show—cartoon, live action, whatever. It just had the makings of a Batman-meets-the-Monkees," he says.
As early as 1997, three years after the Aquabats had formed as a lark, they already had, per a Los Angeles Times story, "a script, a marketing plan, and a mission: [. . .] landing a Saturday morning kid's TV show." The Aquabats' concept landed a couple of deals with major studios early on; in 1997, Buena Vista Television produced a live-action mini-pilot based on the band's 1997 album, The Fury of the Aquabats, but nothing came out of it. Fox Family Channel commissioned a script in 1999 that spawned a five-minute pilot that's nowadays viewable on YouTube—but that deal fizzled out as well.
It's fascinating to compare those ancient clips to the full-blown production airing this weekend at the Hub. Jacobs is thinner and more nimble; Crash McLarson has more hair (and is also thinner and more nimble). The other Aquabats members aren't in the band anymore, and the costume the band sported then is a more elaborate version of the suit the band wear today (it's black, and they're full suits). Still, there's the same sly sense of humor (the clip touts a would've-been-awesome appearance by Marilyn Manson as the Tooth Fairy), the same funny action sequences, the same monsters. Oh, and the pilot was mostly shot at Oak Canyon Ranch, as The Aquabats! Super Show! is today.
"There has never been one instance that I have left an Aquabats concert without a huge smile on my face. It always seemed like they were a kids' crazy cartoon come to life in the first place, so it seems only natural that they would finally have their own show on TV," says Reel Big Fish singer Aaron Barrett.