Korn . . . grrrrr! Limp Bizkit . . . grrrrr! Rage Against the Machine . . . grrrrr! Systemofadowngodsmackdeftonesever lasthedpekidrockrammsteinrobzombie trentreznoreminemorgypowerman5000 . . . grrrrr, grrrrr, grrrrr!
And then there are the Aquabats, OC's superhero-costumed antidote to aural angst. They're the ultimate anti-anger band in this Age of Rage, so we just had to ask them: What the hell do they have to be so damn happy about, anyway? Lead singer and Bat Commander Christian Jacobs explained himself.
Listen to The Aquabats vs.
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Download the RealPlayer FREE! OC Weekly: Why are the Aquabats so damn happy?
Christian Jacobs: We're rebelling against the rebels. The Aquabats tend to get a violent response from people who are violently opposed to society. They think we're in cahoots with the Man. But if we can make as many angry people upset as possible, then we've accomplished our job. The lyrics for the song "Lovers of Loving Love" (from their new album,The Aquabats vs. the Floating Eye of Death) are your happiest ever. The chorus is: "I'm so happy/ I'm so happy." When I listen to the radio right now, the most popular songs are very much the opposite of that—Limp Bizkit, Static-X, System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, Korn, etc. This must seem like a scary time for you guys to be putting out an album.
Obviously, we're the exact opposite of everything else right now. So—much to the chagrin of alternatives and punk types everywhere—we're the alternative right now. Being happy is alternative. We're not selling out to the Man by writing angry songs. We're the happy-go-lucky Aquabats.
There does always seem to be room for quirky bands. The same kids who like Rage are probably going to like the Aquabats.
We've got a diverse group of fans. Most kids are smart enough to realize that music is supposed to be entertaining. Then there are bands that like to use their music to express some sort of message. But when it comes down to it, all people really want to do is go to the show and jump off the stage and feel the energy. So if we can be into the positive energy, then why not?
It's not a good time to be peppy. But music fans are fickle.
All the angry bands are scared of Y2K. They have IBMs from, like, 1983. Korn and Limp Bizkit are not Y2K-compatible, so they're really worried.
I've heard you guys have some ideas for a Saturday-morning TV show based on the band.
We started a rumor a long time ago that we were going to do a TV show, and companies started calling our management. So we suckered Disney into making a deal with us two years ago. We've been battling back and forth creatively. Everything we want to do, they say no—because of the Disney image. Whereas if it was another company, they would probably take a chance and let us totally fail. They need to have the right award-winning producers so they know the show will be a success.
So you're already under contract with Disney?
Yeah, about a year ago, we did a minipilot that Bobcat Goldthwait directed. It didn't really go anywhere. But that wasn't anyone's fault. We just did it wrong. We're still trying to get things going. We've kind of been battling back and forth with different companies. And I think the momentum of the last record slowed down, so that slowed down enthusiasm about doing a show. So I think when the new record explodes [laughs] and it's on every radio station [makes very sarcastic face] . . . No, it could help out, though. We don't know what's going to happen. It's all a big mystery.
Your whole shtick seems very Sid & Marty Krofft, like theBugaloos.
Yeah, we even met with Sid & Marty. They were all over it. But Disney said no. They said that wouldn't be hip.
That surprises me. There could be nothing hipper than Sid & Marty Krofft right now.
That's totally what we've had in mind. We've had problems with Disney all along. So we've been focusing on putting the album out. And let me tell you, it's been some of the happiest days of our lives.
Is that sarcasm? Is there a dark cloud over the Aquabats after all?
Sure. Everything I say is like bread and butter.
Are you happy with how the album came out, though?
Oh, yeah. We wrote about 50 or 60 songs, and then we gradually decided which ones worked. We went pretty far out into left field with many of them. We might as well put something out that kids are going to enjoy, instead of indulging ourselves in total randomness.
Is the songwriting collaborative?
This record is a good mix of everyone. I do a lot of the lyrics, but even that was sectioned off among everybody. I had a mental block for about nine months, so we called up Britney Spears' writers to write us a song.
Which was . . .
It didn't make it on the album. Something about going crazy and holding on.
Do you keep in mind that kids make up a big part of your audience? Everything seems G-rated, like a Saturday-morning cartoon.
More than that, it's that every band that gets out there on the mic and cusses and yells—it's just old. I went to punk shows when I was 13 and saw the greats, like Bad Brains and Black Flag. What they call punk these days, there are really only a couple of bands doing it well. We'll get flak for saying that, but punk was never really about being unoriginal. We would rather be original and be branded G-rated; we don't want to alienate people with our music. Except those people who want to be alienated. We're helping them out once again. We play shows, and there'll be a group of skinheads yelling, "You guys are fags!" or, "You guys suck!" and we're like, "Duh. How much did you guys pay to get in? Great! Thanks for coming!" So it's kind of fun to make all these upset bands even more upset because that whole sound is tired. Plus, we didn't want to create an oppressive environment, with guys who start fights in the pit and stuff. Like what happened at Woodstock '99—people were sexually assaulted and getting beat up. That would never happen at an Aquabats show, and if it did, we'd jump off the stage and make it stop. We've been in fights with people who were starting trouble at our shows before, and then they'll get kicked out and feel stupid because they got beat up by one of the Aquabats. We're just trying to be original and create something positive for the kids to listen to.
How important is your image to the band?
Well, we try to make it really easy to tear us down. I mean, we're wearing spandex costumes! Beyond the obvious lameness of our band, radio stations for some reason have some sort of unknown grudge against the Aquabats. They're out to get us, like the Floating Eye of Death. We get a lot of flak for being goody-goodies, for being dopes.
Your act seems much more honest, though, than if you were happy, well-adjusted people trying to be gangsta rappers.
We just haven't crossed into that market yet. The Aquabats can genre-hop. Some kids have told us that this album's not as reggae-ish or ska-ish as the last ones. But we're the Aquabats. We can do whatever we want. If our next record were hip-hop, it would be totally mocking it, like anything else. People have said we were a ska band, but from the get-go, we've said we were having fun with ska. It's all about fun.
Do you feel this album is more mature than the others, that you've been in the music industry longer and you know what you're doing?
We're pretty much still band geeks at a high school kegger.
Do you still feel like that when you're on tour with other bands?
If the Warped Tour were a high school, we'd be the Dungeons & Dragons club. But then once people get to know us, it's like, "Hey, you're cool; will you do my homework later?" We met some cool people on tour, like the Long Beach Dub All Stars. We toured with them almost two years ago, and we hit it off right away. Well, not rightaway: the first time I met Ras, Louie the dog was with him. He said, "Sic 'em! Get those Aquabats!" They didn't like us at first.
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If we ever went on tour with the Dub All Stars again, we'd feel comfortable because they'd protect us.
They've got your back, huh?
Yeah, and just to put this on the record, if the Dub All Stars ever needed backup, we've got their back, too [laughs]. I like those guys a lot. They've been through a lot of tragedy. And we've had some, too—we missed breakfast yesterday.