Jelly of the Month Club is the gift that keeps on giving. It was Eddie, cousin-in-law to Clark Griswold, who tried to put that fact in perspective in the famous wingding Christmas-bonus scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
After all, it's an exclusive membership, one that just got way cooler thanks to members of Sublime, The Ziggens, Zen Robbi and Mr. Crumb. Their new kindie rock band, named Jelly of the Month Club in ode to that classic scene, is releasing its first album, Introducing: Jelly of the Month Club, on Oct. 8. They play two all-ages shows the same night at DiPiazza's in Long Beach at 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. They also filmed three gloriously goofy music videos showing the band's inner prepubescent boys.
The project came about during a Sublime With Rome tour in 2009. The band, a reincarnation of Long Beach's Sublime, included original members Bud Gaugh on drums, Eric Wilson on guitar and Todd Forman on keys and horns. The dads in the group, Gaugh and Forman, shied away from the high-life atmosphere from the get-go. On the family friendly tour rig, Gaugh and the gang watched a continual loop of Disney's The Princess and the Frog, the 2009 animated film set in 1920s N'awlins.
Inspired by the bayourrific Randy Newman and Dr. John jam “Down in New Orleans,” Gaugh and Forman tossed around the idea of starting a kids' band that doesn't suck. It was an idea Forman, who doubles as a real life lollypop-dolling-out doctor with a Newport Beach practice, had mulled over for years.
A frequent visitor on that bus was Bert Susanka, dad to four boys and frontman of Orange County's The Ziggens, a surf-rock band known for whimsical ditties. Susanka, a perennial Sublime tour mate, was on the tour as an opening act. Their shared love for Disney classics like Jungle Book, Aladdin, Lion King, Little Mermaid and the accompanying music fueled the fire. The beginnings of JOTMC took root.
Once they left the Sublime With Rome tour, Forman called on Mike De La Torre of Long Beach band Zen Robbi. Known by his stage name Mic Dangerously, De La Torre's animated stage presence and colorful verses lent to the doc's original vision. “When I first came across him, I was like, 'This guy is a star,'” Susanka says. De La Torre was more than happy to join a band that included his heroes.
From there, Forman recruited De La Torre's childhood friend Christopher Caplan, known as Mr. Crumb, a multi-instrumentalist known for donning a top hat and flower in his lapel on stage. “I'm 30 going on 14,” Caplan says, acknowledging his kid-rock ready vibe.
With the band complete, the group started writing songs for their target audience, boys ages 7 to 13, drawing on influences as diverse as The Specials, They Might Be Giants, Flogging Molly and Louis Prima. “It's farts, puke, burping and being goofy,” Forman says with a compulsory laugh. “We didn't want to go the Barney route.”
The men giggled, belly laughed and chortled every moment along the way. “The only rule was we just have to go a little over the top on each song,” Forman says.
The results are giddy sendups like “Brand New Friend,” “Waffle Boogie,” the Animaniacs-inspired “The English Language” and more. “The Great Lemonade Stand Off of Maple Street” gives a narrative worthy of an Adventures of Pete and Pete episode.
Other than bodily functions and simple messages about bullying, making friends and the glory of a scrumptious Belgian, JOTMC also wanted to send some positive messages focusing on the importance of creativity, humor, curiosity, spirit, service to others and originality.
They aspire to create a stage show in the vein of the legendary entertainer Spike Jones, the big band era's “Weird Al” Yankovic, combining exemplary musicianship with side-splitting stage antics. Bringing that to fruition, JOTMC played its first two shows at local elementary school carnivals to the surprise of parents.
“During the middle of the set, I looked at them, and I said to myself 'Oh my God, this has the potential to really be something,'” Susanka recalls. Amidst the chaos, they were throwing kazoos and maracas to each other, playing off one another. “The kids were having fun, and the parents were like 'Whoa I just came to this carnival and saw this.”
“We are a kids' band, but we're a family band,” Caplan adds. “It's not dumbed down to the point that it's just for kids. It's for everyone.”