Beginning as a zany eight-piece ska unit in the mid-'90s, Los Angeles County's the Aquabats were lauded for helping energize a fresh wave of ska-punk from such figures as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Squirrel Nut Zippers. Dressed in matching masks and colored costumes inspired by Adam West's Batman from the '60s, the group made their debut with 1996's The Return of the Aquabats! as an eight-piece. A fluctuating lineup over the years was stabilized by the constant presence of lead vocalist Christian Jacabs — known to fans as the MC Bat Commander — and bassist Chad Larson, aka Crash McLarson. Coinciding with a reduced lineup in the early 2000s, they shifted from exuberant ska to playful, punky indie rock before recording 2005's Charge!! as a quintet. Part musical sketch comedy show and part campy, superhero adventure series, the band developed their own family-friendly TV series, The Aquabats! Super Show!, which aired in 2012 and 2013. The soundtrack to the first season proved the outfit's continued popularity when it made it onto the Billboard 200 upon release seven years later, in 2019.
Formed in Huntington Beach, California in 1994, the original Aquabats were Jacobs, Larson,
James Briggs (Jaime the Robot), Courtney Pollack (the Prince of Karate), Adam Diebert (Prince Adam), Charles Grey (Ultra Kyu), Boyd Terry (Catboy), and Travis Barker (the Baron Von Tito). The first Aquabats album, The Return of the Aquabats, was released on Horchata Records in 1996 and drew attention for its high-spirited ska and comical lyrics. The Fury of the Aquabats, followed in 1997 on Time Bomb and landed on the Billboard 200 at number 172. Two years later, they returned with Aquabats vs. the Floating Eye of Death! When Barker left the Aquabats to join blink-182, he was replaced by drummer Gabe Palmer (Doctor Rock). Myths, Legends and Other Amazing Adventures, Vol. 2 saw release in 2000; Doctor Rock and Ultra Kyu left the group soon after. Richard Falomir (Ricky Fitness) stepped in on drums.
As the band abandoned ska for a more streamlined indie rock at shows, the Serious Awesomeness! DVD, a compendium of live Aquabats tracks, saw a Fearless Records release in 2003. The horn-less Yo! Check Out This Ride EP arrived a year later. When Charge!! appeared on Nitro in June 2005, it was the band's first LP in almost six years. By that point the band's official lineup included the MC Bat Commander, bassist Crash McLarson, guitarist Chainsaw (Pollack, fka the Prince of Karate), sax-playing keyboardist Jimmy the Robot (formerly Jamie the Robot), and drummer Ricky Fitness. Charge!! led to an increased interest in touring, including opening dates with the Offspring. Pollack left the group in 2006 and was replaced by Death by Stereo's Ian Fowles as Eagle Bones Falconhawk.
The Aquabats returned with their fifth album, the Fearless-issued Hi-Five Soup!, in 2011. It marked their second appearance on the Billboard 200. That same year, The Aquabats! Super Show! was picked up by cable network The Hub. The series' 13-episode first season aired in 2012 and was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Children's Series. A second season was broadcast in 2013 before the show was canceled amid rebranding by the network. That freed up time for a 20th anniversary tour in 2014. Kings Road put out a 20th anniversary remaster of The Fury of the Aquabats in 2018.
Following an ambitious crowdfunding campaign that also involved putting Super Show! back into production, the Aquabats assembled the original television soundtrack Super Show! Vol. 1, which arrived on Kings Road in 2019. Their highest-charting album to that point, the soundtrack debuted at number 165 on the Billboard 200 and topped the Heatseekers Albums chart. ~ Marcy Donelson