Photo By COACHELLA/Demian Becerra

By Crystal Harrell

The Aquabats are a rock band that can be easily identified by their masks and matching costumes—leaning into comedic personas as crime-fighting superheroes. Lead singer and lyricist under the stage name of The MC Bat Commander, Christian Jacobs, spoke with Coachella Valley Weekly during Weekend 2 of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival—highlighting The Aquabats’ evolution as a caped cult act with matching costumes and theatrical stage shows to more punk and new wave-influenced rock music.

CV: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. It’s the band’s return to Coachella. How does it feel playing the festival in 2024 after debuting in 2011?

Christian: It’s pretty awesome. And for us, it feels kind of full circle because our connections to Goldenvoice go way back to the beginnings of Coachella. Paul [Tollett] and Goldenvoice had a record label the same year that the first Coachella happened, and the record label, that was our first record, like, the first the Aquabats record came out on the Goldenvoice records. After that, the record label kind of went by the wayside, and then myself and some of the other Aquabats, we actually worked crew here at Coachella for years and years. We got to play in 2011, and now playing here in 2024, it’s a totally different theme. But it’s interesting because we kind of were there from the very first Coachella till now, to see it grow and how it’s become this full-on phenomenon, whereas at the beginning, it was a great idea, but people hadn’t caught on to it yet.


So for us, it’s fantastic to just be included as part of that family. We’re not really a household name. A lot of other bands on the bill are. They always go for kind of obscure, cool bands.

And I think to be included in the Coachella lineup for any year is just a huge honor because it shows you have some credibility or something. It’s fantastic, and we’re honored, and we’re not worthy.

CV: It’s a legacy, for sure. The Aquabats came out of the ‘90s, and there’s been a lot of evolution with the sound. How would you describe that musical progression over the years?

Christian: In the beginning, we played what we could play, and I think that’s the evolution of most rock bands. Bands start when they’re young and they know a few chords and they know how to play some stuff. And so they do their best and they put their best foot forward with what they know. And as you progress in a band and the more you play, the better you get, and the more you open yourself up to influences and things. We were just playing fun songs that were really punk and ska and things that were happening at the time. We were just doing fun party music. But now it’s fun to be able to kind of come up with ideas and I would say, be influenced by more obscure, interesting, weird places and then be able to be inspired by that and execute it right.

Whereas as a young band, you’d be like, ‘wow, I really like this thing, but I could never play like that.’ So that I think that’s fun to be able to grow as a band and as musicians.

CV: And not every band, has a superhero mythology. Can you kind of elaborate on that?

Christian: All that stuff, it’s always been just for fun, and we’ve always been big consumers of pop culture. And I think, interestingly enough, to be a band heavily cosplaying background stories, comic book, superhero mythos, we may have been one of the first kind of bands to do something like that, but it seems like there’s a huge tidal wave of Marvel and Comic Con and all that stuff that came around in the last 20 years. We were just joking around. And turns out people like that stuff. People are interested in backstories and alternative characters and personalities and alter egos. It just works so well with our modern age of social media and kids being able to build a community around something fun like that, whether it’s like Magic The Gathering, or Pokemon or The Aquabats. I think it’s fun beyond just the music to create stories and give your fans more to imagine and to play around with.

CV: There are trends in pop culture with what’s popular and what’s not. Do you see the future of the band’s sound evolving and changing as well over the years to reflect trends in music?

Christian: We have a new record coming out in June, and there’s 17 songs, and there’s not one song that sounds the same. Every song is very different. And so, everything from lounge music to country punk to hardcore to Irish pub sound songs and eighties rock songs. Being able to be a band that, to some people, seem like a novelty, it’s kind of opened us up to be able to do anything. We can play whatever we want, and in a way, it’s kind of satire and parody, I guess.

But it’s a little different than straight up Weird Al or something. It’s a little different or a little more creating our own community and genre through the music, but also just through the construct of being kind of a band of superheroes. It kind of frees us to be able to do whatever we want musically. So that’s really fun for us as musicians to be able to explore and not have to worry about if we write a song like this, people won’t like it.

CV: And on the opposite side of the spectrum, if someone is walking into your set, like at Coachella, and they aren’t familiar with you, do their reactions surprise you?

Christian: Yeah, I think more and more, we’re kind of getting used to it because I think we kind of understand that the nature of the band is just fun and having a fun party, and everyone’s invited, and let’s just dance and have fun and be silly. I think that’s inclusive, but it’s also kind of contagious. So if you have a lot of smiles and they spread, you know, people are having fun.

Even if 90% of your crowd doesn’t know who you are, if there’s a core that are having a good time, it spreads. We’ve kind of figured out how to harness that a little bit over the years. And so it used to surprise us that we could win crowds over. So even if we have only a few, a handful of fans in a crowd of people that don’t know who we are, it’s contagious because people want to be happy. Let’s face it, you don’t want to go to a show and be miserable or scared or be looking sideways at, like, what is this art? You just want to go and have a good time, right?

CV: With the span of your career, do you have a favorite moment or a show that really stands out to you as being one of the highlights of The Aquabats legacy?

Christian: This sounds kind of cliche, but our Coachella experiences were very memorable. The first time we played in 2011, we had all these things and monsters come out and things happen, and our set got cut short. So this time around, we wanted to start off the set with the songs that got cut last time. We started with “Pool Party” and “Super Rad!”, and we kind of went backwards. We played a good show, but it was awesome to see that it’s spreading and that Coachella is kind of a doorway for the globe now. It’s a doorway for musicians to connect globally, which has always kind of been the dream, but it’s a reality now. Coachella is the apex of music festivals.