Aquabats to the rescue 

Orange County masked men ditch pretension for tomfoolery

click to enlarge Masculine and mustachioed, The Aquabats save - Colorado Springs from boredoms deadly clutches.
  • Masculine and mustachioed, The Aquabats save Colorado Springs from boredoms deadly clutches.

Goofy is as goofy does, and to this the nerd-fury of the Aquabats is a costumed, schtick-driven testament. With ten years under their belts, they've got a lot to talk about, but what I want to know is how and when they launder their masks and costumes. Is dry cleaning necessary?

"We just throw them in the washing machine," says bassist Crash McLarsen. "We have like five sets and wash 'em once or twice a week. Logistically, it's not that big of a deal."

Billed in the past as a ska band, the Aquabats diverge widely on their newest album, Charge!! Still wetsuited, helmeted and mustachioed, the quintet (MC Bat Commander on vocals, Chainsaw on guitar, Ricky Fitness on drums, Jimmy the Robot on keys and McLarsen on bass) focuses more deeply on Devo-esque synth-rock, packed with frantic hooks, vocal silliness and musical in-jokes.

"The first albums were straight-up ska records, because I think we had friends that played horns and we wanted them in the band," says Crash. "There was sort of a ska scene then, but we weren't part of it. Even those bands take themselves seriously, which is kind of retarded when you think about it."

Born in the mid-1990s in Orange County, the group has a long history of eschewing seriousness for showmanship.

"Originally, there were like 14 people [in the band]. We practiced for the first time and wrote three songs and played a party that night, with people playing pots and pans," says Crash. "People said, 'That was amazing and super-funny, but it'd be great if you were actually a good band.'

"It kind of goes to show that we've never taken anything seriously. We've always tried to think of something new every time we go out.

"It's a lot of work to outdo yourself every night," he adds. "We don't always pull it off. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Kids read into that we're just having fun. They see we really enjoy doing this."

Charge!! is a charming listen, in part because that attitude is so apparent. Songs like "Look at Me (I'm a Winner)!" break into absurdly catchy choruses, while "Tiger Rider vs. the Time Sprinkler!" (exclamation marks are a theme) spins nutsy little yarns about improbable superheroes. It's a disc devoid of pretension but full of humor and well-earned chops. The effect is immediately appealing and wickedly fun.

"This is the first album with no horns at all [and] with the core members of the band. I think it's pretty solid all the way through. Everyone stepped up to the plate. It's the best singing the Commander has ever done and the best lyrics," claims Crash. (He's right; lines like, "There's a kindly old wizard on the wings of a bird" serve to cement the Commander in the annals of lyrical awesomeness.)

The mythos of the band and legend of their live shows are quite alluring. Known for square dancing, pingpong ball fights, onstage commercials for themselves and other oddities, the Aquabats offer a spectacle of completely unapologetic abandon. What's odder is the shows are totally hygienic and family-friendly.

"How tiresome is it to say, 'Eff yeah! Eff you! Thanks for coming to the effing show!'? I get tired of people who can't be funny or creative without being dirty," Crash says. "I wouldn't want my kids to go to a show and see some dude spout off nonsensical profanity."

-- Aaron Retka


The Aquabats with guests The Eyeliners, The Phenomenauts and Time Again

Darkside, 2106 E. Platte Ave.

Monday, Aug. 8, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 at the door; visit sodajerkpresents.com.


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