Music News

Christian Jacobs of Yo Gabba Gabba! Doesn't Talk Down to Kids

Thom Yorke of Radiohead isn't into doing interviews. He prefers to be the shadowed cock-eyed intellect behind the Radiohead machine or to spout spastic lines and moan over the twitchy glitch-pop of his Atoms for Peace project. He doesn't have much time for promotional rigmarole.

But Yorke has kids, and they like Yo Gabba Gabba!, a children's TV show on Nick Jr., and YGG! co-creator Christian Jacobs says that before schedules got too tight, the famously diminutive singer was in talks to appear on the show.

No matter. You name a cool band or performer and they've most likely appeared on the show: Solange Knowles, Devo, Rahzel, The Shins, The Roots, Jimmy Eat World, The Pixies, Mariachi El Bronx, Weezer, Cut Copy, The Flaming Lips, and countless more. San Diego post-punk band Rocket from the Crypt even reunited on the show, looking perfectly scrubby among the bright monsters and giant robots. "We love music," Jacobs says. "It's crazy how many of our favorite bands have been on the show."

Given that Jacobs and Scott Schultz shared history working with O.C. ska-punk band The Aquabats, it's only natural that the Yo Gabba Gabba! crew pack up the whole gang — DJ Lance Rock, Muno, Foofa, Brobee, Toodee, and Plex, and vintage hip-hopper Biz Markie — and go out on the road for the Yo Gabba Gabba! Live experience.

Jacobs says it was music that inspired the show in the first place.

"We're definitely all super-genuine music lovers," Jacobs says, with typically animated energy. "[We'd watch shows with our kids and] the music was very pleasant and kind, but when we'd listen to music in our car with our own kids, they were singing right along with us, with The Ramones, Mos Def, or whatever. The thing we dealt with was, our adult music isn't very appropriate lyrically for kids, so we [decided we were] going to try and incorporate these musical styles into the landscape of the show and hopefully . . . bring some of these bands — the bands we love and we worship — to do a song that would work for kids. It's worked out really great, better than we even expected."

Jacobs and Schultz pitched the idea to Nickelodeon, spurred on by their boredom with their own kids' existing entertainment.

"Kids' shows just felt so . . ." Jacobs says, trailing off. "Like, 'Why am I all a sudden watching Idiocracy?' I felt these shows didn't care about my kid, and they didn't care about their parents."

Jacobs envisioned something more interactive, something that hip moms and dads would be able to not just bear watching with their kids, but actually enjoy.

"We're trying to teach family values on the show," he says. "It's wrapped in a hip-hop, new-school music, alternative rock show, which is like really weird and kind of backwards. But that's important — you instil common ground values in our society still. You know what I mean?"

Though the show started with Schultz and Jacobs approaching bands they admired, it quickly blossomed as word got out about this weird, wonderful show for kids.

"Once The Shins came on the show, people started saying, 'Woah, what are The Shins doing? What is this show? This is pretty cool,'" Jacobs says. "Then people started calling us saying, 'We want to do the show.'"

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.