Featuring Members of Sublime and The Ziggens, Jelly of the Month Club are The Bad Boys of Kiddie Rock

JOTMCgroup

L to R: Dr. Todd Forman, Mic Dangerously, Bert Suskana, Bud Gaugh and Mr. Crumb. Photos courtesy of Jelly of the Month Club

More than a decade and a half after Todd Forman became Sublime’s first saxophonist, the now full-time doctor with a practice in Newport Beach took his young son to a Sesame Street show in L.A.

Unlike the stimulating Muppet Show musical performances that Forman remembers from his own childhood—where world-class musicians like Buddy Rich would play live alongside Jim Henson creations—this contemporary equivalent was disappointing, to say the least.

People dressed as familiar Sesame Street characters danced around on stage while canned music played overhead. There was no live band and little originality. He left wondering what his child was supposed to learn from it.

“What are the kids inspired by? There’s no real music. There’s no real singing. There’s no real talent. It was just a visual gaga,” Forman said. “It made me realize that there is definitely been a shift in how we’re entertaining our children.”

JOTMConstageA few years later—after putting his medical practice on hold to tour the world with Sublime with Rome—Forman decided to make a push for something better. Pulling from the farthest regions of Long Beach’s creative pool, he tapped friends from stalwart bands like Sublime and The Ziggens as well as younger acts like Zen Robbi and Mr. Crumb to form a new children’s supergroup called Jelly of the Month Club, which will be having its record release show tonight at DiPiazza’s.

Though Forman eventually brought everyone together, he admits that the idea for starting a kid’s band was really shaped by Jelly’s bassist Bert Susanka, a man with slicked-back black hair and a contagious laugh who is most well known as the front-man of the legendary local band The Ziggens.

A novelty group of expert musicians that never achieved the fame many think they deserve, The Ziggens so straddled ska, punk, surf and country in the late ‘80s that major names like Bradley Nowell couldn’t help but be inspired.

“I always thought the Ziggens had the sensibility for kid’s music. I loved the way that Bert wrote,” says Forman.

The band’s first full-length album, Introducing, Jelly of the Month Club, is a fun-filled leap across the influences of its eclectic members from Sublime drummer Bud Gaugh’s punk precision to Mic Dangerously of Zen Robbi’s swing sensibilities and Susanka’s silly takes on surf rock, each song features tame-but-clever lyrics about lemonade stands, dolphins and eating waffles for dinner.

With each member bringing a few songs to the album, Introducing highlights the kid-friendly best in acts from They Might Be Giants to Weird Al Yankovic to Oingo Boingo-leader-turned-composer Danny Elfman.

And though having songs with titles like “Tell Someone” and “Timmy Turtlehead” (yes, it’s about farting) may be a far cry from Sublime’s “Caress Me Down” and “Doin’ Time,” the band is still nowhere near the over-the-top kitschy-ness of most major children’s acts like The Wiggles or The Imagination Movers.

“I never listened to those ‘2+2=4’-type songs. And there aren’t that many options for kids that don’t want to listen to the same old kid’s music,” said Jelly’s guitarist Mr. Crumb one recent night after band practice at Forman’s Belmont Shore home. “…If the Wiggles were the Beatles, we’re the kid’s equivalent to the Rolling Stones. We’re the bad boys of kiddie music.”

poster for oct 8th 2013Less a typical children’s band, then, Jelly of the Month Club may be more aligned with the growing “kindie rock” movement, which seeks to draw kids away from bubblegum pop by performing rock, reggae and jazz-tinged music with child-appropriate themes. Like the movie Shrek, kindie rock is as much enjoyable to parents as it is to children, which is one of the main goals of the Jelly of the Month Club project.

“That kind of mass appeal is exactly what we’re trying to do—like how Monopoly is for kids ages seven and up,” said Susanka. “We are a family band and we are a kid’s band, but our goal is to be a band for everybody in the family to come out and dig it for different reasons.”

So far, Jelly of the Month Club has only played a few shows, but Tuesday’s is the first at a traditional venue (most recently, they rocked a carnival at Lowell Elementary School where Forman’s kids attend and he is on the PTA). They hope that as they begin to book performances at more all-ages spots around town, their music will inspire the next generation of future punkers to pick up an instrument and start playing themselves.

“The beauty of it is that the biggest punk thing you can do is not care what anybody else think about you,” said Dangerously. “And I think that’s one of the most punk rock things you can do is go up there with a reputation like Bud’s or Bert’s or Todd’s and say, ‘We helped define punk back in the day, but now we’re singing a song about waffles and you and your kids are going to dance your butts off.’”

Jelly of the Month Club plays two sets (5:30PM and 9PM) on Tuesday, October 8 at DiPiazza’s, 5205 E. PCH.

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Sarah Bennett is a contributor to the Hi-lo and the editor-at-large at the Long Beach Post. She is also a professor at Santa Ana College where she was once a student before transferring to USC to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Sarah has written about music, art, food and beer in local, national and international publications for over a decade. An L.A. native and longtime resident of Long Beach, she is the co-founder of Long Beach Zine Fest and managing editor at theLAnd magazine. She never sleeps.
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