If you were a kid in the 1980s and you were really lucky, you might have spent your birthday at Showbiz Pizza. For those too young to remember, Showbiz was kinda like Chuck E. Cheese — only much, much cooler. The stars at the pizza chain were the animals designed by animatronics wizard Aaron Fechter, master of robotics and instinctive kindler of childhood imagination. The Rock-afire Explosion, the all-animal band he created for Showbiz Pizza, was astonishingly lifelike: each “member” of the group came with a distinctive personality, a set of realistic facial expressions, and cartoonish, outsized electrical charisma. The animatronic outfit has long since passed into legend, but pop-rock duo WHOAA has brought them back in their playful, smart, nostalgic clip for their new single “Saturday Fun.”
It’s a perfect fit. Showbiz Pizza was an ’80s fixture, and WHOAA is, in the most wonderful way, an act out of time. Vocalists Ashley “Ring” and Dolla “Young Axlrose” have stepped straight out of the dayglo decade. Their fashions, attitude, lyrics, and sound are all indebted to the dazzling, carefree pop of the 1980s. “Saturday Fun” is quintessential WHOAA: gleaming synthesizers, rubbery bass, propulsive, danceable beats perfect for prom, and wry but impassioned performances from the two stars. Ring and Dolla crave the hedonistic release of the weekend but find themselves watching the clock at grueling jobs; they count down the days until they’re released from corporate servitude and celebrate Saturday when it arrives with the party-hungriness that fans have come to expect from the pair.
“Saturday Fun” serves as the first release from their upcoming LP “The Day It All Changed”. The track follows EPs Broke Hearts Avenue (2018) and The Journey (2019), which firmly established the WHOAA sound and retro chic. They also introduced Ring and Dolla as singers with personality to burn — fully-fledged pop characters with plenty to say and plenty of sharp words for those who’d stand in the way of their fun and fulfillment. In Aaron Fechter, they’ve recognized a fellow traveler: a born mischief-maker who was determined to do things his way. The “Saturday Fun” clip reintroduces viewers to the Rock-afire animals and makes the case that Fechter was far ahead of his time. He had the soul of a puppeteer and the smarts of a robotics designer, and his creation had genuine, if artificial, chemistry. Dolla and Ring are right at home with the animals since they’re impossibly expressive, too. On a dusty soundstage reclaimed from an era long ago, they sing right alongside the Rock-afire Explosion and provide a vibrant reminder of an enduring sound.