The Disco Biscuits are not your normal jamband. Their sound is not influenced by the jazz, funk, and bluegrass that are inherent in the music of bands like the String Cheese Incident and Phish. Guitarist Jon Gutwillig calls their music trance-fusion: 'It's all about taking trance music and fusing it with rock,' Gutwillig told the Indy. 'We all listen to rock, but we also listen to a little trance here and there.'
It may be hard to imagine and fully grasp what Gutwillig, bassist Marc Brownstein, drummer Sam Altman, and keyboardist Aron Magner sound like when they play together. The band plays by no rules on stage. Asked if they prepare a setlist before going on stage, Gutwillig answered: 'Yes. Do we stick to it? Maybe. If we decide to play 'Crickets' backwards it can be discussed. If we decided to play 'Mindless Dribble' reggae, that's probably not discussed. After the show we all look at each other and everybody asks, 'Why the hell didn't we go into normal 'Dribble'?' And everybody goes, 'I don't know, I liked my line.'
The guitarist knows a good deal about all sorts of music. 'I saw Steve Kimock [lead guitarist in The Other Ones, Phil Lesh and Friends, KVHW, The Steve Kimock Band] the other day. He was pretty good. But who did I see that was great? Oh, Victor Wooten [bass player for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones] and Family!! The whole family is amazing, it was a great show! I've seen lots of little things like that.' He also mentioned his taste for Brazilian house music: 'It's the 'boom-che-boom-che-bo-yaya' boom my ass kind of stuff. They don't really speak English during it, but they do a lot of 'clappaya!' I really like that stuff because I like the beat.'
Gutwillig has expressed interest in playing with artists from Perry Farrell [frontman for Porno for Pyros, Jane's Addiction] to jazz greats John McLaughlin and Christian McBride. He even would like to work with big name British trance DJs like Paul Oakenfold and Sasha. 'I have some Oakenfold stuff, and it's really nice if you want to have a bunch of really chi-chi girls over and serve them martinis. But in Santa Cruz there's no chi-chi girls, so I don't even know when to listen to it. I wouldn't mind laying some guitar over an Oakenfold set. His stuff's pretty wide open.'
The Disco Biscuits newest release, They Missed the Perfume, came out in April. It's very different from the band's previous efforts, as they refused to play 'live' songs while recording--opting to compose each track by layering loops, samples and sequenced beats piece-by-piece. 'It's weird because people will expect it to be like Oakenfold, which is really expensive, highly produced techno music. We were very broke sitting in a power factory and we made it on a computer. So it's very different than what people expect.'
The album was good enough to catch the attention of Phil Lesh, bassist for the Grateful Dead. 'Our agent took our CD to Phil's house and played it for him. Apparently, they listened to it three times in a row. Phil just loved the album.' Lesh offered the band a couple of opening spots for his upcoming tour, including July 7th at Red Rocks.
Red Rocks is the last show of the band's Colorado mini-tour, which begins with a show at Levels in Steamboat Springs on July 4th, an aftershow for the String Cheese Incident's Independence Incident. 'There's a whole deal with us and the cops last time we were in Steamboat Springs,' Gutwillig said. 'They came to our hotel and personally drove us out of town. Everyone wants to go back there to see if the cops will remember us.'
The next night, the band (and the fans) will travel to Mishawaka Amphitheater in Bellvue for the Disco Biscuits' first themed show of the summer, Bisco Inferno. Gutwillig promises an unusual evening, but could not specify what the surprises would be. 'We're experimenting with different themed shows--sort of franchising Camp Bisco [the band's annual summer festival], if you will. We're having Bisco Inferno and little pieces of Camp Bisco will appear, and we're gonna rally them all together and make a big Camp Bisco in October.' The return of Camp Bisco will make many fans happy, as there has been speculation as to whether or not the festival will occur at all this year.
The Disco Biscuits' fans have been following the band since 1995 at the University of Pennsylvania where the Biscuits played Phish and Grateful Dead covers to Ivy League frat parties. Though the band has recently moved to California, the fans are still around, and there are some who travel from town to town, catching Disco Biscuits shows all over the country. 'There's like two or three hundred now. I know them all, they're no weirder than me.'
The fans use the band's Internet newsgroup, DiscussBiscuits, to decipher lyrics, trade copies of shows, and debate the nuances of their favorite jams. Band members read these comments, and sometimes it even has an effect on what happens on stage. Gutwillig explains that 'Sometimes, someone will say something, and we'll think it's a good idea, and we'll do it.'
Though DiscussBiscuits is a great resource, sometimes the comments serve to frustrate the band members, as is the case with the fans' widespread dissatisfaction with the Biscuits opening for Phil and Friends. 'I don't really understand why they're upset,' said Gutwillig. 'Is it really a sellout? It's not like we're opening for N'Sync or U2 or the Dave Mathews Band. We're opening for Phil Lesh. The guy started everything--to be asked to play by someone like Phil Lesh is quite an honor. I guess we'll be playing in front of a large group of people who aren't all necessarily Disco Biscuit-heads--but they're all Deadheads. Its great to actually get the chance to see what those people want to hear and don't want to hear.'
The last time the Disco Biscuits came to Colorado, they played a two-night run in March at the Fox Theater in Boulder, considered by many fans to be two of the best shows of the year. Before coming out for the encore, the band played 'rock, paper, scissors' with promoter Don Strausburg to throw out the pre-arranged plan and play an entire third set. The band won. 'I don't know if he threw it or not,' Gutwillig commented, 'I think he plain ol' got beat. There were some other things on the other side of that bet, Brownie had to run around in a wedding gown.' It's pretty positive that the band won't play 'Here Comes the Bride' on this trip, but it will surely be three nights of exciting and intense music here in the mountains.