Most of us have heard of disco fries before—but disco biscuits? Granted, as addictive as those fries are, I would bet many would be interested in ordering some biscuits as a side dish. But this is a delicacy we can’t eat. No; these Disco Biscuits are far better than any food. Instead, they offer a range of electric music, sending shockwaves through anyone’s system faster than those boring sugar rushes.
Smooth, jazzy guitar riffs blend with colorful piano chords and funky drum beats, creating an interesting and exciting blend—certainly more filling than any gravy on fries I’ve ever had. And to add to our appetites, the Disco Biscuits are entering their 15-year anniversary since launching the first-ever Camp Bisco, a music festival the members had created before any of that became mainstream.
Now that these musicians have set the stage, they’re onto something a little more interesting: playing in NYC on New Year’s Eve—plus three other nights! Talk about a party. What better way to bring in the New Year than to wrap up 2015 with a wild concert? I was lucky enough to catch pianist and vocalist, Aron Magner, before rehearsals got to be too hectic to find out more about this upcoming spout of shows and what the Disco Biscuits have up their sleeves for the upcoming months.
How did you guys pick out the name for the band?
God, there’ve been so many different stories throughout the years. So many re-inventions of the true and false versions of the story because the truth is probably much less fun than any sort of re-invented false version of that story. So, what do you want? The true version, or some completely made up version?
I’ll test your storytelling skills! False story, please.
Okay. Uhm… It was 1996 and we were students in college and we were playing at the local watering hole and we needed a name for the band so they could put it up on the chalkboard and we were outside. But the owner of the bar came out and was like, “So what are you called?” We didn’t know, so we told him to give us a name. So he said, “How about Disco Biscuits?” And we were like, “Okay!” So that’s it!
You mentioned that you were in college. Is it true you formed at UPenn?
We did form at UPenn. Smartest band in show business. I mean, if you’re gonna drop out of school, it might as well be an Ivy League school. That’s what I say.
What did you study there?
Well, I actually went to school trying to find something that interested me as much as music and couldn’t. So I declared music as my major very late in the game. I was kind of experimenting around with all sorts of other majors and finally a friend kind of sat me down and said, “Dude, you eat, sleep, breathe music. Why don’t you just declare yourself a music major?” And finally I was like, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” And then I dropped out. So I became a music major and then dropped out of school.
Each year you host Camp Bisco; what gave you the idea to host something like that?
Way back in the late ’90s, as we were at the beginnings of our career, we started playing festivals and at that point in time, festivals were still kinda new. Not like today where there are multiple festivals each weekend in every state. The Biscuits were starting to get on that circuit and we weren’t getting the timeslots we wanted or the billing we wanted… The festivals weren’t curated the way we wanted them to be, so we figured to get this guy and this band, so we could pool all the fans of each band in one place. But this didn’t have the fluidity that it would as if it had been created by a producer. So one year, we decided to do it ourselves. We blocked the timeslots ourselves and handpicked the bands… So we created our own festival. It was like, “We can do this—why not?” And, like I said, there weren’t that many festivals out there and there weren’t as many bands doing their own festivals, so we decided to take a shot at it.
How much work actually went into that?
Like all good things, it took time, energy, the right people behind the scenes and on stage, listening to the fans in order to make the festival better—it wasn’t about making the festival bigger, we knew that that would eventually be an end result. It was always about making the festival be as good as it can be and providing the best for the fans’ experience, whether it’s providing the acts that the fans want to see, or if it’s listening to the minutia of the things that we can make better. We’re always trying to improve and do better. We like to think of ourselves as fans. You know, we’re fans of Camp Bisco as our fans are fans of Camp Bisco, so we would like to see it succeed as much as the fans do. So it’s important that as a community that we’re all working together over the years.
Will Camp Bisco be running this year?
Yes, Camp Bisco will be returning in 2016!
Awesome! Do you guys have a lineup, or are you just focusing on the upcoming gigs?
We are currently working on our lineup. We have some confirmed acts already. We are rounding out the lineup and in the process of building it and each year we feel that Camp Bisco gets better and better and I feel that already that this year is coming up. But the last five years, I think, our home has been in Upstate New York and through reasons we cannot control, we are now in Scranton, PA at an awesome new site. It’s actually on ski mountains and it has a whole structure built in there. It has an amphitheatre, it has a f***ing water park there, which is amazing! You can go in the water park and see the stage from the lazy river… It’s an amazing place for a festival.
That sounds so cool! What kind of work goes into forming a lineup?
You kind of start with a wish list of who you want and see what the availabilities are… You wanna make sure it gets rounded out nicely so you’re not pigeonholed into one style of music, but we don’t wanna be all over the place like some of the earlier festivals that were just like so all over the map that they just didn’t make any sense. But you want it to be somewhat rounded. It’s like putting together pieces of a puzzle. It’s constantly redoing puzzles, whether you’re in the booking stage of it, or you’re in the announcement stages of it or when you’re assembling the schedule.
That makes a ton of sense. You have four shows coming up in NYC; how’ve you been prepping for them?
Well, we are currently preparing for it by figuring out what fun things we can do for these shows, whether it’s songs we haven’t played in a long time, what we’re going to do at the stroke of midnight… We will announce special features that we’ll be bringing out; we’ve got horns coming out one of the nights, we have a Spin The Wheel set that we haven’t done in about a decade. That’s where we have a big wheel and each segment of the wheel has a song on it and we invite a fan out who’ll spin the wheel and whatever song the pin lands on, we will play that song. So, I just spent yesterday with the horns arranging some tunes. It’ll be like a gigantic party.
What a great way to spend New Year’s Eve! Now, I don’t think you guys have released any new material since 2011. Are you planning on releasing or writing anything new anytime soon?
I would like to, but haven’t been working on new material. I kinda think everybody had their creative spurts, but we have not had an opportunity to come together for the band to record together. But I agree that it would be awesome!
It would be! So, once this round of shows are over, what can fans expect from you guys?
After that, I go on Jam Cruise and then after that, I go to Colorado and then I’ve got 10 days off… Then I come back and I guess it’ll be three nights at The Fillmore in Philadelphia in February. We do it all over again. Fun life!
Don’t miss the Disco Biscuits as they pull into NYC’s PlayStation Theater on Dec. 30, 31, Jan. 1, and 2. For more information on the band, visit their site at discobiscuits.com.