Interview with the Disco Biscuits: Always On Time

I like jam bands because they aren’t really afraid to do things new and different. Jam for hours sraight? Sure. Add synths and computers with live instruments? Why not? Collaborate with some Philly-based hip-hop producers to add a little extra groove? Fuck yeah.

To be fair, the above doesn’t apply to all jam bands, but it does to the Disco Biscuits, who have been casually assaulting music and the music industry for the past 14 years with their own brand of dance-tinged jam rock. In addition to their sonic adventures, the Disco Biscuits are not afraid to change with the digital music distribution revolution. The band has been known to throw out EPs from the stage, open up their merch table after events, and even organize their own festivals for the sake of helping get their music into more ears.

Aron Magner, keyboardist and synthmaster, was kind enough to share a few words with the Aquarian about what’s new with the Disco Biscuits.

So last time we spoke was this time in 2006. Has anything changed for the Biscuits since then?

Unless you’re sitting on your ass, it’s pretty hard to not change. And the Biscuits have never really been one to sit on our asses. It might take us three years to put an album out but that’s not for sitting on our asses. For better or for worse having our own studio might have been what made this album take three years to get out, being that there was no one hanging over our heads.

This album is definitely the biggest thing that’s going to change the face of this band. We all stand behind this thing pretty proudly and it’s certainly been the main accomplishment of the past three years.

Sounds like a pretty big deal. What’s so special about this album?

It’s something we’re proud of with the amount of time and effort invested into the album, especially since it was a very unique process. It’s not like previous albums where we have some new songs and road test them for a couple weeks on tour then go into the studio. These are songs that weren’t even written yet when we decided to make the album. We tried as best we could to hold off on playing them live until we put them out on some official release.

Has that made you at all hesitant about releasing these songs, since you didn’t have the usual jury in this time?

We had our own judgment to go off of, and we were definitely playing it for people. We still had some sort of test market.

That was the interesting part about ‘On Time,’ too. What’s interesting about this focus group of friends, family, and whoever else we’re comfortable with is ‘On Time’ wasn’t really a song that was embraced by the band. It was something I did in the studio with Harry and Alex. Alex came up with the bassline and Harry went in and brought like a snare drum in the vocal booth and put down this augmented beat. Then it was just me bouncing around the studio by myself for a week trying to make the song a little funkier.

I had put as much as I could into this song at this point, and I sent it to TuPhace, this local Philadelphia MC. Then, he spent some time with it. We went out to Colorado and I got a phone call saying, ‘Hey! Check your email. Resending this to you. Not sure what you think of it. We kind of took it in a different direction, let me know.’ Boom, all of a sudden there’s lyrics on ‘On Time,’ and it’s kind of poppy and kind of catchy, but it still has that funk I was looking for.

I thought it was brilliant. I played it for everyone I was with at the time, and they all loved it. Then, I showed it to the band ,and they weren’t all too for it at first. Now everyone loves the song and it became a winner.

The point is that it’s good to have a fairly large focus group. You can’t just rely on your best friend or just your band members. You need to have a focus group of all these people.