Disco Biscuits

In just a few short years, The Disco Biscuits have achieved musical heights that command critical respect, reaching peaks most bands will never imagine.

The Santa Cruz, Calif., implants are hip musical explorers who have ventured into relatively uncharted territory and discovered a sound all their own. The four musicians combine the ever-evolving styles of the jam band scene and the electronica/dance movement into what they cleverly term “trancefusion.”

By itself, creating a unique style of music is worth praise from everyone who has ever heard a song; adding to the musical spectrum is nothing short of historic. In the case of The Disco Biscuits, the band’s contribution will undoubtedly influence musicians now and generations into the future.

Obviously, it wasn’t a hard decision for the band’s members to dedicate themselves to art.

“The whole thing about being in a band is trying to break new ground, discover things that you haven’t seen before,” Biscuits bassist Marc Brownstein said. “We had never seen anybody do this (kind of music), so to us this was reason enough to leave school behind and launch into a full-fledged assault on the music scene.”

What makes The Disco Biscuits’ efforts even more valuable, though, is that by combining those distinct genres of music, the band is also bringing together two distinct groups of people who are extremely loyal to the music binding their respective scenes: the neo-hippies and the ravers. On the surface, it may seem they don’t have much in common, but their roots stem from the same tree.

The band’s agent, Jonathan Levine of Monterey Peninsula Artists, explained the significance: “What makes The Disco Biscuits so unique is that this whole style of music that they call ‘trancefusion’ has taken the elements of two extremely vibrant and healthy cultures. … Both of those cultures, in my opinion, are cultures where the music very much helps define that culture and is a big part of it. It’s not based on fads and trends and bubblegum pop.”

As a result, “They have an intensely loyal fanbase. I’m attached to The Disco Biscuits’ Web site as the booking contact and I probably get more e-mails from people who want to find out information about the band, who want to book the band or who are fans wanting to ask a question than all the other bands that I represent combined,” said Levine, whose clients include Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Phil Lesh & Friends, and The Radiators.

Disco Biscuits

The Disco Biscuits are riding the crest of a musical movement combining modern-day technological wizardry, techno music theory and old-school rock roots and more. Their cohorts include notable acts Sound Tribe Sector 9 and The New Deal, among a host of others continually sprouting across the country. Bands such as the Biscuits provide a welcome breath of fresh air in the music scene’s polluted sky.

Over a bowl of Mini-Wheats from his Santa Cruz residence, Brownstein talked to POLLSTAR about the band’s raving past, its jamming present and its bright future.

Group members Jon Gutwillig, Sam Altman and Brownstein met in 1993 at the University of Pennsylvania in Philly and hooked up with keyboardist Aron Magner years later. While the performers cherished doses of rock and jazz in their music, they also enjoyed the pulsating rhythms and space-age sounds of electronica.

“In college there were two kinds of parties: There were your rock ‘n’ roll parties and then there were these sort of international trance parties that were underground,” said Brownstein, whose band would play at gatherings falling under the latter category ultimately influencing The Disco Biscuits’ sound. “We would play our jam band-style music and then DJs would take over and we would rage until nine in the morning. You’re talking about 100 kids getting together for an all-out throw-down.”

Fast forward through years of incessant touring and the Biscuits have secured a deal with old ’80s metal label Megaforce Records, which has since expanded into other genres and released two of the group’s three albums. They’ve gained a strong manager in Matt O’Brien, a dedicated touring crew and MPA’s Levine, whom Brownstein showered with praise.

“I just can’t say enough nice things about the guy and Monterey,” he said.

The Disco Biscuits have a strong understanding of the past and a loyalty to their fans that will help guide them firmly into the future. The group swears by the long-practiced but often- berated idea of taping concerts, even establishing an Internet-based archive dubbed Plan C that contains virtually every Biscuits show.

In addition to nearly year-round touring, the group hosts, whenever possible, its own annual multiday gatherings dubbed either Camp Bisco or Bisco Knights that combine the rave and jam band worlds into a single experience. Bringing together DJs and traditional bands is a natural combination in the Biscuits’ musical realm a likely trend that will grow in the concert industry over time.

“Our kids eat it up; they love it. They love the fact that we’re bridging these two worlds. There are plenty of daytime festivals. There are plenty of all-night raves. But there are very few, if any, that start with live music and end with DJs,” Brownstein said. “We did it in 1999; that was our first go at it. At the time, everybody was saying they’d never really seen that before. It’s a clever twist on the festival. But we love that because it gives us a chance to play and then party.”