April 17, 2003

Tasty Biscuts

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Despite the apparent lack of polyester leisure suits and wedged platform sandals, the Disco Biscuits brought their “bisco” fever to the State Theater this past Friday. The newly refurbished theater ornamented in elements of gothic architecture was juxtaposed against an atmosphere of psychedelic funk that has been coined “bisco,” a genre caught somewhere in between jam-rock and dancehall trance.

Formed in 1995 at the University of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia-based Biscuits are comprised of Jon Gutwillig on guitar and vocals, Marc Brownstein on bass, Sam Altman on drums and Aron Magner on keyboards. Over the years of playing together, the Biscuits’ sound has evolved from guitar-driven improvisational rock to a new-age electronic sound that fuses elements of trance, jungle, jazz, and hip hop rhythms.

The Biscuit’s creativity is defined not only by their instrumental genius but also in their original sets, which bear no resemblance from night to night. Friday evening began with “Pygmy Twwlyte” which then evolved into the dyslexic version of “Helicopters,” meaning the ending of this song was played first while the beginning was not played until three songs later. This “dyslexic” style utilized also in “Jigsaw Earth,” whose middle section was only selected, further contributes to the Biscuits’ finely crafted creations. The Biscuits also invert their songs, meaning they improvise into the middle of a song and then once it is about to be over, they miraculously transition into the beginning of the same song, and then jam into another song from the original launch pad of the inverted song. Stretching these songs out past 30 minutes without stopping for breath of air throughout their two hour and a half long sets, the Biscuits’ musical stamina proved evident.

The show’s general admission policy allotted audience members the freedom to choose their seating. Although most individuals took the traditional route and filed into the floor and balcony spaces, a select few ventured into the “mosh-pit” area at the foot of the stage. Free from the confinement of conventional seating, it was here that the leaders of the evening emerged. These devote fans portrayed their individualistic spirits and self-assuredness through their improvisational movements. As the evening “funked out,” this sea of confidence diffused through the crowd until even the most stand still members took the plunge, freeing themselves of any inhibitions and allowing their bodies to follow the rhythm.

Following the show, daze had the opportunity to speak with Jon Gutwillig via a phone interview.

daze: While you were students at the University of Pennsylvania, did you ever imagine you would be “professional musicians” within a matter of years?

Jon Gutwillig: It was always an apple in the corner of everyone’s eye. It seemed logical since the four of us attended the same school. Since an early age, I had aspirations of making music.

daze: At Penn, was there any specific organization that helped you become “established?” Did 88.5 WXPN, Penn’s radio station, play an active role in promoting your music?

JG: It was our unspoken duty to entertain the community which we did — from South Street to Temple to small cities in New Jersey. WXPN played us occasionally and for that I have many kind words.

daze: Who were your musical interests in college?

JG: I listened to a majority of electronic music which was new and underground compared to the local scene. I also listened to a lot of jazz — John Coltrane’s India is my favorite CD to fall asleep to.

daze: Was the Philadelphia scene a large influence on your musical style?

JG: We found inspiration in the swirling stew of culture that Philadelphia offers. We embraced the jam-band scenario which allowed us to mix music together without the constrains of one particular idiom.

daze: Was there a particular moment when you realized your music was no longer a hobby but had become your profession? If so, can you describe how this moment felt?

JG: Music will forever be my hobby.

daze: Ever since I heard your name, “The Disco Biscuits,” I’ve always wondered where the name originated. Can you tell me about this?

JG: A friend of the band was down at the Jersey Shore trying to convince a group of girls to come over to our house for a party. We were playing at the party and since we didn’t have a name our friend told the girls we were the Disco Biscuits and we kept it.

daze: What made you decide to produce the new series of live albums: Trance Fusion Radio: Broadcasts 1, 2 & 3?

JG: A roady of ours, Mick Robiootoo bought us a studio to produce live records. To honor him, the albums are dedicated in his name.

daze: What are your summer touring plans? Are you playing a lot of festivals?

JG: Nothing is carved in stone. I don’t want to give away the golden egg, however I will say that we will be playing Camp Bisco and we plan to play in Central Park.

The Disco Biscuits’ spring tour celebrates their new release, a trio of live discs that each feature 70 minutes of material recorded during their celebrated 2002 New Years Eve run. Although each title will be sold separately, all three will be available on April 17th.

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Archived article by Alexis Diferdinando