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Published: 2010/04/30
by Randy Ray

The Disco Biscuits’ Aron Magner: Beyond the Walls of the Secret Society

Photo by Kelsey Winterkorn

The Disco Biscuits entered 2010 running on all sonic cylinders after an impressive 2009 live campaign, which featured numerous milestones, including their first headlining gig at Red Rocks with the inaugural Bisco Inferno. Not a band to rest on their laurels for long, the new year saw the release of Planet Anthem, which belies the fact that although the group is able to improvise for lengthy stretches on stage, the quartet can also harness their various creative motifs into a rather impressive collection of diverse songs.

The landmark new album is not without its detractors from confused critics and longtime fans, but that, and a post-gig broken wrist suffered by guitarist/vocalist Jon Gutwillig in Albany, which necessitated two guitarists to sit in with the Biscuits for multiple dates—Tom Hamilton (Brothers Past) and Chris Machetti (RAQ)—has not appeared to slow the band down, nor seriously alter their artistic and commercial momentum.

Indeed, as Jambands.com sat down with keyboardist Aron Magner on the eve of an appearance on NPR’s World Café, their focal point is on their recent successes on the radio and club charts, high profile festival gigs like the second annual Bisco Inferno at Red Rocks, and the ninth Camp Bisco, and a legion of other opportunities for a band, that up until recently, had seemed to dwell in their own private “secret society,” according to Magner. The keyboardist is a proud member of a band about to celebrate their 15th anniversary, but he is also an astute speaker and self-deprecating man, who isn’t afraid to get to the heart of the Biscuit beast with a refreshing dose of insight and candid wit.

RR: Seems like there are a few bands hitting key milestones within the next year. It’ll be 15 years for the Biscuits soon, right?

AM: Yeah, July 4th, actually. (laughs) Oh, God. This July, actually, marks our 15-year anniversary. Pretty crazy, huh?

RR: Indeed. Anything planned to celebrate the occasion?

AM: You know what I think we’re going to do? I think we’re going to roll our 15th anniversary celebration into Camp Bisco. It seems to make the most sense. I would love to plan a July 4th extravaganza, and we had talked about it—the feasibility of doing something on, actually, July 4th to celebrate the actual day of 15 years. We tried, and it just wasn’t possible with everybody’s schedule. Camp Bisco definitely seems like a perfect time to be able to bring as many of our fans together as possible to help celebrate something as momentous and monumental as 15 years with the same band. It’s impressive, and definitely something I’m proud of.

RR: Let’s talk about some other peaks. I returned to listening to most of the Disco Biscuits’ live output last year. I thought the band kept playing really strong shows throughout 2009, and one of the main peaks was when the Biscuits headlined Red Rocks for the first time on May 30. Of course, the band is returning for a second time on May 29 of this year. What were your thoughts about the 2009 gig?

AM: Just as a 15-year anniversary is something to be proud about, Red Rocks was definitely a momentous occasion for us, especially with our inaugural year there last year. When we started booking it—an entire year prior to that, and thinking about the show that we wanted to present, and the specials that we could do at such a large venue, and a venue that we’re now thrown into—it was a little bit of a leap of faith at the time that really came true. There were 7,000 people at Red Rocks last year, and it was something that we all, as a band, looked out upon our fan base like proud fathers at what we had accomplished. It was also really gratifying and satisfying to see that rewarding of what we had accomplished.

What was interesting was that I know that was felt from the fan side, as well. It was like all 7,000 of us at Red Rocks were all looking at each other as a community at what we had accomplished. Because I owe everything to the fans for being there supporting us, and being so rabid and so loyal throughout everything of our career—we really owe it all to the fans. I think we showed that appreciation, but the fans also realized that, as well, so everybody was in it together, looking around, and it wasn’t like “look what the Disco Biscuits accomplished.” It was “look what we accomplished.

And that was really a great feeling.

RR: What is particularly amazing is that the Biscuits hit a key improvisational peak on the road, while creating a completely different personality in the studio, spending the time to create a new vision of itself with Planet Anthem.

AM: That’s the great part of having our own studio, and what it enabled us to do—write for the sake of writing, and just see what comes out of it, as opposed to being restrained by any sort of finances, or anybody looking over our heads, or, most importantly, any sort of time restraints. It enabled us to write a lot of songs, which is great for our catalogue, as well, and then, some songs we decided were going to be more appropriate for “let’s start playing it live. This is going to be great live.” We couldn’t wait to play “Minions,” so we played “Minions.” Over the process, we decided this was more of a live song than an album song. That’s not to say that eventually we won’t record it for an album. It would be killer, and that’s definitely something that I want to do. We were able to write so many songs that we could pick and choose which ones would be best for an album, and which ones would be best to just start playing live.

It got to the point where, man, we were itching to start playing this stuff live. It was almost a godsend that we started putting out the EPs—the On Time and Widget EPs—because now it’s out there, and now we have the ability to start playing it. That was what we said all along. We didn’t want to start playing these songs until it came out in some sort of physical form.

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