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Published: 2012/05/07
by Dean Budnick

Brownie Unlocked: Conspirator, The Biscuits, Electron and Onward

In terms of your fans’ frustration, do you find that bittersweet?

I don’t find it bitter. I find it sweet. It’s all sweet. To me, all hate is love. All of the internet hate is love. You have to know that or you can’t survive mentally. You’re going to quit your band if you don’t know that. You’re going to crack. If you don’t know that the hate is love then you’re going to crack. It’s what it is. I’m sure that some of the kids from PT Phish think it’s funny to hate on the Biscuits. Whatever. But when it’s your fans saying, “That show sucked,” it’s because they have super high expectations and that’s what you want them to have. If they don’t have high expectations then you haven’t been delivering the goods.

Some asked, “To what extent does Aron surprise you every night or is that not the goal? Is the goal to anticipate each other’s move?” (Jay G.)

Well, we don’t know what the goal is yet. It’s so young – Conspirator’s been around for seven years – but, the new wave of Conspirator is so young that it has to be considered a new band. We haven’t figured that all out yet. We’ve been thinking at some point we’re going to drop the computers and play all instrumental. We don’t know exactly where the winds are going to blow.

“With Conspirator, is it the same intent as when you started? If not, how is it different and where is it at today?” (Ron H.)

The other day there was this study saying that music is similar to sex in the type and amount of pleasure that you receive. A musical climax is akin to a sexual climax in the chemical release in the body – in your head. They said it’s just a chemical thing. They said that the anticipation of this musical release also gets you high. So, really, that’s the purpose of any art: to connect with the listener, to connect with the viewer. To have some sort of emotional connection with them. I think that’s the goal whether it’s the Disco Biscuits or Conspirator. That was the goal then and that’s the goal now. It hasn’t changed. In terms of the ultimate goal, it’s about an emotional connection. It’s about taking a person to a place where their brain releases chemicals that make them feel good. We want the endorphins to come out and the serotonin to be released, naturally. Which we know it does. You hear so many people say, “I went to last night’s show. I was completely sober and it was incredible!” Yeah, because you weren’t completely sober. You were high on the music.

A few people wanted to know if you feel that Conspirator is best served by having a rotating series of drummers or a more permanent lineup?

We’re trying to keep KJ as our permanent drummer for as long as we possibly can because we like the way that the hang is and we like the way that he plays. The key is – there are three major components: Does the person play like the best drummer out there? Does the person hang out with us and is it awesome when we hang? And, are they completely available? Those are the three components. It would be hard if Rob [Swire] and Garreth [McGrillen] suddenly said, “Tomorrow that we’re going on an eight week Pendulum tour,” but they seem pretty wrapped up in Knife Party right now. You’ve got the two main guys in a band that’s blowing up, that’s potentially even bigger than Pendulum right now. It’s just two of them. I think they’re really enjoying that; they’re two young guys and they see the way that the scene is going.

So KJ has been available all year. One of the things about KJ and Michetti is that they both have their solo projects. We want to find a way to solidify that drummer lineup, while still advancing Michetti and KJ’s solo projects and help them spread their music by being in Conspirator. But, at the same time, we want to solidify it. The truth of the matter is it’s still going to be the four of us with KJ through the rest of this year. I think we’re pretty solidified. It’s definitely going to show in the music, people are making comments. Someone said to me at Rock N Roll Resort that “tonight was the best Conspirator show I’ve ever seen…up until then last night was the best Conspirator show I’d ever seen.”

I think that what I’m seeing is that every Conspirator show is better than Conspirator a year ago. The whole thing has been elevated to a new level by playing 150 shows. You want your band to be good? Go on tour. Play every night. That’s how you get good. You can practice. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get into the studio and practice as well, you should. But if you really want to be good, book 150 shows and tour the country. That’s how you get good. By the end of those shows you’ll start to get some fans…

How do you choose which Biscuits songs get into the Conspirator repertoire?

I think the most interesting and best parts of the Conspirator are, by far, when we’re not playing a Biscuits song. I still love when we play the Biscuits songs, but there’s a little bit of nostalgia there. I’m doing it because I like to play those songs. I miss playing them. I’m not necessarily doing it for the fans. It’s based on what song I feel like playing. We’re picking songs that Aron and I wrote. We’ve played a couple of songs that the whole band put together, but we’ve tried to drop those out because we don’t want there to be any weirdness about that.

The Biscuits are supposed to be complementary. We play “Park Ave,” “Portal,” “Mirrors,” just sprinkle a couple of them in. KJ’s wife was in the hospital for a few days and he had to leave tour and Allen [Aucoin, Biscuits drummer] was opening up for us and he played that show. So that night we put in a few more songs. But if I’m going to teach KJ a song at this point, we prefer for it to be a new Conspirator song.

Speaking of the Biscuits, many people wanted to hear about the Disco Biscuits’ upcoming plans. What do you see for the Biscuits in 2012?

It’s been 16 years. When you’ve been a band for that long and you hit a year like 2008-2009 where you incessantly tour and party like you’re 22 years old because you’re on the road constantly, you eventually get wrapped up in that unless you’re really good about it, which we weren’t. There comes a point where if you don’t take a break it’s going to end. Or maybe you’ll end it and then get back together. We’ve always been wary, for better or worse, of the band that quits and then gets back together. And wary of going on hiatus. That’s a word we don’t like. Why? Because we change our mind a lot. We don’t like to say that we’re not going to play shows in 2012 because you can damn well bet we’ll play some. I imagine we’ll play a New Year’s run. I know that we’re playing Mayan Holidaze because that’s announced. I’d be really surprised if they were not some other shows to be played by the end of the year because we all like playing those songs.

We all like playing concerts. It’s just a matter of are we driving the ship into an iceberg. You don’t want to hit an iceberg and sink. Sometimes you’ve gotta hit the brakes and take a breath. That’s as a diplomatic answer as I can give. In terms of everybody getting along it’s fine. Barber said, “I need a break. I need to take some time off from the road.” He said this last year and we ended up playing 45 shows because we put pressure on him. Opportunities always come up and we end up taking them and then you don’t get your year off. So where we’re at right now, we’re legitimately taking a year off. We got to the end of that year and we were like, “Well that didn’t work. Okay, we’re not doing anything. Hank, don’t book any shows. Don’t even tell us about the offers. We don’t want to know.”

So we’ll play Camp Bisco, Mayan Holidaze and some other stuff. We’ve taken a deep enough of a breath, we feel like we’re ready to get back together and really start to make some meaningful music. This way, the shows have been phenomenal. You ask fans, Mayan Holidaze was phenomenal. And the New Year’s Run was ridiculous. I think that’s a product of taking off September, October, November, December. We took those four months off and we were recharged and refreshed. We weren’t ready to go on the road, but we were ready to play some great shows and have it be magical. That’s the thing, when we got there it was magical. It feels great. We’re on the right path. So we’ll just stick with this break, not pressure anyone to play any shows they don’t want to play. And, quite honestly, when Jon says he wants to play we’re all ready to play. We want everybody to be ready. That’s what I want, everybody to be ready.

“What did you take away from the Identity Festival?” (Dave M.)

It was really cool. Some nights were so incredible like the most triumphant experiences we’ve ever had. And some nights it was just like, “What are we doing here?” And that’s where we were. I was like, “Why are we doing this? This is totally the wrong thing to be doing.” Then we would get to the night where it was the right thing and we’d be like, “This is why we’re doing it.” I’m a musician. I’m an artist. I’m an emotional wreck. Everyone knows that, whatever. You better have emotions if you want to make good art. I wear it a little bit on the sleeve. There were nights where it was like, “God, this is the best.” We were in San Diego playing for a dubstep crowd and it was going over incredibly. There were 10,000 people there and it was like, “This is why we did Identity tour, for a market like San Diego.” It was also in Philly. It was also in Garden State Art Center. Then there were spots that were like, “Well we’re in a 25,000 person venue and there’s 4,000 people here” split between three stages and nobody was having a big show. It was a really weird tour, to be on a Tuesday at Deer Creek. I think that they know that and I think I saw an announcement that it looks like they’re doing it pared down.

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