Marc Brownstein: Bisco Revival and Conspirator’s Arrival
In a sense, Conspirator has given you an opportunity to grow a second band with 16 years of Biscuits experience. Do you think there are now Conspirator fanswho were never into the Biscuits?
MB: That’s my thought. We have now been to a lot of towns three or four times since the last time the Biscuits were there. These kids are young, and we have the collaboration with Big Gigantic, which I think has opened us up to lot of people who are the next level generation of Biscuits fans.
It also helps that electronic music and dubstep are mainstream styles of music again.
MB: Right, it’s pop music again. And, if you’ve been reading the blogs and all that, you are aware of the fact that the people at the top feel like it’s over. But, once it hits the major mainstream, there’s only one direction for it to go. And once it hits the top, you can’t keep going up and up and up. At some point, there has to be some sort of correction—it is like the housing market. And especially with trends, it is just the nature of trends. It’s underground, it is cool, people latch onto it, it becomes mainstream and people run away from it. It’s the nature of the beast, so we’re just grateful that we’re not in the mainstream, that it blew up into the mainstream but we’re on the fringe of it. I’m grateful to be on the fringe of it because I’m old enough—and wise enough—to know, as great as it is to be on the forefront of a movement, if you’re on the fringe it lasts longer.
Moving onto Camp Bisco, it is funny that when you started the festival in ’99 we were still at the tail end of the rave scene. Then you kept the festival going when everyone was going to jam and indie rock shows and now electronic music is hot again.
MB: I get messages that are like, “you guys have really sold out,” and stuff like that. When people asked Jerry Garcia, “Do you think you’re selling out?” when he released his ties he said, “I’ve been trying to sell out for thirty years, but nobody has been buying.” Yeah, we sold out—we actually sold out, there were no tickets left last year, but it is not because we’ve changed our plan—it’s just cause the shit we’re into got cool again. We didn’t run to what was cool in ‘01, ‘02, ‘03 and ‘04—we stuck with what we liked, that’s the great part of the success of Camp Bisco as far as I’m concerned.
It’s not about the tickets, it’s not about making money, it’s about bringing the music that you’re into to the people that are into your music. It’s about spreading the creativity. It’s like Wyllys said the other day, “I hate when people say they don’t do it for the money—that’s just fucking bullshit!” And then he goes, “I do it for the fucking money, and I’m having a good time!” Early on we were just artists—we were trying to promote the type of music we like. We had no idea that it wasn’t cool. But, if we had to suffer through all those years when it wasn’t cool, I’m not going to apologize for enjoying it when it is cool. And my answer to those haters who are saying we “sold out” by booking electronic music is: “that’s always been our thing, and we’ve always gone with the current styles of electronic music at Camp Bisco.” It just so happens that right now electronic music is popular again.
Bassnectar was a sidestage act at Camp Bisco years ago—we paid him $500. Now, he is headlining Camp Bisco, and we can’t get anyone bigger than him to play because he is the biggest thing out there. But he is a grassroots guy. We’ve been lucky that a lot of people we have met at our shows have become big in their scene—it is the greatest thing when that happens. We met the guys from [Camp Bisco promoters] Meatcamp before they even started out and now they are killin’ it with all these shows. Dan Berkowitz started out at our shows and now he is the VIP guy for the biggest bands around [with CID Entertainment]. It is like when the Kings of Leon played at Bonnaroo. We watched them grow until they blow the place out.
People have mentioned that there are not as many jambands or rock bands on this year’s lineup. Do you feel the need to balance live and electronic acts at the festival or are you just concerned with programming three days of quality music?
MB: Well, at this point the Disco Biscuits are one of the only [nationally touring] jambands that play the festival. We do have Papadosio, Lotus and Brothers Past—bands we want to promote, our friends—and we try to bring some acts that are not huge. But to be honest with you, this year, we [the Disco Biscuits] didn’t bring anybody. I didn’t put anybody on the lineup this year. I legitimately trust that our promoters know how to do it. They know how to make a festival sell out, and this festival is going to sell out. They’re as good as anybody. It felt good to be honest, it felt good to let them do their thing. It felt good to watch these young promoters play with the big boys.
The Disco Biscuits only have a few shows scheduled for this year. Have you been working on any new material for the band that we might hear this week?
MB: No, the newest material is the stuff that we put on [2011’s] Otherwise Law Abiding Citizen. Pretty much all of the new songs that I’ve been working on this year have been dedicated to Conspirator because Conspirator’s touring. It makes sense to write music for the band that’s playing shows, so we don’t have a ton of new music. Our hardcore old school fans always give us shit for playing new music anyway. So I just feel like the right thing to do is play our older songs this week. We are not going to just run through the hits though—everything’s on the table. Everything’s rare—when you play six shows every six months, nothing is overplayed.
Songs like “Therapy,” “Rainbow Song” and “Stone” come to mind but in terms of [what we might play], but it could legitimately be anything. Everybody in the band is expected to know how to play every song [this week]—it’s part of our thing in the Disco Biscuits. At Biscuits shows, you’re expected to show up knowing how to play all the songs. For our New Year’s Run, we practiced hard when we got there. We’ll practice for hours a day over the next two weeks while we’re playing the shows—in between the shows and everything—but we find that we play better at the shows when we don’t exhaust ourselves out in the studio practicing new material and old material. It becomes stale after a week of two of practice, it’s almost better to make sure your hands are ready and your mind is ready. Your hand has to be warm, and your mind has to be sharp. That’s the recipe, for me, for the best Biscuits shows.