Marc Brownstein Reassembles Electron
A taste of Electron’s first show back, in Baltimore on 5/8/13
You and Tom Hamilton, from Brothers Past and also Electron, have been friends for a while now. How did you guys first meet?
Have you seen the movie Silver Linings Playbook?
For those people out there who have seen it, just to give a little bit of reference, the film is in Upper Darby, which is where the Biscuits lived at the time and I guess kind of where Brothers Past lived too. When my mom was visiting Philly one day we went to a diner called the Llanerch Diner and I have now seen multiple clips from the movie Silver Linings Playbook that were filmed at that diner. And I went there, there were some dudes in there doing like a photo shoot, and they stopped the photo shoot when I walked in and all came over and were like, “Oh my God, are you from The Disco Biscuits?” And my mom was so impressed. It was like the coolest thing of all time because I was with my mom and I was being recognized for being in a band and it was maybe the first time my mom grasped the notion that me being in a band was a big deal. So it was probably around 1998 this was going on, and it was Brothers Past. I was like, “Oh, man!” I saw them open once, so I knew exactly who they were. That was the first time that we met in person and it was love at first sight.
What inspired you to do this current run?
Well we’ve been talking about it for like two years, Tommy and I. Every time I talk to Tommy it’s like, “Hey, are we doing an Electron run ever? Should we do it?” And now it felt like the right time for it. I’ve been touring relentlessly with Conspirator and haven’t been touring at all with the Biscuits. Then we have these Sucker Punch dates coming up next month at the B.B. Kings and the Howard Theater and the Blockley, and I just had a whole month off. KJ is in the studio rehearsing for Destroid, which is his new band with Excision, and they have some festival performances coming up this summer. They’re playing at the Moonrise Festival first I think. So he’s spending a whole month rehearsing this live, mini electronic dubstep performance so we had to block out the month pretty much except for one or two shows, we’re playing at the Hangout Festival with Conspirator and we’re playing at Summer Camp with Conspirator. And so I had off three or four weekends in a row and I just thought it might be a good month to take a stab at it. Chris [Michetti] is playing some RAQ shows this weekend, so everybody kind of seems to be out doing their thing and it seemed like a good time to throw in some shows. It just felt like the right time.
Are there any new Conspirator or Disco Biscuits songs that you plan on workshopping a little bit on this run?
Well, there’s a couple of Disco Biscuits songs that don’t get played anymore that I would like to maybe work into the set. “Tamarin Alley” never gets played. I’ve played it with Tommy before when he sat in with Conspirator at the State Theatre in Virginia, so I know that those guys all know the song. “Tamarin Alley” hasn’t been played in forever. “Last Day of Everything,” is a song that I really like but haven’t worked on enough to make it into the set and it gets requested a lot by the fans. I should put some time into the song and try to figure out what was wrong with it and make right and this is a good opportunity to do that. We haven’t played it yet but I’m hoping over the next five days we’ll be able to practice that a couple of times and give it a shot this weekend. “The Bridge” is another song that I really, really love but it’s hard when you kind of write setlists for Biscuits runs. I can’t put every song into every run. We’re playing 45 songs over three nights out of 180 so every song gets played once a year or twice a year, three times a year at the most. “The Bridge” has been played once in the past two years, but I think that it needs to get played. I feel good when I’m singing it, it makes me feel happy. So I might throw that in. There’s songs like that. I mean there’s definitely new ideas, new covers, all kinds of stuff that I’ve been working on, I’ve been learning how to play piano, so I’ll definitely be working in some of that stuff.
What kind of covers are you guys planning to throw into the Electron run?
I have a wealth of songs that I’ve been playing on piano for the last six months and every one is on the table right now. We’ve just gotta practice because they’re just fresh in my mind, I know how they all go. I know everybody in the band knows how to play at least 80% of them just from knowing pop-rock songs. Just a little project I have, so what happens is when I get to these runs, I just have all this other kind of music fresh in mind.
You guys put out an Electron live album a few years back. Are there any plans to do that on this run or any other time in the future?
No, we don’t have any plans for anything like that. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to get recorded and happen, you know. Usually on live album stuff, that stuff happens after we play a great show. We’ll play a great show and on the tail end looking back we’re like, “Wow, that was really great, we should probably release it.” My philosophy on it is if you start with the, “Hey everyone, we’re making a live album,” you put an undue amount of pressure on the music and limit yourself from maybe being able to make that musical masterpiece. That’s been my experience over the years. The best stuff happens when it’s just happening and you’re not trying to make something for somebody, you know? For the Biscuits’ TranceFusionRadio stuff, we were not like, “Let’s make a live album.” We were just recording every show, every night and then at the end, we go back and we’re like, “Oh, remember this? God, that was great.” And it’s like making a reality show on television. At first, everybody acts really weird on camera, you know what I mean? Eventually, when the cameras have been around long enough, people get real and that’s when all the good shit happens. So it’s the same thing. After a while you forget that you’re being recorded and you just act like yourself and that’s when the magic happens musically.
Moving away from Electron, were there any big highlights from the recent Biscuits run at Red Rocks, the Feed the Rocks show?
Yeah, the whole thing was a highlight. I mean the “Ladies” encore was ridiculous. The “Disco Inferno” was…I know in those situations people always look back on it and—I have no idea what people are saying, I don’t pay attention—but I imagine that something as cheesy as that you have to be like “Oh, that’s super cheesy,” but whatever. There were 10,000 people going apeshit at the moment. I remember when I came off stage Jeremy [Salken] from Big Gigantic says, “Dude, when you guys were playing ‘Disco Inferno,’ the place was going crazy! Like the whole place was going nuts!” And I was like, “Dude, I know, I looked up and couldn’t believe what I was seeing.” It was fun because we had only pretty much decided to play it like an hour before the show. We all sat down, learned it together, played it a bunch of times, it was so fun backstage we were just cracking up. Barber started singing the wrong lyrics because he didn’t have them in front of him but the right tone and we all thought he was singing the lyrics, we didn’t realize he was just faking it. We were like, “How does he know the lyrics? This is incredible!” So that was a cool, fun, quick thing to do that was a highlight.
The whole show on Friday people are saying it’s really, really great. On my Facebook page I’ve gotten a couple of friends who have told me that Friday night was fantastic. But the whole thing was all great, you know. Playing “Kamaole Sands” was really great. We played it there and now maybe we get to play it again this week. I’m stoked on “Kamaole Sands,” it was really, really fun. Yeah, just all and all it was a good run. We did this Conspirator show with Rusko at the Mullins Center in UMass for 4/20, so we had just come off this huge Conspirator run where we had been playing in an arena and so it’s just been like highlight, highlight, highlight. It’s just pretty cool going from playing an arena with one band to Red Rocks with another band. It’s ridiculous.
What are the plans for the Biscuits and for Conspirator this summer and beyond?
Well, Conspirator just announced the Summer Set Festival, which is a really great lineup that just came out today. Sound Tribe Sector 9, Big Gigantic, Girl Talk headlining, maybe Passion Pit as well? Just a big, big lineup of all kinds of diverse acts so that’s a really good one. Conspirator’s got a big summer, we’re playing The Hangout, we’re playing Summer Camp, we’re playing Mountain Jam, we’re playing the Frendly Gathering Festival up in Vermont, we’re playing at Bonnaroo. So right up between next week at The Hangout and Bonnaroo, it’s just slam, jam, thank you ma’am. We’re at work. We’re looking forward to a big summer. Then the Biscuits have their Camp Bisco, we also just announced North Coast Festival last week which is exciting. Conspirator in August is playing at Summer Set and playing at moe.down and also playing at Catskill Chill Festival, which is another big one up in the northeast. So it’s going to be a packed summer between Sucker Punch playing Electric Forest and a couple of shows that I mentioned earlier. Between Sucker Punch the Biscuits and the Conspirator shows, and the Electron shows, we’ve got four bands going, all of them with my good buddy, closest friend Aron Magner. Me and him just hitting one after another. Mowing them down, changing the lineups up and mowing them down. Should be a good summer.