The band Conspirator is comprised of Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner (The Disco Biscuits), Chris Michetti (RAQ) and features a cast of rotating drummer elites - Mike Greenfield (Lotus), Darren Shearer (the New Deal), KJ Sawka (Pendulum) and Adam Deitch (Break Science, Pretty Lights). The band has rotating drummers and is typically band gets labeled a “side-project,” they could quickly become the electronic jam scene’s equivalent of a super group. Conspirator has reached another level. As a full band, the music is hitting new highs and killing in the live show. They produce a rapid-fire sound that blissfully combines ripping guitar solos which is culminates to a collection of live electronic rock bliss that is delving, twisting and diving effortlessly between house, dub-step, drum and bass, and electronica.
Disco Biscuits is known for having crafted a very unique fusion of sounds, sometimes referred to as “livetronica”. How is it that you managed to combine such a variety of genres and make it sound cohesive?
You’re always looking for your own thing, you want your music to be personal and unique and interesting and really if it’s not unique there’s no point in doing it. I find that that key element of bringing electronic music in with the rock was what separated the Disco Biscuits from the rest when we started out. In terms of making the sound cohesive? It just happened. We didn’t really set out to do anything in particular. We all had different influences, we all listened to different kinds of music, introduced those different kinds of music to each other and little by little we found a way to make it work together.
Each of the members of Disco Biscuits is involved in some side projects, and I’m wondering how that effects in the music of Disco Biscuits, and how you manage to juggle so much.
Well, I mean, every band that you play in is a little bit different, every group of guys you play with – a band is literally the sum of its parts and in most cases especially in improv music, the final sound of the band is going to be a different if you change out one of the members of the band, so when we go out and play as two or three other guys or just by yourself, you’re always going to have a different sound. For me, I wanted to make an electronic project on the side that was fully electronic. Ironically, we learned a lot about making electronic music from that and brought that back to the Biscuits and got more electronic. Now, this next year in another band we’re making it more rock – we’re bringing it back. Each of those different bands has a subtle influence on the others.
You’ve played with some pretty big names at some pretty big festivals, GhostlandObservatory, Shpongle, Big Gigantic and others. Did a lot of these relationships start atCampBisco?
CampBisco is great for meeting people and collaborating with different artists. It can be any festival, really. It could be Bonnaroo or Moogfest. Speaking of, at Moogfest we actually played at the same time as Shpongle. That wasn’t ideal. You never want to be playing at the same time anywhere with Shpongle. Mostly, it’s because they’re someone that I’d like to be seeing.
Since we’re talking about festivals, what’s one of your favorites and why?
Man, it’s gotta be Bonnaroo. There’s only one festival in the country where when we go and play it, I stay for the entire time. Well, you know, that’s not true. I love ElectricForest. I always stay for the whole time for that one. You know what? Festivals are so great.. that’s such a loaded question, it’s not even fair. I always want to stay for the whole time at any festival but I can’t ya know? I’ve got kids. I have a hard time justifying staying 3 days at a festival when my wife is back home taking care of 3 kids, ya know? If I don’t have a show I really try to be home for them. In the case of Bonnaroo, hopefully I can bring them with me. The Biscuits have played four times so if Conspirator ever plays there, I need to bring them. It can be overwhelming. I don’t really know if I would ever go unless we had been playing there but I get so excited to play it because it’s an excuse to play it and I wouldn’t necessarily go but once you’re there, it’s like I couldn’t imagine NOT going. It’s like; all of a sudden Chris Rock is doing stand up on one stage, and anyone from Stevie Wonder, Radiohead to Jay-Z on another. Bonnaroo is great, but if you haven’t been to ElectricForest, that is really special. They have a forest that’s literally filled with lights and always a great lineup. It’s incredible.
So, this upcoming CampBisco will be number 14. Do you have any spoilers? What are we going to expect?
I can’t! I wish I could. I want to say one thing about it though. It’s hard to balance between booking DJ’s and booking live bands and I saw the lineup, and I’m so stoked because I love DJ’s and the type of stuff we get at Camp Bisco like the late night shows that they put on in tents there, is totally incredible. The fact that we get that level of talent at our festival is great. I also love the bands, and this year I looked and I saw a lot of bands on there! That’s as much as of spoiler as I can do. Our fans should be really psyched to hear that!
Conspirator has definitely marketed a different sound to your fans, where and how did you stumble upon what Conspirator is and how is it different than what The Biscuits are all about?
Well, in 2004, we just wanted to make computer music. We were always playing mostly electronic music in The Biscuits so we realized we wanted to play real electronic music, that’s what inspired us to make the music other than The Biscuits sound. We wanted to come to The Biscuits from a more knowledgeable place. If we are going to be making electronic music, we should really know how to make it. Now, it’s never about marketing the music to the fans, we market the shows, but for us, when we’re in the studio, it’s about what inspires us. We listen to music in the studio about equally as we make it. We have music we love and we just sit and listen and listen. We go back and forth from what we’re making to what we like. We try to figure out the difference and what we can take from what we love to make our music better and what we can add to the styles we’re listening to, to make it more organic. Right now, we’re making music for us, and what we’ve found, as always, when you change your style, (which is what Conspirator has done from our first album to our new album) you find people pushing against that, wanting us not to change or rehash what we used to be. We also have found an enormous growth from the artistic side of things to what’s inspiring you from that moment and time is agreeably going to connect with others who were inspired by the same things in that moment and time. As long as you’re open to being influenced by current things, you’re going to connect with fans. You can’t help not connect with them. We’re all in this together. We’re all listening to the same things, enjoying the same parties, and seeing the same acts. How can you go toElectricForest and see Shpongle, Skrillex, and Big Gigantic, and not, be a total sponge about it? You take it all in and go back to the studio the next time and let it out. If you’re not letting it change you, then there’s something wrong. As an artist, you’ve got to look at the great visual artists of the 20th Century and 19th Century and look at their careers, and it’s the same with musical artists. Look at The Beatles; you compare “Love Love Me Do” to “Sergeant Pepper”. It’s obvious they were fans of “Love Love Me Do” when they started taking acid and freaking out in the studio, I’m sure there were some early Beatles fans who obviously were all for it, and some who were against it. I’m not comparing us to The Beatles or anyone; I’m just saying those are my idols. When I look at objectively, I think, “Look at what all of the greats did.” All the greats! Pink Floyd from the beginning of their career to the end, if you look at it, it’s just so different. They were great musicians and visual artists, so I don’t know if we are such great artists, but I’m trying to follow that trajectory of change, influence by staying current and open minded. It’s like being a doctor. Imagine going to medical school in 1974, then saying, “Okay! This is how I’m going to be a doctor for the rest of my career!” And then as all the new technologies came out you are saying, “No! No! This is how it’s done!” Like, new cures came out and you’re like, “No. No. This is my method over here.” It doesn’t happen man. You have to change with the times.
So, would you say your music with Conspirator has brought your name into another crowd of people it would have otherwise?
Well, I don’t even know if it’s a different crowd, it’s definitely different people though. We are getting our name out to a whole new group of younger kids and we’re seeing that at shows. Some people like to come back to meet Conspirator and be like, “What’s your name?” And I’m like, “I’m Marc. What’s your name?” Most kids don’t even know about our other band, which is cool.
The Disco Biscuits are really accessible with social media and seem to value fan interaction immensely with fan-made setlists and festivals like Camp Bisco and Bisco Inferno. Why is it so important to you guys?
It is what it is. There are so many different things you can do technologically. So as technology evolves, we’re just trying different things to shake it up and have fun and let it be an interactive experience.
I don’t know if it’s good or bad to be accessible. It’s kind of an ongoing experiment, you know what I mean? Sometimes it has its positives, sometimes it has its negatives but I feel like overall, there’s a community and the fans feel like they’re a part of that community and I feel like I’m a part of the community with the fans. And I value that extremely.
These are the people that make it possible, what we do. I like to know what they like. I think [the fan setlists] are all sick. Crowd sourcing is great because it brings the band that much closer to the fans in terms of what is really important. What’s important is that the customers are satisfied – that the people who are providing the entertainment are doing a satisfactory job of entertaining the people who came to see them. It bridges that gap. It’s fun and I think people like it.
- Adam Epstein