Rising beyond stereo

Quartet is cooking up a four-way sound experience.

Kansas City Star

By Joel Francis

Justin Timberlake may be bringing sexy back, but the jam band the Disco Biscuits is retrieving a relic of the ’70s.

“Quadrophonic sound hasn’t been popular in many years, but we’re going to bring it back,” said Biscuits singer, guitarist and songwriter Jon Gutwillig. “Roger Waters came through town, and he did it, because he’s from the ’70s. Our keyboard player went to the show and said, ‘Why don’t we?’ It turns out it’s not that hard.”

But the antique-cum-cutting-edge sound system won’t be debuted until the Biscuits’ New Year’s Eve show in Philadelphia. Fans who show up on Friday to hear the band play the Granada in Lawrence will have to settle for two-channel, stereo sound.

“We keep getting bigger, and I don’t understand it. Every time we go back to your town, we’re bigger than the last time we were there,” Gutwillig said. “It makes us feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”

One reason for the unexpected success might be the following the quartet has built and the availability of most of their shows, bootlegged or otherwise.

“We were playing in Pittsburgh the other night, and I looked at the crowd and thought to myself, ‘I’ve never seen these people in my life,’ ” Gutwillig said. “But it was very real. They knew our music, knew the band members and knew our style. They learned about us the old-fashioned way: They got bootlegs from their older brother, the same way I did.”

If brother can’t provide, the band certainly can. Many of the band’s performances are recorded and available for sale on their Web site, http://www.discobiscuits.com. With no label, pressing, packaging and distribution costs involved, the Biscuits — made up of Gutwillig, bass player Marc Brownstein, drummer Allen Aucoin and keyboard player Aron Magner — are able to reinvest the majority of the earnings.

“The downloading has been incredibly successful. It’s afforded us the opportunity to spend money to improve the quality considerably,” Gutwillig said.

Online shows used to come from a DAT machine on the soundboard. Now the shows are picked up by microphones onstage, in the audience and on the board.

“The sound is as good as show boots have ever sounded. We can produce a high-quality concert recording in less than two hours,” Gutwillig said. “We try to have a show on the Net as quickly as possible without it sounding bad.”

Since the Biscuits keep all of their songs in their performance repertoire, the archives give fans instant access to the entire catalog.

“When I was a kid into Phish, I’d hear this song, (and) I had no idea what it was. It would take me a month to find out,” Gutwillig said. “Now I could learn how to play that song from tape 10 hours after I heard it. Everything is quick and hard-core now. You’re not waiting for something to come in the mail.”

A lot of the Disco Biscuit’s universe has accelerated since the band’s inception on the University of Pennsylvania campus in the mid-’90s.

“I used to walk around a public school singing songs into a voice recorder. I got a lot of great songs that way,” Gutwillig said.

“Making time now to write music is definitely an issue. Now I write faster, but there’s less time. I used to have all the time in the world, nothing going on. Now it seems I have to leave the country for a few months to get anything done, which I’m thinking about doing.”


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