Same recipe, different ingredients. So describes the second decade of jam-band favorite The Disco Biscuits, who, after a brief hiatus, are back in full force.
"I don't know what happened there," says singer-guitarist Jon Gutwillig, during a tour stop in New York. "The band had created such a large body of work in such a small period of time, we just needed to take our time. Everybody wanted to do a little soul searching to see if they wanted to be in music for a living."
A result of original drummer Sam Altman's decision to leave the Philadelphia-based band a few years ago, the self-discovery period gave Gutwillig time to explore new interests. Instead, the charismatic musician discovered that skydiving, scuba diving and golf were just distractions from his music.
"Well, it's pretty much what we do," Gutwillig says. "If you stop doing [music], then you sort of lose track. I try to get other hobbies in my life, but essentially music is the one thing that is not a 9-to-5 job. It's a fucking 24-hour-a-day job, and if you don't stay in the studio until 2 a.m., your song is going to suck when you wake up the next morning. That's just the way it is."
With new drummer Allen Aucoin, The Disco Biscuits are currently on tour in support of its chapter-ending and epic double-disc CD The Wind at Four to Fly and its live counterpart Rocket 3. Both were recorded in 2004 with Altman.
Gutwillig is thinking ahead about the group's next studio effort. But instead of incessantly road-testing new material to the point where fans have "38 versions of every song" in bootleg form, Gutwillig is hoping the band's next album which it plans to record this winter and release in 2007 tests its ability to create on the fly. The only difference is that the improvisation will take place in a studio rather than on a stage.
"We are a continuation of a tradition that spans many different genres," Gutwillig says. "We know how the Dead did it. We know how Coltrane did it. We know how Phish did it. And we're integrating those styles of making it up as you go along, into a new style. A lot of times the fans come out to see what we're going to do next."
You need a trippy, yet grounded headspace to fully grasp what The Disco Biscuits mean to today's jam scene. The specter of Jerry looms, but at the same time, the group remains unfettered by style or time constraints, pulling from classical music and jazz to contemporary touchstones.
"We're just trying to break some ground in the music world," Gutwillig says. "That's just what we do best. We always seem to figure out a new way to do a jam."
Silence befalls the conversation as Gutwillig's assessment of his own music existence hangs in the air. A moment passes before he conjures a pleasingly sly quip.
"It's absurd," he says, "and very cool."
The Disco Biscuits
The Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson St., Denver
Saturday, Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25; visit ticketmaster.com.
Note: A Nov. 19 show at Boulder's Fox Theatre is sold out.