Photo courtesy of Arroyo Seco Weekend
Con Brio is an up and coming band with roots in the Bay Area. The seven piece band, led by frontman and singer, Ziek McCarter, are known for high energy shows that leave audiences dancing and grooving long after the set ends. Though Arroyo Seco’s crowd was a little more mellow than an average Coachella crowd, Con Brio had no trouble bringing everyone in the Willow Tent to their feet and dancing. McCarter’s high energy was prominent throughout the show, as he ran and slid across the stage, jumped on top of speakers, and shocked us all with a backflip (yes, a backflip!) at the end of the set. All while hitting every note.
After the set, I had a chance to talk to guitarist and vocalist, Benjamin Andrews. He talked about everything from band origins to new music. Here’s what he had to say:
Thanks for sitting down to talk with me today! Can you talk about how you all met?
Oh, I yeah gotcha. You know we’re from the Bay Area: San Francisco, Oakland. A couple of guys originally, we got guys from Texas and all over the place, but we all at some point or another landed in the Bay and the Bay Area music scene is a pretty tight knit family. I mean, there’s a lot of people there, but you’re only ever one degree of separation from anybody else that’s a working musician at the time, you know? I mean, that really goes for most places and the music community, but I think the Bay in particular. So I met some of these guys at recording sessions, but we all just kind of knew each other from the music.
Who are some of your music inspirations as a band and also personally?
Well we definitely draw from a lot of different places. I’m the guitarist and I sing a little. We all contribute, some more than others at times, but we all contribute when it comes to the compositions and when it comes to writing the music. So, you know, we’ve got everything from old soul funk music, jazz, rock; I might be the only metal fan in the band, it doesn’t always necessarily make its way in there, but we all have broad musical tastes. I think there’s some obvious parallels you could draw. Like with Ziek, our frontman, singing and dancing his ass off and people have compared him to James Brown and Prince, and I mean I guess there’s some of that in the music, but I don’t think we sound like that; we’re not just a funk band. We’re like a coming together of all of these different styles and perspectives. I’ve got my inspirations and I think we’re just trying to do the music that’s true to us. But, undeniably, Prince, James Brown, those are some of our inspirations.
Who thought of the name Con Brio? How do you guys translate it into how you perform and think about performing?
I think it was our bass player. Con Brio is a musical notation in Italian, that’s sort of the default language for written music. It means like, “with vigor” or “with spirit” pretty much, and that’s what we do. Whether we’re playing for 15 people or 15,000 people, we always do it. I say the band name really means, “just do it like you mean it”. That’s what we do, we do it like we mean it every time, regardless.
You guys are in a pretty heavy tour season, and you’ve already played high profile gigs like Outside Lands and Lollapalooza. Is there anything you guys learned while on tour?
Man, you learn something new every day. You’re constantly evolving the relationships, interpersonal relationships. The way we play together, the way we argue, the way we deal with the van breaking down in New Jersey for the second time. Stuff like that. The ways you get tested. But I think the biggest thing we learned, actually, over the course of the last four years is that we can actually pull it off, in spite of all those tests. That’s what I’ve really learned, you know, all the compromises and everything that’s necessary to do it. Like we actually have what is necessary. No punches getting thrown. *chuckles*
Do you have a favorite song on your album?
Oh man. Well the live set, it changes a little bit every night, but we have some standbys that we all love playing. I think, off of “Paradise”, there’s some cool moments on it, but, I think Liftoff is probably my favorite. We often start our sets with that too, it’s a fun, kind of funky, dance and shout sort of number. We’re working on a bunch of new stuff now, so we’re working some of the new material that we haven’t recorded yet into the set, too, and those, I think, are becoming some of my favorites. But, you know, everybody’s gonna have to wait. Either come to a show or you’re gonna have to wait.
Who are you excited to see at Arroyo Seco Weekend? There’s a lot of big names like Tom Petty who was just here yesterday; and then there’s also Weezer and Mumford and Sons today.
I’m excited to see some friends here. There are some friends in other bands that are performing. The Revivalists, Galactic, Lettuce; and I love those bands and I love those people, so I’m happy to be in good company, but I’m definitely gonna be at Weezer, you know? I can’t miss Weezer.
One last question, what can fans expect in the future?
I think that, because we’re a pretty new band, we have pretty new fans. And there’s not a deep catalog of music to draw on. A lot of people have seen us once before, maybe 5 times before. And so, the more we play and the more music we put out, the more the band will evolve and the brand will evolve. And the fans, hopefully, will be able to come along for that ride with us; but, you know, the music is changing as we’re changing and the next record that we put out is gonna be different, in a good way. I think everybody should expect for the energy to be high at all times, as it is, always expect a good show. But we’ll see what everybody else has to say.
You mentioned another album, do you guys have a set date for that yet?
Not yet, it’s in the works. We’ll probably start leaking some singles before we put it out, so be on the lookout for that over the course of the summer and fall.
Thank you so much!
Yeah, you got it, right on!
You can check out Con Brio on YouTube here and stream their music on Spotify here. Also make sure to follow their Twitter and Instagram so you know when they’re playing a show near you! They’re definitely not one to miss, get tickets to a show while you still can!