San Franciscan band Con Brio have been touring relentlessly across the world in support of their latest album, Paradise, and Electric Forest was their latest stop. After performing the first set of the weekend, Con Brio packed the Grand Artique stage for their unannounced, second set of the day, bringing a little extra paradise to the forest. Even though people didn’t know the show was going to happen, they were magnetically drawn to Con Brio. Frontman Ziek McCarter was a force on stage, hitting suave dance moves at one moment then jumping in the crowd the next. Con Brio’s instrumentalists play with a chemistry that would take a lifetime to master, despite being a young band still.
Before the weekend was up, EMMIE’s Mitchell Rose caught up with Ziek and percussionist Andrew Laubacher to talk about their latest album, touring and what’s up next for the exciting young band. Read the conversation below.
Mitchell Rose: In your video for “Money,” you guys are just full of energy. How do you guys get so much energy while you’re performing?
Ziek: We love doing this, we love music, you know? We’re passionate about the songs we write. That particular video, shoutout to P Lee and the whole Scandinavia team, Bay Area production team who produced it. It was a lot of fun working with them and it turned out really great, but the energy is what we wanted to capture and that’s what came through in the video.
Money is my favorite track of yours. What was the inspiration behind that track?
Ziek: I was stressed out about money one day [laughs]. I was on my way to rehearsal and Andrew had just brought this new drum beat in, and I walked in and they were kind of vibing, and it took off from there. But really, conceptually, we just wanted to hold it in a way where I felt more liberated and felt more agency, in terms of how I approach it and how it is present within my life and how I utilize it. To invest in myself, to invest in my dreams, to not be so pigeonholed to the concept of it.
Your album Paradise as a whole flows so well from beginning to end. What was the recording process like?
Andrew: Well there was definitely thought put in beforehand as far as how the songs would flow into each other. Some of them came together as they were being made, but we kind of thought about it a lot. Zeke had a pretty strong vision as far as, like, thematically what he was going to be talking about and how the songs would relate one after another. And then through that, musically it helped us figure out which direction the songs should go and how they should go into one another.
Ziek: And Mario C. (Mario Caldato Jr., Con Brio’s Grammy-winning producer).
Andrew: [laughs] Yeah.
Ziek: [Mario] really facilitated the whole vision, process and all our dynamics really well. We’re all dynamic players and creators, so he was really the cheese to glue us all together.
You guys have been doing shows all over the world. What were some of the most memorable stops?
Andrew: Fuji Rock in Japan was amazing. The first show we played in the Netherlands was on this island called Vlieland, and that was really amazing too; that was like a “What’s going on with my life right now?” kind of moment.
Ziek: Yeah, definitely. The first tour in Holland, most of our shows were packed and that was our first time there. But Japan set the bar really high—like way, way, way high.
How does Electric Forest rank so far?
Andrew: It’s great, yeah the few hours we’ve been here were great. Everyone’s nice, the bands are great, the ambience is great. It’s good.
What’s up next for you guys?
Andrew: In the short term we are headed to Vegas, and then Santa Barbara, San Diego, LA, and then doing like a West Coast run basically. Long term, we’re working on a record, hopefully that’s gonna come out soon. We’re gonna have some singles coming out in either August or September for the record. And just kind of continuing touring at a breakneck pace, which is what we do.
Paradise, to me, kind of sounded like Stevie Wonder and Bruno Mars. What would you say your influences are for that record and your influences overall?
Andrew: Huh, that’s interesting, I mean obviously those two guys are an influence. I think that we also have some influences almost like Pink Floyd … that kind of slow, heavy, rock and roll kind of groove going. Sly and the Family Stone is one for us. Let’s see, I mean there’s a whole lot of influences, but those ones are pretty on top I’d say for sure. We also really like stuff like Gil Scott-Heron, stuff he did. There’s even a song on there where Ziek does his own ode to the spoken word kind of thing. We try to be as open as possible, the seven of us are pretty different; we have very different backgrounds both musically and personally. It’s a kind of all hands on deck, you know, there isn’t one type of thing we shoot for.
If you all have such different backgrounds, how did you guys come together to make a band?
Andrew: Just through the San Francisco, Bay Area music scene. It’s funny really, none of us were really running in the same circles until we met and formed this band. But we all sort of had people in common that drew us together eventually.
You guys just finished touring with Galactic and The Revivalists. What was that like?
Andrew: Really fun, both those bands are really great to tour with and they’re really good to us. They’ve been doing it longer and they’re at a place where we’re working towards getting, so it’s really fun talking to both those bands. They’re easy to talk to, easy to chill with and, you know, easy to play with. A lot of times we’ll sit in with them and stuff. They’re just really supportive of what we’re doing, which is nice. I mean, generally most bands are really cool, there’s not too many bands that are dicks. It’s such a small world once you get into it that if you’re a dick it’s gonna come back to haunt you. But those bands in particular are very, very friendly and super nice.
Where do you see Con Brio at in the next five to ten years?
Andrew: Playing the world still. Much bigger venues, maybe like stadiums hopefully. We just want to bring our music to as many people as we can and put on a show that moves people. In whatever volume we can do that, we’re gonna try to do that.