From San Francisco, the young, soulful & funky septet Con Brio are performing in London for two dates as part of their current multinational tour. Laura Thorne interviewed 23-year-old singer Ziek McCarter:
Q: The band is from the San Francisco Bay Area, which has a reputation built upon an experimental and psychedelic past, from the Beat scene in the 50’s to the rock explosion of the 60’s, most notably 1967’s the “Summer of Love”. How does that sensibility inform your music, if it does?
A: The Bay Area's music scene and history in general has informed our music. Sly Stone's multi race/gendered psychedelic sound, and even the technological advancements that stemmed from the dot com tech boom all exemplify the value of experimenting and taking artistic risks with our craft. That sensibility has shown us how liberating and impactful our creativity can be. The intention we set to diversify the songs on our album “Paradise," can definitely be a reflection of that.
Q: You mention Sly and the Family Stone as an influence. What specifically grabbed you about what Sly was doing, and how is that reflected in Con Brio’s sound? What other bands are in “heavy rotation” on your personal playlist?
A: The first time I heard Sly's music was actually at Stern Grove in 2012 when The Family Stone opened for Anita Baker. My core was inspired from the first note. After studying more, I found that the cultural anthems, live energy, and timeless wisdom their legacy has offered. Listening to them gave me strength during a tough time being that it was maybe 6 months after I lost my father. Sly & The Family Stone's music inspired me lyrically, culturally, and musically. Some of their influence can be found in Paradise's first single, "Free & Brave".
There isn't really a band that we necessarily listen to in heavy rotation. There's 7 of us and we all take turns driving our tour van so there's no telling what you might hear blasting through the speakers at any point. We digest and enjoy it all. Rock, Hip Hop, Funk, Experimental, Country, Jazz etc.
Q: This interview is for London Jazz News. How does jazz relate to Con Brio, can you connect the dots for us?
A: I wouldn't consider our sound 100% reflective of jazz music, but jazz music and many of its amazing artists have definitely inspired us all. Most of us were music studies majors in college, so our jazz studies naturally come out in our creative process as well as our live performances as it can also be structurally improvised in similar ways to a jazz performance.
Q: There’s also some substantive lyrical content in Con Brio’s music, referencing current events & the political landscape from your point of view. Back in the 1960’s, some music was overtly political, a form of protest associated with artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Crosby Stills Nash & Young and the like. Does music still have the ability to affect people in that way now, to unite them or even be a force for change do you think, or are we just too fragmented now as a society for that? Discuss!
A: Yes, music still certainly has the ability to unite and be a positive force for change. When we write songs, it's a reflection of our relationship with the realities we live. Some may sound political, but we understand they're our personal narrative, and we present them with positive intentions. One of the greatest feelings is to look out into the audiences over the world and witness how well those positive intentions translate. It only strengthens our faith in music's abilities to unite and heal. And it's artist like Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Sly Stone and many more that have come before and shown us how timeless its positive impact can be.
Q: You’ve been building a serious global fan base, performing at well known US Festivals and the like including Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Outside Lands as well as Fuji Rock in Japan, Montreal Jazz Fest in Canada and North Sea Jazz in the Netherlands and more, while music blog PopMatters called you the “the best new live band in America”. What are the essential ingredients of a great live show, what should people expect to experience if they come to see Con Brio in London?
A: A healthy mind & body (rest, food, water), and our energy & presence with ourselves & the crowd at 100% are all important elements to deliver a good show. Every night varies, but a great live show is a journey we take pride in crafting. We love playing music together and especially love the audiences we get to share it with so people can definitely expect to see and/or have a good time! Good music, good dancing, and everyone in good spirits :)
Con Brio plays in London at the Borderline, Tuesday 12 July & Kew the Music, Wednesday 13 July. Event Tickets are available at MyTicket.co.uk
CON BRIO WEBSITE