Meet San Francisco-based Con Brio
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Bud Light Rocks the Boat Free Concert Series continues on at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14, with series favorite Con Brio, San Francisco-based soul, psych-rock and R&B seven-piece. The band features Ziek McCarter on vocals, Brendan Liu on trumpet, Marcus Stephens on tenor saxophone, Benjamin Andrews on guitar, Patrick Glynn on keyboards, Jonathan Kirchner on bass and Andrew Laubacher on drums.
Explore Steamboat chatted with Liu to hear more about what Con Brio’s been up to since the last time they played the Steamboat Stage.
Explore Steamboat: How did Con Brio get together?
Brendan Liu: This band had been in existence for a decade and has gone through iterations, but this “Con Brio 4.0” started in 2014. The true original members are our bassist and drummer; they’d all met at a jam session doing a blues/soul review type show in San Francisco. We all knew each other from being in the San Francisco music scene, which isn’t that big if you’ve been doing it for a few years. We got the right group of guys together. It was a process of meeting everyone and finding the right guys to be a touring band.
ES: Con Brio features seven musicians each with a different musical background. How does the band balance all of those differences in genres?
BL: All of us are pretty different in terms of what we like. We all come from different musical backgrounds and levels of training, yada yada, but that makes it better, not worse. So, I have more of a jazz background; our bassist and drummer come from a blues/folk/rock scene. It’s hard to pinpoint genres, but in our music, you hear soul, folk, rock and jazz. I usually just tell people we do dance music, which can mean different things.
What: Bud Light Rocks the Boat Free Concert Series presents Con Brio
When: 3:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 14
Where: Gondola Square, 2305 Mount Werner Circle
ES: Your debut album, “Paradise,” delved into topics including the Black Lives Matter movement and inequalities across the U.S. That was released in 2016; now, four years later, has the way the band thinks and talks about these issues changed? If so, how?
BL: Yes and no. I think it’s changed in the same way that the political climate has changed. We have a song that we haven’t released that has some commentary about the current administration. I think when we wrote these tunes, we didn’t want to be a political band because that’s not really our goal, to be any sort of face of that. But it’s still something we talk about on a regular basis, and it definitely comes across in a lot of our songs. Our last album wasn’t as oriented in that way, but it’s still something that’s part of our lives. The music we make, we try to bring what’s going on in our lives. It’s not just making music to party.
ES: At the end of a Con Brio show, what do you hope the audience has learned or gained from having been part of it?
BL: At the end of the night, we hope everyone’s had a good time. As a band, we’re having a ton of fun on stage. I think and would hope that that translates to the audience. When I perform, I want to have an audience where they’re not intimidated to be themselves in front of strangers. From the start, we try to encourage that. Like, let’s make this an experience. In the same way that yoga is an experience for everyone, it’s not just the instructor instructing — that’s the kind of vibe we go for.
ES: If someone has never heard Con Brio play before, what three songs would you recommend they listen to to get a feel for your music?
BL: “High Spirits,” from our latest record, “Kiss the Sun” and “Can’t Get Enough.”
ES: What in the band’s near future are you most looking forward to? BL: We’re releasing a new album fairly soon; we don’t have an exact date, but we’ve been working on it for a while. We’ve done two albums before this, and an EP, and I feel like this (upcoming album) has been the biggest for us in terms of our own growth, and I’m very excited for what’s to come. On each of the two previous albums, we worked with a producer outside of the band that we hadn’t had any prior relationship with; those were both great experiences. But for this one, we said, “What would it be like to just put it all on our own shoulders?” I can’t speak for everyone in the band, but for myself, it’s been extremely gratifying to be able to do that — to take everything we learned from the past albums put it into a project that’s 100% from the guys in the band, all on our own. It’s also extremely empowering to take the process into our own hands. It’s been awesome and really rewarding and fun and sometimes infuriating, with each of us having so much control of the creative process, but I think it’s made for some of the strongest work we’ve created. I’ve never felt prouder of a Con Brio project than I have of this album.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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