A few months ago, Con Brio guitarist Benjamin Andrews had a revelation: Con Brio is his favorite band—and not just his favorite among those bands that he’s played in—but his favorite in general. He’s making exactly the music he wants to make.
A lot of the recently buzzed-about R&B has sailed off to weirder, electronic places, but Con Brio’s lineage is clearer. The core rhythm section of keyboardist Micah Dubreuil, bassist Jonathan Kirchner and drummer Andrew Laubacher has been playing together since 2009, and after losing their previous singer last year, they added on Andrews and frontman Ziek McCarter.
A rotating horn section rounds out their more traditional instrumentation, but nailing down their sound isn’t too easy. They check funk acts Sly & the Family Stone and Billy Preston as influences, along with Stevie Wonder and neo-soul artist D’Angelo. Really, these guys just sound tight, completely put together, and Andrews knows it.
“I’ve never had such a complete package,” he says.
An integral part of the package is McCarter—Con Brio’s charismatic, multi-talented frontman. He can croon, he can wail and he’s got moves. He cites entertainers like Prince, Bob Fosse, and James Brown as the inspiration for his stage presence.
“I’ve been dancing since I was 2,” McCarter says. “I was kind of kid that would set up a camera, dance an hour straight and go back and watch it. I’m always asking, ‘How can I tell a story with my moves?’”
To get a sample of McCarter’s ability, go online and watch one of the band’s shows at San Francisco vintage-and-antique store, Viracocha. During a rendition of “Never Be the Same,” a song from their forthcoming EP, McCarter glides across the stage, executes spins, shimmies and at one point nails a perfectly timed drop split, James Brown-style.
McCarter’s impressive footwork compliments the invigorating power of songs like “Give It All” from their forthcoming EP, Kiss the Sun, (due out in January).The song is bursting at the seams with energy—especially when the triumphant horn section builds to McCarter’s high falsetto and Andrew’s wicked guitar solo.
McCarter says the song, co-written with Dubreuil, started out as an ode to a passionate long distance relationship before turning into a conduit for channeling the spirit of his father, who was shot and killed—while unarmed—by a police officer in 2011. “I was my father singing to my mother,” he says. “It transformed into a hybrid of both.”
“It’s ecstatic, man,” Andrews said. “Everybody is sweating half way through the intro and I don’t even know why. It’s not cardio, it’s energy.”
Con Brio plays the Poor House Bistro in San Jose on Nov. 14.