Con Brio’s name comes from a sheet music term that means “with spirit,” something the band’s seven members take literally whenever they take the stage. “It indicates to play that section of that song like you mean it,” frontman Ziek McCarter says. “It became a philosophy. Do it like you mean it or don’t do it at all.” McCarter and his bandmates embrace the former, performing a high-energy blend of genres that’s easy to dance to and even easier to fall for. On Friday, Con Brio teams up with New Orleans funk band Galactic for a show at 9:30 Club. Here’s how the band got there.
A lifelong dream
As a kid growing up in Houston, McCarter knew he wanted to be a performer. “I’ve been singing and entertaining since I was 2. It’s always been a passion of mine,” the 24-year-old says. “I’d set up a camera on a table and perform to Michael Jackson, Marvin [Gaye], whatever. … That’s where it started — always singing and dancing.” After high school, he moved to San Francisco and immersed himself in the Bay Area music scene. Over time, he got to know the musicians who would eventually unite as Con Brio. The band officially formed in 2013, released the EP “Kiss the Sun” in 2015, toured hard, swapped out keyboard players and in January 2016 went into the studio to record a debut album.
Last July, Con Brio dropped that full-length debut, “Paradise,” which showcases the band’s potent mix of funk, soul, psych rock and pop. Lyrically, McCarter preaches a positive message, and he’s not afraid to address social issues. One track in particular, “Free & Brave,” is about police brutality and was inspired by the loss of his father, who was shot and killed by law enforcement in East Texas in 2011. “I responded to that like, well, I can be a bitter, angry person [or I can] move forward and manifest the destiny that is mine and that my father instilled within me,” he says. “It’s really just trying to keep people hopeful and keep the faith for myself.”
Your new favorite band
Con Brio truly excels onstage and is, perhaps, the perfect festival act. The band’s music is diverse enough to appeal to almost anyone (especially a passerby popping in without knowing the group) and the members have an undeniable stage presence. McCarter is the ultimate showman, bouncing around the stage with high-energy dance moves, using the mic stand as a prop and often taking his shirt off. Combine that with the rest of the band, and their energy and enthusiasm becomes infectious. “We still play [our songs] like we just wrote ’em yesterday, we’re so stoked about it,” he says. “That’s probably what you’re feeling live. We love to play with one another, we love to play for these audiences.” Consider this a warning: See Con Brio live and it may become your new favorite band. McCarter, for his part, just wants fans new and old to feel something after watching the group perform. “I hope people get whatever it is that feeds their soul,” he says.
9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; Fri., 8 p.m., $30.