Ziek McCarter has compared the show that Con Brio plans for New Year’s Eve at The Chapel to the band’s Valentine’s Day show just last February. That sold out show had fans climbing over fences trying to sneak in, while others were offering to pay many times the ticket price at the front door. At that point in time, relatively early in their career, people were just starting to get a taste of who Con Brio is, and what they are capable of. From there things just seemed to snowball and the band has been flying high ever since, touring internationally, playing major festivals, and winning nothing but the highest praise from all corners.
The seven piece, fronted by Mr. McCarter is an awe inspiring thing. James Brown rightfully earned the title of Hardest Working Man in Show Business, but let’s just say that Ziek McCarter is truly representing in the 2010s. Benjamin Andrews (guitar), Jonathan Kirchner (bass), Andrew Laubacher (drums), Micah Dubreuil (keyboards), Marcus Stephens (tenor sax), and Brendan Liu (trumpet and constant smile – well, when he’s not playing), are guaranteed to just smash it every time. Opening bands Bayonics (December 30th) and Planet Booty (December 31st) are known to do the same; these two New Year’s parties promise to be a super fun way to bring in 2016.
Wendy Oakes: Con Brio has been touring pretty much non-stop this year. It must be great to come home for a little bit and be able to spend New Year’s Eve here in San Francisco, and for two nights!
Ziek McCarter: Yeah, we haven’t gotten to do a show like this, in this kinda context, since Valentine’s Day; we did our record release at The Independent. It’s always a Con Brio show but this is a Con Brio night. We’ve been touring and playing festivals and opening up for other bands, doing that most of the year, but this is two nights of straight Con Brio; we can set the tone.
Benjamin Andrews: It’s a hometown show that we own. And I get to sleep in my bed for a whole month straight, feel well rested.
WO: You’re known for really bringing the party and so are your openers, Planet Booty and Bayonics. Con Brio and Bayonics were both part of the Sly and the Family Stone tributes that happened this year and last year. Is that how your bands met? It’s good to see you joining forces again.
ZM: Yes, that’s where we met on a personal level, and I instantly became a fan. They’re version of “Sing A Simple Song” gave me the inspiration I needed to go out and have a good time for our performance, as their music is very fun to dance to! Bayonics are also somewhat of a household name in The Mission, so I found it quite fitting being that The Chapel is in that neighborhood. I imagined it would feel like a neighborhood block party inside of the venue, which sounds like a blast to me.
Micah saw Planet Booty at The Independent a few months ago and since has been adamant about doing a show with them. He said they do high energy shows that are fun to watch, so we all followed suit as this is the energy we’d like to set for the night while we bring in the new year.
WO: And you have played The Chapel before; it’s a beautiful venue to celebrate New Year’s in.
BA: I think so.
ZM: It is beautiful, yeah.
WO: Last we talked you were just about to take off on your Endless Summer Tour. Following that you did a stop in Austin, which seemed to go super well for you.
ZM: We did Austin City Limits and we did South By Southwest this year also.
WO: Were both of those festivals firsts for you?
WO: What was your take on them?
ZM: I think we took a lot of hearts. We gained a lot of fans. South By Southwest is what exposed us to Europe; we went to Europe in September. Austin City Limits, we got a lot of great reviews after it, but it was just a good overall experience. We got to see a lot of great bands, just see what’s out there in a larger pool. At Austin City Limits you get to see Foo Fighters, Gary Clark Jr., lotta mainstream people like Alabama Shakes, so you get to see what’s on the market in another context. That was good for us, but we just did what we love to do. It was great.
WO: You mentioned Europe; you got to spend your birthday in Amsterdam. How was that?
ZM: That was phenomenal.
BA: We took the vegetarian to a steakhouse.
WO: Are you vegetarian?
ZM: Pescatarian. It was a great birthday. You know last year I was setting some intentions about the next year, and the next year we were in Europe on my birthday.
WO: Con Brio seems to be all about that, setting intentions.
ZM: Yeah, we set some goals but also still remain open for other possibilities as well.
WO: You just wrapped up a tour with Pimps of Joytime; your last SF show was opening for them at The Fillmore.
BA: It was great. The Fillmore’s great. It always sounds great; people take care of you and for us, being our hometown show, of the handful of times that I’ve played The Fillmore with a couple different bands, that was the most full I’ve seen that place for an opening band. For us it was like, yeah we’re playing the early slot, but that wasn’t like a support gig. We did some shows with them in Phoenix and a couple other cities where we’re not as well known as they are, and it felt more like we’re trying to snag their audience. That’s part of the agenda when you’re cruisin’ around with another band, is to try to get yourself exposed in these new towns, but The Fillmore, to me it felt as much our show as their show. I look out in the crowd and I’m like, I know all these people, even the ones that are there to see the Pimps too, ’cause we’re all part of that scene together. It was our show.
ZM: It was; it was. People who were there, it wasn’t a surprise; they knew what to expect.
WO: You guys have gotten a lot of recognition, especially in this last year. I saw one headline proclaiming you the best live band in the US right now.
BA: I think it had a question mark after it, but yeah. Pop Matters, I think. That was a nice write up after Austin City Limits.
WO: You are great to see live; it’ll be a really positive way to bring in the new year. Following New Years you have Jam Cruise this year. Is that a first for you too?
ZM: That is also a first.
WO: That doesn’t seem like a bad way to….
ZM: To start the new year, right? Straight to Belize on a boat with a bunch of great musicians. I was looking at the lineup today; it’s a lot of dope bands, like Snarky Puppy, lotta bands we’ve heard like Galactic and New Mastersounds and Lettuce….
BA: Lettuce, Soullive, Dr. John’s gonna be on the boat.
ZM: I’m excited to see Snarky Puppy.
WO: What’s happening in the new year? Do you have recording in the plans when you return?
BA: I remember we touched on this last time we talked, about our ambitions for the new record. We were already working on some demos and stuff back then. We’re still writing but we’re looking to have the recording done, tracking done, maybe even have it mixed by the end of next month.
WO: That’s soon.
BA: Yeah, we’re not totally sure who we’re gonna be working with yet but we’ll have this thing out by second quarter of next year, May hopefully. We have more international stuff coming up next year; we wanna give ourselves enough lead time. It’s crunch time with the record for sure. We’ll live up to everything we said about the record in the last interview, I promise!!
WO: What’s coming up internationally?
BA: The Bluesfest in Australia, Easter weekend, Byron Bay. We’re gonna be going to Japan in July. We’re going back to Europe in July and we’ve got a few other things that have yet to be confirmed there, and a lot of festivals. Same thing we’ve been doing this year but in a different capacity.
WO: Australia and Japan, aside from Europe which you’ve been to now. Congratulations, that’s fantastic.
ZM: Thank you. All we need is Africa, and maybe Antarctica and we’ve got it all! Spread the word everybody.