A lot of soul, even more fire 

Con Brio is a young San Francisco R&B band with ancient way of thinking

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - With Spirit Soul and R&B band Con Brio perform a the GLC.
  • Photo submitted
  • With Spirit Soul and R&B band Con Brio perform a the GLC.

Ziek McCarter is one heck of a gifted frontman.

The 21-year-old singer of San Francisco soul outfit Con Brio croons in the tradition of the best showmen like James Brown or Bruno Mars.

And the seductive side of soul is not far off in the band's songs like "A Sex Supreme" and "Temptation's Talking."

But a phone interview catches McCarter in a decidedly different place. He's watering his garden, part of his day job as an assistant gardener for a non-profit called Community Grows.

"We work in different elementary schools. We teach garden education in low-income communities. We have two gardens and chickens," McCarter says.

"It keeps me level. I've loved nature my whole life. I'm from Texas. I always knew I was going to do music and that lifestyle; I think it is sensationalized that it has to be unhealthy and this is how I keep it healthy."

And he sings for the youngsters he teaches.

"They have a piano. Today a kid walked in to the auditorium and said 'Is that your song?' I said 'Yeah.' He said 'That's good!'"

McCarter has been with the Community Grows for the last three years and with Con Brio for two years.

This is McCarter's and the band's first trip to Canada.

They perform at the Garibaldi Lift Company on Friday, Feb. 6.

With a reminder of the show, McCarter is very quickly out of the garden and back onstage.

"I hear a lot of great things about Canada. Is it really cold right now? Is it snowing right now, do I have to bring my mink?" he says. "I just want to pack the right clothes."

They are touring the Pacific Northwest to back up their debut EP, Kiss the Sun, which was released earlier this week.

McCarter says: "Kiss the Sun was a concept I came up with that sums up the relationship we all have with our craft and with one another. It plays off the allegory of The Cave, do you know about that?"

Um, remind me.

McCarter tells a paraphrased story of two people in a cave behind a rock. (Turns out this is a tale originally told by the Greek philosopher Socrates and repeated by his pupil Plato.)

McCarter says: "They're on the dark side of the rock and this is where they were born and raised. One day one of them gets the courage to step out and see what's on the other side of the rock and step outside of the cave. He had to go through pain because his eyes had to readjust to the light of the sun and they had to break through the fears of the unknown to get out into the light.

"It was liberating for that one person. He tried to come back into the cave to tell the people to look on the other side of the rock, there's a better life over here. And they were, like, wanting to stay with what they'd known their whole lives."

Wikipedia tells a more detailed version, but, wow, it's fun to meet a young singer who reaches back to the classics.

The point of Kiss the Sun, McCarter concludes, is to encourage people to "operate outside of the ordinary and try to experience the other side of ourselves and one another."

A full LP is currently being made, McCarter did not get into the philosophy behind it.

In terms of the music, McCarter says they wouldn't call their sound traditional soul.

"It's actually a kind of crazy genre of music. We're considered soul and R&B, but we also have elements of rock music, country, disco and hip hop. We have a lot of jazz influences. We try to bring a lot of flavours and make it more modern," he says.

Con Brio's keyboardist, Micah Dubreuil, says in an interview that they plan to "bring it for sure" to Whistler.

"We have such a good time making music. We're excited to take it on the road," Dubreuil says. "We haven't really been able to travel outside of the Bay Area. It will be the first time the band is leaving the country."

He says McCarter is the flamboyant core of the band.

"He certainly gets to be the centre of attention. The moment I can do the splits, maybe I can be it. But really it's about crafting music that's we're really invested in. All of us have ownership over the band and because of that we want to give 110 per cent."

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