I recently got a chance to interview several artists while at Lollapalooza’s 25th Anniversary, last weekend here in my hometown of Chicago and one of the more interesting and extended ones is when I got a chance to talk with new funk band and fast rising stars Con Brio. Just hours after they performed on the Lake Shore stage last Friday as one of the very first acts of the day, I got a chance to sit and talk with two of the band’s members, Ben Andrews and Marcus Stephens. The guitarist and horn player of the group. We talked about their recently released debut album, Paradise, what the process was like working on the album, what sports they are interested in and how they rank Lollapalooza among the many festivals they have played at so far. Check out my interview with these two very talented musicians below and get to know some things you may not have knew about them before.
Nello for TheHipHopDemocrat.com to Con Brio members Ben Andrews and Marcus Stephens: My name is Nello Rubio, I’m with http://TheHipHopDemocrat.com. Nice to meet you guys.
Ben of Con Brio: Pleasure, I’m Benjamin. This is Marcus of Con Brio.
Nello: You guys recently put out your debut album, Paradise. I recently got a chance to listen to it and I like a lot of what you guys are doing. It seems like it is a little bit more funk based in it and even maybe like a little bit Prince influenced.
Ben: Yeah, a little bit of that in there.
Nello: Who were some of the other influences you guys had while making the album?
Ben: So let’s start recently. We are big fans of Sly and The Family Stone and that definitely runs deep in what we do. I think on a personal level Prince, as far as a guitarist has been a real big influence on what my approach is to this band, but if you really listen to the record. There is a lot of diversity on their. There is some songs. Like, mellow love song ballads. Shot it is kind of all over the place. So if you take a case by case, with song for song, you can point some things out. That last D’Angelo record, I was glued to that for about a year. So I know some of that snuck in there. I’m a big fan of the kind of jazz, funk side of what I guess I call the jam bands like Soul Live, Lettuce, and there’s a lot of Hip-Hop influence in that, that’s kind of taking it where it isn’t just one genre. So I guess that is what we are trying to do.
Nello: Like I said I know a lot of it’s funk based, but also like you said it’s kind of also all over the place. You guys have been doing a lot of festivals and shows I seen. Do you guys planning on doing anymore tours after this or do you guys think you are just going to take a little bit of a break?
Marcus of Con Brio: I don’t see a break coming anytime soon. I mean we gotta strike while the iron is hot. So are management and booking team have been doing a great job of keeping us busy and putting us in front of the right crowds and the right people. Yeah, so we are willing to work all year round.
Ben: In the winter during the tourist season is kind of when things start to slow down. I think we are working on doing some more stuff in the Southern Hemisphere. So by the time things really slow down here, like after New Year’s, it might be picking right back up for us. We might not really have a break at all.
Nello: Yeah, the album plays really well with your live show.
Ben: You really think so?
Ben: I think everybody, including people in the band agrees, that the live show is what’s up. You know, but the two can operate simultaneous.
Marcus: Yeah, this last record definitely is our best representation of were we are today.
Nello: Do you guys have anything new music you are working on now during or after the tour?
Marcus: I mean we try to as much as we can, but it is hard to write on the road. Just because there is always some place to be and you know you are trying to sleep when you can and I think everybody has it in the back of their head to make it a priority again. To at least be working on the next record at the beginning of next year. You know just kind of chip away at some of the material we already have on standby. I don’t know if we will have another record out next year or not, but we are always going to be working at it.
Ben: You can’t just sit or rest on your laurels.
Nello: What was the process like for you guys while making the record?
Marcus: So before we actually went into the studio. We had, I would say 90% of it completed. We had just been playing the songs at the shows and festivals. Then we went through a list of producers that we may want to work with and one of the producers in particular was really excited and willing to work with us. It is Mario Caldato Jr., who has produced a bunch of Beastie Boys records, and he is just a sweet guy. Man he was just really easy to work with.
Ben: Tone Loc.
Marcus: Yeah, you know, Tone Loc, Beastie Boys. He was really attentive to our needs and our process. So it was great.
Nello: Besides the music, what else are you guys into. Are you into like sports or anything like that?
Marcus: I’m a huge Bay Area sports fan. You guys, the Reds, (I was wearing a Reds fitted) took it to us (the San Francisco Giants) a couple of days ago. But my main sport of interest for sure is football. I watch any kind of football when it’s on television.
Nello: Yeah, I actually went to school downtown at Columbia here and got my Bachelor’s degree in an Interdisciplinary Study of Sports Journalism and Marketing.
Marcus: Oh, nice.
Nello: Yeah, so I have always been a huge sports fan myself growing up. Especially here in the Chicago area. As you know we have such a big sports town. Everybody always asks me about anything that’s going on cause I’m the one to go to. I like all the Chicago sports teams too. The only ones I don’t really like or follow are the Bears and the Cubs because growing up Randy Moss was my favorite. So I was Vikings and Raiders really growing up.
Marcus jokingly: You know you look a little like Randy Moss.
Nello and Marcus: Start laughing from that joke.
Marcus: If you are into Sports Journalism, there is a really great station in the Bay, called KMBR. You gotta to really check it out. Those guys are great.
Nello: Yeah, I have been wanting to get out to San Francisco for some time, but haven’t gotten a chance to. How do you guys like it out their?
Ben: Marcus is from the Bay originally.
Marcus: Yeah, born and raised.
Ben: You know, I have scouted around a little bit, but I ended up back their. I’m from Southern California originally, I ended up back in San Francisco about eight years ago. It has definitely felt like home the entire time, but we don’t spend to much time their anymore. So, I don’t really know how it is. It has got a very specific charm, a very specific brand of weirdo. The music community is real tight, their is just a lot of shit shaking down. A great arts community, hopefully still. It’s cool, but there is no place like it. That’s for sure.
Nello: Yeah, from what I get from a lot of other people it seems like it is like that were it has real artsy type vibes and stuff.
Marcus: Absolutely. I mean it’s definitely a good place. Like where creativity is promoted and something new and different is welcome most of the time, unless it’s like incredibly wack.
Nello: Yeah cause besides you guys I know, I’m not sure if she is from San Francisco or Oakland, but Kehlani, who played yesterday, is from the Bay Area, if I’m not mistaking.
Ben: Who’s that?
Marcus: Oh, yeah, she’s a singer, she’s from Oakland. She is gorgeous.
Nello: Yeah, speaking of that. Is there any people you had as celebrity crushes growing up?
Marcus: Paula Abdul.
Ben: Yeah, I think everybody had a crush on Paula Abdul. I think I still do.
Marcus: Yeah, but she might be kind of crazy.
Ben: I had a Gwen Stefani moment when I was in high school. I didn’t even like that band.
Nello: So how have you guys enjoyed the experience at Lolla here so far?
Ben: Yeah, I mean I kind of wish we could stick around for more of the weekend. Just hang out and see what’s up, but we gotta do this other late night party thing after this and then we will drive and be on to the next thing. So sometimes we get to stay and hang out, but tonight is not one of those nights. It’s all business.
Nello: How would you rank this so far as the festivals you have done?
Ben: I mean it seems great. It’s well run. Everything has been sounding great. I like how the AVs are set up all over the place. I mean it’s definitely a real run festival. I’m sure it is going to get wild later. So like on a scale of 1-5, 4 1/2. Is that fair?
Marcus: I agree.
Nello: So you guys would love to come back, if you guys were asked to come back again?
Ben: Yeah, I’m sure we would.
Marcus: I love this town. This town is great.
Ben: Yeah, Chicago has treated us great. The few other times we have been here too.
Nello: So you guys have been here to Chicago and played here a few times before?
Ben: Yeah, we did the Taste of Randolph. We did a couple of club dates too I think.
Nello: Yeah, I have heard that this is a really good run festival too. I always wanted to check out myself, but never got a chance to.
Marcus: Yeah, it’s a good one so much food.
Nello: That’s what I have heard is that there is lots of food and that there is so many options.
Ben: The bands were all good. They use their talent budget wisely. I don’t know, but I think it is actually the same production company, that work on this festival.
Marcus: C3 or something like that.
Ben: But yeah, it’s pretty top notch.
Nello: While, that’s it thanks for the interview and thanks for your time. Be sure to check out the website and spread the word.