With ’80s-inspired beats, fiercely fun rock anthems and sweat-flying choreography, the Portland, Ore., quartet Con Bro Chill describes its sound as “neon dance pop.”
The brainchild of brothers Connor and Sam Martin, the band, which plays at Harlow’s on Sunday, mashes up the cheetah-print party tunes of LMFAO, the kinetic pop rock of OK Go and the fist-pumping positivity of Andrew W.K.
The Martin brothers’ backstory is almost as unique as their bombastic stage show. Keytar-playing frontman Connor is also a professional lacrosse player (the band’s handle stems from his nickname). Sam is a Berklee College of Music graduate who helped write Maroon 5’s hit ballad “Daylight.”
In 2009, the media-savvy brothers collaborated on a synth pop/rap parody titled “Come to My Party,” complete with a suburban-champagne-dreams video featuring water slides, yacht parties and plenty of ironic costume changes.
YouTube notoriety followed and the brothers decided to take their winking concept to the next level, adding bassist Steve Felts and creative director/“party animal” Ty Andre. The result was more music and videos, as well as merchandise (think neon-colored wrist sleeves) endorsement deals (branded fanny packs with built-in speakers), a Mountain Dew spot and cross-country touring.
While Con Bro Chill’s sound might not be everyone’s cup of rainbows, its hyperactive live shows have won it a fan base – dubbed the “Neon Army” – that extends beyond the Pacific Northwest. The Bee recently caught up with Connor to chat about the band’s Sacramento show and the group’s unusual pedigree.
Con Bro Chill seems to be a mix of ridiculous and earnest.
We don’t take ourselves too seriously. (But) we take our music ... very seriously, putting hours and as much energy into it as possible to try to get it perfectly right. Then what comes out is hopefully people just having fun and thinking only positive thoughts, and not (about) all the crazy, hard, sweat and blood that goes into making all the tracks and videos and stuff.
Videos seem to be a priority for the band. You’ve got a bunch of them on the band’s YouTube channel, and some of them are almost like mini movies. What do you enjoy more, the music side or the video side?
I think the music side is what I like most because when you play it live (in front of) people, it just comes alive. It’s the pinnacle of what we’re all trying to do. The videos are great and we’ve always been good at making videos. But I just love playing and all the energy you get live. I feel very proud of all of the videos. It’s been fun and hilarious that we’ve ... put all that energy into making ridiculous videos.
So a strong visual presence was always part of the plan?
Oh yeah. We’ve looked at indie rock or hip hop, and it’s upbeat music, but it’s always (the musicians) playing their guitar or chilling, and they let their music be the energy. We’ve taken a different approach. We’re going to have music with a lot of energy, but we’re going to have as much or more (visually), and we think that’s a better formula for a show. We play our instruments, but sometimes we just put (them) down and just go party, sort of like how DJs would.
Your brother Sam has some impressive music credentials.
My brother is a world-class musician. … He has two songs with David Guetta coming out and is working with Enrique Iglesias.
He’s a really killer songwriter and a fabulous singer so we try to let (fans) know that we really can play. We can just sit down, play the songs and be really focused, but at the same time, it’s so about the party.
What is your ideal party?
Our ideal party is our show, honestly. Our show – the ebb and flow of it – is the exact party we would want to go to. We put a lot into our performance, lots of choreography, lots of jumping up and down. So you can either get in the pit, and get involved and have people crowd surf on you, and you’ll dance and go crazy, or you can sit back and enjoy the insanity. It’s all about crowd interaction.
People dress up outrageously for your shows. What’s the weirdest outfit you’ve ever seen?
Oh man, well, we wear crazy outfits with Ty in the band because he’s like our visual professional. He’s amazing. And people will show up decked out in the same costumes as us. Every night, there’s someone insane. One time we had our buddy come dressed up in his Burning Man outfit and it was like, not Darth Maul, but it was like a party demon. He had a robe and a staff, and a … mask and it was all painted neon. There are some people that show up looking crazy and some people that just show up in a headband. But most everyone is wearing something stupid so it’s a good way to let your inhibitions down and just have fun.