The Catalyst

Galactic

Galactic

Con Brio, The Urban Renewal Project

Tue, June 27, 2017

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

The Catalyst

Santa Cruz, CA

$25 in advance / $30 at the door

Off Sale

This event is all ages

Galactic
Galactic
Galactic’s first new studio album in more than three years, ALREADY READY ALREADY – released on their own Tchuop-Zilla Records – sees the renowned New Orleans based instrumental outfit taking a distinctly contemporary approach towards their own progressive sound, interpolating modern rhythms and electronic instrumentation within the house-shaking framework of the Crescent City’s funk pop ‘n’ roll. Produced by the band’s Robert Mercurio and Ben Ellman, the new LP finds Galactic once again enlisting a diverse array of vocal collaborators to assist in their musical exploration, each of whom lend lyrical flavor and individualistic personality to the band’s multi-faceted sonic grooves. Bookended by a high powered pair of trademark Galactic instrumentals that give the album its title, ALREADY READY ALREADY. The album is a short, sharp blast of undeniable creative muscle, from the stripped down kick/snap verses of “Going Straight Crazy,” featuring New Orleans singer (and YouTube sensation) Princess Shaw, to punk cabaret artist Boyfriend’s quirky speed-rap on the breakneck “Dance At My Funeral.” As ever, Galactic’s omnivorous musical interests make easy classification utterly impossible – ALREADY READY ALREADY is as all encompassing and universal as the band’s moniker established long ago.

“I’ve never been able to put a label on what we do,” Ellman says. “I could say it’s funk or I could say it’s R&B or jazz or whatever else, but really, it’s all of that.”

“It’s not that we’re always trying to push boundaries,” says Mercurio, “but we definitely take influence from our hometown and try to do something new with it. We tour all around the world and we’re exposed to tons of elements that filter their way into our consciousness and come out through our music.”

Though their hearts are always in New Orleans, Galactic spends virtually all its life on the road, leaving limited timeframes in which to record. Whenever time allowed, the group holed up at their studio headquarters, Number C, where they were free to experiment and develop new ideas.

“Having our own studio allows to not be on some schedule,” Ellman says, “where we have to have material, save up some money, book the studio, and that’s the time we have to make a record. It’s a completely different process, where we can always be working on music.”

Over time, the tracks revealed themselves as either instrumentals (like the slippery, dub-inflected “Goose Grease”) or vocal songs. The band, so well woven into their city’s ever-changing music scene, began to thumb through their little black book in search of collaborators.

“Our community is so rich with talent,” Ellman says. “We’re just lucky to be in a situation where we can make phone calls, then someone comes to the studio, we kick it, start working on things. It’s all really organic.”

Galactic brought in a diverse array of predominantly young female singers, each of whom brings their own disparate musical tastes and cultural flavor. Working with artists lesser known on the national stage but beloved in their own community enables Galactic to evince a kind of sonic truth about their hometown, putting its multi-faceted underground to the fore.

“Trust me, I loved having Macy Gray and Mavis Staples on our last record,” Mercurio says. “It was an honor to work with them. But there’s something fun about making music with someone not everybody has heard of and end up getting a great reaction to it. There are no preconceived thoughts as to what the song should be like because the listener doesn’t know the artist as well.”

That being said, a number of the voices heard on ALREADY READY ALREADY are Galactic veterans: “Touch Get Cut” features the band’s touring vocalist, Erica Falls, while “Clap Your Hands” is sung by Ms. Charm Taylor, previously featured on 2015’s acclaimed INTO THE DEEP. The lilting “Everlasting Light” teams Galactic with frequent collaborator, The Revivalists’ David Shaw, alongside Nahko of Nahko & Medicine For The People – the only non-New Orleans resident among the features.

As for working with Nahko, Ellman says, “We just liked his vocal.” “Being from New Orleans isn’t a prerequisite for working with us. You never want to be restricted, it’s whatever serves the song best.”

Galactic is, likely even at this very moment, on the road as usual, with Erica Falls putting her own stamp on ALREADY READY ALREADY’s songs as they manifest new shapes through live performance. As if their perpetual tour schedule weren’t enough, Galactic announce the band’s purchase and future stewardship of New Orleans’ legendary Tipitina’s nightclub.

“We’re so incredibly honored to be tasked as the current caretakers of such a historic venue,” says Ellman. “My connection with the club started way before I was lucky enough to take the stage. My first job in New Orleans was at Tipitina’s as a cook in the (now defunct) kitchen. The importance of respecting what Tip’s means for musicians and the city of New Orleans is not lost on us. We’re excited for the future of the club and look forward to all the amazing music and good times ahead.”

With that in mind, it turns out that, despite the lack of released work, the past three years have in fact been remarkably prolific for Galactic. The sessions that yielded ALREADY READY ALREADY will generate still another LP due later in 2019, one which Ellman describes as “possibly more of a throwback thing” but will almost certainly morph into something altogether new and wonderful via Galactic’s evolutionary musical vision.

“There’s no telling what those songs will sound like when we’re through,” Mercurio says. “Once we get in there and start twisting them, see what perks up our ears, stuff can definitely take a left turn. That’s kind of the story of Galactic right there – we’re constantly taking left turns. I wonder what it would be like if we took a right…?”
Con Brio
Con Brio
The night before Con Brio headed into the studio to record their first full-length album, 23-year-old Ziek McCarter had a dream. In it, the singer received a visit from his father, an Army veteran who died at the hands of East Texas police in 2011. His father delivered an invitation: Come with me to paradise.

McCarter woke up with a song in his bones. "It was one of the most spiritual moments of my life," he recalls. It was up to him, he knew, to rise above injustice, and to perform in a way that lifted up those around him as well. To make Con Brio's music a place of serenity, compassion -- even euphoria -- right here on earth.

Paradise, which saw the San Francisco band teaming with legendary producer Mario Caldato Jr. (Beastie Boys, Beck, Seu Jorge), is the result: a declaration of independence you can dance to; an assertion of what can happen when the human spirit is truly free.

Formed in 2013, Con Brio is the offspring of seven musicians with diverse backgrounds but a shared love for the vibrant Bay Area funk and psychedelic-soul sound pioneered by groups like Sly & the Family Stone.

By 2015, when the band self-produced their debut EP, Kiss the Sun, Con Brio had already become a West Coast institution on the strength of their magnetic live show, with McCarter's swiveling hips, splits and backflips earning him frequent comparisons to a young Michael Jackson or James Brown.

After a busy 2015 spent touring the U.S. and Europe, playing alongside veterans Galactic and Fishbone, and racking up critical acclaim on proving grounds like Austin City Limits -- where PopMatters declared Con Brio "the best new live band in America" -- they headed home to parlay their momentum, chemistry and tight live sound into a full-length record.

In an era when much has been made of the "death of the album," there's no question that Paradise, released internationally in summer 2016, is a fully-formed journey -- a trip made all the more immersive by Caldato's raw, live style of production. "We tried to create a narrative in the studio, in the same way that we segue between songs live," explains McCarter of the record's arc.

From the first primal wail of Benjamin Andrews' electric guitar on the title track -- Paradise is bookended by intro and outro versions -- the album tells a story about modern life through its contradictions: "Liftoff" speaks of an urge to fly, to transcend the day-to-day with a starry, bird's-eye view. "Hard Times" brings us crashing back to earth with the struggles of city life, inequality, and a fractured society desperate for healing. "Money" is a revolution, a rejection of societal pressure to equate success with a paycheck and abandon one's dreams in the process.

"Free & Brave," the band's most overtly political anthem, is also arguably its most infectious. Over a driving R&B groove courtesy of veteran rhythm section Jonathan Kirchner and Andrew Laubacher (bass and drums), McCarter name-checks Trayvon Martin and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Clearly inspired by his own personal relationship with police brutality, the song is equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful.

"'Free & Brave' is in part a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, but it was also created to serve as a reminder -- to myself and to whoever finds joy in that song -- that there is a light there. We don't have to get bogged down, we don't have to feel helpless," says McCarter. "We might not see it on a daily basis, but we are still 'the land of the free and home of the brave'...I still take pride in that, in what pieces of joy and happiness we can create here with our actions."

Of course, songs about love and passion remain Con Brio's native tongue. (At a recent Australian festival in which the band shared a bill with D'Angelo, one journalist told McCarter his sex appeal had eclipsed that of his longtime idol. McCarter continues to have no comment.) So it's a refreshing surprise that the strongest love song on Paradise, in fact, is "Honey," a sweet, spacious and vulnerable tune that allows the band's horn section, Brendan Liu and Marcus Stephens, to shine. Though the band's built a reputation on sonic bravado, it's choices like these -- moments in which the music's power flows from its subtlety -- that truly highlight where Con Brio is going.

As for where they're literally going: The second half of 2016 will see Con Brio embarking on an ambitious international touring schedule, including stops at the lion's share of major American music festivals (Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Summerfest and San Francisco's own Outside Lands); Fuji Rock, Japan's largest annual music event; Montreal Jazz Fest, the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; London; Paris; and more.

Which is not to say they're intimidated. After performing most of these songs live throughout the past year, the team is running on adrenaline, and they're thrilled to finally put this record in people's hands. To bring old fans along for the journey, to help new fans lose themselves in a beat or a message. To spread music that, hopefully, shakes away the daily grind -- and nurtures listeners' dreams about what their version of paradise on earth might look like, even for the duration of a song.

Ziek McCarter already knows what his looks like, because Con Brio's building it. And from where he's sitting, they're well past ready for liftoff.

"We don't want to walk, we don't want to drive," he says with a laugh. "We want to fly. We want to levitate."
Venue Information:
The Catalyst
1011 Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA, 95060
http://www.catalystclub.com/