You know Con Bro Chill is readying for a video shoot when it looks like a rainbow exploded in the band’s garage. Neon-colored duct tape—a motif running through the five YouTube hits it’s already produced—is as crucial to the group’s existence as any instrument, and right now the quartet’s cluttered Sellwood practice space is littered with strips of hyper-bright blue, pink and green. The concept of the video it’s preparing to film, for the dance-rock opus “Dance Thief,” involves a race of groove-hating aliens who’ve stolen Portland’s rhythm, and it’s up to the synth-pop foursome to get it back. Props include big toy laser guns, to which it plans to affix Roman candles, and a fleet of “gyro-stabilized electric unicycles” called Solowheels. To demonstrate, Connor Martin—Con Bro Chill’s tall, sharp-jawed mastermind and namesake—balances on the contraption’s pedals and rolls down the driveway, his long blond mane flowing behind him.
“Pretty ridiculous, huh?” he yells while doing figure eights in the street.
My thoughts exactly. Ridiculousness is Con Bro Chill’s stock-in-trade. The band’s music is a high-fructose blend of OK Go’s hyperactive power pop and the garish party rock of LMFAO. Its live shows have the sugar-rush energy of a Saturday-morning cereal commercial. Its primary instrument is a keytar. And if that weren’t enough, its singer moonlights as a professional lacrosse player. It’s outlandish, and maybe a bit obnoxious, a fact that isn’t lost on the group’s members. They’re silly and they know it. But that doesn’t mean the band is an ironic goof. Instead, Con Bro Chill embraces the Andrew W.K. philosophy of orgiastic optimism: Its message is to love life, and it leads by extreme example.
“We take fun very seriously,” Martin says.
Still, Martin admits the project began as little more than a one-off joke. That’s clear if you watch the first Con Bro Chill video, “Come to My Party.” Martin and his brother Sam—a Berklee College of Music graduate who penned a single for the most recent Maroon 5 album—wrote the bro’d-out hip-hop parody in 2009 and shot the clip, featuring water slides, yacht parties and Connor dressed as a leprechaun, on a whim. Fueled by Connor’s niche celebrity as a midfielder for Major League Lacrosse franchise the Ohio Machine, the video hit 100,000 views (it currently has more than 1 million). Its popularity convinced the Martins to go legit, recruiting Connor’s college roommate Steve Felts to play bass and childhood friend Ty Andre to serve as creative director.
Since taking the band live last year, Con Bro Chill has grown an oddly devout following, seemingly without the rest of the Portland music scene noticing. Part of that has to do with the fact that, thanks to its YouTube fame, the group skipped straight to playing midsize rooms like the Hawthorne Theatre. But it’s also because a band like Con Bro Chill was never going to appeal to the city’s straight-faced tastemakers. It’s cool with that, though.
“We’re not going to play Doug Fir, probably, and we’re not going to play a Sunday Session at Rontoms. But we’re going to play Wonder Ballroom,” Andre says. “We just were forced into it. We’re not going to play Ash Street Saloon. We can’t fit our props in there.”
“We don’t fit,” Connor adds. “Physically, we don’t fit into half the venues in town.”
SEE IT: Con Bro Chill plays the Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell St., on Saturday, Dec. 22. 8 pm. $10 advance, $15 day of show. All ages.