CBS has chosen an addictive dance track to get viewers excited about its new lineup: Will Arnett bangs on a glitter-filled snare drum as “NCIS: New Orleans” star Scott Bakula lip-syncs the titular lyrics “We should hang out!” It’s a party montage of sorts, with the likes of Tea Leoni, Lucy Liu and Tom Selleck getting pumped for the network’s sitcoms and crime procedurals. And it’s all set to the addictive beats of Lake Oswego’s own party anthem virtuosos, Con Bro Chill.
Lakeridge High School graduate Connor Martin says the somewhat-eponymous band started out as a family affair — and something of a joke. With the help of his older brother, Sam, an accomplished musician, keytar player Martin made music videos that skewered the “lax bro” — or “lacrosse brother” — lifestyle.
For the uninitiated — which is to say, those outside traditional or West Coast ivies — the “lax bro” subculture reappropriates surfer-speak vocabulary: “bro,” sure, but also gems like “gnarly” and “stoked.” It also takes from this era its playful but strangely dated sartorial sense, with lax bro adherents favoring colorful beachwear. The subculture is so pronounced that a recent article in the niche periodical “Inside Lacrosse” bemoaned: “The Lax Bro Culture is Holding Back Lacrosse.”
Martin spent much of high school and his time at Chapman University in California more or less immersed in this world. An accomplished athlete, he is a two-time recipient of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association Player of the Year Award and currently a player in the major leagues. So when he was inspired to embark on his musical journey, even jokingly, it was perhaps natural that he would enlist his brother to help him create, as he says, “a caricature of a lax bro who would announce to the world his ‘Search for Flow.’”
But if Con Bro Chill started out as a parody of the lax bro culture starring “Con’s lacrosse alter ego,” Martin says the joke only lasted about three months. It has since morphed into its own entity.
With Sam and the addition of childhood friend and fellow Lakeridge alum Ty Andre and former college roommate Steve Felts, Martin says, “We started making music and kind of turned into this entertainment supergroup. We combined power, and now you have Con Bro Chill.”
Sure, there a lot of equestrians and lacrosse people in their fan base, Martin allows. “But the foundation? We’re trying to write awesome songs, with upbeat music,” he says.
That simple mission has led to an enduring popularity, and enough YouTube views to attract the attention of at least one major network — hence the primetime plug.
“It’s really about celebrating at a high level — bright colors and high intensity. I think the word we use is ‘playful,’ very self-deprecating. We’re not rock stars. We think that’s more funny than the whole ‘I’m so sexy, you’ve got to have this’ (element) that a lot of pop culture has.”
Con Bro Chill fans are called the Neon Army, and the band offers merchandise ranging from fringed arm bands to “jammy packs” — fanny packs equipped with built-in speakers.
Together, the bandmates have forged a dayglo-colored mythology that permeates hits like “Party Animal,” “Dance Thief” and “Power Happy.”
The accompanying music videos are filmed in a fluorescent-hued landscape of trampolines and disco balls, where the unofficial uniforms include hallmarks of early-’90s fashion, like B.U.M.-brand sweatshirts and Zubaz pants, accented by glowstick necklaces and the occasional pastel luchador mask.
But the videos take place near tell-tale waterfalls and videos which set them squarely in the Portland metro area.
There is a sense of indulgence in the Con Bro Chill world, but it’s not unhealthy. Drug and alcohol references are notably absent from the hedonistic lifestyle the band seems to cheekily promote, and Con Bro Chill’’s brightly-colored, bacchanalian odysseys around Portland by party bus are characterized by goofy choreography and an all-ages inclusivity.
After all, the members of Con Bro Chill have long enjoyed community support for their colorful endeavors.
“Half our videos are shot at Lakeridge,” Martin admits.
“It was a great place to grow up,” he says of Lake Oswego. “Our neighborhood, our parents — we weren’t super bad kids, so we kind of got to do what we wanted, we got to take risks,” Martin explains. “Enough of our community was supportive of going after dreams like this. No one ever gave us grief for making videos.”
The band is currently packed into a van and on a 16-city tour that will take them through Washington, Nevada, Utah, Colorado — and Oregon, of course. After all, the members of Con Bro Chill have long enjoyed community support for their colorful endeavors.