The 25th annual Lollapalooza kicked off in Chicago’s Grant Park Thursday, paving the way for new artists, old favorites and everything in between to come together for a massive, jam-packed festival.

The Badger Herald had the opportunity to preview Con Brio, a raw soulful group with energy in every sense of the word. No stranger to big festivals, frontman Ziek McCarter spoke with us about their upcoming Friday performance, their debut album Paradise and the method behind the music.

The following interview was edited for style and clarity.

Badger Herald: Is there a way that you compose an arrangement or compose a melody that has a live feeling to it?

Ziek McCarter: We don’t necessarily go in the studio thinking we want to recreate what we do live. What we do live completely depends on the elements. You got the element of the audience, you got the element of the weather, of the view or how you’re feeling that day. In the studio, you try to create something that’s timeless, that can be enjoyed in more than just a live setting. You can enjoy it in the kitchen cooking lunch, you can enjoy it taking your kids to school, you can enjoy it at work. Just trying to create a sonic ballad that can be enjoyed in different settings.

BH: You mentioned “timeless,” which brings me to my next question. For you, is there a line between being inspired by something and being derivative of it?

ZM: There’s definitely a difference. We’re not trying to regurgitate what’s already been done. We’ve been inspired by a lot of great artists — it’s kind of hard to ignore them. It’s inspired our sound — it’s funk, it’s rhythm and blues. Some rock influence. All of the great music that’s associated with that sound or that instrument, it could have been inspired by all the greats that have done it.

BH: “Paradise” definitely has a lot of strong political messages in it, both in just the actual lyrics that you write and in the emotional qualities of the music. Is that you speaking through your art, or do you think it’s the role of an artist to do that anyway?

ZM: That’s just me, it’s all just a personal standpoint and inspired by personal experience. I think it’s an artist’s job to be an artist. Everyone’s trying to do different jobs and everyone’s trying to talk about the topics I’m talking about. But I talk about those because it’s my personal experience. I’ve lived through most, if not all, of the lyrics on that album.

BH: In terms of the actual music, do you think the music contributes to those messages and narratives as well? Or is it the music that’s matching the lyrics, or contributing something else the lyrics don’t?

ZM: I think it’s all making a gesture in the same direction. Musically, lyrically, emotionally — they all go together. Some songs had lyrics that came first, some songs had music that came first. Sometimes you just listen to the music and it tells you what it wants to say.

BH: For people who are planning on seeing you, or people who are on the fence, do you have anything special planned or any surprises?

ZM: I will say this: if somebody’s on the fence, just know Con Brio’s been touring since beginning of June. Right now, this is a really good window to see the show because we’re all wound up [laughs]. There will be a lot of dancing, a lot of sweat and a lot of positive energy.