ALL STRUNG OUT
Californian bluegrass exponents The Brothers Comatose are constantly on the road, visiting interesting places and mixing lifestyle with their job as working musicians. On the back of their appearance at this year’s Dashville Skyline festival, Chris Familton caught up with singer/guitarist Ben Morrison to find out more.
They might have a name that sounds like a narcotic-glazed psych rock or dark folk group but The Brothers Comatose are quite the opposite. They’re a string quintet who trade in upbeat country, folk and bluegrass. It’s old-timey with a contemporary feel as founding member Ben Morrison explains.
“We never wanted to be the band wearing suspenders and vests. It felt inauthentic and we were all in rock bands growing up, listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers, hip hop and stuff. We just accidentally happened upon the instruments we play and so we just formed around those and sing the same things we did in rock bands. We’ve never ploughed a field in our lives so we can’t write about that. We just dress on stage in what we normally wear, we just represent ourselves and be authentic about it.”
The band have a knack for finding different places to play and ways to get there. Recently they curated the second year of their Sierra Nevada festival Comatopia, journeyed to Alaska for the first time and are currently planning a tour via horse-back.
“Alaska was amazing. So few bands go there. It’s a long plane flight so the people that live there are really appreciative of music. They were shaking our hands and thanking us. They love string bands up there too so we fit right in. We did Salmonfest and one other show and then took vacation going fishing and things. We’ve got some crazy shit ahead of Australia. We’re doing a horse tour – riding to gigs and filming a mini-movie on the way. We finish that and then fly straight to Australia so hopefully after the shows we’ll get to hang out and see a few things there too,” enthuses Morrison.
With their most recent album City Painted Gold released back in March, the band are already writing for the next one and continuing to explore the more collective approach to writing and arranging that began on that album.
“It gave a different flavour, adding different blood into the songwriting. We spent longer in the studio too so could take more time to work on ideas when we were in there. We’re already working on the songs for the next album and everyone is contributing again which is cool.”
“You can’t take things too seriously or shit gets weird,” laughs Morrison. A part-time musical hobby has now become a full-time job for the band but they still value their shared experiences of fun and adventure. “That’s what has made it work for the eight years we’ve been a band. If we’re not touring we’re rehearsing, working on clips, practicing vocals. It has become a job and some days it feels like that but the shows never ever feel like that. Playing shows is the big payoff.”
And that band name? It refers to Ben’s brother Alex, whose eyes roll into the back of his head when he plays banjo. “We weren’t sure about it at first but there are a lot of weird band names out there so we just stuck with it.”