The Brothers Comatose are one of the most industrious bands to see this summer. Playing what seems to be a never-ending list of tour dates, the band has found itself playing the likes of SXSW, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and perhaps most notably this summer’s Outside Lands – as well as intimate gigs all along the way. The band is prolific in that their common theme of performance at any venue is as follows – starting a hootenanny.
Moxipop got to speak to co-founder and vocalist/guitarist Ben Morrison about the band in a very humbled and astute interview below.
Moxipop: The name Brothers Comatose is no misnomer – you and Alex are literal brothers. How has that dynamic played into the group over the years?
Ben Morrison: Yep. Alex and I are literal brothers. We tend to get along fairly well. When we were much younger we fought a lot – much like siblings do, I suppose. Things calmed down when we started playing music together and though we do argue still and have our brotherly quarrels, things are pretty mellow between us. Funny thing is, though, that I just moved in with him. So, now we will be spending loads of time together. You may want to check back with me in a month or so. You might get a different answer to this question.
MXP: You’ve been described as folk, Americana, bluegrass, you music runs the gamut as far as genres go. What do you categorize your work as?
Morrison: Gah! That’s always a tough one. Most bands usually have a hard time with that. Nobody really wants to categorize themselves. I really have no problem with that and it’s not like what we’re doing is totally far out from what anyone has done before. I just wish we had a clever name to classify our music. We tell people we’re a rowdy string band. I guess that leaves it open to some of the folk, Americana and bluegrass aspects. But we have some pretty stuff thrown in there too, so I guess we’re a rowdy string band with some pretty stuff. If you can come up with a clever name please let me know.
MXP: There’s been a recent pigeonholing for bands that employ banjo, fiddle and mandolin in the realm of hipster acts a la Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers. What do you think distinguishes your sound from these bands?
Morrison: That’s an interesting question. We get some comparisons to those bands, mostly because of the similar instrumentation, but also because they’re part of popular culture now and people like to make comparisons. I think there are a few major differences that set us apart from those bands. First off, our vocal stylings are majorly different and our subject matter is a bit more unconventional. I’d also say we’re a bit rougher around the edges than those bands. We tend to stay away from a lot of the common themes in popular music. It keeps it a little more interesting for us.
Those bands, though, have helped pave the way for bands like ours to gain a little more popularity. Once people started hearing banjo on popular radio, they were more open to bands like us. So, it has been beneficial on our end, bringing acoustic stringed instruments into the spotlight.
MXP: You toured with The Devil Makes Three around the west coast earlier this year. What’s your relationship like with the band and what is it like sharing a stage with them?
Morrison: We love those guys. We were fans of theirs even before we started the band and remain die hards to this day. They write great tunes and they are damn good people to boot. We started opening shows for them probably around 4 or 5 years ago and have been running into them all over the country at different festivals and events. Sometime last year we were all hanging at a festival in Colorado and they said “You guys should come on tour with us some time.” And we said “uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….hell yes!” It all just sort of worked out from there and it was the best tour we’ve ever been part of. Every show was sold out and we got to play to some great rooms full of screaming people. The band was super fun to hang with as well. They hung pretty hard – drinking beers with us and giving us lots of band and life advice. They’re kind of like our musical Yodas.
“I just wish we had a clever name to classify our music. We tell people we’re a rowdy string band.”
MXP: Your 2012 album, Respect The Van is a very frank and honest record with the recurring motif about performing furiously on the road. How has your career changed since then?
Morrison: That album was written when we first started touring and it was sort of a shock to our lives at the time. Being on the road a lot can take its toll on all sorts of things. It becomes a whole different life that you’re living and it kind of puts everything else on hold for a bit. Since then we’ve been continuing on the touring train. It hasn’t changed a whole lot. We got a new van, which is pretty badass. And we’re getting better gigs and opportunities, like the Devil Makes Three tour. So it hasn’t changed drastically. We are just a little more comfortable and playing to a few more people now than we did before. I suppose that’s what you strive for as a band.
MXP: What’s next musically? Is there another album in the works?
Morrison: We’ve been working on tunes for the next album. We’ll be road testing the songs in the coming months and we’ll most likely record later in the summer.
MXP: The Brothers Comatose are playing Outside Lands this summer. How does it feel playing one of the most globally hyped festivals?
Morrison: Uh….playing the same festival as Kanye West? Odd, but sort of awesome. It’s a great festival with tons of talent. We’re stoked to be a part of it.
MXP: What other acts today do you admire or feel deserve more recognition?
Morrison: We have lots of friends in bands that we think are amazing and I’m sure they’ll get the recognition they deserve. One of my favorite bands right now is Lake Street Dive. They’re on their way to becoming huge. We’re gonna be opening some shows for them later in the year and we’re pretty damn excited about that.
MXP: Any final words for the folks coming out to your shows this summer?
Morrison: Bring your chopsticks, bring your friends and let’s have a hoedown dance party. We’re excited to hang out with you all!
Born and raised on classic rock and oldies, Jake Tully consumed music voraciously growing up in Central California. He has his wonderful grandparents to thank for his love of music, as well as the amazing luck to have seen hundreds of concerts in his lifetime. He considers himself an eclectic consumer of all media, and further reading can be found at his blog.