About The Brothers Comatose
“The good thing about a string band, is that things tend to culminate with dancing rather than elbows flying in a mosh-pit, ” says Gio Benedetti of the Brothers Comatose. The original members of the quintet with brothers Alex and Ben Morrison, bonded at the Morrison family acoustic music parties before taking a youthful foray into punk and rock bands and ultimately circling back to the music they learned in that living room. They credit both beginnings for the attitude of their current music, and as a testament to their skillful energy – they have already played the major festivals including the esteemed Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, The Strawberry Festival and High Sierra. On the new album, Respect The Van out May 22, their music is not a wavering mélange of assorted styles, but decided and strong bluegrass-influenced folk rock.
With the addition of members Philip Brezina (fiddle) and Ryan Avellone (mandolin) the band aims “to offer a damn good time, with a no-bullshit style that we found in those original living room parties and our live shows, ” says Ben. “We tracked everything for the album live in one big room – treating the studio like a stage, ” he explains.
As for the name, only a brother could pick it out by observing his sibling. Guitarist and vocalist Ben said when brother Alex Morrison (banjo and vocals) goes into a trance-like state while playing his banjo, “his eyes roll back in his head like he’s in a coma. ” It’s certainly not indicative of their music, which doesn’t have any of the indulgent noodling breaks characterized by other string based bands; though the musicianship is solidly there, it’s given with a communal and inclusive spirit to sing and dance along to. Now, at live shows the San Francisco band is known for handing out chopsticks to the audience for participatory percussion on whatever surface is closest.
And while the music is strong and clear, there are some serious themes as in the lead track “Modern Day Sinners, ” a Guthrie inspired populist sing-along with shades of 50’s R&B and doo-wop in the harmonies and feel. “I wanted to call ‘bullshit’ of the type of politician or fat radio host that’s giving advice while living a terrible and shameful life, ” says bassist and vocalist Gio.
“Scout” was written by Ben as part of “The 52 week club, ” a songwriting group that sends out theme a week as a writing prompt. “It my first contribution. I wrote it from an autobiographical perspective of a young boy scout hanging out with his grandpa, ” shares Ben. “My grandpa was a nice man some of the time, but could also just be bitter and I always wondered what he was so angry about. This song is about the young scout hanging onto his youth and and hoping to keep that spirit at the end. “
“120 East” is a harmonic ode to the brotherhood of a band, written about The Brothers Comatose’s journey to and from The Strawberry Music Festival. “I wanted to capture the sense of being with your best friends, of being willing to trust them and follow them anywhere, ” says Gio.
The band wrote a raucous, fiddle tune ode to their 1988 Chevy G20 tour van and called it, fittingly, “The Van Song. ” “Phil wrote all the instrumental melodies and it didn’t have any official lyrics for a long time, ” says Gio. “It saw two rowdy live performances where we all just made up verses on the spot. We finally wrote some real lyrics, and had to record it – we love our van in a way that is border-line obsessive. “
“Morning Time” is Ben’s folk-country duet with breakout artist Nicki Bluhm. “It tells of the ever present struggles between man and woman – the guy wants to maintain his life in the big city with all of its late nights, bustle and craziness and the woman is ready for a mellower life. It’s a compromise and ultimately setting aside some quality time in the morning to spend together, ” shares Ben.
“Feels Like The Devil” is a drop-tuned, resonator-driven shit-kicker that would be at home on any bluegrass stage, while “Pennies are Money Too” is an old-timey instrumental that well illustrates the band’s musicianship.
Despite their name, the band is anything but Comatose. “It’s just one, big, extended Morrison music party, ” they say. The Brothers Comatose will be playing all spring and summer including April dates in Boise, Portland, Eugene, and Washington State, festival appearances in South Carolina and Wyoming, and all thru California, including the prestigious Kate Wolf Festival. More dates and new videos will be announced soon.