BottleRock Napa Valley, high-energy music festival with unlimited wine and food, rocked wine country only a couple of weeks back. The most vibrant performances included that of local string, bluegrass band, The Brothers Comatose. The Brothers Comatose, “a band that really jams” that consists of brothers, Ben and Alex Morrison, hit the main stage on Saturday evening, opening for The Avett Brothers and Robert Plant. Following the festival, I connected with the up-and-coming west coast band to ask a few questions that had been on my mind after seeing their lively set.
The Brothers Comatose’s music is so full of life and energy, what inspired the name The Brothers Comatose?
“It completely popped into my head one morning as I was sleeping on someone’s floor. I attribute it to the fact that Alex (mybrother/banjo player for the band) rolls his eyes in the back of his head when he gets into the zone while he plays.”
With how high-energy The Brothers Comatose’s music is, do you feel performing live is a better representation of your music as a whole? How does the audience’s vibes effect your music?
“It’s definitely a different experience. Our music is so much more fun when people get involved. People clapping and singing along and hooting and hollering at us gives us energy and we end up putting more into the show. It’s definitely a symbiotic relationship.”
I know you are local to San Francisco, is there a difference in the crowd’s energy in shows The Brothers Comatose plays close to home versus elsewhere?
“The radius to our hometown doesn’t really affect the crowd’s energy. It’s completely based on the vibe of any given town. There are little pockets all over the country that are way more energetic and dancey. I think it has to do with the ability to let go and not care what other people think about you and how you enjoy a show. In bigger cities, people tend to be more reserved. In mountain towns, people tend to start dancing from beat one. It’s really dependent on where you are and who is surrounding you. We love those shows where nobody cares how cool they look.”
A lot of bluegrass groups, string bands in particular, jam on in their songs almost endlessly sometimes. Is there a reason why The brothers Comatose’s songs are usually the average three to five minutes in length?
“We all have very short attention spans. Plus, all of us are into rock and pop music where it’s very form oriented and nobody really jams. We’ve only more recently delved into the jam world. Not to fear though…we won’t start wearing tye dyed shirts anytime soon and our songs are still gonna be concise.”
How does the songwriting process usually go for The Brothers Comatose, is it a group or one man effort?
“More recently, everyone has been contributing. It works best though if someone brings the skeleton of a song and then the rest of the band works to arrange it and make it Comatose-like.”
With big music festivals, especially like BottleRock, how do you choose a set list that will cater to both the fans there to see only you and the less familiar members of the audience?
With big music festivals, especially like BottleRock, how do you choose a set list that will cater to both the fans there to see only The Brothers Comatose and the less familiar members of the audience?
“It’s a hard thing to do. We have certain things we’ve road tested that tend to work – like starting songs and ending songs – but we change everything based on where we’re playing and to whom we’re playing. The environment has lots to do with it. If it’s a sit down crowd, we go with a more mellow set list. If it’s a main stage at a big festival, we play the bangers.”
I’ve heard from other interviews The Brothers Comatose has done that this band is really an extension of house parties you used to have as brothers. Brothers are often pretty rowdy with one another, do things every get crazy on the road with you two? Any specific instances stand out?
“We used to fight a ton when we were younger. As soon as we started playing music and smoking weed, things definitely mellowed out between us. We definitely still bicker a bunch but it never goes further than that. No physical fights anymore. We haven’t reached Oasis status quite yet.”
A lot of bluegrass and folk bands are starting to change their music into a more alternative rock or pop sound. How do you see The Brothers Comatose’s sound transforming over the next few years?
“I don’t see us adding a drummer or keyboards or getting rid of banjo or anything like that. I know a lot of bands are going for that sound these days but I don’t think that quite suits us. Who knows what the future holds and we could pick up something along the way, but don’t expect an arena rock band.”
The Brothers Comatose is not complete without fiddle player, Phil Brezina, and Ryan Avellone on mandolin. They expect to release a new album this year in 2015 following albums, “Respect the Van” and “Songs From the Stoop”.
Written by Audrey Madden
Interview with The Brothers Comatose
Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Brooks’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License