An afternoon chat with The Brothers Comatose at ROMP

Saturday of ROMP was the band’s first and only day at the festival, but they seemed to be having a good time already when I had the chance to chat with them in the afternoon. Hailing from San Francisco, The Brothers Comatose started out with brothers Ben and Alex Morrison having some fun in their living room, and eventually grew to include the five current members. The guys later on put on an invigorating late-night performance in Pioneer Village, helping to end the festival on a good note. To learn more about the band, check out their website and the full interview below. Our Saturday post is also up, along with reviews from the other days, as well.


The Brothers Comatose at ROMP 2015
Left to right: Ryan Avellone [mandolin], Ben Morrison [vocals & guitar], Alex Morrison [vocals & banjo], Philip Brezina [fiddle], Gio Benedetti [vocals & bass]
Live Music Louisville: How did you guys decide that you wanted to end up forming a band, and then rope these guys into it?

Ben: Well, that’s a good question. We just started playing in the living room back in the day. Once we started playing, I think we wanted to do it for a living.

Alex: Eventually I learned to play banjo. We used to just play guitar together, and it’s kind of boring just two guys playing guitar, so I picked up the banjo. And we kind of naturally formed a string band right off the bat.

Ben: Gio came along, and we were like, “Hey we need a bass player.” We went to school with Gio – we were in high school together. Gio played in another bass and drum, you know, electric, super heavy, whatever you want to call that, progressive…

Gio: Super prog-metal duo…

TBC: No, let Ben describe it.

Ben: [laughing] No that’s good. It was progressive though, that’s for sure. Bass and drums duo. He had an upright bass and we were like “Hey, you want to come play bass?” And then we thought we could use some fiddle. We’ve got Philip on the fiddle. Then Ryan joined the band about three or four years ago, something like that.

Ryan: Four years.

Ben: Is it four? Really?

LML: So how long have you guys all been together then?

Ryan: Four years. I was the last member to join.

Ben: Yeah I think we started like seven years ago.

LML: And you all are based out in California – San Francisco area?

Ben: Yep

LML: I feel like it’s kind of unusual to have bluegrass bands out there. Do you have a big following out there?

Ben: It’s pretty good. There’s a good scene. There’s things like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, which is huge. You know, like half a million people go to that over a weekend. It’s a free festival in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. That’s what opened my eyes to this whole world, really, working that festival a long time ago. We’ve gotten to play it a couple of times. It’s great.

LML: Four years isn’t that long. Has there been anything in particular that’s led to doing so well in that short time?

TBC: [laughing] Those cat videos we made.

Ben: Well, I guess we were touring a little bit before Ryan joined the band for a couple of years. We recorded our first album in 2009 or 10 – yeah we released it in 2010. We’ve just been touring a bunch ever since. Yeah I don’t know how it happens. You just keep playing and playing. I don’t know what the magic formula is, not that we’ve found it or anything. If you know, please let us know.

LML: I don’t. But I will. So I think I saw you guys – were you at Greyfox last year?

Ben: Yes

Gio: I wasn’t, but they were.

LML: Is this your first ROMP, then? What do you guys think so far?

TBC: Yeah, love it. It’s great. Beautiful weather.

LML: Today, yeah. You missed the storms.

TBC: Yeah we heard. It was crazy. Where’s the booze though?!

LML: Where’s the booze? Well, we can all bring it ourselves, so…

TBC: Oh you can? Yeah we didn’t get that memo.

LML: It says ‘no alcohol,’ and someone has asked one of the sheriffs and they were like, “Officially, no. Unofficially, just don’t be an idiot.” It’s pretty nice. Just have a koozie, you can bring a cooler up there.

TBC: Yeah, just bring a koozie. [laughing] Second question – can I have a beer?

LML: Um, I can run down to my cooler and get one for you if you want.

TBC: [laughing] That’d be great thanks.

LML: No but really I can get one for you if you want. I can hook you up. I’ve got Ben’s number so you know. So who are some musicians or bands who have influenced you guys, like your sound and style? Or just as musicians, yourselves?

TBC: Queens of the Stone Age. Um, some other people.

Philip: Alan Jackson.

Ben: Everybody’s got their own. Rolling Stones for sure. I think collectively we listen to a lot of rock ‘n’ roll. Everybody’s got their own little tastes. I like rock, heavy rock. Some old country and stuff. Phil likes anything country, a lot of modern country. Gio listens to a lot of metal.

LML: So have any of these musicians influenced your all’s sound as a band?

Ben: Oh yeah. I think secretly we want to be a rock band with stringed instruments.

LML: When you guys are writing your all’s songs, is there one person who’s like a maestro at that or do you all try to do that all together?

Ben: We’ve all been contributing. Especially on this last album, we’ve all contributed a bunch of songs so it’s been a nice collaborative effort. We all bring stuff to the table.

LML: What sort of things inspire you when you’re writing songs?

Ben: Going to festivals and hearing really great songwriters. And being like: oh, shit, let’s do that.

TBC: Everything.

Gio: I just go through my bookshelf. I’ve got a stack of like little journals and notebooks that go back to like 2010. They’re mostly just to-do lists, but like every fourth page will be a song idea. It’s like, “Hey! A song about this, a song about this.” Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

LML: Okay, five words to describe the band. Or just you guys in general.

TBC: Ben, Alex, Ryan, Gio, Philip…hip, sexy, modern, naked…reckless, hard-driving, careless, fun…

LML: Not quite five but that’s okay. What are your all’s plans for the rest of the summer/fall, the rest of this year?

TBC: Festivals, touring, and releasing an album. Yeah, we’ve got a new record coming out.

LML: When is that coming out?

TBC: Uh, fall. Aiming for fall. We don’t have a release date yet but it’s done being recorded now. We’ve got lots of touring coming up. We’re driving across the country in a couple of weeks. Back and forth. Starting on the west coast, driving straight to the east coast. Doing a week there, then driving back to Colorado, doing a little bit there in the southwest, then heading up the northwest.

LML: What can we expect tonight from your show at the after party?

TBC: I don’t know – like, it’s really mellow right now…

LML: It’s a different feel over there at Pioneer Village – I will say that.

TBC: Well we brought a blow-up alligator so we plan on having some sort of a party over there. Yeah we’ll make it a party for sure. But we didn’t bring any beer so maybe someone will have beer over there.

LML: I feel very sure that someone will have beer over there for you.

TBC: That’s good.

LML: Well that’s all I’ve got for you guys. You’re actually the first interview I’ve ever done in person so, thank you.

TBC: Oh wow! Cool, congratulations. How do you feel?

LML: I chugged a beer before I came over here.

TBC: All right. A little courage juice.

LML: [laughing] Exactly. Thanks guys.

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