The Brothers Comatose is an up-and-coming San Francisco-based band. Guitarist and band cofounder Ben Morrison recently discussed how he became interested in music, the formation of the Brothers Comatose and strange falcon-related nights. For more info on the Brothers Comatose, check out www.thebrotherscomatose.com
Did you come from a musical family? Were your parents musical?
Alex (my brother/banjo player in the band) and I grew up in a pretty musical household. Our mom was in an acoustic folk quartet when we were kids — two guys, two girls, a couple acoustic guitars and lots of great harmonies. We definitely spent lots of time as kids, sitting and watching them rehearse. They were definitely an influence of ours. I mean, how could we not pick some of that up?
What first got you interested in playing bluegrass?
Well, we don’t really consider ourselves bluegrass. We go with more of the Americana-rock-and-roll-string-band sort of thing…with bluegrass instrumentation. It all started when our parents had a music party with a bunch of their musician friends and someone left a banjo behind. Alex picked it up the next day and never let go.
What do you remember most about your first time onstage?
Not a whole lot. I was pretty drunk. Ha! Just kidding. I don’t remember a whole lot about the first stage experience. What I remember more intensely is performing and singing for the first time in front of people at one of our parents’ music parties. I was so nervous because all the musicians were badasses and I had never sung in front of anyone before. It ended up being really fun and not intimidating at all. I knew what I wanted to do with my life after that moment.
How did the Brothers Comatose come together?
It all started with my brother and I picking up instruments and playing songs in the living room. Mostly, we just started by playing the tunes from bands we really loved. Shortly after we started writing our own songs. Little by little we started adding friends that played other instruments into the mix and it eventually became what it is now.
How does your creative process work when songwriting?
Everyone has been doing a bit of writing lately. Often, someone will bring an idea or mostly written song to the group and we hack away at it, arranging and adding our individual flavor until it becomes a Brothers Comatose song. Occasionally we’ll all write together but it’s easiest if someone brings an already developed idea to the table.
You tour a ton. What have been some of your strangest moments on the road?
Well, there was the time we found a Peregrine falcon and it spent the night with us in our hotel room in Boise, ID. We were playing Boise during a huge storm and were wandering the streets late at night looking for food after our gig. We came upon what looked to be an injured bird in the road and we wanted to make sure it didn’t get hit by a car, so we threw a shirt over it so it wouldn’t get spooked and grabbed it and took it back to our hotel. It was far too late to take it to bird rescue or anything, so it stayed overnight. When we took it in the next morning, we found out it was a Peregrine falcon. The fastest animal in the world.
How do you go about creating a setlist?
We usually put one person in charge of the setlist – our mandolin player Ryan. He usually puts something together and we look it over together to make sure it works for that particular venue and crowd. We always make changes on the fly though. You can never predict exactly how crowds will react to your set. Sometimes you just have to make changes to fit the situation. It’s more fun that way anyway.
What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your career?
I’d say the biggest obstacle is how to actually keep a band together. It’s easy when you’re in your early 20s and you can live off of cheap beer and pizza and you can go on tour and lose money and love every second of it. When peoples’ lives start changing and they have families, jobs and other time constraints, it’s harder to get everyone to give as much time is needed to make a working/touring ban. Especially if you’re not making any money. You really have to love what you do. Luckily, that’s the case for us.
Do you have a favorite quote or motto that you live by?
“Goonies never say die.” I’m a goonie for life.
What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?
Play your ass off. Play in front of anyone that will listen. Find your audience. Support other bands and create a scene. If there’s no venue in your tow, make one in your living room. Oh, and have fun. If you’re not having fun, do something else.