Brothers Comatose's Ben Morrison Pumped to Play Communion in the Redwoods
October 20, 2012
Next week at this time, the rowdy bluegrass outfit Brothers Comatose will be just hours away from performing its set at Communion in the Redwoods (11:30pm inside Fernwood). I caught up with the band's co-founder Ben Morrison—his brother Alex plays banjo in the band—before he had to do a soundcheck for a show at Stubb's in Austin, Texas—the San Francisco group is currently touring with Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers behind its new LP Respect the Van.
Weekly: How would you describe the new album's overall sound?
Morrison: A lot of people call it bluegrass but it's definitely not traditional bluegrass. We have bluegrass instrumentation. It's folk and bluegrass with a little bit of rock and roll thrown in there too.
Weekly: One of the songs that stands out is "Scout," which is about your grandfather. There are some parts that portray him as a bitter man. What does your family think about the song?
Morrison: [My grandfather] was a great guy but he had that mean streak to him. I didn't even mean it to come out like that but I guess the song took that turn in the middle somehow. My family knows what it's about and can relate to it too.
Weekly: On "Morning Time," Nicki Bluhm sings with you. What made you decide that she would be the most fitting voice for the job?
Morrison: I wasn't even sure if that song would make it on the album. I didn't know Nicki personally I just knew of her. We had been playing the High Sierra Festival and had been camped out in the artist's campground and she was playing the main stage. We had woken up late in the afternoon and we heard her and we were like, "Who is this? She sounds amazing." I thought she would be amazing to sing on this but I didn't know her. How do I approach her? Turns out my neighbor is a musician too and he knows her and he introduced the two of us and we started a dialogue. It was great. I couldn't have asked for someone better for it.
Weekly: Have you guys been performing "Morning Time" together on your current tour?
Morrison: Yeah, we have been. We're actually going to be doing it tonight. We also made a video for it that's on CMT Edge. We have a lot of friends coming out tonight who have asked to hear it.
Weekly: You guys are going to be playing Communion in the Redwoods next week and Communion's top priority is the musicians and the music and making sure the bands are taken care of financially. Not everyone's like Communion. What are some of the struggles as a working band?
Morrison: Doing business and art, that in itself, is a struggle. You have to be a business guy and you have to be a artistic-minded too. You're working two totally different sides of your brain but you have to force yourself to do it because that's how bands do it these days. No one's going to come along and do it for you. You have to book shows, keep track of everything and do call-backs and emails and it's definitely not about the money. We do okay when we're out on the road but we all haven't quit our day jobs just yet. We are getting a little closer so that's cool. You have to love what you do and love the people you're doing it with.
Weekly: What are your thoughts on Communion?
Morrison: I've only seen the stuff in San Francisco because they put on a bunch of shows there. The artists they put together are awesome and it's always a good show. The fact that they're getting young bands out there with more exposure is great. We're stoked to be doing the [Communion in the Redwoods]. We happened to not have a show on that day so it ended up working out perfectly.