“A lot of people call it bluegrass, but it’s not traditional bluegrass,” says Ben Morrison, multi-instrumental co-founder of the Brothers Comatose. “It’s folk and bluegrass with a little bit of rock and roll thrown in there too.”
Since 2009, Petaluma-born brothers Ben and Alex Morrison (vocals, guitar and banjo) and their classically trained buddy Philip Brezina (violin) have been touring nonstop. These guys don’t phone it in; their shows, which do incorporate all the aforementioned musical genres, are sweaty singalong romps that often last more than two hours.
In addition to the notoriously high-energy live performances, BC’s slew of original tunes has helped build a worldwide fanbase that continues to grow. Since the early years, their material comes straight from their hearts and never holds back. “Scout” is an unapologetic portrait of the Morrisons’ grandfather.
“[My grandfather] was a great guy, but he had that mean streak to him,” Ben explains. “I didn’t even mean it to come out like that, but I guess the song somehow took that turn in the middle. My family knows what it’s about and can relate to it too.”
Meanwhile, “Morning Time” is a gentle ballad—the album version of the song features Nicki Bluhm on vocals. Other musicians, just like fans, gravitate to BC’s music.
Meanwhile, the grind of the working musician doesn’t get easier, no matter how long you’ve been at it.
“Doing business and art is a struggle,” Ben says. “You have to be a business guy, and you have to be artistic minded too. You’re working two different sides of your brain, but you must 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 must book shows, keep track of everything and do call-backs and emails, and it’s 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 must love what you do and love the people you’re doing it with.”
After going nonstop for more than a decade, the pandemic was like a reset for the band.
“We didn’t know what we were going to do moving forward,” says Ben, who recently became a father. “But it turns out when it all falls apart, you figure your shit out, and you find a new path.”
The Brothers Comatose’s sixth record, aptly titled When It All Falls Apart, was released in the spring of 2022. After that much-needed “reset,” the band is back on the road and following a new path with a couple of new members, Steve Height and Greg Fleischut.
The outfit is experimenting with different forms of media and looking forward to more unexpected collaborators. They are also planning on releasing a live album sometime this year from a three-night run that will be recorded during their Moe’s Alley shows, kicking off on Thursday, Aug. 11.
The Brothers Comatose perform Thursday, Aug. 11, 8pm; Friday, Aug. 12 and Saturday, Aug. 13, 9pm Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $30/$35 plus fees. moesalley.com.