The Brothers Comatose didn’t plan to do a mini-tour and music video on horseback. A few members of the Bay Area roots band simply wanted to ride horses, and someone suggested that they make it a band trip. The idea evolved from there.
“It was some of the craziest stuff I’ve done with this band,” says guitarist and vocalist Ben Morrison, explaining that the members like making videos and playing live, so a horseback tour and video shoot seemed like an obvious next step once they were committed to riding horses.
The resulting video for the song “Cedarwood Pines” shows the band plucking and singing from their horses, playing instruments in the shade on a sunny day, singing around lamplight at night, and riding the trail. The members are clad in cowboy hats, bandanas, denim and chaps in a fun, clever nod to California cowboy tradition.
The video loosely chronicles the Brothers’ two-day tour that took them from King Ranch, which is owned by retired actor Perry King in Cool, California, to the nearby Milestone Saloon, where they tied up their horses and performed before riding back to King Ranch in the moonlight. The next day saw the band members riding the Tevis Trail through the Auburn Canyon to a headline concert at the Auburn Events Center.
As extraordinary as this adventure sounds, it suits the Brothers Comatose perfectly. Comprising Ben’s brother Alex Morrison on banjo and vocals, Gio Benedetti on bass and vocals, Philip Brezina on violin, and Santa Cruzan Ryan Avellone on mandolin, the band has a penchant for having fun while spinning out catchy bluegrass, country and early rock ’n’ roll-inspired tunes that lend themselves nicely to singalongs. The band also inspires the occasional stomp-along as they wander into folk-punk territory, including a Halloween tradition of reworking four of their own songs as pop-punk tunes.
Their off-the-beaten-path approach extends to how they make and share music, as well. Rather than waiting until they have an entire album’s worth of new songs, they record in small batches and release songs one at a time, as soon as they’re ready to go.
As Morrison explains, the traditional way of releasing an album, with studio time and PR, “takes fucking forever,” so the band takes a different approach. As soon as songs are finished, they book studio time, record what they have and share the songs with their fans—oftentimes with an accompanying video.
“It kicks you in the butt to do it this way,” says Morrison. “You record and mix and master immediately, and the songs are ready to go. It’s so much better because, as a band, you can put out music before you’re sick of hearing it.”
With three albums already to its name, the Brothers Comatose recently released a four-song, 10-inch vinyl record titled Ink. The EP features the new tunes “Don’t Make Me Get Up and Go,” “Cedarwood Pines,” “Get Me Home,” and “Joshua Tree.”
The band is recording this new batch of tunes at famed Bay Area musician/producer/engineer John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone analog studio. The songs will eventually be put on a full-length album because, as Morrison puts it, as much as the members enjoy the immediacy of their current approach to releasing songs, “there’s something to having a tangible collection of tunes.” The album, which is being produced by Vanderslice, is slated for release in Spring of 2018.
Morrison describes Vanderslice as “exactly what you want in a producer.” The band relies on him to be a deciding opinion on how they record and structure particular arrangements and songs.
“He’s funny, eccentric and opinionated,” says Morrison, “and his style is straight to tape. You go in and bang it out so there’s a little extra pressure to get it good.”
Morrison adds that when you take that approach to recording, you learn to embrace little imperfections along the way.
“How perfect does your music have to be?” he asks. “All my favorite records, you can hear little mistakes.”
The Brothers Comatose will perform at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 28 at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $18/adv, $20/door. 423-1338. Also on the bill: the Good Bad, and Jamie and Kellen Coffis.