By Jess Goulart
Photo courtesy of Bridget Williams.
The lead single “Poetic,” off garage pop band Comfy’s impending EP, Good Luck, clocks in at a crisp 57 seconds. If you think that’s too short for a hook, think again. With a magnetic rhythm and raw rock tone, it’s the perfect tease to leave you wanting more.
Good Luck, a 10-track that Comfy splits with New Paltz-based band Skirts, is out this August via Miscreant Records & Dadstache Records. It promises a fresh, pointed evolution of sound that acknowledges classic pop structures without being afraid to modernize them.
Comfy’s current line-up is founder, lead singer, and guitarist Connor Benincasa, Ben Hicks (bass), Bobby Rogan (guitarist), Dylan Vaisey (drummer), and Zeno Pittarelli (studio drums). But, as BTR explored with Benincasa when we caught up to chat, one of the band’s key features is its constantly rotating members.
BreakThru Radio (BTR): Let’s start with your background as a musician…
Connor Benincasa (CB): [laughs] So you want me to talk about me…
BTR: Absolutely, isn’t that everyone’s favorite topic?
CB: Luckily for both of us, that’s the only thing I know about, think about, talk about… If I can help it, look at. I was actually just staring in the mirror when you called.
CB: No, so, I’m 21 and was born and raised in Utica, New York. I’ve been playing music since I was 12- or 13-years-old, and I did one semester of college [before] I dropped out. After that a [then] new, [now] close, friend of mine asked me, “Do you ever write your own songs?” I said I try but I rarely finish anything. He said, “What’s your problem?” I said the lyrics mostly, and he goes, “Well what are you trying to do, reinvent the wheel?”
So I set out to write the most simple, bare-boned songs that I could. I was always judging too much. I just let go of all those inhibitions and walls I set for myself, wrote a bunch of songs, got some friends to play with me, and that was Comfy at first.
BTR: How long has Comfy been around?
CB: That’s a great question with a more complicated answer than it really deserves. The short version is Comfy has been active since March of 2013. The first Comfy show was in 2013 with a three-piece line-up. Since then we’ve had, maybe, 11 or 12 different band members coming in and out. That’s not to say that every single show is a different band, we’ll have guys that stay on for months, but it’s a lot of people coming and going.
For example, on Saturday we played in Philadelphia as a four-piece group. I was playing guitar and singing, I had a guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer. Our drummer was my buddy Dylan, who fills in when my other buddy Zeno is too busy, but the last show that Dylan had played with us was in August of last year.
Photo courtesy of Matt Weinberg.
BTR: Do you like the line-up switching a lot like that?
CB: Well, the reason Bobby and our old lead guitarist Doug, joined the band in the first place is because I injured my hand in September–I cut the tendon in my thumb so I couldn’t play guitar anymore. Doug and Bobby offered to play for me and we brought both of them on. The band was suddenly a five-piece and I was just singing. I had never done that before, just sing for a group. It really opened up a lot of possibilities for live performance and it changed the band forever, like, what the energy of it was. It’s the old saying: necessity is the mother of invention.
BTR: Do you still hit those writer’s block walls?
CB: Absolutely, those walls are still there. Sometimes I will only write five songs in a year. It’s unhealthy as an artist to compare yourself to other people, but at the same time it’s like, oh man my buddy just released three albums in a year and I wrote five songs! But I do feel like it’s getting better. It comes and goes in waves.
BTR: How did you guys first conceptualize the split cassette?
CB: Remember how I said I wrote five songs in one year? Well, they were actually those five songs. But also, I think there’s a certain sense of some songs just belong together and represent a specific period and when we started recording the EP it was clear that was the case with those five.
The split is for a couple of reasons. Number one, I didn’t really want to put out five songs physically on a cassette or CD because to me that doesn’t make sense. It’s not a really long amount of time and it’s always a bummer to me when I buy a tape and I put it in and it’s over before you know it. I wanted it to be a longer product, and we were really good friends with the band Skirts from our neighboring city of Rochester. Their frontman and songwriter Hayden [Ford] and I… we write music that sounds different but we both come from a similar place inspirationally, so I just thought we’d complement each other really well.
BTR: What do you feel that inspirational place is?
CB: Hayden and I, we probably listen to different music, but I think we like a lot of the same elements. There’s a connection with the pop song in both of our music. We both write pop songs but I think we both are trying to really enjoy the classically-structured, almost ‘60s, pop songs and draw a lot of inspiration from those.
Bands like Weezer or The Ramones do a similar thing, where they’re drawing influence and inspiration from these really classic, solid pop groups and re-contextualizing them. Bands like The Beach Boys or the early Beatles recordings. I don’t want to speak for [Hayden], but they both really influence what I do.
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Turner.
BTR: Your song “Poetic” is 57 seconds. Is length a consideration for you? Do you prefer that shorter side or is that just how it worked out?
CB: It’s a combination of factors–that is, I think, the shortest song on the EP, but I personally prefer to err on the shorter side for a few reasons. It’s just what I like in music; I think that less is more. There’s a lot of power behind brevity in music. I want to get in, say what I have to say, put the hook in there, and then get out.
But the rest of the songs are longer because with the confidence that I just displayed in short songs, there’s also an insecurity that [asks], “Is this song too short?” Actually, I was just laboring horribly over a new song where I [thought] “It needs an extra part! It needs an extra part!” I was really beating myself up over it and the solution ended up being not putting an extra part in… So it’s also very short.
BTR: Do you guys collaborate with the writing process?
CB: I will write all the music and lyrics and then usually record a demo of it by myself, and then show it to the band. They are more than welcome to put their own spin on it and write their own parts, but all of the song-writing comes from me.
BTR: So how do you overcome that writer’s block?
CB: Make yourself write something, which is so hard, but get a piece of paper and a pen and go somewhere you don’t have a computer in front of you, and write whatever. Even if it’s a journal entry that nobody is supposed to read ever.
Even when you write a page or two of horrible meaningless crap, what you’re doing is taking whatever is in your head and assigning a symbol to it. You’re assigning words to an abstract feeling. Once you assign words to it, it becomes a little clearer what you are trying to say or would like to say. That’s the words side of it, which is really what I struggle with.
Musically, I think that the best way to overcome writer’s block is play a different instrument. If you usually write on guitar, try writing on bass or even keyboard, which I’ve never done but I bet it’s a great idea! Or, if you’re playing a guitar, just play someone else’s guitar–literally the instrument that you’re holding in your hand has so much to do with what comes out of you.
BTR: Where is Comfy headed in the future?
CB: We’re releasing the EP with Skirts in August and we’re going to record our next full-length studio album in Utica, New York, at a studio called Big Blue North Recording Studio. We haven’t started tracking yet, but we’re planning it out. Then [we’re] also just playing as many shows as we can before everyone either quits or goes broke!