The members of Comatose Smile are wise beyond their years. I met up with them recently, and I got the sense that here were four young guys who have what it takes to make it as a band: musical acumen, business savvy and, above all, a sincere desire to be rock stars. That last point is nothing new, admits Tommy Evans, the group's bass player. "It's a common goal, a stereotypical teenage dream,"Evans says. "But all of us share that goal and ambition, and we all have an extremely strong work ethic. We just want people to listen to our music and like it, and make some money and have fun and make a career."
Lofty goals, but Comatose Smile has already proved their dedication. With two band members living in Missoula and two in Townsend, they've dealt with the difficulty of being a "long-distance band." Evans says, "We manage to make it work over a 200-mile distance, get together, record songs, make an album, book shows and be ready for those shows."
With their classic-rock inspired sound, growly vocals, polished musicianship and creative lyrics, you might not guess that three-quarters of the band hasn't yet graduated from high school. And in fact, they'd prefer that you not guess it.
"A lot of people hear us, then find out how young we are, they say 'Oh wow, I think they're really good now," says Nick Hamburg, guitarist and back-up vocalist. "And I don't like that. I'd rather just be good, not young and good."
Drummer Wyatt Arledge weighs in as well, "What do I say to people who think we're young? Well, so was Mick Jagger in the '60s, and they're probably the most successful band in the world."
Winston Wolf, the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist concurs, and mentions some of their pro-active techniques to combat the perception. "I actually think that's why we've grown facial hair," he says, gesturing at Hamburg and himself. "So people take us more seriously."
For only having been a band since December 2011, these guys seem to be having no trouble finding people to take them seriously. Together with local Missoula duo Baby & Bukowski, they were featured as co-artist of the month on The Trail 103.3 radio, and the two bands recorded an album together that was released in late May. They've played shows throughout Montana, from the Northside/Westside Block Party in Missoula to the Broadwater County Fair to the Broadwater High School prom.
They're quick to note that they wouldn't have seen such success all on their own, and they credit both their musical influences and their local mentors. They cite The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers, Great White and AC/DC as inspirations, but they also go well beyond classic rock. "I like a lot of '50s music and jazz," says Evans, and he also refers to the need to understand music's history. Of the great musicians of the past, he says, "They're classic. And anyone who appreciates music in a logistical sense, in terms of writing and structure, they have to reference those guys. You can't be in a rock band and say no one listens to Led Zeppelin. You can't be in any band and not like Beethoven, because he was a pioneer of music."
Closer to the home front, the band gives credit to Jay Bostrom, a mentor, teacher and friend at Big Sky High School, as well as Scott Matthews, Flagship coordinator at Big Sky. They also give credit to Missoula's music scene.
"It was really eye opening," says Wolf, talking about coming from Townsend to Missoula and realizing how many bands made their homes here. "It's crazy how much of a music scene there is here."
Hamburg agrees, and sums up the band's timeless spirit in one classic statement: "It's just fun to come to the city and play rock and roll."
Comatose Smile plays the Palace Fri., Aug. 10, at 9 PM with Judgment Hammer and Swamp Ritual. $5/$10 for ages 18-20.