In the summer of 2016, I saw Comfy play one of the most joyous DIY shows I’ve ever been to. It was at a park lodge in the middle of a bright summer day in Rochester, NY. There were a lot of bands on the bill but I showed up later to catch Comfy, who I fell in love with months before when I saw them play a couple house shows in Albany. There weren’t that many people there and it wasn’t particularly wild (although there was free beer, if my memory serves me), but the band played for a long time and it never got boring. Frontman Connor Benincasa was a lively performer who played like he didn’t give a fuck—not in a dickish, braggadocios way, but in a way that felt refreshingly liberated from the stiff affect of a pretentious indie-rock gig.
I don’t remember what song it was (it might have been a Neil Young cover?) but at one point after an exorbitantly long guitar solo he just took off his axe and passed it around the crowd, letting anyone in the room either play the instrument properly or just make some godawful noise on it. That move has probably been done a million times throughout the history of rock, but for me, as someone who had mostly attended metal, hardcore, and self-serious pop-punk shows up until about a year prior, the radiant glee of that moment flipped a switch in my head. One of those, “Oh, this is what I’ve been looking for”, moments when music transcends everything. I hope I never forget it.
That was over four years ago, and since then Comfy has changed a lot. It’s always been Benincasa’s baby, but at the time they were a Utica power-pop band with an extremely lo-fi debut and a couple EP’s to their name. In 2018, after some frustrating recording clogs, Benincasa finally released his exponentially stronger sophomore record, Thanks For The Ride, which greatly expanded the project’s sonic toolkit to include bossa nova, psych-rock, alt-country, and a more robust variety of power-pop styles. Benincasa has always been the sole songwriter in Comfy, but for that record he also played every single instrument, which you wouldn’t necessarily pick up on if you heard it because it sounds like a well-rounded band banging away.
Around the time that record was released, Benincasa moved to Philly (as NY capital region indie-rockers are wont to do) and started another power-pop band called A Million Dollars. Since then, in what serves as a beautifully full-circle move within the context of this write-up, he actually moved to Rochester, home to his longtime label Dadstache Records, the entity who hosted that Ellison Park DIY gig that blew my 21-year-old mind all those years before.
Today, The Alternative is premiering Comfy’s third album, which is deceivingly titled Volume For (though, if you really know Comfy, you might know that there was a lost album made before their last, so maybe the title is a reference to that). However, the “For” pun makes me think that it’s also a reference to the communal make-up of the record itself, which features 12x the amount of players (that’s 12 people for all you math slouches) than his previous solo affair. The personnel list is a who’s who of tri-state gems that includes members of Remember Sports, Another Michael, frequent Alex G collaborator Molly Germer, and many others. It was also co-produced and mixed by Scoops Dardaris (Prince Daddy & The Hyena, Wednesday, Diva Sweetly), which is to say that if you’ve read this far and you generally consider yourself a fan of what The Alternative covers, you owe it to yourself to give this a proper spin.
Although there are so many people performing on this record, it still sounds like a completely natural progression from Comfy’s past work. Many of the songs are short, snappy power-pop tunes that find the midway point between Big Star and Fountains of Wayne: the warm, classical breadth of the former but the nasally, self-deprecative tweeness of the latter. Then there are songs like “Breaking The Habit”, which lunges forward into gorgeously noisy squalls of guitar noise like a Built To Spill climax; “Should I Try”, a sticky nugget that concludes with a virtuosic violin solo from Molly Germer atop an equally complex drum pattern; and the knowingly saccharine romance tune “Everyday”, which revolves around a “la, la, la, la love” refrain that’s endearingly Magnetic Fields-esque.
For me, Comfy will always be one of those regional bands that opened a whole new world for me. I hope they do the same for you—or at least supply the undeniable power-pop you’ve been searching for in the 2020s. Stream Volume For below ahead of its official release this Friday.
Volume For is out 1/15 via Dadstache Records
Eli Enis | @eli_enis
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Author: The Editor