Comets on Fire - Biography

No one who has seen Comets on Fire play is likely to forget the experience; the band’s heavy psych attack has a tendency to blow other performers off the stage. Comets’ four albums to date are among the strongest and most inventive rock releases of the new millenium. Guitarist and singer Ethan Miller and bassist Ben Flashman grew up together in Eureka, California, and formed Comets on Fire in 1999 while both were students at UC Santa Cruz. They began playing up and down the West Coast with Noel von Harmonson on effects, synth and other electronics and Chris Gonzalez on drums. The band’s first release was the self-released Graverobbers cassette (1999), in a limited edition of 30 copies.

Comets recorded their first album Comets on Fire (2000) on a four-track, mixed it at Tim Green’s Louder Studios in San Francisco, and self-released it in a vinyl-only pressing of 500; Alternative Tentacles has since reissued the album on CD. Gonzalez left after recording the debut and Utrillo Kushner, also from Eureka, took his place at the drums.

The band recorded its second album, Field Recordings from the Sun (2002 Ba Da Bing!), with Green at Louder. Harmonson told the San Francisco Chronicle that Miller’s student loan funded the recording. As Field Recordings’ title suggests, the album takes advantage of the psychedelic possibilities that come with recording in a proper studio; numerous guests contribute vocals, bells, and other timbral color. Guitarist Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance), who had collaborated with the band on and off since its formation, joined as a full member in 2003. Comets released two more limited edition LPs, the Live in Europa split with Major Stars (2003 Plastic) and Bong Voyage (2003 Bad Glue ) before signing to Sub Pop.

Comets on Fire returned to Green and Louder to record their third album Blue Cathedral (2004 Sub Pop). The band brought Growing on its summer 2005 tour of the U.S., and Comets’ set was one of the highlights of ArthurFest that August. Comets and Burning Star Core collaborated on an untitled limited edition album (Yik Yak 2005), and Tim Green, again, recorded Comets’ fourth album, Avatar (Sub Pop 2006), at Louder and other San Francisco studios.

Comets on Fire have not performed since the end of their European tour in the summer of 2008, and Avatar is their last record to date. Ethan Miller plays in Howlin’ Rain. Utrillo Kushner has formed the band Colossal Yes. Noel von Harmonson performs as a solo artist and in various bands. Ben Chasny continues to record and perform as Six Organs of Admittance.

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