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Interview: Girl in a Coma
By: Eli Watson

Hailing from San Antonio, rock trio Girl in a Coma have caused quite a buzz since their debut in 2007. Four years later the group has become a national crowd pleaser, playing alongside classic rock acts Joan Jett and Morrissey, and modern-day acts Tegan and Sara and Amanda Palmer. Having released their fourth album, Exits & All the Rest earlier this month, Girl in a Coma has been touring throughout the country in support of the album. Taking some time out of their busy schedule the band talked about their early beginnings, meeting Joan Jett, future plans and how the San Antonio culture has influenced them.

B-Sides: Let’s start off with who you guys are and how the band began.

Nina Diaz: I’m Nina Diaz. I play guitar and sing.

Phanie Diaz: I’m Phanie Diaz, Nina’s sister, and I play drums.

Jenn Alva: I’m Jenn and I play the bass.

PD: We started in 2001 and were signed to [Joan Jett's] Blackheart Records, and have been touring since 2004. Jenn and I were in punk bands back in the 90s, and we started up again back in early 2000. We were looking for a singer and my sister was 13 at the time when she showed us a song she had written and blew us away with her vocals. Although there’s an eight-year gap between us, we made her the singer.

How did getting signed to Joan Jett’s record label come about?

PD: We were shooting a TV documentary about up-and-coming bands for this Spanish-English station, and she [Joan Jett] ended up coming to see us at the Knitting Factory in New York, and after we were done playing she signed us on the spot.

You guys have performed with Joan Jett, Morrissey and have done festivals like Austin’s SXSW. How has it been seeing the reception of your band being so positive?

PD: It’s been awesome. We work really hard and do not just rely on word-of-mouth or the internet. We like going out and playing, and I think that is the best way of getting our fans.

JA: [Meeting our fans] is the best part about playing live. This is our headlining tour, so we get to play for like, an hour and a half. Even before [our headling tour] playing a 45-minute set is a lot of work. But that’s what it is all about, playing live.

What bands influence you all?

PD: Jenn and I grew up on Riot Grrrl bands. Nina is a big Jeff Buckley fan.

ND: He’s kind of punk I guess (laughs). Yeah I listen to a lot of the same stuff the girls do. Being the younger sister, a lot of what they listen to ends up getting carried to my ears. I like a lot of the grunge stuff: Nirvana and stuff like that.

I would also think a group like Sonic Youth would be a big influence since they are also associated with the grunge realm at times.

ND: Absolutely. Them, Pixies, The Breeders, all of them.

Has San Antonio’s hardcore punk/metal scene had any influence on you guys?

PD: It’s funny because San Antonio is known as more of a metal town. Every time people learn that we are from San Antonio, they always say, “yeah White Rabbit” or “yeah heavy metal!” But the cool thing about San Antonio is that people from there listen to everything. A lot of the metal kids like The Smiths and Morrissey, but then they listen to hardcore. It’s not judgmental: with us being Latina, a lot of Tejano music is something we embrace. I think that’s why a lot of our own music kind of goes everywhere. It’s a mix of everything. But I think it’s a good thing to embrace all kinds of music.

How was it recording with Mike McCarthy, and how was it recording live for the first time?

PD: It was our first time recording on analog, so we all went into one room and laid down the music together. Then Nina went in to do her vocal parts, and after that we did the overdubbing and stuff. It was new to be together in one room and vibe off of each other.

What led to choosing live recording?

ND: We were just trying to do something different. These songs just had a lot more room to breath and just grow on their own because we did not really play them too many times to get a certain feel for them. Even as we play the songs now little things have started to change: ways that I would normally sing a line or the way we play certain things. I guess it was the best thing for this album.

Was there a certain method of recording that McCarthy had for you guys that was different from people you had worked with in the past?

ND: He was just more about the organic process of recording the music. We’re really hard on ourselves when it comes to anything musically, so anything we would notice we would want to fix. But he would tell us there were certain things that were a good mistake, and other times we would would mess up he would have us do it again. But it was a chill process overall.

JA: We’ve worked with other producers in the past: Greg Collins was awesome because he taught me how to think about writing in a different way. So I took what I learned from Collins and wrote these bass lines, and McCarthy was a big fan of them.

Do you guys think you will do SXSW next year?

PD: I’m pretty positive we will do it next year because of the new record. It’s [SXSW] is a good time because you get to see a lot of bands you have been on tour with and it’s just fun.

What would be your dream bands to see live?

PD: I’ve always wanted to see the Pixies live.

JA: Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah would be cool. They’re a cool band.

ND: It would be nice to see Sonic Youth since they might break up.

What are your plans once touring is done?

ND: We’re going to try and tour for as long as we can. We’re just seeing what happens with this album, and doing things one at a time.