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Interview with Phanie Diaz, Drummer for Girl in a Coma

Thursday, September 30th, 2010 | Posted by Juli Thanki

If you don’t listen to Girl in a Coma, you’re missing out on some excellent music. The San Antonio trio (Jenn Alva and sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz) have influences that range from Ritchie Valens and Patsy Cline to The Velvet Underground. How good are they? Joan Jett saw the band perform once during the filming of a documentary and signed the band to her label, Blackheart Records, on the spot. They’ve got a new record, Adventures in Coverland, due out October 19, and a song in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete. I got to briefly talk with Phanie, the band’s drummer (that’s her on the right up there), about GiaC’s myriad influences and their upcoming show at the Black Cat with Foals this Sunday.

District Noise: Adventures in Coverland started as a series of 7? releases. Why the decision to release a full blown album?

Phanie Diaz: We started releasing them on vinyl as a three-part set. We designed the covers to make it like a board game to get people to buy them: if you put all three together, you could play the game. There are people who still want CDs, surprisingly, so we decided to have it come out on CD.

DN: Is it going to be available as an LP one of these days?

PD: I think right now what we’re gonna do on the 19th is just release it as a CD. I’m not sure about the LP, but that would be rad.

DN: There are so many different genres and artists on this record. What was the selection process like when the band was deciding what to include?

PD: We definitely wanted to do the songs that had influenced us growing up. We wanted to do songs that would tie back to [previous album] Trio B.C. We were getting a lot of reviews about Trio B.C. and noticing that a lot of the critics saw that the record went everywhere, that we weren’t really just one sound. We had a punk rock song then we went to a rockabilly song and then we had a ballad—we wanted to explain why we sound the way we do and it’s because we grew up listening to everything from Selena to Nirvana to Joy Division to The Beatles. We thought we’d put them all on this record and kinda do it our way so you could see why we are who we are today.


DN: This Selena cover (“Si Una Vez”) is so excellent. Tell me about how you guys transformed it into such a badass rock song.

PD: Nina picked that song because she thought that the way Selena sang it was very rough; she could already hear it being a fast rock song. So she showed it to us and we right away knew it was going to be fun. It was great to do and we got to play it in front of Selena’s family—the Quintanilla family—which was awesome. We have it in the set now; it’s our last song.

DN: What was the family’s reaction to your cover?

PD: They liked it a lot; her brother, A.B., particularly liked it. We met her father, and they all shook our hands and thanked us for doing it. It was really awesome.

DN: You also cover the Buffalo Springfield song “For What It’s Worth.” What was the reason behind that?

PD: It was our response to what is happening in Arizona with the whole border restriction thing. We thought that particular song still makes sense today.

DN: You have a new original song on Adventures in Coverland, right?

PD: “Yo Oigo” is Nina’s attempt at writing a Spanish song. She wrote it because we met Robert Rodriguez at South by Southwest. He had come to a couple of our shows and was really interested in what we were doing so he asked us to write a song for his movie Machete. It’s in the movie, you can’t hear all the lyrics, but it’s all on the record.

DN: Robert Rodriguez also directed the video for your cover of “As the World Falls Down.” What was that process like?

PD: He took footage from South by Southwest and put it together and gave it to us like “Here!” So we used it with the Bowie cover and we thought it was awesome.

DN: You’re on Joan Jett’s record label, you played Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Tour, and two of the three band members are out of the closet. Do you ever worry about being pigeonholed as solely a gay band?

PD: No; I mean, it’s going to happen, and there’s a lot of elements where we could be pigeonholed: the fact that we’re gay or we’re all female or we’re Latinas, but we don’t go around trying to put ourselves in that hole. We just want to be recognized as a rock band. It’s going to be there, but we don’t put it in the forefront. We just do what we do and go on tour, and we support everybody that comes to our shows.

DN: I hear that you’re really into the paranormal and ghost-hunting. Have you ever checked out any of DC’s haunted buildings?

PD: Every time we’re there we don’t have the time: we play a show then split. I think this time around we should; I would really like to. I’ll have to do some research.

DN: If someone’s never been to a Girl in a Coma show before, what can he or she expect on Sunday?

PD: They’re going to hear a lot of energy from us, and just a blend of all kinds of music. It’ll be punk songs and rockabilly and ballads; there’s something for everyone. It’ll be fun.