After honing their craft
for a few years, Girl in a Coma wowed both Morrissey and Joan Jett:
The former invited the trio to London to record their demo, and the
latter asked to sign them to her own label, Blackheart Records—on
television, no less. Can you say charmed life?
Since then, Girl in a Coma
have wowed everyone else with their spirited mix of punk, power-pop
and meat ‘n’ potatoes rock. Their 2007 debut "Both
Before I'm Gone" landed the band opening stints for Frank Black,
Tegan and Sara, Social Distortion and more, and their latest effort
"Trio B.C." (out June 2 on Blackheart Records) is bound
We caught up with bassist
Jenn Alva by phone before the band’s mammoth summer tour (and
we do mean mammoth—the trio is playing 45 dates in 30 states
in just two months) to discuss the band's Tejano family history, the
challenges of having an underage singer and the benefits of having
a female rock legend looking out for you.
I read that your new disc
was named after Nina and Phanie's grandfather's Tejano band.
Right. Grandpa played music a lot around Stephanie, who's older than
Nina. But we were all inspired by his guitar playing and the way he
enjoyed music. He would just sit down and analyze songs. Before he
passed, all he talked about was how great it was to be in a band.
It was the best time of his life. So he really influenced our passion
for music. One day, we were looking at a picture of him on top of
the drum kit, and said, "Let's name our album after his band."
How about your excellent
band name? What's its genesis?
We went through a lot of Smiths songs to start with, because we wanted
to take a phrase from them. "Girlfriend in a Coma" wasn't
necessarily our favorite, but since we were originally the Ordinary
Girls, we went with it. We didn't want to bite the title too much,
but we might as well have. [Laughs]
To go from that to opening
for Morrissey on your debut tour must have been a trip.
It was mind-blowing, and I'm glad that we did that first. We would
just play, then stay in our dressing room, and try to do a good job.
It was like boot camp. When we toured with Tegan and Sara, they wanted
to hang out more, which was cool. Which is not to say that Morrissey
isn't down-to-earth. But he's Morrissey, you know?
And then there's Joan Jett,
who signed your band and is the subject of your new song, "Joanie
in the City."
Originally, when Nina wrote that, it was called "Johnny in the
City." But it sounded like something Joan would write, so we
just made it about her. And when Joan worked with Nina in the studio,
we asked her to play guitar and sing backup on it, and she said sure.
It's not one of the first tunes we thought people would like, but
it's definitely for Joan.
What are your thoughts
on the way she has helped diversify what used to be a mostly male
She has definitely paved the way for a lot of female musicians. She's
kind of the first person you think about, when you think about it.
And when she was younger, she probably didn't know she was making
history. Shortly after we were signed by her label, we were doing
interviews with her at South by Southwest, and it was intimidating.
We're throwing out dumb and short answers to all the questions, and
she'd come along with long, elaborate answers. So we're fortunate.
We always wanted to be on a label that was like family, and they are
very kind and understanding. We like to make them happy, like "Oh,
look what I did!"
Nina joined the band when
she was only 12. Was that complicated?
It was, especially when it came to getting her into shows or dealing
with school. Eventually, Nina and Stephanie's mom just said, "Go
ahead and take her, she's dropping out." So she got her GED,
and we pretty much raised her ourselves after that. But she's fine;
she doesn't have any major scars or anything. [Laughs] Now it’s
a lot easier. Now she gets after Stephanie and I. The tables have
"Trio B.C." features
"Ven Cerca," which is Girl in a Coma's first tune sung wholly
in Spanish. Have you given any thought to doing a whole album in Spanish?
Definitely—that would be amazing. That tune is actually a cover.
A couple years back, we were assigned to do covers of '50s and '60s
Spanish songs for a Latin event in Los Angeles, and that was one of
them. It's by Los Spitfires, and it's really different and sexual,
especially for 1961. But Nina changed it into this Nirvana-like tune,
and it turned out great. We always end our shows with it. But an all-Spanish
album is definitely one of our goals, although not all of us are fluent
enough yet. We need to study up on our Rosetta Stone!