a Coma interview – Exclusive first Canadian interview with the
Texas all-girl trio
Music Vice editor Brian Banks
– So I’m here in a cramped wee blue dressing-room in the
basement of the ‘shoe in Toronto and I’m joined by Girl
in a Coma from San Antonio, Texas. How are you girls doing tonight?
All – good
So, you’re in Canada right now, and you’re touring with the Wedding Present across North America?
What do you reckon of the Wedding Present?
Jenn – The Wedding Present? We love them. I’d been listening to their newest album before we joined the tour. They asked us to come along.
I can’t say I’m a fan of them.. I think they’re pretty boring but okay!
I’m just being blunt. I’m much more interested in you lot and you played a good set tonight. You’ve got that whole Smiths influence going on but also Nina, your vocal is quite unique – being from Texas you’ve got a bit of a Southern drawl going on but there’s also such clarity and that quiver… lots of emotion. For your song “El Monte” you struck the Horseshoe in near silence, a great song, then for the next song you were kicking it again with something more rocking. It’s pretty eclectic; how would you describe your sound?
Nina – Rock. Just rock.
Phanie – Yeah, it’s hard to put any kind of genre name on it sometimes.
Nina – Classic rock!
Jenn – We’re kind of a confused band anyway. If you listen to the album it’s kind of a rockabilly sound one moment, to Tex-Mex to Spanish. We don’t try to pinpoint it too much, and besides there’s always a new genre every week. Like “post-punk 2010”…
Haha, fair enough. I did find it really hard to pin down your sound. I liked it but…
Nina – Just pin it with a smiley face!
A smiley face? Sounds good.
Nina – Or a face that looks a little confused and happy at the same time.
Yeah, that’d work. You looked a little bit confused and happy at the same time when you were singing…
Nina – It’s how I am every day!
So I hear two of you are sisters?
Nina and Phanie – Yeah, we are!
Nina – [Looks at Jenn] Even though we always do the same thing! [Mimics Jenn’s sitting posture.]
Phanie – We’re sisters and we’ve been best friends since ’92.
So, when did Girl in a Coma start?
Phanie – 2004…
Jenn – Oh no, 2001.
Nina – Really?
Phanie – Yeah you’re right. 2000.
So who started it all?
Nina – Them two. They were in bands when they were teenagers and they started it up again. I started playing guitar and I showed them a song I wrote and I was hired!
How long have you all been gigging and touring and stuff?
Phanie – Since 2004, that’s where I got that number from.
Jenn – Our first tour were with this group called Cultur [Couture? will correct] and they were heavily influenced by The Smiths and Morrissey too. So we hooked up together for a little tour, it was a fun tour, a great tour. And it’s kind of like getting a tattoo – you’re so addicted to want to leave and play to strangers. So after that tour it was like “OK, next year, what are we doing?” and then it go so crazy, then we go signed finally in 2007. Now we tour pretty much all Spring, Summer and Fall… save for Winter.
Phanie – We hibernate in the Winter.
You mentioned Morrissey there, legend has it that you played with him?
What was it like hanging out with Morrissey?
Nina – Ooh, when we got to it was…. You know, he was always doing his thing, you’d see him in the hallway sometimes and it’d be “hi..” and you’d be too nervous to look him straight in the eye. Then he came in during our show in Paris at the Olympia, it was our last show with him, and we had gotten him a thank-you present, a tie, and he came in and got us a nice bottle of champagne and sat down with us for a while. We thought he was just going to come in and then leave but he sat actually sat down and talked.
Jenn – He was really nice to us.
Nina – He was good to us! You know that movie The Witches of Eastwick… you know, a few witches… [notices my blank expression]… haha, sorry.
You guys mentioned during your set that you’ve been doing covers. You’re releasing a few covers EPs...
Nina – Yeah, the first one just came out yesterday. (13 April)
Phanie – It’s a staggered release. The first one just came out, then the next one next week (20 April) then the last one comes out in the third week. They’re only on vinyl and digital. If you collect them on vinyl it makes a boardgame…
Oh really? What kind of boardgame?
Phanie – Well, it’s called Adventures In Coverland and it’s kind of like your own tour.
Jenn – It’s like you and friends are travelling on tour with Girl in a Coma, make it to all the States until our last show in our hometown San Antonio. But then there’s all these fun little things like ‘move up’, ‘move back’, ‘you’re hungover’… it’s kind of cute. It’s not like the funnest boardgame ever but…
Nina – It’s right up their with Candy Land!
So what kind of songs are you covering on the records?
Nina – Well, the first one we have the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Selena..
Phanie – We did Selena because she’s big in Texas, she’s a Spanish-American singer. Then our second one we did a Joy Division cover and a Bowie cover. Then the last one is Velvet Underground and Patsy Cline. We just wanted to show what we’re into and kind of educate… you know, because there’s maybe someone who doesn’t know who Selena is, and someone else might not know Joy Division.
Jenn – And also because we could pull it off. Some of the ones we were thinking about they were a little too difficult or just not right for us right now. Like she wanted to Jim Buckley…
Nina – Yeah but not yet…
Jenn – Eventually maybe a Rufus Wainright song, that’d be cool…
Nina – Yeah, I wanted to do, not “Rebel Prince”… “Grey Gardens”.
Jenn – Yeah, so anyway, we did these songs…
Nina – “Greek Song”! I wanted to do Greek Song.
Jenn – We’re trying to draw back to our album because our album’s not that old. And going back to it, like I said, a lot of those songs are so random, so like “well, here’s some of our influences”…
Phanie – This is why we’re so jumbley.
Jenn – Yeah.. and we’re talking about fucking Selena to the Beatles… it’s just really, really random.
Nina – Hehehehe. I pictured while we we’re talking our outfits kept changing!
You just mentioned the Beatles there, did you hear the story this week that the Vatican has ‘forgiven’ the Beatles for their statement saying they were bigger than Jesus?
Phanie – Wow!
Jenn – Is this recent news?
Nina – Oh man.
It’s just nice isn’t it, when they’ve [the Catholic church] got that whole scandal going on about pedophiles and child abuse. It doesn’t look too obvious right?
Nina – Hahaha, yeah, in the middle of all this, “Let’s forgive the Beatles!”.
Oh, it’s funny, I was slagging off the Wedding Present but that song doesn’t sound too bad. [They were playing upstairs during the interview]
Nina – They’re whistling!
I know… it’s nice(!) So this is your first date in Canada?
Phanie – Yeah. Our first time ever.
First time ever?! Wow. What do you think of it so far?
Nina – Haha, you just got all loud and excited! We’ll we’ve toured with Tegan & Sara before so we have had some Canadian experiences!
Jenn – Argh, gross!!
Nina – I mean not like that!!
Nina – We’ve had some experience, if you know what I mean!
Jenn – Nooooo!
Nina – We’ve talked to y’all. I hear there’s a really great music program here, they really support musicians.
Uh, yeah. There’s a lot of bands anyway, not all of them perhaps get the help they deserve. Oh, I was speaking to a band yesterday, Hunter Valentine and they said that they played shows with you in Brookyln…
Phanie – Huh?
Nina – Who?
Jenn – Hunter Valentine… they’re all girls? We played with them in the Knitting Factory in Brookyln.
Hmm, so I don’t know what else to ask now…
Jenn – I think we covered everything.
Phanie – We love Canada and we’re going to come back.
You love it after one day?
Phanie – Yeah, we love it.
Jenn – “I don’t believe you!”
Well this is your first Canadian press but I’m from Scotland so…
Jenn – I guess what she was trying to say is we have a lot of Canadian friends so, and we’ve had friends that have visited… We’re friends with The Stills…
Nina – The beer’s good!
Keith’s is good, what’re you drinking?
Nina – Mill Street Tankhouse
That’s not bad. I’ll just wrap this up with the obligatory; This interview is for Music Vice, do you girls have any vices you wish to open up about other than music?
Jenn – Um, I guess alcohol.
You could say something more imaginative if you want…
Nina – Cartwheels! Doing cartwheels!
Doing cartwheels? How come you didn’t do one during the show?!
Phanie – Snorting… cocaine
Nina – Haha, how did you have to make it so bad??
Phanie – Snorting ants.
Jenn – I think what we would like to see – this has nothing to do with your question – but more female albums. The music industry is so weird right now… it’s a great time to fucking weird out everybody’s brains and have a hundred other all-girl bands playing music. It’s always been a male dominated business and I’m so sick of it!
Nina – Throw your glass against the wall!!
Okay, this is something to talk about. So what is the solution to getting more girls in music?
Jenn – Just keep encouraging them. I mean, girls get a lot of shit from being in bands, especially from guys. They slag you off already just automatically because you’re girls.
Did you experience a lot of stigma when you were starting out?
Nina – People always just thought we were the girlfriends of somebody or something. It’s like “we don’t really like girl bands, but y’all okay!”
Jenn – “Let me help you with your equipment.”
Nina – We didn’t get anything too bad… we just saw the Runaways movie and you can kind of see how the bands they were touring with just talked shit to them, “You can’t play you’re instruments”, almost about to fight kind of thing, but we haven’t gone through anything like that.
Jenn – Even if it did happen, we didn’t care.
Nina – I mean other things, like just being female, I’ve gotten smacked on the ass before and I told Jenn and Jenn poured a beer on the guy. But as for playing music, we usually get respect in the end.