Girl in a Coma ready for new adventures
San Antonio trio rock out in style
North Shore News
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San Antonio's Girl in a Coma pay homage to a lot of different bands but there is no mistaking their sound.
The post-punk trio have built their music from the ground up with tunes rooted in the cultural border lands of southern Texas where Spanish is the neighbourhood tongue. They may have named their band after a Morrissey tune but their admiration for his music is filtered through the Tejano culture they grew up in.
Drummer Phanie Diaz and bass player Jenn Alva have been playing together in bands off and on since junior high school. Mostly punk with heavy doses of Nirvana and The Smiths driving their passion. At one point they stopped but then got back into the scene and started looking for a singer. It took them awhile before they discovered one in their own backyard.
"I remember when they were trying out singers," says Nina Diaz, the band's guitarist/vocalist who spoke to the North Shore News by phone last week before the band set out on their current tour. "I was just in the background, the little sister, humming things. I wrote a song I wanted to show them. I just wanted their opinion on it -- 'Do you think I'm good?' So I played it for them and they said, 'That's your song? Do you want to be our singer?' I guess I was 12 at the time. That's how it started and then we were coming up with band names and Jenn came up with Girl in a Coma."
San Antonio was their playground and the trio made the most of the rich music scene. "It's all about the family here," says Diaz. "We're very close and we were raised to appreciate our culture. That's how it was for me. Music-wise, there used to be this club called DMZ and the girls used to go there. It was very alive especially when the girls were younger. It was a really cool club because there was no drinking there or anything so people would just go there to listen to the music."
Early on, Girl in a Coma made a name for themselves on the club circuit with regular gigs at places like Sin 13, White Rabbit and Sam's Burger Joint although it would be quite a few years before Nina would actually be allowed into most of the places they played.
"I had a bit of a problem in the beginning," says Diaz. "I wouldn't be able to go in the club until I played and then after I played I had to get out. It was a problem but I got used to it after awhile."
Girl in a Coma sent a tape to Morrissey who heard it and invited them to London to record a demo with guitarist Boz Boorer. The young band jumped at the chance and also opened for their hero on tour. They've also shared stages with the likes of Tegan and Sara, Frank Black, The Pogues and Social Distortion over the last couple of years.
In 2006, during the taping of a TV show in New York City, the band met Joan Jett who became a big fan of their music. "She came to a show we played at the Knitting Factory," says Diaz. "After we were done she asked us if we wanted to be on her record label. It's kind of like a fairy tale the way it worked out."
Girl in a Coma have recorded two albums for Jett's Blackheart Records, Both Before I'm Gone (2007) and Trio B.C. (2009). "I don't really think of her as our boss," laughs Diaz. "It's kind of weird. She's our friend. I mean it's cool to say Joan Jett's my boss. She actually did produce two of the songs that are on Trio B.C. "Vino" and "Joannie in the City" so she's there when we need some help production wise. Anytime we have a problem she's always there to give us that kick in the ass to keep on going."
Both of their Blackheart albums feature original material with English lyrics, although to close out Trio B.C. they include a cover of Los Spitfires' early '60s Mexican pop hit "Ven Cerca" sung in Spanish with mucho feedback and other interesting post-modern sounds.
Girl in a Coma originally performed the track as part of a Mexican rock show put on by the Latin American Cinematica of Los Angeles in 2007 and liked the result so much they decided to keep it in their set. "I was starting to get into Sonic Youth a lot when we were doing the show," says Diaz. "It was the first time we were trying out experimental noises and feedback and stuff and we thought, why don't we just move this song on the next album because it's kind of a step out of what we're going to do with our music now."
Over the next three weeks the band are releasing a series of EP's called Adventures in Coverland that features them performing seven songs by some of their favourite artists. In classic punk tradition the music will be available on 7-inch vinyl as well as digital release. Back in the day they were called "singles" with an A and a B side.
On Tuesday they released the first instalment, Vol. I, with "Si Una Vez" (originally by Selena) on the A side and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (originally by The Beatles) as the B side. Vol. II (available on April 20) will feature Joy Division's "Transmission" and David Bowie's "As The World Falls Down." Vol. III (out April 27) will have two tracks Richie Valens "Come On, Let's Go" and Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight" on one side with the Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale" on the other.
"It started with a big list of songs from Tom Waits to Jeff Buckley to Elvis," says Diaz. "It just kind of narrowed itself down to what we thought we could do some sort of justice to and not butcher the hell out of it. I've always wanted to play 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps.' I love the Beatles. I've got a tattoo that says 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps.' It's one of my favourite songs and it's just an honour to sing it. I love Velvet Underground, David Bowie -- I guess honestly the majority of these songs are my own personal favourites. The girls like them too. Joy Division that one was a blast to do because we totally rearranged it. Greg Collins, who worked with us on Trio B.C., had this idea of keeping it simple, focusing on the voice and the lyrics and it just turned out beautifully. Selena was a given, we knew we had to do a Selena song. It's such a big part of us growing up. Patsy Cline, I love Patsy Kline, one of the first songs I ever sang karaoke was 'Crazy' when I was 11. All of these songs have some kind of personal meaning for us."
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ADVENTURES IN COVERLAND
Vol. I "Si Una Vez" (originally performed by Selena) on A side and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (originally by The Beatles) on the B side. Release date April 13.
Vol. II "Transmission" (originally by Joy Division) on the A side and "As The World Falls Down" (originally by David Bowie) on the B side. Release date April 20.
Vol. III "Come On, Let's Go" (originally by Richie Valens) and "Walkin' After Midnight" (originally by Patsy Cline) on the A side and on the B side "Femme Fatale" (originally by the Velevet Underground). Release date April 27.
Go to www.blackheart.com for more information on Girl in a Coma and to order the music on 7-inch vinyl or as digital downloads.
Both Before I'm Gone (2007)
Trio B.C. (2009)