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Morrisey a fan of Girl in a Coma
By Courtney Devores
Special to the Observer
Posted: Saturday, Jun. 13, 2009


In a nutshell, here's how sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz and Jenn Alva came to meet their idol, Morrisey: They befriended and recorded 2005 demos with Boz Boorer, musical director for the former Smiths frontman. After checking out the rock trio at Boorer's recommendation, Morrisey invited them to open his tour.

“We canceled our show that night and ended up opening for him instead,” says vocalist/guitarist Nina Diaz, who admits to being starstruck and turning her face to the wall when the alt-rock legend walked by backstage.

For a band that named itself after a song by the Smiths, it doesn't get any better than that.

So how did three Mexican American girls from San Antonio become so enthralled with a British pop icon from the '80s?

“Phanie got into the Smiths (as a teen). I have been surrounded by him (Morrisey) since I was 7 or 8. It took until I was about 13 to really start to listen, for my brain to accept something new like that,” laughs Nina Diaz. “Then I became vegetarian, of course. Everything a Morrissey fan does.”

Morrissey isn't the only famous face in the band's corner. The trio, which plays the Milestone Club Sunday, records for Joan Jett's Blackheart Records. The label released its second album “Trio B.C.” June 2.

Diaz, now 21, joined her older sister and bassist Alva's band when she was just 12, revealing a voice that rivaled singers twice her age. Her bandmates were 20 at the time. But Diaz says her age was never an issue to her bandmates: “They gave me a lot of encouragement.”

Nine years and two albums later, Diaz remains years beyond her peers, incorporating everything from her beloved Smiths to rockabilly (“Joanie in the City”) to disco (“Pleasure and Pain”) to newly discovered favorites Sonic Youth (the Spanish-language cover “Ven Cerca”) and Nina Simone into her stylistically varied, mature songs.

Her maturity comes through on new songs like “El Monte,” a story of romance and marriage. (Inspired by the film “Punch Drunk Love,” Diaz decided to tackle a “cutesy, repetitive love song.”) Another track, “Vino,” is a love letter to another of her idols – Jeff Buckley.

“I wrote most of the songs on (our first album) ‘Both Before I'm Gone' between the ages of 13 and 18. I wanted (‘Trio B.C.') to be a little more organized in the way of me personally trying to figure out things about myself as people do as they get older. To overcome that teenage angst,” she explains.

Part of that process was working with producers who took different approaches with the girls. The result is a nuanced, polished album that sounds so good on headphones.

“Greg Collins, who'd worked with No Doubt and U2, opened up our minds to new things,” Diaz says. “Joan (Jett) and (partner) Kenny Laguna, on the other hand, (their production) is raw. They never want to change anything about us.”