Girl in a Coma ... not!
By Jerry L. Wheeler
For comatose girls, sisters Phanie and Nina Diaz and bass player Jenn Alva are pretty damn active. Their band, Girl in a Coma, will be on the True Colors bill July 5 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, they just finished their first appearance at Austin’s South by Southwest indie rock showcase and they’re readying their second CD for rocker Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records. Jenn Alva took some time away from writing and rehearsing to talk to me from the band’s home base of San Antonio.
Jerry L. Wheeler: You’re coming to Denver with True Colors – how did you guys get on the bill?
Jenn Alva: Well, I think we were invited. I don’t know by who exactly, but I know we were invited. I know The Cliks talk about us a lot, and it’s kind of like this little underground scene – we’re all talkin’ about each other, I guess. We’re really excited about it.
JLW: You got a lot of attention at South by Southwest last year – what was that experience like?
JA: We did that show with Joan (Jett) – the Blackheart Showcase. It was great! It was our first time being registered, number one, for an act for South by Southwest. We were so excited – I mean, we live in San Antonio, and that’s about an hour away from Austin, so every year for South by Southwest, we’d play around there but we were never registered.
Then, we got to meet our labelmates for the first time – The Vacancies and The Dollyrots. We all hit it off, and that was great – getting out with Joan (Jett) and Kenny (Laguna, Jett’s manager) and it was just a really good show. We went on first, and we had our Texas fans there and it was great energy – everybody smiling.
JLW: OK, I know the interview is supposed to be about you guys, but what is Joan Jett really like?
JA: What is she like? Oh, she’s cool, man – she’s down to earth and, like, her presence ... you know she’s in a room. She’s an amazing person.
JLW: Is it tough being in a band with two sisters?
JA: The thing is, I’ve known these girls for, like, 15 years, and I’m always at their house. So, like, their mom is my mom. I’m just like the adopted child. It’s really not a big deal. Phanie is my best friend for years and Nina’s my buddy – there’s never an awkward moment where I’m like, ‘fuckin’ bitches’ (laughs). It’s pretty good. We all work together well.
JLW: That brings me to my next question – what is the creative process like for the band? How do you guys write songs?
JA: Well, Nina needs her privacy. She goes in a private space and she writes all these songs – guitar, the vocals. She’s got a computer, so now it’s all about her giving us CDs. We’ll take ’em home and get to write our parts, come back, get together and practice, and we’ll show what we’ve done and we all help each other out. We all have advice for each other, like ‘Hey, maybe you should do this a little different’ or ‘Hey, Nina, maybe this song’s a little too long.’
Y’know, this new album we’re preparing for, it’s been such a different thing. I was really nervous about how we were gonna write all these new songs when it took us forever to get songs together for Both Before I’m Gone. All of us have been pullin’ our own weight, and we’re just knocking out songs – at least two a week, which is great – and everything’s sounding amazing. I just thought it couldn’t be done. This will be our second album, possibly next year, and I’m surprised at how smooth it’s working.
The girls are sisters – this is probably the only thing – they’ve got the talent. Me, I’m a little more technical. I feel like it takes me a little while, so in the past I’d get writer’s block a lot and the girls would have to wait for me. But this time, it’s like get home, write it, present it, let’s move on.
JLW: Is there anything else you want to tell our readers about the band or the True Colors gig?
JA: Well, we will have new songs and we will be playing them at True Colors – one of them we just finished yesterday. We’ll be playing some new material and we’ll have merchandise and CDs – if people still buy CDs these days.