All-Girl "Melodic Punk" Group Releases Debut CD on
Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records
By Paul E. Pratt
Like many high school loners, Phanie Diaz and out-lesbian Jenn Alva
dreamed of starting a rock band. That goal was finally realized when
Phanie’s younger sister, Nina, got the courage to share a song
she’d recently written. Only 12-years old at the time, the girls
were blown away by Nina’s vocal and songwriting skills. Girl
in a Coma – their band named after The Smiths’ song “Girlfriend
in a Coma” – was born that day.
Seven years later, the trio has traveled the country on the Vans
Warped Tour, opening for acts from The Pogues to The Eyeliners. They
were recently signed to idol Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records.
Their debut CD Both Before I’m Gone is rapidly gaining
attention at college and alternative radio.
Describe meeting Joan Jett.
It was a big surprise. It was on a SiTV series. The big climax was
going to meet an idol of ours. When she walked into the room, my jaw
dropped. I was like, “Oh, shit! It’s Joan Jett!”
I was intimidated at first. There was excitement, too, since we didn’t
know what was going to happen after that. It was like “She’s
here. Now what?”
Obviously it went well. You’re signed to Blackheart
Records. Has your relationship with Joan developed?
After we got signed, we went to New York and shot the video for Say.”
We hung out at Blackheart. Joan would come in and out during that
time. Whenever she would sit next to me, we would talk. I became more
comfortable around her. It’s not like “Oh, this is Joan
Jett – Joan Jett.” It’s more like, “Joan Jett,
Is Joan a very hands-on record executive?
She does have a say in shaping the band and giving her advice on picking
songs. She doesn’t like to push you. Like with our album, Joan
didn’t push us to sound a certain way. She liked the way we
sound, but when she gives advice, we take it. She is pretty hands-on,
though, because it’s her label. She’s not a control freak
or anything. She’s pretty cool.
Describe your sound.
It’s good music to listen to if you’re having a party,
drinking beers and trying to chill out. Some say it’s “melodic
punk.” I don’t even know if there is such a thing.
Besides The Smiths, where do you draw inspiration?
I’m personally influenced by Mike Patton, Faith No More, Mr.
Bungle, a whole bunch of other bands. Joy Division, Radiohead, of
course Morrissey, Billie Holiday . . .
Your taste certainly varies. How do those blend into your
Since I’m the main writer, and I listen to all these different
types of music, whatever I’m listening to at the time comes
out in the writing. You can kind of tell what I was listening to at
the time. The structure of some songs comes out in how I structure
some of my songs, the melodies. Whatever I hear seems to flow out
through my fingers and my voice.
Are all three group members lesbian?
Actually, Jen, the bass player, is gay. She’s the most open.
She is “the gay.” (Both laughing.) No, I’m just
kidding. She’s lesbian. Phanee and I are – I don’t
know – just ourselves, I guess. Jen is openly-gay. Phanee and
I don’t really talk about that stuff.
Does having an out-lesbian member bring the group a different
Actually, it turns another head. It’s like, “What?! She’s
a female and she’s gay?” That’s hard! It’s
hard enough being a female musician. Being a gay, female musician?
That’s really extreme! If anything, I think it makes us seem
stronger. We don’t care what you have to say. We’re female,
whether we like it or not. She’s gay. That’s who she is.
We’re not going to hide it. If it helps us out, helps other
musicians, other gay female musicians or any gay person in general
who’s trying to do what they love without caring what others
say, that’s awesome. It just makes us stronger. It helps us
make a point, I guess, without trying to make a point.
For Joan Jett’s entire 25-year careers, she’s
always been sexually ambiguous. It seems an appropriate fit between
you and Blackheart.
Yeah. It’s very comfortable for me.
You’re heading out on tour?
It’s going to last about a month total, I think. We’ll
actually be playing some dates with Joan. I’m not really sure
of all the dates. It’s funny, really. Of all three band members,
I’m always the one with the least information.
What’s it like to be 19 years old and opening for one
of your idols? Does all this ever blow your mind?
Oh, yeah! It’s just very exciting. My whole thing has always
been if something good is happening, I’m excited, just do it
and suck it all in. But I don’t really, really suck it all in
until after it’s all over. That’s when I’m like,
“Oh, shit! I just opened for Joan Jett!” I reflect after
it’s done. I’m really excited for everything that’s
happening – and really grateful for it as well.
How are people responding to your music?
Lots of college stations are accepting our album for play. So far,
I believe 76 cities are playing our music. We’ve gotten a couple
reviews. Apparently people have open arms to the album and music.
Overall, it’s pretty good feedback.
Where do you really want to take this?
We just want to live comfortable lives. We want to be able to make
a living off of doing what we love. We don’t want big mansions,
MTV and all that stuff. If it happens, it happens, but that isn’t
what we’re going for really. We just want to be comfortable.
You know, be able to eat, sleep in a bed, have a nice little home
and comfortably play music.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting that!
(Laughing.) Yeah! We’re just normal and want the basics.