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Interview with Girl in a Coma!
by Noah on Jun.25, 2009, under Interviews, Live Shows, Reviews

Sunday night at Harpers Ferry, the midsized Northeastern rock club was overrun with wild bands from the West. Texans Girl in a Coma came to conquer Boston with supporting act from California, Miss Derringer– an early stop on their grueling US tour. I was lucky enough to be treated to a giggly interview with the ladies of GIAC, before the saloon-worthy rock commenced.

First to the performances…

Beginning the night, the lovely Liz Mcgrath, surrounded by her Los Angeles band of outlaws that make up Miss Derringer, took the stage decked out in gothic-western get-up. The men in button downs, arm bands and bandannas (and guyliner), looking stoic (maybe stiff?) while Mcgrath got cutesy shaking her hips in her black leotard and tiny cowboy hat.

Giving a performance that perhaps would have been best delivered in the vampire bar from Dusk Till Dawn, Miss Derringer’s guitars twanged and shimmered while imaginary tumbleweeds should have been blowing through the club. McGrath meanwhile pantomimed her dark and often heartbroken lyrics, looking like a lusty Betty Boop-inspired wind-up doll. As she sang out “You better run away from me… cause i’ll do you wrong/more than you ever dreamed of” despite her tiny stature and wide fawn-eyes, she managed to sound convincingly dangerous.

Around 11, Girl in a Coma took the stage, a trio made up of sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz– guitar/vocals and drums respectively, with Jenn Alva pounding out rhythm on the bass. GIAC from the get-go brought less gimmick and more rock to stage, blasting out their own brand of 90s inspired western/alt/punk to a small but appreciative crowd.

Front-woman Nina Diaz, who joined the band when she was only 12, now in her 20s, has truly grown into a competent rock star. Looking genuinely cool as hell, she staggered around stage with her guitar hung low, and with eyes bulging out of her head, unloaded her pipes with palpable force into the mic. Watching GIAC perform, they appeared to play every song as hard as they could without ever reaching that breaking point of over-extension, a band truly working for their fans.

Playing out a healthy dose of their new album Trio BC, GIAC mixed in some older tunes, interspersed with jokey on-stage banter with one another and their fans (truly their own wisecracking and “fun” style, as I learned from speaking with them earlier in the night!). Capping the set with a much-requested encore, GIAC plowed through a fast and heavy punk rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep.”

Speaking with Girl in a Coma earlier in the evening, I found the ladies to be incredibly likable– what can I say, I’m a sucker for girls who can dole out some shit, and they were pretty charming picking on each other (and myself). In between cheap shots (not all of it could make it into the transcription sadly) we talked about GIAC’s latest album Trio BC, working with Joan Jett, tattoos, collaborations and how many time you can work the word FUN into an interview! (I lost count after about 12)

Welcome to Boston, how is the tour going so far?

Jenn: Its fun! It’s a lot of fun!
Phanie: Its been one of the funnest, that’s for sure, really it’s a ride.

Great, you guys getting along with Miss Derringer?

Jenn: Oh yeah! Definitely.

Whats it like to be headlining on tour now?

Jenn: I don’t know, we’ve done it in the past with Bon Iver, and we’ve been on our own little tours I guess.
Phanie: I dunno, it doesn’t really feel like anything, just like we just teamed up with friends.
Nina: Its always cool when there’s people that stay!
Jenn: True!

Been getting good crowds so far?

Jenn: Yeah so far so good, can’t complain.
Phanie: It’s been fun, so…
Nina: Definitely
Jenn: It’s fun!

The new album Trio BC seems to be getting a great response from critics and fans, are you happy with how the album has been received?

Phanie: Yeah definitely.
Jenn: The reviews have been fun!
Nina: Everything’s been fun!
Jenn: It’s just been a fun confetti good time! (laughs) No but seriously the label’s happy, we’re happy…


So how did you guys get hooked up with Joan Jett (who owns Blackheart Records)?

Phanie: Fun!
Jenn: It was Fun!
Nina: In a really fun way!
(more laughs)

Nina: We did the pilot episode of this show called “Jammin” and the climax of the show was for us to meet somebody to basically just give us words of encouragement, and it was Joan who surprised us at the end. We were all in New York, and she ended up hearing us practice, and she came later that night to hear us play at the Knitting Factory, and after we played she talked to us and said, “would you like to be signed onto our label?” That wasn’t part of the show, that was just her talking to us! So after that we recorded Both Before I’m Gone, and now we’re on the second album.

That must have been exciting!

Nina: It was really fairy tale fun!
Phanie: Fairy tale fun!

Joan Jett actually sings backup for a song on Trio BC called “Joannie in the City.” Were you actually all in the studio together when you recorded that song?

Nina: Well we did it in pieces, the whole album was done first in Tornillo Texas, at Sonic Ranch with Gabe Gonzales, and then we went to Los Angeles and recorded some songs with Greg Collins, and from there I went to Oregon by myself, so [for “Joannie in the City”] it was just me and Kenny Laguna and Joan.

What is it like to work with Joan Jett?

Nina: She’s very blunt, and she doesn’t want to change a thing, and she just wants to be as real as possible, which is awesome. And she wants to help in any way possible. Its like anything you need she’ll do it. She’s like ‘I’m totally here for you.’ So I was like ‘you wanna sing on the album? And she says ‘sure!’

GIAC has been a band long before you were signed to Blackheart Records, did you set out to be rock stars? Did you think you would reach this level?

Jenn: We just wanted it to be our job. I don’t think we thought about like super-fame or anything like that, we just wanted to have a small, dedicated fan-base who would follow us. That’s pretty much all we were asking.
Phanie: Yeah that and diamonds!
Nina: And a bunch of teenage girls screaming and pissing themselves like those pretty rich girls do!
Jenn: And a jukebox full of songs!
Phanie: Yeah that’s all we want.
Nina: Yeah, girls to pee themselves!
Jenn: Yeah, girls 19 and over!

Hmm, what could that mean?

Nina: Aw you took my innocent little quote and turned it into… something else.
Jenn: You wouldn’t understand. Next question!

Haha, ok moving on…

Music blogging is an interesting phenomenon that in the last few years especially has really impacted the music scene. Though it can be kind of like the ‘cult of the amateur,’ with anyone with a website getting a voice, often without professional editors or oversight (including myself). Do you guys see this as a good thing? Has it been detrimental at all?

Jenn: Well its just like these underground bands can make it these days without being signed, just by buzz on the internet.
Phanie: I think it’s the same thing with these writers though, a lot of it is word of mouth, if people wanna listen to you and hear what you have to say, its just like a recommendation.
Jenn: I think its good to have people writing blogs, and if they sound like they don’t know what they’re saying, then it just makes them kinda look bad.

Well hopefully I’ll sound like I know what I’m talking about.

Jenn: Well we’ll see Nick… oh wait, your name is Noah
Nina: Yeah, we’ll see Sebastian

Excuse me? What band are you again?

Nina: Touché

So do you guys follow what people write about you?

Nina: She does! (pointing to Phanie)
Jenn: I try not to pay attention, but if there’s something good [Phanie] will read it to us.
Phanie: Oh I know allll the bad stuff. But I don’t really care.

You don’t take it to heart?

Phanie: I don’t actually, I mean I read it, but I just like to keep up with what is said, whether good or bad, people are always gonna have their opinions. Not everyone is gonna be into your music and you know that going in.
Nina: She cries herself to sleep every night!
Phanie: We take it and move on.
Jenn: Sometimes a bad review can be great, like maybe you put on a weird show and someone says ‘well the harmony was totally off key’ and then you realize ‘man I need to get my shit together, maybe I wont drink tonight’

On a similar note, on all these websites there are a ton of comparisons and labels being thrown around — You’ll be called a “chick group”, and then have your musical style compared to this or that band. Do you ever feel like you need to set the record straight? Do these labels bother you?

Nina: We don’t waste too much energy into trying to put into someone’s mind that ‘this is what we are,’ or try to fix an opinion about us. We just do what we do.
Phanie: We’ve been called the weirdest things! Like ‘goth’ and ‘cow-poke’ …which is fine.
Jenn: Sometimes we say we’re alternative, sometime we say rock n roll, but we really try to stay away from it just because there are so many genres. I think there’s new genres every day!

Earlier in the year you got a big endorsement from Meghan McCain of all people. Did this surprise you at all?

Phanie: Well do a little more research about her, she’s kinda cool!
Jenn: We don’t care that she’s republican
Phanie: She’ a weird republican
Phanie: We didn’t know about it until someone sent us a link to us on myspace to her blog, and I read the whole thing and then she sent us an email as well, so we wrote her back. She was just super cool, and told us ‘whatever you need I’m here.’ She’s just a normal chick, very chill.
Jenn: Whatever kind of support we can get, that’s great.
Nina: I concur

I also heard the story about Dave Navarro getting Nina’s face tattooed on his arm? How’d you react to that?

Nina: I dunno, are you supposed to be scared or something? Because I was terrified (laughs). He said he was gonna get it, and I said ‘no you’re not! I dare you! You’re not gonna get it.’ And he said ‘Yeah I am! The appointments tomorrow.’ And then I saw him later on in Los Angeles, and I saw it, and it was like ‘oh my God he got it!’ It was weird he was getting coffee or something and I saw it on his arm and it was so weird, I was looking at myself on his arm.

Did it look like you?

Nina: Yeah!
Jenn: Its close, it looks like a pretty girl, but oh no, its you (laughs)
Nina: Like someone who’s actually attractive… shut up. (laughs) But yeah, it’s a cool tattoo, and I’m flattered.

If you were going to get a rock star tattooed on you, who would you get?

Nina: Jeff Buckley!
Jenn: Well I have Morrissey on my back.
Phanie: Well I probably would have done Morrissey but the closest I got was doing the Viva Hate album.
Jenn: Well who would you get now?
Nina: Melissa Ethridge!
Phanie: Haha oh my God!
Nina: No but seriously who’d you get? I’m intrigued
Phanie: Oh probably Patsy Cline

Tell me about the project you are working on with Margaret Cho.

Nina: Well, she’s doing a comedy album that’s supposed to come out in 2010
Jenn: Its called “I Am Retarded” (laughs)
Nina: Ha real original. But the song we’re doing is called “Baby You’re a Racist” and I got together with her when I was in Los Angeles. Its like a simple kinda punk power-chord song, and I like it! It was just spur of the moment. I’ve always wanted to collaborate on some stuff, and I met with her and it was like ‘what if she doesn’t like it?’ but she said ‘I love it!’ And we started playing and now I need to send everyone their parts! They still need to be written. It’s really simple it should be a lot of fun
Jenn: It’s a fun song (laughs) You know on this last album, we worked with Greg Collins, who was one of the producers, and he kinda opened our mind a little bit when it comes to writing, and we haven’t wrote anything since then, so that’s probably the next thing that we’ll work on. So we’ll have time to come up with a cool bassline and drums.
Nina: Its so simple! Once you guys hear it you don’t even have to worry about it, you just go ‘do do do do do!’

So is Margaret going to sing on it with you?

Nina: she’s gonna sing, we’re gonna play, and I might do a little backup. But really it’s all Margaret. …Its funny, its about how this guy doesn’t like her anymore because she’s Asian and she’s good at math (laughs).

Since you mentioned working with Greg Collins on the last album, what was that like? What role have producers played on your albums?

Jenn: Well with the first one it was Gabe Gonzales and Eric Tucker, and they’re our buddies, so it was really easy to work with them and we already knew what we wanted to do because we’d been playing those songs for years. This time around we wanted Gabe Gonzales back because we were really comfortable with him, so we laid down the foundation of the album. And then with Greg Collins, you know it was interesting, as I said [earlier] he opened up our minds, but at first it was like ‘oh my God I don’t want him touching my basslines.’
Nina: We were all a little scared of him at first. Cuz Gabe was just so nice, and really easy going and a fan of ours too. And then Greg was like ‘Let me try THIS’
Phanie: He would take your weakness and really go after it
Nina: Like usually with Gabe I would sing something, and then be like ‘ok we can just copy and paste that now right?’ but with Greg it was more like ‘Ok you have to do this again, try this part and then retry that part’ it was really a challenge.
Jenn: But you know the songs he worked with me on are ones I wrote really fast anyways, so if anything those were the ones I needed help the most on. He took what I wrote and added to it, and really talked to me about ringing out, and pauses and accents and stuff like that. For a second I was like ‘oh this is crazy, you’re really driving me mad’ and like ‘how am I gonna play this live? You really changed my song.’ And I think it was because he recorded everything in different sections at different times, going back to the middle and then back to the beginning. But when I finally listened to it all it was like ‘oh, ok, it wasn’t that bad at all!’ It was just really cool that someone did that.

Would you say it was a good experience?

Jenn: Definitely! We are probably going to do something with him again.

What does the future look like for GIAC?

Phanie: Touring
Jenn: (in unison) Touring
Nina: Promoting the new album and working hard!
Jenn: Recording new albums, we want to get as many albums as possible under our belt. And I’m sure Nina will be doing more collaborations. Just trying to do different things as a group.
Phanie: We’re gonna do the whole KISS thing where each of us makes our own album. That and wear makeup!
Nina: Aren’t we wearing makeup already? (laughs)

Are you signed on for more albums on Blackheart?

Nina: One more album! And then who knows, we’ll see what happens
Jenn: They’ve been really good to us! Like family!

Anything else you wanna tell everybody?

Jenn: Just to go get our album, its pretty good I think. And go to your local record shop and purchase it there! And if they don’t have it, have them order it so we can support these record shops because they’re closing. And come out and see us play!

Sounds good, thanks for talking with me!