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Interview: Jenn Alva of Girl in a Coma
with Melissa A. Bartell


Our theme this issue is “Lost and Found,” and I believe music is one of the better ways to both lose yourself and find yourself. Recently, I found a band called Girl in a Coma, a trio of young women - Jenn Alva, and sisters Phanie and Nina Diaz - who make wonderful music together. I recently chatted with Jenn, who told me a bit about the band, and their music.

First, give us a little backstory. I know Nina and Phanie are sisters, but how did the three of you hook up as a band? Also, tell us a bit about the name “Girl in a Coma” – is there a story there?

I met Phanie at Longfellow Middle School in 1992. We bonded over a Nirvana Magazine. I then soon met Nina who was about 5 at the time. I spent the night every weekend at the girl’s house. Nina was young and often got picked on by Phanie and me. We discovered she could sing at age 11. We then added her to the group. We decided on the name Girl in a Coma to pay tribute to our then favorite musical group, The Smiths. The song “Girlfriend in a Coma,” was one of our favs.

I’ve been listening to your most recent album, Trio BC, and I love the Spanish/Latin influence in some of the songs – the guitar lick that opens “BB,” for example. Is this album intended to be an homage to Tejano music?

It is actually unintentional. We live in beautiful San Antonio. We hear Tejano, conjunto, and all kinds of music around us and I think some of it secretly made its way into the new songs.

You’ve collaborated with some legendary names - Joan Jett, for example. Was it at all intimidating working with someone like her, or do you relate strictly as musicians. What was the most difficult thing about bringing someone else into your trio, even for one song? And the most rewarding?

With Joan, it is a mix of both. We are a little intimidated, but mostly, it is working with another musician who has the experience.

It really wasn’t difficult working with different producers. We started the foundation with Gabe Gonzales in the studio. It was great to start with someone who is not just talented, but so easy to work with. With Joan and Kenny Laguna, same thing. Greg Collins, was the new guy to us.

If anything, we came out of the experience with more knowledge and would definitely work with him again in a heart beat. Gaining knowledge in the studio is what is rewarding along with creating lifelong friends.

This album includes your first song recorded in Spanish, “Ven Cerca.” Tell us a bit about that song. Do you all speak Spanish fluently, or just enough to understand older relatives? Do you plan to record more Spanish-language music?

“Ven Cerca” is a cover of a song originally by “Los Spitfires”. We arranged it completely. Nina and I are trying to learn the language. Phanie is bilingual.

Often when songs are translated into English some of the poetry is lost. Do you feel it’s important to retain the original language of favorite songs?

Yes, it is important to retain the beauty of a Spanish song and its meaning, but just like poetry, it can be translated to the listeners own life experiences.

With “Ven Cerca,” it’s a love song that is a bit intense. The original song is very breathy and seductive. Nina wanted to keep that same feel, but modernize, it so to speak.

As a trio, you’re always in collaboration with at least two other people. Do you all write? Or are some of you strictly performers? How do you balance your individual needs with those of the group?

Nina starts with the guitar and vocals. Phanie and I come and help sometimes arrange or just add suggestions. We then have some time to write our own parts and then add opinions to all.

We have been blessed because we have always worked well together. We are all sisters and we compromise and take each others criticism respectfully.

Let’s talk about your tour. As I write this, you have only three stops left. How do you determine if a tour is “successful”? Has this one been so?

This last tour, we can easily say was a success. As long as a little more fans keep come out to shows we are happy. Whether it is a huge difference or a slight difference, we can’t complain. Our fans are devoted and so very sweet. Life is good.

Life on tour can be both exhilarating and exhausting. What do you do to stay sane when you’re on the road? Are you the types to work in spa days, or is kicking back with a beer more your style?

Yes, It the best when you are living your dream.

We are down to earth Texas gals. Really, we enjoy a nice bed is all. I also brought my bike on this past tour. That was great! Nina loves to jump rope. Phanie enjoys the surfing the net, ha ha!!!

I know there’s Tejano in your families, but what other musicians and styles have influenced you? Whose tunes are playing on your iPods?

The girls and I love all styles of music. We are influenced by 50’s music to todays music. On our ipod right now, we have been playing the Metric album like crazy!!! It is amazing.

You’ve almost finished your tour, your second album was released earlier this summer, but what’s next for Girl in a Coma? What can we expect to hear/see from you collectively, and as individuals?

The girls and I want to do just that, continue to put out albums and tour. That is our main focus.

More information about Girl in a Coma can be found on the web at their main page Girl in a Coma.com. If you want to hear tracks from their latest album, Trio BC, visit them on their MySpace page.